Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Taking a break

Dear family and friends,
 

Times flies and I have been blogging for almost three years this coming July.  This will be the first time I am taking a long break and I know I am going to miss sharing my stories and recipes with you all. I hope to be back by the beginning of May 2013. In the meantime, I will try to stay in touch on my Facebook Page
 


 Thank you so much for reading my posts, your frequent visits and taking time to leave kind words. Please know your love, support and friendships means a lot to me. 
You all take care and A Big Bear Hug! 
 
 With Love, 
Quay Po

Friday, March 22, 2013

Moments


Recently, Nick made a musical video called “The Departure” introducing himself as a solo artist. A question that is often asked of him is “What inspires you?” People seem fascinated with the creative process. He answers “moments”.


Please click on picture to see the video

I agree with him. “Moments” inspire me too. First let me say what I mean by a "moment".  After all, a moment can be any part of any day by its purest definition. For this discussion I use the word to suggest something special that occurs in a short space of time, something that is memorable, and usually in a good way or at least a compelling way. I love to  reminisce about those good moments and, like many of us, I even conspire to try to make special moments. Anyone who has tried to do this will know that it isn't always successful and it seems that the very best and most memorable moments are ones that simply happen spontaneously. That doesn't stop us from trying though, does it? One "moment" that I decided to try to make was a surprise party that I threw for Nick on his 21st birthday...




 ....and the speech that I made that evening.

Good evening everyone. My hope is that this a happy occasion for all of you, and I hope you will enjoy the good food, drinks, and the fellowship of your freinds on this occassion. Having said that I have to confess feeling a small note of sadness. That is because we are here to acknowledge and celebrate our son's 21st birthday. Of course that is a happy occassion and it is our practice to celebrate these milestones. Still, I have to acknowledge a slight tinge of regret in me to see my son come into manhood. Mothers know that when their sons move into their adulthood, the little boy is left behind, only to be recalled in our memories. No one can stop time, least of all me. But I will always cherish each and every memory of Nick's life and look foward as it continues to unfold.

Nick, we want you to know that your Dad and I couldn't be more proud of you. Of course it hasn't been all even sailing. Life does not deal out only pleasant, happy moments, but we have had our share of those and more. You have achieved many accomplishments and they are a credit to yourself, your drive, and your creativity. And of course, to the fine parenting skills of your capable parents. Ahem!  So whatever lies ahead for you, we know you'll take to it with determination and you'll do well.

You know, the best 21st birthday present, in my mind, is to see your family and friends together and celebrating with you and I hope you're enjoying every bit of this moment.
The part of being a parent I value the most is the feeling of being comfortable together with you. There's no need to impress, exaggerate or get complicated. That means a lot to me and I value that ease we have together.
Nick, you've never asked for much or caused us a lot of anguish. You're a friend to anyone and everyone, and you've grown up to becomee someone that is a pleasure to be with. I love that about you.

So I would like, on behalf of us all here, to wish you joy and happiness. So everyone, please raise your glasses to our very special son. 

Ladies and Gentlemen: to Nick and Happy 21st Birthday!”


I did not cook or bake back then but if it were now, my gift for him will not be a party at a pub but one at home. And one dish I would cook for him for sure is this one that he loves.


Lemongrass prawns
Largely inspired by Chef Janny of Proud Janny Restaurant







Ingredients:
1 tbs oil
20 pics medium prawns, deveined with shell on
3 stalks of lemon grass, finely cut
3 to 5 red chilli padi, finely cut
1 tsp minced garlic
salt to taste
1 cup of evaporated milk or coconut milk
10 pcs curry leaves
parsley for garnish

Method:
Heat oil in pan on high heat. Saute garlic till fragrant and add lemongrass, curry leaves and chilli padi till lemongrass is soft. Add in evaporated milk or coconut milk  and reduce heat to medium. Add in the prawns and let it cooked till the shells turn bright red. Scoop out the prawns on the serving plate and continue to let the sauce simmer to reduce to slightly thicker. Pour sauce over the prawns and serve immediately.






Monday, March 18, 2013

Why giving matters


You may have heard the old adage "it is better to give than to receive," but you may not believe it. Well, now scientific studies show that it’s true. — Anthony L. Komaroff, MD 

Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Sir Richard Branson are the proofs of "Giving brings happiness". They all said, "Stuff" really is not what brings happiness. Family, friends, good health and the satisfaction that comes from making a positive difference are what really matters. 

We may not have so much to give like these billionaires but I believe we can always give within our means. For as long as we are willing to give, we will enjoy the same happiness like them.  There are peripheral benefits as well. For example, we set a good example for our children to follow so they too will be givers and enjoy the benefits of happiness, more satisfaction, and general well being that it can bring.

So, when my BFF (best friend forever), Peng asked me if I would like to bake something for a charity fare organized by the temple that she goes to, I said, “Sure! it is a good opportunity for me to give and it is within my means." But then, after that, I forgot all about it. Aiyoh! I am sincere in giving but organizing skills and memory could use a fresh up. LOL! Fortunately, my friend knows me well, and she  sent me an sms two days before the event to remind me. Then, I started scratching my head over what to bake for my contribution. I wanted to bake carrot cake 



and banana chocolate cake 



but then, these cakes need to be kept cold and they are not suitable for an event with no refrigerated facilities. Finally, I scratched out these muffins. My BFF told me the muffins were sold out quickly and another friend who bought it and tasted it said it was moist, fluffy and delicious. She said she wants to bake the muffins and there you go, the recipe will follow. 


The ones I baked to sell at the event was not the upside down version because they would have been too difficult to pack. I baked the upright muffins with cranberry sauce on top. They was really no difference in taste whether upright or upside down. Make your choice

Upside down cranberry muffin
This bake is inspired by “joy of Baking”



Recipe for cranberry sauce, please click on the photo to get my recipe.


Recipe for the batter, please click the photo to get the recipe from "Joy of Baking".  Two things I changed were 1) I used my own cranberry sauce recipe and 2) I reduced the sugar amount to 80gms from 100gms.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

A long overdue post


This is a long overdue post. For quite a while now I had lost the folder with the photos of the occasion. It is a pre-Christmas pot luck lunch at Sonia's home. She is the originator of the “Nasi Lemak Lover” blog.  All of us were to bring a contribution and I took  "chee cheong fun" from my favorite store and home made yong tau fu, the one that my Mum taught me.

Yong tau fu that mum taught me to make, with taucu

Chee cheong fun from my favorite store

the yong tau fu I brought to Sonia's house

The gathering was planned so that we could meet up with Jessie of “Jessie Cooking Moments” and her family. Jessie is  a Malaysian living in Australia and we were all eager to meet and greet.

Me with Jessie and family

Yen of “Eating Your Heart Out” and her hubby were there with us too.  Yen brought with her some delicious nama chocolate and banana cake. (Yen, correct me if I am wrong. LOL!).


Sonia was a generous and a terrific host as always. You can see all the food she prepared for us!

What do foodies do when they get together? We make food, of course, and Sonia let us help prepare the “tong yuen” and it was fun to do.

Yen’s hubby was having fun not only making the “tong yuen” but wrapping the poppiah. Check out his original sauce applying idea.

I brought everyone a small Christmas gift as it was the season. I even had a surprise for Sonia’s youngest son, Desmond. 

Please click on the picture to get the recipe


The little one that enjoyed my “otak otak” a couple of years ago, is now a big boy. I thought letting him play this Ang Pau game would be fun for him.  So I had a bunch of red packets with different amount of money inside and I told him that there were big and small gifts and that it was on him to pick out the biggest one.


He was so excited when he heard that. He looked at the Ang paus intensely, as if he could see the amount inside. Then he leaped to pull out an envelope and quickly opened it. From his expression, I could read what was in his head. “OH NO! AIYAH, only RM20.00. Chay!!” LOL!



For those of you who would like to try making popiah at home, click on the photo below to get the recipe. We have popiah parties and have a ball to see who is most skilled at rolling them,and who can eat the most.

Please click on the photo to get the recipe

We had a wonderful afternoon together. I regretted I could not spend more time with Jessie and family as I had to head back home early. But then, I am very glad I got to meet her in person. She is such a sweet young lady. 



Monday, March 11, 2013

He is not just a chef


It seems that the stereotype for accomplished chefs are that they are dictators and control freaks in their kitchens, charmers with the customers, and stoically dedicated and private about their creative processes. So I decided to say up front that that is not what I saw in Chef Robert Danhi. 


Chef Danhi is one of those people you feel instantly comfortable with. There is nothing about him that is pretentious, or aloof. On the contrary, he is a warm and personable man that you just like from the first. Yet, he is an accomplished writer, photographer, storyteller,  and teacher, and chef extrardinaire. So I urge you to know more about him and his journey into Asian food, so check out his website.

So now you must be wondering where did I met this awesome chef, yes? I met him at the Sunkist Growers Event last Wednesday. He was doing a cooking demo using Sunkist oranges and lemons.


I grew up with Sunkist oranges and lemons because my mum is a loyal Sunkist customer so I know their products well.


Chef Danhi was working with  two major types of oranges: 
Navels and Cara Cara, but there are many more varieties. Incidentallly, did you know that the bigger the navel on a navel orange, the sweeter it will be! My mum told me that and it is confirmed by the Orange facts from Sunkist. 
"Orange Facts:
There are two major types of oranges: Navels and Valencias,
but there are hundreds in  varieties

The bigger the navel on a navel orange, the sweeter it will be!

Oranges will not over ripen when left on a tree

One 5 gallon container of water = One carton of oranges (40 lbs)"

… but what I did not know was anything about their Cara Cara oranges which are also known as power oranges. I didn't even know they existed.

So here is what I learned about them.

Cara Cara Facts:
Cara Cara oranges are available from January through April

Cara Cara oranges are grown in California’s San Joaquin Valley

The Cara Cara orange has  a distinctive pinkish red interior with an exceptionally sweet flavor with a tangy cranberry-like zing

Cara Cara oranges have few to no seeds

Cara Cara oranges will stay fresh up to two weeks when refrigerated or up to 6 months frozen in an air tight container

Three medium sized Cara Cara oranges is equivalent in weight to a female guinea pig. I am not sure why this is important to know but maybe there is a Cara Cara Guinea Pig Stew? I hope not. LOL!

Cara Cara, also known as the Power Orange®, is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, fiber, a good source of foliate and potassium, a natural source of lycopene

I am really glad I did not "take a rain check" on this invitation. If I had, I would have missed out on an awesome demo by Chef Robert Danhi and receiving a free copy of his award winning cookbook “Southeast Asian Flavors” (signed), as well as tasting the delicious food he cooked and free oranges and lemons to take home.



I am sure here is what you are waiting for. I loved it when I was told that I could share the recipes with you all.

This drink is so refreshing and tasty that I had three.


A simple to make but impressive and delicious appetizer. 




UMAMI!!


We had fun with this because we assemble our own parfait 
after Chef Danhi showed us how to do. This one is mine.
Are you proud of me? LOL!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

I don't need more toxic


“You don’t ever have to feel guilty about removing toxic people from your life. It doesn't matter whether someone is a relative, romantic interest, employer, childhood friend, or a new acquaintance — you don’t have to make room for people who cause you pain or make you feel small. It’s one thing if a person owns up to their behavior and makes an effort to change. But if a person disregards your feelings, ignores your boundaries, and "continues" to treat you in a harmful way, they need to go”. ~ Daniell Koepke

What do you think about the above quote? I agree with it 100%. At my age, I already have too many other toxins in my body and I don’t need another one in my head.

I am sure when we decide to end a relationship with someone, we naturally feel a little guilty. Did we do enough to understand that person? Is it me, not them? We are unsure if we are doing the right thing. I guess when you are constantly feeling unhappy around the person, it is a sign to you to remove this person from your life. If you have allowed enough time and find there is no change then it may be time to reduce your exposure. It is just like when you learn of a food that may introduce toxins into your body, you wouldn’t eat it. You would discard it immediately, right? Believe me, our souls need the same loving care and protection as our vital organs do. II'll give you a couple of examples in my life. The first was a woman that borrowed money, then never mentioned it again. In fact, she began to avoid me. When finally I brought it up, she acted resentful and angry as if I were being mean (and I had not been at all). In that case, I simply passively let her slip away, a direction I think she was going anyway. In my second example it was a friend that told me gossip story after story about other friends. So much so that I began to realize she was quite likely saying things about me. They were never flattering stories and always had an element of poor behavior on the part of the subject. In that case I found myself interupting her and trying to divert her attention to another topic. Eventuallly though I began to distant mysellf from her as she seemed to stay intent on indulging herself in the habit. Though unpleasant at the time, today I feel like I escaped from becoming toxic myself. It occurred to me that there is a difference between a little sin once in a while as opposed to becoming fully toxic. By a "little sin" I mean something like this. This is one of our favorite "sins".

Well ... maybe sinful but not toxic, so please don’t throw this away. Or me either. LOL!

Salted Caramel Cake



For the American Sponge cake recipe, please click on the picture. 

Note: just divide the batter evenly for three 6-inch cake pan.

Salted Caramel Frosting
Adapted from : http://www.mykitchenaddiction.com
(Makes enough to frost a three layer 6-inch cake)

Ingredients:
8 brandied cherries (Optional)
1 ½ cup sugar
1 ½ tbs water
90gms unsalted butter
¾  cup cream
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
¾  cup soften butter
4 ½  cups icing sugar

Method:
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring till sugar melts. Stop stirring when the sugar starts to boil. Let the sugar boil until it is amber colored not brown. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the butter and cream. Add the sea salt, and whisk vigorously until the caramel comes together.  Cool to room temperature.

Transfer the caramel to a large mixing bowl.  Add butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating on medium speed, until the icing reaches a spreadable consistency.

Note: For those who do not want to divide the batter, you might have to adjust your baking time and cut the cake into three equal layers when it is completely cool. Here is a video to show you how to cut the layers:
video




Monday, March 4, 2013

Help! My child wants to be an artist


When I posted the inspiring essay, "A never ending dream" written by the Oscar winning Director, Ang Lee, on my facebook account, I received a question from a fellow food blogger, Mel of "Through the kitchen door". 

She asked, “when Quay Chai chose his career to become a singer, do you sternly object this path in the beginning?” 

My answer to her was, “I was not in favor but I did not object after my Quay Lo told me that we should support him to pursue what he loves most. He said one excels when they work at what they love and are passionate about doing. He said success isn't about money, position, or power. He said it was happiness. My Quay Lo is right but I have to be honest, I still worry for him because it is extremely difficult to make ends meet being a musician, and singer-songwriter in Malaysia. Trust me, it is not easy to be parents to a creative child.”

The reason I want to share this article titled ""Help! My child wants to be an artist" with my readers is because I know there are parents out there who are like me or Ang Lee’s father. Maybe we share a worry of whether they will be able to support themselves pursuing a career as an artist. In fact, for me, I still fear for my son. So when my fear overwhelms me, I read this article and it seems to calm me because it reminds me of what Pullman said. (Quote:)“ Trust that your children’s lives will evolve, that they will find their own voice, and that they will become complete persons.”


So I end this with a plea. Please support our local talent by attending plays, concerts, and recitals. You will be so surprised at the talent we have and so pleased that as a form of entertainment it is far less expensive. Also, consider donations to organizations that fuel the growth of the arts in Malaysia. Message me if you want some ideas. Today, much of the talent we have is faced with letting their lights grow dim or leaving our country for better opportunities elsewhere. What a shame that is.

Oh, and another way to get my mind off worrying is to go into my kitchen to bake. After baking this delicious and pretty looking cake, I forgot all about my worries. Don’t believe me, try this if you do not think all the advice given in the article works for you. LOL!

Kiwi butter cake



Ingredients:
2 Zespri kiwi, remove skin and sliced
250 gm butter
190 gm castor sugar
4 eggs
150 gm self raising flour
35 gm plain flour
120gm  sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
Oil cake pan and set aside. Beat butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, one at a time. Fold in shifted flour and sour cream.  Pour batter into prepared pan. Top with slices of kiwi. Bake at 180C or 375F for about 50 mins or until cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.  Remove cakes from oven and let them cool on the wire rack.