Discovery of New Interests

Aside

As the climate starts to warm up a little, the city starts to emerge from the silence of winter. Mornings are awaken by the lively sounds of chirping birds while people start to take their coffee or beer outside of their house. Squirrels are out skittering from one front/ back yard to another, looking for food or maybe just a mate. A few days ago, I was bemused when I saw a pair of ducks in the canal while crossing the bridge. Where did they come from?

I made a surprising note about myself recently. I was stressed but for a different reason. For those who have not already guessed, I am usually hard on myself and my focus in always about achieving more in life. This word ‘achieving’ is set in a context where the milestones are measurable. The progressiveness is usually scaled according to money, status and power. Having been in the position of a so-called home maker for almost a year and a half now, my perspective of life is finally taking a turn. When they say old habits die hard, they were not joking.

So what am I stressed about this time? The stress here is not something negative as I am excited about my new projects. I would like to 1) try my hand in baking bread and 2) planting herbs. Since I am enrolled in a new school for French classes which happens three times a week, classes and homework have kept me well occupied. I need to block out some time to kick start my mini projects.

Who would ever thought I would be interested in baking bread! However, times have changed and I am really starting to enjoy the art of cooking where your food is your creation. I have seen beautiful pictures of homemade bread on my friend’s facebook. I am such a sucker for food that even a picture could trigger off the greediness in me. She shared a recipe with me and I just need to get down to realizing it.

Bread baked by PY. How to resist?

Bread baked by PY. How to resist?

I have read, heard and seen people planting their own vegetables and herbs in their backyards. That’s how far it went. The thought of having my own mini vegetable farm never crossed my mind. I could only imagine causing them an unjustified death. Yet this time round, the ‘mother nature side’ of me decided to take a bold stand. ‘Try it!’ says her. I do not have my own yard but I do have a small balcony so I could start from there.

This is a beautiful moment for me as I am able to experience something different. I am finally starting to discover some interests of my own. Hurray to that!

Signing off with love,

Esther

In House Greek Cuisine

Since Dan had a week off last week, we were planning to head out for lunch time Greek Cuisine. I have not tried Greek food before yet so much have been said about it. However, due to a tight budget, we decided to do in house instead. Knowing that I am tired of preparing meals all week, Dan was ready to prepare a good meal for us. He started off by making us drinks, a lovely martini (the name he gave it) for me and a dry olive martini for himself.

Thereafter, he served the appetizer which consisted of fresh bread with a plate of special dips decorated with white beans, sliced cucumbers, olives and a sprig of thyme. Greek appetizers are mainly prepared with the use of olive oil, herbs, beans, cheese, zucchinis and yogurt. I must say it seems like a healthy cuisine aside from the large chunk of meat or seafood that comes with the main course. The taste of the appetizer was just magnificent! In less than 10 minutes, we cleared the loaf of bread and the dips. We were more than 50% full but… there was still the main dish yet to come!

The presentation of the main course won me over. Simple yet attractive – a slice of beef and red pepper stuffed with fragrance rice. The beef was nicely roasted on the outside retaining the juiciness on the inside. The rice had a good mix of butter and salt with melted cheese on top. By the time we were finished with our meal, we were stuffed.

I am thankful and grateful for such a loving meal! Sometimes, we may not be able to afford the most luxurious food out there but we are always able to create our own personalized meal at home. As Dan says with a cheeky wink, ‘this is better than the restaurants!’

Such an activity is definitely a good way for couple bonding too!

Signing off with love,

Esther

Beef Gone Bad

How do you know if the beef has turned bad?

First you have to check the colour, the smell and then the texture.

Just last month, my fridge broke down and I had to evacuate all the food to my temporary ‘outdoor fridge’. No, I did not have a fridge outside but the winter cold was an advantage to leverage upon. That was the time when I learnt about ‘food management and storage’.

I remember I was supposed to prepare Shepard’s Pie for Dan to bring for a school function. I bought a chunk of minced beef and stored it in the fridge just the day before cooking, not knowing that the fridge has already stopped working. The next day, when I eagerly took out the packet of beef, I was puzzled at the colour of it. The beef was a shade of dull brown. Worried, I went to google online and found out that brown is supposed to be the natural colour of the meat and red is just the colouring. *whew* I carried on reading and people advised to check the smell and texture of the beef. I went back to my innocent looking minced meat and cautiously put my curious nose to it. *sniff* It didn’t smell quite right and my brain was trying to convince me that it was still good because throwing it away would definitely be a waste. *sniff sniff*. I could not decide. With a finger, I gently caressed the surface of the meat. Ok, the slime on it called for a definite disposal. In conclusion, a beef has gone bad when it changes colour (or moulds growing on it), has a sour and pungent smell and a slimy texture. Another recommendation is to keep all meat stored in the freezer unless you know you are going to consume it within the next 2 days.

Have you heard about not re-freezing food after it has been thawed? This is especially important for raw meat and seafood. Freezing food slows bacteria growth but it does not kill it. When a food is thawed and once room temperature is reached, bacteria will start to manifest within.  Hence, as a general rule of thumb, to  prevent bacteria growth please thaw your food in the refrigerator.  So I had a packet of smoke ham outside. I assumed that since the ham is smoked, it has enough preservative to keep it consumable. However, I realised that was not advisable. The ham started to smell and it also had a slimy texture after 2 to 3 days. I am glad to get away with the 1st two days but it probably was not worth the risk!

Items which survived outdoor (at -10 degrees during the night):

–          Bottle items like jam, mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, chili sauce etc.

–          Eggs (surprisingly)

–          Cheese

–          Avocado (unpeeled)

Items which did not survive:

–          Smoked ham 

–          Opened canned peas (the liquid probably solidified in the night and liquefied in the day)

–          Opened evaporated milk ( http://www.carnationmilk.ca/faq.aspx#1 tells us professionally that we should not freeze evaporated milk. I have one in the fridge and it is time to throw it away.)

–          Vegetables (we cleared most of our vegetables hence we did not manage to test its survivability but based on the same logic as mentioned above with regards to thawed food, it is better to not consume it once defrosted. Also, vegetables are not supposed to be kept more than a week in general.

 

This is a noob’s experience of managing the household. Chaos and unexpected discoveries kept me scratching my head from time to time. I never needed to worry about the stuff in the fridge because my dutiful mum has always been taking care of it. Nothing beats real life experience and even if it is a steep learning curve, I believe this is part of attaining independence.

 

Signing off with love,

Esther

Happy Dragon New Year! 新年快乐!

This is the first year being away from the family for Chinese New Year (CNY). I feel nostalgic because this is the time where the family gathers and enjoys the time spent together.

Chinese New Year, in general, is an important festival for the Chinese race, regardless of which country a person is from.  Since there are many Chinese around the world, people from different places celebrate CNY very differently too. Honestly, I am not too sure about how other countries celebrate CNY but I am sure about how I celebrate it! I have the hybrid of both Singaporean and Malaysian culture!

What is unique in Singapore and Malaysia is this dish called Yu Sheng (鱼生). During reunion dinners, families will be tossing this raw fish salad while shouting out good wishes to all. Every ingredient in this dish has its meaning, for example, the raw fish symbolises abundance and surplus throughout the year (年年有余) and the cinnamon powder represents the invitation of wealth and prosperity (招财进宝). Although I am unable to celebrate CNY with my family this year, I am glad to be able to share my culture with other people around the world. With the help of friends from the language school, we prepared a modified version of Yu Sheng. In case you are keen to make your own Yu Sheng, I have included the ingredients below:

Main plate:

Red pepper, cucumber, carrot, radish, Chinese parsley and lime

Side dishes/ ingredients:

Smoked salmon, grounded peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, crackers (I used fortune cookies), plum sauce, olive oil, five spice powder, pepper and cinnamon powder.

There were some positive comments on the dish being delicious and interesting. I am happy that people enjoyed the process of preparing and ‘tossing’ the salad!

Apart from Yu Sheng, we have other kinds of food unique to CNY. Pineapple tarts, bak kwa (roasted pork), kueh bangkit (coconut fragrant cookie), kueh baulu (almost similar to Madeleines) etc. Sigh… I am missing all the unhealthy food now! Moving away from food, CNY also means visiting relatives and friends. For the single and unmarried, they get to collect red packets (红包) too!

Missing and loving my family and friends back in Singapore and Malaysia, I would like to wish all of you 恭喜发财, 身体健康, 万事如意! 

 

Signing off with love

Esther

Bagels – Who doesn’t like?

I have never ate so many bagels until the day I landed in Montreal. It all started at Dan’s parents’ place. Since we were staying there for about 3 weeks, we were helping ourselves to the fridge. There was once when Dan’s dad bought a bag of fresh bagels home. They smelled and tasted so good. I have tried them with just butter or with mayonnaise mashed eggs. My best pick would be bagels with ham and cheese or with peanut butter honey. Recently, Dan recommended to top up the ham and cheese with mustard which turned out to be surprisingly mouth watering. It also depends on the mustard you use and also if you like the strong burning sensation.  I couldn’t resist the bagels hence I took a few bites before remembering my camera. ><

We bought Keen’s mustard from the supermarket IGA near our place. We chose it because we wanted something strong, similar to the ones we tried in Kochi City, Japan. Unfortunately, the taste still turned out different. It was a bit more salty as compared to the ones we have tried before. Then again, it serves its purpose for now. After this bottle, we will continue to experiment with other types of mustard.

For a quick meal, bagel serves the purpose and it is filling despite its size.