Category Archives: Recipes

How we cope with hazy days

Unfortunately, hazy days look like they are here to stay for a couple more weeks. The Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) hit an all time high on Sept 25, reaching the hazardous range of above 300, and schools were forced to closed for the first time, to the children’s delight. Most days, the PSI ranges from 100 to 200 plus, or in the unhealthy to very unhealthy range. We’ve been mostly holed up at home with windows shut. Our only air purifier, a two year old Novita, broke down last week, so we’ve been doing without one for now.

We’ve been forced to learn to cope with this new norm.

School:

I was very tempted to keep Jason at home in the initial weeks each time the PSI soared above 200, because he has a history of asthmatic wheezing. I’ve learnt to keep calm and find other ways to cope with it since he can’t be skipping school for 2 months. So he has been going to school with a N95 mask and an inhaler, with instructions not to play catching during recess. PE lessons, if any, are held in an enclosed space. Lessons are still carried out in a non-aircon classroom, but he puts on his mask when needed. He takes it off from time to time “because it’s hot and uncomfortable”. Soccer training which was originally three times a week, has thankfully stopped because of upcoming exams. The school has measures to put high risk kids in air-conditioned rooms if the haze worsens – that has not happened yet.

Shannon’s preschool is fully airconditioned and her school teachers and principal are more cautious than I am because they are dealing with much younger children. So I have no qualms sending her to school every day. Since last week, I spotted a large air purifier near the entrance. It’s a reassurance to parents, if nothing.

We now live for days when the PSI drops below 100, when we can open the windows without smelling haze, when we can see the buildings in the distance.

Weekend breakfasts:

We used to head out to various coffeeshops on weekend mornings for our breakfasts. Now, I am better prepared for hazy mornings and cook a nice Western breakfast to cheer everyone up and start our day on a positive note. We each get our choice of egg(sunnyside up, cheese omelette, ham omelette or scrambled), and a portion of other side dishes.

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Mid-Autumn Festival

This is the first year we did not bring out our lanterns and head downstairs for some after dinner fun. Instead, we spent the days leading up to the festival stuck at home where we made snowskin mooncakes! I found an easy recipe, bought ingredients while they were in school, and we got down to the job.

Preparing the dough (skin) – 150g of cooked glutinous flour, 130g of icing sugar, 70g of shortening and 150ml cold water plus colouring of your choice. I used a couple of teaspoons of dragonfruit juice to get a pale pink below. Just mesh the fruit using a strainer until you get juice.

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I used store-bought lotus paste from a factory in Senoko (Kwong Cheong Thye), since Phoon Huat had run out of it by the time I decided to make mooncakes.

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I added toasted melon seeds to the paste.

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The kids helped with the shaping and moulding of the mooncakes for a while before they started fighting. I got the plastic mould from Phoon Huat.

End product:

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We distributed them to their grandmothers, our neighbours, and left a couple at home for ourselves.

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Lantern-making:

Shannon’s school has an annual lantern-making competition, and I relegated the task to her papa this year. He conscientiously went to Google for ideas, and this was what he found! He also found the link to last year’s lantern and we had a good chuckle over it.

This was what they came up with in the end.

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Nope, she didn’t win this year.

Meeting with friends

We had a (nearly) haze-free day yesterday and had friends over for a lovely morning.

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Counting down to the end of October, and the end of hazy days…

One-pot prawns and tuna pasta

I don’t always cook on weekends, so I make it a point to buy only enough groceries on weekdays to last us until Friday. So if I feel like cooking a meal on Saturday or Sunday, I have to rely on leftover groceries on weekdays, pantry staples or freezer options. So our weekend meals are nothing fancy (not that our weekday meals are much fancier.)
But last Saturday, I managed to cobble together enough ingredients to make for a presentable lunch.
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I found in my freezer a pack of frozen, deshelled, cooked prawns (available from NTUC). I bought it months ago and had no idea what to do with it. I always have frozen corn kernels in my freezer because my kids love them steamed and they are an easy option for when I run out of vegetables. Together with a bunch of broccoli and very ripe cherry tomatoes from the week, I decided to try cooking a one-pot pasta.

I’m all for convenient cooking, so I’m embracing this latest way of cooking pasta – dump everything in one pot and cook it all together (including the dry pasta). It means less to wash up.

One pot prawns and tuna pasta
Ingredients:
Prawns (Frozen)
Tuna (in mineral water, canned)
Sweet corn kernels (Frozen)
Broccoli
Cherry tomatoes
Penne pasta
2-3 cups Water/chicken stock
Pasta sauce

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Directions:
1) Boil water or chicken stock. I had some stock in the fridge and topped it up with water. When boiled, add pasta sauce and stir.
2) Add the rest of ingredients starting from ones that take longest to cook, in this order: pasta, tomatoes(we like them “mashy”), broccoli, corn, tuna and prawns. (In this case prawns are cooked already, so I just added them last to warm them up)

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3) Add more liquid as needed, cook until pasta is al dente.

4) I turned off the fire when there was still lots of liquid (above), left it standing for 10 minutes and the sauce was mostly soaked up.

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And lunch is served!

In other news, my column in ST today is on Primary 1 preparation, and a reminder to myself on mistakes not to repeat.

Counting my blessings

On days when I feel under the weather, tired or frustrated, I count my blessings. It doesn’t take a lot to make a mum happy.

With a picky eater at home, I constantly have to think of ways to whet her appetite. There are hits and misses. Sometimes crackers strewn on her rice makes dinner go down faster. Other times it takes some chilli sauce or pork floss. Today, several “fake” handrolls saved the day.

I found a package of unsalted seaweed sheets I bought a few months ago, and offered to wrap Shannon some handrolls. I rolled the seaweed into a cone and scooped her rice into it.

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She lapped it all up and even enticed her korkor to ask for the same.

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We do a best and worst of the day at dinner and Shannon proclaimed dinner her highlight of the day – which means a lot coming from a non-foodie. That made my day.

On the other hand, our resident foodie offered to make us breakfast on Sunday – baked oats. He found a recipe in a children’s cook book, but had to improvise because we didn’t have half the ingredients listed.

So he added rolled oats, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries(in place of raisins), cashew nuts(in place of almonds/walnuts), chocolate chips, and drizzled honey(in place of maple syrup) on top. It went into the 180 degC oven for 20 minutes and made for a delicious, healthy breakfast! We had it with cheese omelette and scrambled eggs. He rinsed the oats first, which made the end product a little soggy. He is planning to improve on it this weekend. Am looking forward to relinquishing breakfast duties!

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So much to be thankful for.

Pineapple tarts!

IMG_0207It’s that time of the year again when I search out my old pineapple tart recipe. I don’t bake as often as I would like to throughout the year, but I make it a point to do it during Chinese New Year. We can forgo homemade for all CNY goodies, except for pineapple tarts. The mass market ones don’t appeal to us anymore. They are just not worth the calories. The buttery, crumbly, premium ones come with a premium price tag, which I’m not willing to pay for. So the next best thing? Make your own! Continue reading

Homemade Oreo ice-cream cake

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I’m using the term homemade rather loosely, because I didn’t really “make” any thing that went into this cake. It was simply putting some ingredients together, just like Jason’s Minion cake. We celebrated Shannon’s birthday in advance with my in laws and I realised after googling for ideas that I had enough at home to make an Oreo ice-cream cake. Continue reading

Friday’s dinner – Beef stew

This is the last post in the series to chronicle our weekday dinners.

On Monday, we had sliced fish soup, Tuesday, we had steamed chicken ladies’ fingers and tofu, Wednesday, we had grilled salmon, and Thursday, we had grilled chicken.

It’s slow cooker day today. Slow cooker days are good. It means I’ve got dinner more or less settled early in the day. It means I had time to plan what I need, buy what I need, prepare it and pop it in the crockpot. Continue reading

Thursday’s dinner – Grilled chicken, sweet corn, long beans

This is the fourth post in the series to chronicle our weekday dinners. 

On Monday we had sliced fish soup, Tuesday we had steamed chicken, Wednesday grilled salmon.

Thursdays are special because we don’t have dinner at home. Instead we have a tiffin meal in Jason’s school. He has taekwando in school every Thursday from 7 to 8.30pm. He is in the afternoon session and school lets out at 6.30pm, which means he has just half an hour for dinner. So instead of rushing to and from school, I cook dinner, pack it and we go to school to have dinner with him. Continue reading

Wednesday’s dinner – Grilled salmon, sunny side up, broccoli

This is the third post in the series to chronicle our weekday dinners.

On Monday we had sliced fish soup, Tuesday we had steamed chicken ladies’ fingers and tofu.

Today, it’s salmon, eggs and broccoli. I love fish. So does Jason. We love it steamed or grilled. Shannon and her papa prefer their fish fried, which they don’t get from my kitchen. So they get their fix when we do eat out, either from the mixed veg stall or nasi lemak stall. Their favourite is the kuning fish, fried to perfection by the Malay stall near our place. I think we have not had fried fish at home since my helper Anna left 2.5 years ago. 🙂 Continue reading

Tuesday’s dinner – Steamed chicken, ladies’ fingers

This is the second post in the series to chronicle our weekday dinners.

We had a one-pot meal of sliced fish soup last night, so I decided to vary tonight’s dinner with a couple of dishes with rice. This week is not a usual week – Jason doesn’t have school from Tuesday to Friday because of PSLE marking. I did not plan to do any work these few days because of that, but things don’t always go as I wish. So I ended up having to plug stories and finish up some work. Before I knew it, half a day was over. My plans to do a slow cooker meal so I could bring him out, were scuttled. Continue reading

Monday’s dinner – Sliced fish soup with noodles

This is the first post in the series to chronicle our weekday dinners.

I cook weekday dinners whenever I can. There are several reasons I try hard to do so even though I’m not a natural-born chef. There are people who love to cook. Then there are people who cook for those they love. I fall into the second category. Continue reading

Chalk and cheese, and a quick recipe

At any given meal time with my kids, I run the risk of sounding like a schizophrenic.

To one child, I say, “Okay, I think you’ve had enough” or “Last piece, ok? Leave the rest for us”.

To the other, I say, “Would you like more meat/soup/rice/veg/egg” or “Another mouthful? You’ve had so little”. Continue reading

Easy rainbow cake

I’m no Nigella, but I do like to try out new cake designs. I’ve been wanting to do a rainbow cake since I saw various versions online. I was put off by the amount of washing needed though, since I would have to bake each layer or colour individually. Then I saw a version where I could just bake all the colours at one go and thought, ok that’s the one I’d try for Mother’s Day. Continue reading

I can’t chop a chicken… but I can steam it in a slow cooker!

I can’t, don’t know, don’t want to, don’t dare to… chop a chicken even though I’ve cooked chicken many times. I either get the lovely aunties in NTUC to help me chop it up in whatever permutations I want, or I buy chicken parts. But I recently ordered a whole Sakura chicken from their website not realising that it would come frozen, with legs, backside (and maybe neck?!) all intact. I don’t know and I don’t really want to know. Continue reading

Cook once, eat twice

Nope, I’m not talking about eating leftovers, but rather cooking once, but intending it to be for two meals. I’ve done this several times now, and it’s been a huge time-saver. The hubby’s on reservist, so it’s just the kids and I having dinners at home these two weeks. While I would have simply packed food from the coffeeshop in the past when hubby travelled or went on reservist, we’ve been having most meals at home even while he was away last week. Cooking is slowly but surely becoming second nature to me! Continue reading

How to “make” a minion cake

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When Jason asked for a Minion cake for his recent birthday, I checked out the usual cake shops and online bakeries and came away determined that I would create one for less than what they were charging for a beautiful, fondant, 3-D Minion.

Unfortunately, I’m no Martha Stewart even though I love her creations. I have limited experience baking, even less experience feeding some 30 people home-made cake, and absolutely no experience with fondant. Continue reading

10-Minute Chicken Macaroni Soup

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As a working mum who is also in charge of putting dinner on the table, I have a few best friends. The slow-cooker is one of them, and absolutely essential when I need my food to be cooked slow and steady but have no time to watch over the stove. But there are days when time is of essence, ie, days when I have just 15 minutes before I need to rush to pick Shannon and there is no dinner waiting in the slow-cooker, usually because I have not planned ahead. That is when my second best friend comes into the picture to save us from having to eat out – the rice cooker! Continue reading

Hearty Chicken Stew


One of the parenting columns I wrote for Sunday LifeStyle that got the most reaction from readers, was the one on surviving without a maid, while working full-time and being able to cook dinner for the family. My secret? A slow cooker! I had many mums, even dads, writing in to ask for slow cooker recipes. Continue reading

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