Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The ABC's of me

Hi CCM readers. I've lost my blogging mojo for a bit, and I thought I'll steal from Gen (appl3pie), Jade (Jade Musings) and Cynthia (Black White & Bold) and share my ABC's with you.


A. Age: 35 (gah that sounds so old!)

B. Bed size: Queen, although when TLG sleeps in our bed we have less room than a single!

C. Chore you hate: Taking out the rubbish (thankfully the cleaners do that), folding clothes and ironing.

D. Dogs: No, my mum is afraid of dogs and we never have any as pets.

E. Essential start to your day: Skim cap

F. Favourite colour: Don’t have one, Mr C says I like pink the most but I don’t think so.

G. Gold or Silver: Silver

H. Height: 170cm

I. Instruments: I played the piano very poorly when I was in school. Now I can barely play chopsticks!

J. Job title: Banker

K. Kids: TLG is two and very cheeky.

L. Live: Lower North Shore in Sydney

M. Mum’s name: Vanessa

N. Nicknames: I don’t respond to any! Family and close friends usually call me by the initial of my first name.

O. Overnight hospital stays: For TLG’s birth only

P. Pet peeve: People who are rude with no respect for others.

Q. Quote from a movie: I have poor memory so I can’t think of any besides “Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get” from Forrest Gump.

R. Right or left handed: Lefty. As a bonus, do you know that 3 out of the last 4 US Presidents are lefties (Clinton, Bush Snr, Obama)? Past presidential candidates Ross Perot and John McCain are also lefties (OK I have some kind of obsession about being left-handed!)

S. Siblings: Older sister and younger brother. I <3 them both.

T. Time you wake up: As late as I possibly can! Realistically around 7am.

U. Underwear: Bonds or Target Hot Option bikinis. Not terribly exciting.

V. Vegetables you dislike: Squash and some type of parsley. I can count the things I don’t eat with 2 hands (liquorice, Japanese curry, jalapenos, white chocolate, caramel/toffee, any coffee-related food or drink items besides hot coffee and very good tiramisu).

W. What makes you run late: Looking for keys/wallets/other things that I misplaced. TLG throwing tantrums.

X. X-Rays you’ve had: A few through the years, I can’t remember much about them (I had one done on my thumb when I had a fracture some years ago).

Y. Yummy food you make: You can see plenty on this blog :-D

Z. Zoo animals: Panda, giraffe, polar bear, elephants … we went to Taronga Zoo 2 weekends ago and it was as much fun for me as it was for TLG!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Healthy Life Part 1 - Breakfast Smoothie

I have been unhappy with my weight and my fitness level for a while, and I came to the realisation that I need some help to achieve my fitness goals.

In the last month I have been seeing a new personal trainer, Natalie, who is fantastic. Besides getting my behind kicked in the training sessions, I'm slowly changing my eating habits with her help.

The weight loss/body transformation part of the plan are still work in progress. However, I can happily report that my fitness has already improved, and my energy level is a lot higher.

I thought I'll share the things I learnt from Natalie with CCM readers, and hope you'll all get something out of it.

First cab off the rank is breakfast. My breakfast used to be a skim cap with either toast with jam or peanut butter, or a muffin. Hardly a healthy start to the day!

Natalie recommended a energy packed smoothie with 250ml skim milk, 2 tbsp low-fat yoghurt, a handful of frozen berries (or a banana) and a raw egg for breakfast.


As you can imagine it is super easy to make - just put everything into a beaker and whisk with a hand-held blender for about 15 seconds and it's good to go.


To make the preparation even easier in the morning I put everything except the egg in a beaker the night before, so I only need to crack the egg and whisk the mixutre in the morning. I like that the frozen berries get a chance to defrost in the fridge overnight, otherwise the smoothie becomes too cold for my liking.

When I tell people about the smoothie, the usual question was "you eat a raw egg"? That was my initial reaction too. I thought the smoothie would taste slimy but it wasn't. The whisked egg white made the smoothie frothy, but otherwise I couldn't taste the egg.

I still get a skim cap when I get into the office - I can't function without some caffeine in the morning!

I've been having a smoothie about 4-5 days a week. When I feel like something different, I have:
  • 2 microwave eggs (crack eggs in 2 mugs, pierce yolk with fork and add a teaspoon of water to each egg, cook in microwave for 90 seconds with 70% power), a few slices of smoked salmon or a piece of fruit, or
  • 1/2 cup of rolled spelt porridge cooked in water, with a dash of milk and a teaspoon of honey, and 1 microwave egg
I've been enjoying my new breakfast menu. Wanna give it a go?

P.S. To follow the Healthy Life posts (and new posts in general), you can like CCM on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, receive updates via RSS, or click the Follow button on the right column.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Short break: Cakes Made By Mel

Some of you may remember the awesome fire engine birthday cake at TLG's birthday.

Here's another look.


The fantastic Mel made the cake for us but refused to accept payment because it wasn't up to her very high standards. I've been meaning to catch up with her and say thank you, and we had a lovely lunch today (I was going to blog about our lunch too but the establishment made it clear that good publicity was not welcomed; it's their loss).

Mel has been making beautiful cakes for a long time and she has now put a collection of her creations online. Here's a few snippets.




I can confirm that Mel's cakes taste as good as they look!

Check out Cakes Made By Mel for more of Mel's handiwork. Sydneysiders with an occasion to celebrate can contact Mel via the e-mail address on her website.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rahmen Genki Artarmon

Mr Curious has a work function tonight so I asked my brother B to come over for dinner. I wasn't in a cooking mood and we ended up trying a ramen place that my friend Fleur tweeted about a while ago.

Rahmen Genki is an unassuming Japanese ramen house close to Artarmon station.


First up was a plate of gzoya ($6).


The skin of the gyoza was nice and thin as Japanese dumplings should be. The filling tasted a lot like the ones in Chinese dumplings, which was not a bad thing per se, just different from what I expected.

I am on a eating plan at the moment where I'm not supposed to have grain-based products at dinner (will blog about that soon!), so I ordered a chilli teriyaki chicken ($12.50) and asked them to serve it without rice.


I've never heard of chilli teriyaki before so I didn't know what to expect. It was quite nice actually. B tried it and say it was exactly as advertised - teriyaki chicken with chilli added. The flavours were well-balanced, I could feel the heat of the chilli without it overwhelming my taste buds (which was important because I didn't have any rice to soften the blow of the chilli). I don't know the ingredient list of a typical teriyaki sauce but this one was tomato based. The chicken pieces were generous too, although there were a fair amount of chicken skin which I removed.

B ordered a spicy ramen (I think it's called Negi but I'm not sure, $11.50).


Accompanying the ramen were 2 slices of chashu (sliced pork), corn, bamboo shoots, sprouts and spring onions. There were no boiled egg but interestingly there were bits of cooked eggs throughout the broth.

I had a taste of the broth, it was one of those spicy broth that didn't taste very hot at first but kicked in after a few seconds.

B said the ramen was not as nice as its equivalent at Ryo's at Crows Nest, but that was a pretty high benchmark to set. B also said that he preferred "clear" broth and didn't like the bits and pieces of egg in it. I didn't think it was a problem.

I ordered the Tonkotsu ramen for TLG ($11).


The choice was a selfish one - I like tonkotsu broth and wanted to try it. It was a milky-looking broth but the flavour was not that strong. I like broth so thick they're almost like soup, this was not quite it.

I couldn't resist and tried a few mouthful of the ramen and I loved its chewy texture. The chashu, on the other hand, were too thick for my liking and a bit bland.

I've had some fantastic ramen in my two trips to Japan, and a direct comparison between them and the ramen at Genki would surely be unfavourable to the latter. However it is a good casual dining option, and I didn't have to queue in the cold for a bowl of noodles like I have to at Ryo's. They have high chairs and child-friendly cutlery which is a plus for families with young kids. I'm glad to have find the joint. Thanks Fleur!

Rahmen Genki
6 Wilkes Avenue
Artarmon
(02) 9410 3777


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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Winter warmer - pea and ham soup

After the success with the chicken and corn soup, I'm keen to try out other soup recipes. When I typed "soup" in the Taste.com.au search engine it came up with a bunch of pea and ham soup recipes, so I tried out one of them today.

Ingredients:
  • 500g green split peas
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 brown onions
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 3 celery sticks, ends trimmed
  • 1 large (about 750g) ham hock
  • 2.75L (11 cups) water
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 black peppercorns
Soak the peas in a large bowl overnight.

Before


After - all puffed up.


Chop up the vegetables


Prepare the bouquet garni - thyme, peppercorn and bay leaves. The recipe said to wrap them in muslin cloth and tied it up with a string, but I didn't have any muslin cloth, so I used a tea strainer instead.


I didn't know what a ham hock is until today - cured and smoked leg ham. I bought mine from Hudson Meats.


Cooking instructions are super easy. Saute the vegetables over medium heat for 10 minutes.


Then put everything else in the saucepan, cover and bring to the boil.


Uncover, turn the heat down and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

The liquid is slowly evaporating.


The soup didn't look like the pea and ham soup that I know until the end. It takes a while for the peas to turn completely into mush.

Two hours' up and it's time to tear off the ham from the bone.


The soup is nice and thick now.


Plonk the shredded ham back into the soup and it's ready for consumption!


I'm happy to report that this is another success! The soup is so rich and warming, and the carrot and celery are so soft (the onion has disintegrated). I even managed to get TLG to eat the celery (people with young kids will know what a feat that is).

The star of the soup, however, was definitely the ham. The saltiness of the ham (with a hint of sweetness) permeates through the soup, and the flesh itself was in pull-apart territory. If you want to make the soup I recommend you get a good quality ham hock from your local butcher.

This recipes makes 6 generous adult-size serves. I'm bringing a bowl for lunch tomorrow and still have plenty left for dinner tomorrow. I spent around $17 on this recipe so it's less than $3 a serve - bargain.

I highly recommend this recipe, it's perfect for the cold weather. The hardest part is the dicing of the vegetables, and trust me, it is worth the (little) effort!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In the mood to shop

Friday night at home, husband and child asleep. What to do? Online shopping, of course!

First stop was an old favourite, The Outnet (US site). After a lot of scouting I put 2 items in my shopping cart.

ALICE by Temperley Alisha knitted intarsia sweater dress (on sale, $US101.50)


It's a fun dress with a 60s vibe - perfect with a pair of opaque stockings, or a pair of knee-high boots.

Tibi Reversible belted wool-blend coat (on sale, $US258)


The plaid caught my eye - I like coats that stand out a bit from the crowd, and this is different without being over the top.


And it's reversible! So I'm practically buying 2 coats, right?

Update: Not only did I buy the two items above, I also bought this See by ChloƩ pleated tweed skirt with an extra 30% off this weekend (on sale, $US149).



I also found these beauties from Design by Kara, an Etsy seller ($US28).




Aren't they gorgeous! I can't wait to see them in person :-D

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Short break: Flood it!

Mr Curious introduced me to this game a few days ago. It is simple and challenging at the same time - highly addictive!

The game is called "Flood it" and the aim is to convert all squares into the same colour using a limited number of moves. Try out the online version below.


Play free Games - a game from Puzzle | Logic Games

And there is an free iPhone/iPad app here.


Go and have some fun :-D

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Slow-cooked madras lamb curry part 2

(Part 1 here)

So ... this is what the dish looked like after 8 hours or so in the slow cooker. Most of the liquid evaporated. It looks a bit burnt but it wasn't a problem once I stirred it.


I tried to heat it up in the slow cooker but it took forever to warm up, so I transferred the dish back into the saucepan. I wanted to add some sweet potatoes and peas - it was not enough liquid to cook the vegetables so I added some extra stock.


While it was simmering I made some mint yoghurt using this recipe (yoghurt, mint, garlic, sugar, lemon juice).

I put all the ingredients into the blender that came with the Bamix.


Ten seconds later.


The Bamix made the yoghurt very runny (I used Jalna Biodynamic yoghurt rather than Greek yoghurt because I bought 2 large tubs from the Easter Show). Next time I'll blend everything except the yoghurt then stir the mixture into the yoghurt manually.

Here's the final product:


With a spoonful of yoghurt.


Are you drooling now? If not, you should.

The lamb was in pull-apart territory.


The mint yoghurt was a great addition. The tanginess was a lovely contrast to the hearty meat.

The 1/2 teaspoon of paprika wasn't that spicy so we gave TLG a serve for dinner. He enjoyed it a lot and said "thank you for cooking it"! Thanks lovely little boy!

Now that I know how easy it is to make curry at home, I'll try my hand on other Indian recipes. Watch this space!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Slow-cooked madras lamb curry part 1

With the weather getting colder, it was time to bring the slow-cooker into action. I looked up the reliable Taste.com.au and found a recipe for slow-cooked lamb curry. I bought the lamb cubes and most of the ingredients then looked at the recipe again. We have some al-cheapo madras curry powder at home and I didn't think much of it, so I decided to make my own curry paste. Lo and behold there is another recipe on Taste so I followed that one instead.

The ingredients for the curry paste are all easily accessible:

  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander (I have coriander seed so I grounded my own)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice 
The mixture did look like curry paste.


Brown 800g of lamb cubes in high heat in 2 batches.


After the second batch of lamb was removed, cook the paste in medium heat for 1 minute. Add back the lamb and cover them with the paste.


Add 1L of stock (I don't have any lamb stock so I used vegetable stock) and 4 tablespoons of tomato paste and bring to the boil (around 15 minutes).


Plonk the whole lot into the slow cooker.


Here's a closer look.


Set it to "low" for around 8 hours.

I will update tomorrow night with the finished product!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pretty things from The Royal Wedding Part 2

(Read Part 1 here)

Before we look at more gowns, let's pay tribute to the best looking man of the day. Yes, Prince William was very handsome in his uniform, and Harry was charming too, but my vote goes to long time eye-candy David Beckham.


That man knows how to dress! The slick hair, the morning suit, the top hat(!), and that magnetic smile, he is hotness personified. Posh is a lucky woman indeed.

[I am not a big fan of her dress - the colour is severe, and the silhouette is a bit bag-like. I like the hat though.]

Back to the women. I loved this as soon as I saw it on TV.


This is Charlene Wittstock, the fiancee of Prince Albert of Monaco. The hat and the wide collar are just divine.


The jacket looks a bit top-heavy in full view, but overall I think it is a lovely outfit.

It's great to see a dress at the ceremony rather than coats and suits. I love the patterns on the dress of Princess Letizia of Asturias, and the colour is fabulous too.


Moving on from the wedding ceremony, there are some gorgeous evening gowns.

Here is Sophie, Duchess of Wessex at the pre-wedding dinner.


Ignoring the very visible tan lines (yikes!) I think the dress is unique without being over the top. Her necklace is gorgeous too.

And Princess Eugenie looked gorgeous at the same event.


It is hard to believe that this is the same woman who wore that strange and unflattering blue outfit at the ceremony.

The mother of the bride, Carole Middleton, wore a beautiful pleated and tiered gown at the wedding reception.


Another winner from the wedding reception is the wedding cake!

Click on the photo above to see the delicate and becautiful decorations on the cake in close up. You can read about the cake in this mouthwatering glory at the official wedding website.

Finally, it's time to reveal my favourite photo of the wedding day.


Prince William poked his tongue out while whisking his bride away in an antique Aston Martin, the Duchess laughing and waving, and the L-plate with love hearts. A candid moment capturing the personalities of the newlyweds. So beautiful.

On that note, it's time to say adieu! May William and Kate enjoy a lifetime of happiness and adventure as husband and wife <3

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