Monday, February 25, 2008

A birthday wish...

A year older, a year wiser, an eventful year all wrapped up and stored in our little treasure trove of memories. Happy birthday darling, may we be blessed with many many more together through to the sunset of our lives.

I love you, period. Not I love you because/only if/when, I just simply do! :) Sure you are intelligent, quick witted, amazing sense of humor, loving, caring, selfless.. oh and you smell good too... but that's only the icing on the cake :)

This year, we had a quiet birthday celebratio, I made roasted asparagus, parmesan roasted potatoes and grilled up some steaks.



Got to love western cuisine, few of the freshest indgredients, light seasoning and done in 30 minutes!

To make it 'cute', it was delivered with 6 lit candles [that's all we had on hand] and the birthday song.



We had a busy weekend and I shall post on it later, but this was so nice, a nice quiet dinner together and later cuddles on the couch watching the Oscars.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bliss

Bliss is when you have your loved one by your side having insurmountable fun doing basically nothing really special at all! We started off today with a loud crash of glass and Mr. J yelling for help. I guessed that he broke the jar that held brazil nuts and I was right. In his sleepy haze, he went to get cereal and didn’t see the jar right next to it. It was a new jar but oh well, accidents happen.

I wish I thought to take a picture. It was priceless! There was Mr. J in his undies balancing on one foot not unlike a ballerina, trying not to step on any shards of glass. In any case, I came to the rescue *tsk tsk* and got everything cleaned up and once we got him fed, we both got ready and headed out to 9am Mass.

The morning was brilliant. 61 degrees Fahrenheit, sunny and the breeze carried the smells of almost-spring! After church, I was hit by an acute need to eat pineapple and Mr. J stopped by Kroger to get me one together with these primroses. Pretty flowers further comfort me that spring is almost here!



When we got home, I decided to make assam laksa. To the uninitiated, this is basically noodles in a spicy, sour and hot fish broth which is absolutely yummilicious. I did not have every single indgredient such as torch ginger [bunga kantan] or Vietnamese coriander [daun kesum] of which I have a single stalk that has been struggling through winter (look at the primrose picture and you’ll see it in the pastel pot). So I did it the shortcut way.

Assam Laksa

6 shallots, roughly pounded
1 inch galangal, sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
15 bird’s eye chillies, split
3 pieces dried tamarind slices (assam keeping)
2 stalks lemongrass bruised
Pineapple (I used fresh, dropped in the fibrous core and ¼ of the yummy flesh)
4 tbsp chili paste (I used tom yum paste)
1lb fish fillet, I used grouper [I guess any white mild fish works too, I’ve used tilapia]

Method:
1. Saute shallots with oil, add chilli, lemongrass and stir fry till fragrant. Add chili paste, stir fry and add kaffir leaves. Fill pot until ¾ with filtered water. Add tamarind slices and pineapple, bring to boil. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer and leave for 1 hour.
2. Season to taste with salt, sugar and lime juice if the sourness level needs to be upped.
3. Drop fish fillets and this cooks real quickly, use the back of your spatula to break this up or mash it.

To serve:
Noodles – yellow or Vietnamese clear (blanched)
Sliced red onions
Julienned pineapple
Julienned cucumber
Sliced chilli
Fresh mint
Prawn paste [heh koh]





This hit the spot I have to say!


After cleaning up, I went upstairs to join the napping Mr. J, half napping and half watching tv. I got bored and decided to paint my nails.



What else left to do after painting but blog and blog hop!


After a while, I realised I'm missing a husband! I found him in the backyard. He had the little fire pit going.


The sky was overcast.


The river looked gloomy.


And yet, Mr. J decided to crank his grill. I marinated 2 chicken breasts for his salads and he threw a polish sausage on there for his dinner. Assam laksa isn't his cup of tea!


Close up of the chef's masterpiece.


First flip flop of the season!


The wind was blowing like crazy so I decided to go back to the cozy den. On the way, I noted the chimes were being beaten to death by the wind.


Ahhhh, back to my snuggly spot, this time with the addition of a steaming bowl of tau fu fah.


I feel like I am almost ready for the week ahead!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Little projects.

What a wonderful Saturday it has been! I woke up this morning very excited to start off my day as I had a few little projects. One of them was to pack care packages for the victims of the recent tornado in Macon county. We had about 40 ceramic dishes and extra cutlery as a result of Mr. J and I combining our households. Mr. J helped me pack them securely in newspaper whilst I rummaged our pantry and filled up a box with canned goods and other items which is readily edible without requiring too much appliances.



But of course, I can't let a care package go out without something sweet can I? I made a double batch of chocolate macademia brownies from scratch and they were scrumptious, not chewy, not cakey, just super moist and chocolatey.



I still had a pack of turkey carcass from Thanksgiving and decided to make a batch of turkey stock to freeze. This was super easy, all you need is a stock pot filled with water, drop in the carcass, 2 bay leaves, 3-4 carrots [I used baby carrots as I was out of regular], celery [I used celery top as I had tonnes from processing celery sticks for us as it’s one of our favorite snacks at work or when we come home], and 3 large onions quartered. Let it simmer for a couple of hours and season with salt if needed, let cool and strain. You’ll have a supply of very flavorful stock. This can be used for a quick dinner like noodle soup, turkey & wild rice soup, wat tan hor, the ideas are limitless!



On the way downtown to deliver the packages. We pass the river by our house and spot a lonesome angler, his passion for fishing certainly beats the cool winds!



It certainly does feel odd to see this view of Downtown Nashville as it reminds us of a workday! We try to stay away from downtown during the weekends and explore the rest of Nashville.



The is the famous Broadway, where all the Country & Western bars are at and where everyone is talented! My dad thoroughly enjoyed his visit here with Mr. J.



Just one of the beautiful historic churches downtown.



Our next 'project'. Our house is only 1 1/2 years old but we decided after this winter to replace all the windows with higer end energy efficient windows. Incidently, they were having the Home Expo at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds so we mosied on over to check it out. Mr. J buying tickets. $10 per person.



We walked what seems like endless hours and talked to at least 10 vendors, we have appointments with 5 of them to come out to give us an estimate but from what we've found out, this is going to cost us about $4k-$5k! Geez, you'd think windows were cheap! Anyways, I think in the long run, this will help with saving on heating & cooling expenses. We didn't take any pictures of the booths as I wasn't sure if we could. Can you tell I am a new blogger??? I think with time, I will not care too much and just snap away!

Having not had breakfast, we were starving and we were relieved to see food stalls, we decided to go healthy and have a baked potato. Mr. J gave me this "are you kidding me???" look when I told him to wait and let me snap a picture. I gave up and went to wash my hands, when I got back, he was chomping away.



This is what's left!



Next was to get groceries.



We had tonnes done just in time for a 4pm dinner at Jim & Nick’s BBQ which is Jonathan’s favorite place to go. They have killer barbeque and cheese muffins… mmm with honey butter, it is simply divine! That’s usually what I fill up on and never really have room for my actual entrée. Hence Mr. J usually restricts the amount brought out. He has such discipline! Again, I am such a novice as only when the bill was paid, I slapped my forehead and realised I didn't take any pictures! Next time folks!

When we got back, I started my next project, to make yong tau foo for a few of my dinners next week. I usually make something during the weekend just so I can come home to a hot meal which isn't Lean Cuisine [for my Malaysian friends, these are frozen dinners, they're good but nothing like home cooked!].

Since I didn't have a chance to go to the Asian store, I made do with what I had so it was american eggplant, tofu, serrano pepper and fish paste [I used frozen filets, seasoned with white pepper, a little corn flour and mince this into a paste in the food processor, drizzle salted water when mincing until it becomes a smooth, glossy paste]. My mother had told me to 'slap' the mince several times into the bowl for some culinary reason. This was the result!



Mr. J split his sides laughing and told me that I definitely need to be on Iron Chef. *rolls eyes*

All prepped and ready to be stuffed!



All fried up with sauce made, I like to keep them separate until before serving. As usual, this isn't Mr. J's cup of tea because he doesn't do eggplant or tofu. He did like it when I made some using button mushrooms but none today.



There it is folks, it's 9.45pm now and we're relaxing and watching tv, probably call it an early night since it's church at 9 tomorrow!

Good night, hope your Saturday was as enjoyable as ours was.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart.

This is our very first Valentine's together as Mr & Mrs. We made the decision that we weren't going to do the flower-chocolates-dinner thing on the day itself but instead, go to a nice dinner on Saturday or movie on Friday night. I'm knocking on 30and I STILL absolutely love 'date' nights with my husband :)

When I got into work on the morning of Valentine's Day [late as I went to get Krispy Kreme doughnuts for my client and boy oh boy, the line was HUGE!!!], I saw this note from my dearest...

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in
my heart) Ii am never without it (anywhere
I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
I want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

Here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

E.E. Cummings
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Needless to say, I sat here with the goofiest smile on my face and tears in my eyes, and of course, everyone wanted to see what it was that got me into that state. Oooohs and aaahhhs ensued of course :) This is one of the many reasons why I thee Honey!

We exchanged our cards in the evening when I got home and then spent a relaxing evening just fixing and sharing a quiet dinner, laying on the couch watching tv and then retired to bed early. It was work day as usual the next day as usual.

So here's to Valentine's 2008, may we share many, many, many more together!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Theraphy

I may just be crazy, but there is nothing more relaxing for me to cook when I am stressed out or had a long day. Just the whole planning, preparation, right up to the actual cooking, it is like a tantalizing production. Therapeutic… like I said, I may just have lost it!

I know it is only Monday but I think the whole ‘busy season’ thing is finally catching up. At the head of the week and already wiped out. So what do I do when I walk through the door? If you guessed ‘cook’, then you are right my friend!

On the menu today;
1. Steamed white jasmine rice
2. Watercress soup
3. Sardine Sambal
4. Hairy gourd stir fry

I guess I got carried away! But the leftovers should last me for the week and this is such a life saver when I get home and need to continue working, get to take a quick, hot dinner instead of cereal. Although some nights, like last night, a bowl of Special K Strawberries with soy milk and a juicy peach just hits the spot!

I am usually one who cooks on a whim, usually this is because recipe research and locating my mother’s recipes are too time consuming so I just try to remember how my mom does it, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t!

However, I think I should start recording my recipes here just as a FYI for future references.

Sardine Sambal

1 can Ayam Brand sardines in tomato sauce, discard bones, reserve tomato sauce [I brought this from Malaysia so if any of you have tried a brand available here in Malaysia, let me know ya?]
1 large red onion, sliced
2 sprigs curry leaf, washed and torn up [this releases the fragrance]
1 tbsp plain chili powder [use the ones from Indian stores, this is usually dried chilies ground into a powder. Do NOT use McCormick or American versions]
2 fresh red [or green] chilies, split down the middle
1 large tomato cut into wedges
2 tbsp tamarind water [mix 1 tsp tamarind paste with enough water, strain]

Following items are pounded in mortal & pestle till well blended
1 tsp whole cumin [jintan manis]
3 pips garlic
½ inch ginger

Method:
1. Heat oil in pan, sauté onions till translucent. Add curry leaves and fresh red chili. Stir fry 1 more minute. Add pounded ingredients. Fry till fragrant.
2. Add chili powder, stir fry quickly and add tamarind juice [watch the flame as chili powder burns easily!]
3. Once the raw chili ‘smell’ goes off, add the reserved tomato sauce. Add tomato wedges [I like mine mushy and cooked so I add that early]. Bring to boil. Season with salt/sugar to taste. Add sardines in last to warm up, break it up if you wish to have smaller pieces but take off the heat. Overcooked sardines are tasteless!


Hairy gourd with shrimp and dried beancurd. This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes my mother makes, no matter how much she cooks, there are almost always no leftovers.

Hairy gourd stirfry

1 lbs hairy gourd [I used 3 cute little fellas], peeled and julienned
5 pips garlic, chopped
½ cube chicken stock/granules
10-15 large shrimp
2 pieces dried beancurd sheets, soaked and sliced
2 bundles glass noodles, soaked

Method:
1. Heat oil, add garlic and sauté. Add shrimp and stir fry till slightly pink.
2. Add beancurd sheets and chicken granules, stir fry for 2 minutes, add a little water if needed.
3. Add hairy gourd, mix it up. Season with salt if needed.
4. One minute before turning off the heat [depends on the level of tenderness you prefer your veggies], add glass noodles which cooks very quickly.

I love Chinese soups, it’s light, nutritious and simply delightful to the senses, it is basically the essence of all the good things you put into it [since it is boiled for hours!]. Since I saw fresh watercress at the Asian grocers over the weekend, I knew that this was going to be on the menu sometime this week.

Watercress soup

3 bundles watercress, washed thoroughly as it is lots of dirt [ie: sand]
1 lbs pork ribs/bones
½ cup dried dates, pitted and washed [the red ones sold at asian stores, NOT the sweet black ones you get at Harris Teeter or Publix that comes from California]

Method:
1. Fill a stock pot ½ full with cold water, bring to boil. Drop in the pork bones and let it simmer for 2 minutes. This step is to eliminate the ‘porky’ taste that comes from the scum resulting from the blood/fat. You will see this floating on top. Once the pork has stopped bleeding, dump out the contents into a colander and rinse the pork of the scum.
2. Either use the same stock pot [wash with soap!] or another stock pot, this time filling it up to ¾. Bring to boil. Add pork. Let it boil for 15 minutes, turn down the heat so it simmers. At this point, you will still see foam floating on top, skim that off. This also makes the soup clearer. Let it continue to boil.
3. Once no more scum noted, add in the dates. Let this simmer for at least 1 hour.
4. Add watercress, boil till desired ‘doneness’ and salt to taste if desired.

So there you have it, my ‘therapy’ for the day/week!



But not so much bliss though, it's back to work whilst eating for the chef... gotta love busy season!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Of love and crabcakes.

Mr. J is working this weekend. So this Saturday was the usual laundry, clean up and going into the office to work, it is busy season after all. So it was to my surprise when I got home at about 6 pm today to find these pretty yellow flowers which reminds me so much of spring... yellows and greens are so spring isn't it??? Also, a very thoughtful and sweet musical card... don't you just love 'just because' surprises?? I know I DO :)


So this evening was a relaxing one, I made my special crabcakes with an organic green, warm French gourmandaise cheese, ruby grapes and macademia nuts drizzled with balsamic vinagrette. Scrumptious and simple meal.

This recipe is one of estimation and thrown together to suit our taste so I'm recording it here for future references.

Daddy's favorite Crabcakes

1lb fresh lump crab meat
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp plain breadcrumbs
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp Dill (I used dried since we did not have fresh on hand)
2 tbsp mayonnaise [I used fat free]
1 tsp coarse grain mustard
Black pepper, a few turns of the pepper mill
2 tbsp chopped scallions
1 tbsp sweet relish

Mix the above all together and it should look like this.



Now, for the assembly and cooking process. I use as little oil to pan fry these, so I used 2 tbsp canola oil. Heat pan, fill a shallow bowl with 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, drop the crab mixture using a 1/3 cup measure into the bowl containing breadcrumbs. Dust to coat evenly and drop it into the frying pan, proceed to do the next piece.

For the sauce, I just made a simple remoulade. I used 2 tbsp mayonaise, 1 tbsp cajun seasoning, 2 tbsp lemon juice, salt-pepper-sugar to taste.

This made 5 cakes for us which was the perfect portion for us, 2 for me and 3 for Mr J [who by the way wiped his plate clean in under 2 minutes]! The final product served with salad, lemon wedges, spicy remoulade and tartar sauce.


Look at him here, posing silly for the camera!


Finally, the cook gets to enjoy her meal. When we moved in to our new house, we decided to put the tv upstairs in the den rather than the living room downstairs as we wanted to deter eating in front of the tv... a year later, see where we're eating! Hopefully when we have children, meal times is at the dining table! I guess it's because we're on the go all day and when we get home and sit to relax, we like to catch up on the news and also with each other so the den upstairs it is.


Anyways, today, it was switching between Nascar [Mr J was so excited as Dale Earnhart Jr. is driving the National Guard car, good thing he won!] and the Democrat presidential campaign. Even though I can't vote, I love watching Obama speak, he is so charismatic.

So that wraps up our Saturday, hope yours were as cosy and relaxing as ours!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tornado in Tennessee

It's late now, we're sitting in my walk-in closet with the mattress propped up against us, the tv is on, and we're waiting. This is my very first and scariest tornado warning, previously, it was merely watches but this is the real thing, it's been reported on the news of severe damage in surrounding counties, kids trapped in collapsed college building in Jackson, TN. We had hail pounding on the house... it's stopped for a little while but they are warning us about Round 2 soon!

Our thoughts and prayers to those families who lost their loved ones or are worrying about their loved ones, also to those families who've lost everything. May our good Lord watch over and protect each and everyone of you.

A typical Saturday...

Having been away for a while, I have a lot of blogging to catch up with! In line with my fellow blogger friends, CatCat and Beachlover, I thought it’d be fun for my family back home to follow what a typical Saturday is like for me back home here in Nashville.

Mr J is very particular about our bed being made but I never do it on weekdays as I would normally jump out of bed, get ready and head out of the door but Saturdays, now, that’s my #1 duty.

Next, a long luxurious hot shower before facing the cold wintry morning. To kill two birds with one stone, I am going to include in this post [again, following CatCat and Beachlover] the ‘beauty’ products I use. I don’t really use make up, but I love having good skin and hair so naturally, I have tones of facial and hair product [tones per Mr J as he doesn’t understand why girls need facial wash-toner-moisturizer or shampoo-conditioner-oils, he uses one product for everything, his trusty bar of soap!].

Anyways, Mr J wants his wife to look young and pretty forever so he doesn’t mind splurging on good products :)

For the face; L-R: SK-II Advance Protect Essence UV, SK-II Facial Clear Solution, SK-II Eye Treatment Film, SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion, SK-II Facial Treatment Essence and SK-II Facial Treatment Cleanser

For the crowning glory; L-R: Keratase Intensive Oleo-Relax, Shishedo Fuente Vita Voltage Tonic, Shampoo & Treatment [miracle shampoo if your hair drops!], L’oreal Professional Intense Repair Shampoo & Conditioner [awesome during winter!]


Okay okay, back to the day’s progression, after showering, the real work begins. This week, I had to travel to Miami so first things first, unpack suitcase.


Then laundry.


Wash dishes because ‘someone’, I wonder who, will leave dishes in the sink all week that I am away so that I’ll do the dishes when I get back!!!


Next, I have to do a stock take of the refrigerator and replenish it with grocery for the week so that my darling husband will not have to die of starvation or eat fast food. Please don’t ask me how he survived for so long before meeting me. Men!!!



Off the grocery store and errands now, took random pictures of downtown Nashville.


State Capitol


Tennessee Performing Arts Center, where Broadway or local productions are featured.

Then my camera died on me so no more pictures from my outing.

Back now, I usually make Mr J his lunch for the next week, so 5 grilled chicken salads packed (organic spinach, grilled chicken, cheddar cubes, walnuts, dried cranberries, olives and pickles).



At this time, I am famished and since I'll be away for the week, I made something simple, tofu curd... if you have not tried this shortcut, you absolutely have to because it is yummilicious! Even better than some that I have tasted back home in Malaysia. Not sure if this is because being deprived or what but a hot bowl [or two[ of this and I am happy. Mr J was at work this weekend in case if you were wondering where he was!]



By this time, laundry is done, bags are packed, load the car and head on out to the airport for the next town my job takes me.


One last stop, GAS!!!


On the way to the airport.


Until next week, see ya!