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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Week 10, 2015

Mar 2 (Mon)

Grilled Chicken Summer Salad

This is one of my favourite salads to make when I have people over for lunch. It's actually made up of many individual salads, so you can decide if you want to make all or just some of it. I left out the radish this time because I couldn't find it at the supermarket, and also omitted the lettuce because I think it'll make too much. I usually lay them out in rows on a big platter so people can just take what they want. You may want to double the mushroom because that's always the first thing to run out. If you only make one dish out of this week's menu, make this one!

Mar 3 (Tue)

Shrimp Chamoula

Needs to be made ahead so it can marinate and soak up all the flavors, but it's well worth the effort to plan ahead. You want to have some crusty bread on hand to soak up all the juice. Yum!

Marinated Kale Salad

You know how sometimes you feel like a rabbit when you eat kale? This salad is not like that. I've tried many kale salad recipes and this is one of my favorites because the kale leaves wilt and soften in the marinade. You can add any number of things to it, and I happen to have cherry tomatoes and avocado in the fridge, so that's what I used.

Mar 4 (Wed)

Slow Cooked Beef Ragu Pasta
This is a Donna Hay recipe that I have made once before. It takes a long time to cook but most of it is in the oven where you can leave it alone. I used beef shin this time, which is not as fatty as brisket but still comes out very tender. Besides salt, I also add a little sugar to season the sauce, so it doesn't taste too acidic.
And of course I made pasta again to go with the sauce. This recipe makes quite a lot, but the sauce freezes well, so I suggest not cutting down the recipe. 

Tomato & Watermelon Salad

This light salad is perfect with the slightly heavy pasta sauce. I used yellow watermelon.

Mar 5 (Thur)

Horse trainer extraordinaire A recommended a workout called the Power Plate. She said some of her riders have made huge improvements after doing this because it strengthens your core significantly. After not doing anything other than riding I think my muscles are so used to it that it is no longer as much of a workout for me. So I went to try it after riding.

You stand on a little platform that vibrates constantly while doing squats, crunches, push-ups, planks, etc. Each exercise lasts one minute. Doesn't sound so hard, right? Wrong! As soon as we started, the instructor increased the intensity settings on my machine, and told me to let him know if it's too much. Well, how would I know if it's too much??! I didn't expect to sweat so much during a non-cardio workout, and although I could do all the exercises, my setting was at 35 (2nd lowest) but it goes all the way up to 50!!

Luckily I thought ahead and packed this smoothie to drink before and after the workout.

1 frozen banana, 1/4 pineapple, 1/2 c plain home made yogurt, 1 tbsp chia seed, 1 tbsp PB2 powder.

Spicy Calamari with Bacon & Scallions

When we were in Spain two years ago we ate a lot of squid dishes at tapas bars. This is a pretty good replica. By the time I finished the supermarket until 4pm so there was no fresh squid to be found. I did find some frozen ones but wasn't sure how well they'll turn out. Lucky for me they were great. Since bacon and scallions are the only other ingredients needed, I may keep some frozen squid from now on so this can be whipped up any time at last minute notice. The soupy sauce is great for dipping with some crusty bread.

Wilted Greens with Warm Sherry Vinaigrette

Some salads are about the things that go into it, but this salad is all about the dressing. It's great when it's warm, but equally nice cold or at room temp.

Today is the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year, which marks the official ending of the Chinese New Year celebration. As you know, whenever there's a festival, there is a food to be eaten on that occasion, and this time the food is glutinous rice balls (Tang Yuan/汤圆). In the old days, people make their own, but thank goodness for the invention of freezer! If you've been reading my posts, you probably already figured out I'm a big fan of freezing stuff. My favourite filling is the black sesame paste, but since I got to the supermarket so late, only peanut and red bean fillings were left.

I always like to eat my Tang Yuan with some osmanthus flower syrup in the soup (water from boiling the Tang Yuan). It gives it a very nice fragrance and sweetens the soup slightly.

The brand I bought (Spring Home) is pretty good, and it comes with a packet of crushed peanut powder. Another way to eat the Tang Yuan is to roll them in the peanut powder after cooking it, without the soup. Both ways are very delicious.

Mar 6 (Fri)

I woke up with very sore muscles in my legs. I guess the Power Plate really worked my muscles hard. Fridays are the days I shampoo Istria, and I always get so tired from doing it, so I prepared this smoothie:

1 frozen banana, 1 handful of blueberries, 1/4 pineapple, 1/4c almond milk, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp PB2 powder.

Our friend HT is opening up a second restaurant after the hugely successful small plate restaurant Lolla. He invited us to be his guinea pigs in a beta testing before opening day, which will be Monday March 9th. The new restaurant is located in the up and coming Keong Siak street area and has a Scandinavian-esque interior. As soon as you walk into the main dining area you'll notice a huge wood burning oven, where most of the hot dishes are cooked.

The new restaurant will have daily changing menus using whatever is fresh and in season. We are pretty adventurous when it comes to eating so we tried all the unusual items on the menu: barnacles, pig's ear, veal tongue, tuna eyes, flash grilled wagyu that is still raw inside, along with more standard items such as crispy potato terrine (layers of paper-thin potatoes pressed together and fried), milk braised pork belly, flat bread with lamb.

My absolute favourite dish was the veal tongue. Having had lots of beef tongue in Japan, I was expecting something similar, but the veal version is completely different. Unlike the chewy beef tongue, the veal tongue was very soft, almost like beef cheek. The portion was pretty big too so even though it's only half a tongue it would be enough as a main dish between two people. The tuna eye was very interesting. It's basically a huge eye socket and its surrounding tissues, which are mostly gelatinous. The accompanying sauce is citrusy and goes well with the strong fish taste. It's not a dish that everyone will enjoy, but I thought it was very well executed.
Another dish that I enjoyed very much was the flash grilled wagyu. It's almost like a tuna steak, with a layer of cooked outer layer, but remains mostly raw inside. HT showed me the raw meat, and told me which part it was, but I can't remember, maybe some part of ribeye. I do remember it was specially cut to their specification.

Lollapalooza opens on Monday March 9. It's a great restaurant to go with a group of friends, because portions are kind of big, and you would want to try everything on the menu ;o)

Mar 7 (Sat)

We were invited to a BBQ dinner by Julio's parents T and A. The last time I was at A's house she mentioned that she really liked a lemony cake that I made once. At the time I really couldn't remember which cake she was talking about, because I try so many recipes and unless something wows me instantly I tend to forget about it. But thank goodness for my FB album documenting my kitchen adventures, I found out it was a lemon yogurt cake that I made and wrote off as being ordinary. Since it made such an impression on A, I thought it's worth another try, and boy am I glad I did! Because of the lemon juice and yogurt (home made) in the batter, the cake has a very moist and light texture, not to mention the very strong lemon taste. Everyone at the BBQ loved it. This is going into the menu of my bakery as soon as I finalize a few things in the recipe =o)

Mar 8 (Sun)

Another Sunday, another dressage competition. This time it was the neighbouring National Equestrian Centre. Since Istria always gets very flustered and nervous during competition I thought the only way to overcome that is to go to as many competitions as possible, starting with the nearest offsite club there is (a 10-min walk on a trail), before we venture to places that will require traveling by truck.

She was so well-behaved today and we accomplished my goal to have a spook-free test with a very decent score of 60.89%. I am one proud mama!

After the competition we went to lunch with my parents and in-laws at a Teo Chew restaurant that quite a few friends have told us about.

We ordered the cold crabs, combination platter (loved that the Nong Hiang did not taste greasy despite being deep fried, and the jelly fish salad was one of the nicest I've had anywhere), prawns cooked in Thai basil and chili (a limited time offer that is not exactly Teo Chew but very very tasty), Teo Chew styled steamed Soon Hock, bean shoots cooked with century egg and salted egg yolk, Teo Chew styled steamed chicken (much nicer than the Hainanese version) and dry friend Mee Sua.

Everything was so well prepared and tasted clean and light. You can tell the ingredients were top grade and no MSG was used. We will definitely be back for more meals in the future.

After getting up at the crack of dawn for the dressage competition and a heavy lunch, I crashed when I got home and slept till almost dinner time. For dinner I had a simple grilled cheese sandwich and salad using the warm sharry vinaigrette left from the other night.

I butter the outside of the toast when I make grill cheese instead of buttering the pan. This gives the sandwich a nice and even golden crust. Cook it over low fire to ensure the cheese is melted before the bread gets too burned.
J finished his last cooking lesson on Saturday and brought home crème brulee and fondant chocolat, which we had for dessert. The fondant chocolat was made the day before, so the center didn't flow as we cut it, but I could tell it was perfect right after it's cooked. The texture of the crème brulee was also perfect, smooth and silky. I think next time we throw a dinner party he can contribute something other than the wine ;oP