Provision

Life, it seems, is this odd collection of events, jumbled together in seemingly random combinations.

Just when I think I’m finally about to get a breather and play catch-up with things I’ve been neglecting for too long, something new springs up and my attention is diverted again.

For once, I actually managed to get my work done way ahead of schedule. And so I thought I’d have this considerable amount of time to get the home organised and perhaps, even be able to indulge in some hobbies for awhile.

But alas, something evil lurks about in the background. Well, somewhat.

I get a new ad-hoc request for work. My son falls sick and has to skip school.

My life is topsy turvy once again. Goodbye, plans.

I ought to get back to bed soon. I fell asleep not intending to earlier, and then was awakened twice in between all that by my son, who is currently running a fever.

I had a shower after we took his temperature and gave him meds. And now I’ve just finished having a midnight snack (way past midnight, really) of air fried frozen nuggets and lettuce with Kewpie sesame dressing. Listened to some new music via Facebook and indulged my curiosity for a bit in the singing couple, Us The Duo, who are currently doting over their firstborn infant.

Ah, why do so many women look so gorgeous post delivery and during the first year of their newborn’s life? I remember looking worse than crap and feeling pretty much the same too. I was stumped on what to wear, and struggled to locate breastfeeding friendly clothes from my wardrobe (didn’t really want to spend unnecessarily on nursing wear, so tried my best to use what I have). My hair was pretty much in a bun most of the time, unless I finally chopped more than half of it off in an attempt to simplify grooming (which I clearly had no time to do, especially in that first year of parenthood).

I guess I don’t expect to feel any better when #2 makes his/her entrance into the world. Only good thing is, as my ob/gyn says, I have the benefit of experience now. So I know what to expect, more or less. Ha.

International Women’s Day has just passed lately and being a Work-At-Home Mum (WAHM), there was no employer to surprise me with flowers or delightful treats at my (non-existent) work desk. In fact, I spent last Friday mostly working in a silent home while being grateful that I actually could find the time to work because my son could attend preschool that day as his flu seemed to be getting better. (It has since morphed into a cough and fever. Bah.)

Anyway, social media reminded me through the many posts of others that this significant day was being commemorated. So it made me think for a moment about my womanhood and how it has been so far.

In some ways, it’s sad to think that I had to choose to become a WAHM because my former employer had no options available for me to explore in terms of more flexible work arrangements. Perhaps it might have been different for my career had I been able to remain a journalist in some form or measure while raising my young son. But that was not to be.

So ultimately, being a Mum came with certain choices that needed to be made. Essentially, this is part of being a woman too. As much as men sometimes like to belittle the female gender saying we harp too much on gender equality and all that, the truth is sometimes that we do have a different set of life circumstances dealt to us just because we are female. And we do need every bit of support we can get from others (men included) to help make it possible for us to become the best people we can be. And to not let being a woman become a hindrance in any way.

Just my two cents.

On another matter, I am marvelling at how God is graciously providing for us during this pregnancy so far. I am thankful for a uni friend who so happens to be also pregnant at this time (our EDDs are like just weeks apart, with me being in the lead). We are both also expecting our second child, so that makes our experiences pretty similar in nature. This makes me feel not so alone in my journey.

I remember I had a similar situation last time during my first pregnancy with Jamie. A friend I knew from my days in iBridge (a Christian ministry to support young adults who are just entering the workforce) and I were pregnant with EDDs that were also just weeks apart.

It was cool. We shared so much with each other throughout our pregnancies, and we also discussed so much together throughout the first year of our parenthood experience. (However, things changed rapidly moving from then onwards, and we haven’t been as much in touch as before – but that is a tale for another time).

These are just little stuff, but it really does help.

Got plenty more things to be worried about this pregnancy (costs of healthcare being one), but I’m trying my hardest to take things one step at a time.

Meanwhile, I am also thinking a lot about whether I am doing enough to bring out the potential in my eldest child. I have seen him grow so much in the past few months, and I’ve never been prouder. But I also know there’s going to be a lot of changes ahead for him. I wonder whether we will be able to help him navigate through this season well.

Guess I have to trust that God will provide for us in every way, be it in terms of physical needs or even the emotional/mental/spiritual aspects of this part of our family’s journey. He has been faithful all throughout past seasons, of course, so I have literally no excuse to believe that things would be any different now.

(Small note: The image you see at the start of the post is my son’s masterpiece of arranging magnetic music notes on my old music board which my Mum kept since my preschool days lol).

Cookery chat

This would not be a Malaysian blog if there was no talk of food.

Food is such a big thing for us over here. It is a means for survival, yes, but it is also a cornerstone of family life, a meeting point for friends, a catalyst for romance and many other things. We love eating out as much as we love our homemade creations.

The variety of food we consume here in Malaysia also speaks volumes about who we are as a community and the collective culture that we adopt in our daily lives.

So it’s only fitting that I should write more about this delicious aspect of my life.

In case you are clueless what it is we eat here in Malaysia, the above image is a general representation of what an average meal would look like in Malaysia. Sure, we have our noodles and roti and other fare, but in terms of staple diet, it usually comes down to rice. Or nasi, as it is called in Bahasa Malaysia.

The other two dishes you see in this photo are stir fried long beans (left) and stir fried chicken in Moroccan seasoning (right).

Stir frying is a common technique used in Chinese cooking. And since we are Malaysian Chinese, it is no exception in our household.

The great thing about stir fried dishes is that they are quick to whip up and require a very small amount of cooking oil. Cooking typically begins by heating the oil (normally about 1 tablespoon of it) and then adding in chopped garlic, shallots or onions into the mix, letting it sizzle for a moment before other ingredients are added to the pan. The order of ingredients that are thrown is would probably be decided based on which one would require a longer cooking time, eg mushrooms would go in earlier, and things like spring onions (which can be even eaten raw) are put in last. Both veggie and meat dishes can be prepared with the stir fry method.

The cooking time is short, but preparing the ingredients needed for a stir fry dish can sometimes be quite time consuming, especially if there are many different parts to put together. For instance, there would usually be a sauce mixture, meat might need to be marinated a bit earlier, and each additional ingredient would need to be chopped separately before being combined into the pan or wok later on.

Another frequent feature of Chinese meals is soup. This is usually clear soup, not the creamy kind you tend to see on a Western menu. The best tasting Chinese soups are double boiled and are left to cook for hours so it is more flavourful. These methods rarely take place in our home. The fact that a bowl of soup could be prepared at all is already something to be thankful for. My husband isn’t too fond of Chinese style soups, so that makes me even less motivated to make soup. I love it though, and if time permitted, I’d ensure there was one at the table each time we dined.

In our home, we also have an oven, 2 slow cookers and an air fryer to depend on for preparing our main meals. Other ancillary appliances include a blender, food processor, bread machine and sandwich maker.

The air fryer was the latest addition to the kitchen arsenal and it is serving us well. Tell me, who doesn’t like fried chicken after all?

Besides the Chinese dishes, we also often cook Indian curries and sometimes also try out Malay dishes like rendang or assam pedas. We also love Western food, so every week there is usually at least one meal of this nature. Examples of stuff we have whipped up in the past include shepherd’s pie, pasta, pizza and sandwiches.

Oh, and breakfast menu is normally simpler fare as compared to lunch and dinner. Bread or cereal is often what we resort to. Sometimes we’d have pancakes, muffins or steamed Chinese sponge cake too. I’m hoping to incorporate more options into the list of breakfast choices. In particular, some roti and pau and maybe some kuih and rice or pasta options too. But that might take awhile to work out, since it needs some prior planning and food preparation.

With our son around, we have also been making efforts to vary the items on our diet as much as we can afford to. So we have at least two types of meat every week, with chicken being the staple as it is the cheapest option available.

Fresh fruits are also served up on a daily basis in our home. I usually serve them over breakfast. But on lazier or less organised days, they creep into the lunch or tea time menu instead. Sometimes, they would be made into juice instead. But since this involves using the blender, that means more cleaning up so it isn’t as often as I’d like it to be.

I guess I shouldn’t cram too much information and stories into just ONE post. I’ll share more about our kitchen capers in subsequent posts.

I’d love to hear about what your daily meals are like though. Especially if you’re residing somewhere other than these Malaysian shores. Drop me a comment if you can πŸ™‚

Fishy businessΒ 

Fishball noodle soup with our homemade fishballs whee πŸ™‚
I’m up early to finish some dastardly work, but before I get to it… Just have to share with you about our lovely fishball noodle soup last night. πŸ™‚ 

Jamie seems to love noodles so we thought we’d give it a try so he could eat the same dinner that we were having. 

This was also our first time trying our hands at making our own fishballs. I figured it’d be healthier for everyone (Jamie included), plus we could have the peace of mind knowing what was in it. 

Only bummer was me being paranoid and deciding to Google about mackerel and mercury content during dinner time and then finding out that it DOES have a rather high reading 😦 What a mood spoiler. But well, I guess since we don’t always eat fish, hopefully it’s still okay for Jamie since it’s just once in awhile… 

Deric did all the cooking this time because I’m still running a marathon to finish my work. But it really looked simple enough, the steps and all, so hopefully the next round, I’ll get to be involved in the cooking too. 

You can check out the recipe at Rasa Malaysia. It only gives instructions for how to make the soup and fishballs, but you can always chuck in any favourite noodles and miscellaneous ingredients and convert it into fishball noodle soup πŸ™‚ 

For our rendition of this dish, we added Chinese cabbage, oyster mushrooms, and chicken breasts (cut into small chunks). And for the noodles part, we did a mix of meehoon (rice vermicelli) and spinach mee (which is cool because it adds a greenish accent to the dish and more healthy too, at the same time). 

We skipped the garlic oil and seaweed this time round, but I would love to have it thrown in next time too, me thinks. 

Oh and we made the fish paste using our food processor rather than through chopping it with a knife.

Meanwhile, for the soup, we made it extra delicious by first creating a homemade fish stock as the base. We added other fish bones that we had left over from another meal, and followed the steps from a soup cookbook that I have. (It basically contained onions, celery, a bay leaf, and a few other simple condiments.)

We let our fish stock cook in the slow cooker all day. First, on High till the liquid was boiling, then Low for the rest of the afternoon till it was needed for cooking in the evening. 

It sure beats any commercial stock out there. And it made the soup extra yummy πŸ˜€ 

Feel kind of psyched to attempt beef balls next, either for a noodle soup thing OR to go with pasta/spaghetti. Hehe. 

Perhaps by some time in the future, we’ll no longer buy these dishes from outside restaurants and coffee shops no longer and save ourselves more money. (It’s an ambitious thought, but hey, maybe it’s possible someday ya?) 

Biscoff: The baking of

Finally did a homemade version of Biscoff. Yay.

* Tiny note: This post comes a little late. I actually baked these Biscoffs last year, but never got round to posting this draft. I was about to just trash the entire draft, but on second thought, since it’s already all written out, well, here you go πŸ™‚ 

I first tasted a Biscoff cookie in my confinement month after Jamie’s birth. My mother-in-law had come to visit from Korea and was staying at our place at that time, and she brought a pack of Lotus Biscoff to share with us, just like the one in the above picture. 

I’d never known of the existence of Biscoff prior to that. Thanks to the effects of breastfeeding (aka being hungry ALL the time), I decided to try some and ended up liking them. 
After my mother-in-law went back to Korea, I never saw or bought Lotus Biscoff again until recently when I saw it being sold at Jaya Grocer. Much to my delight, of course. 

As with nearly everything I see/do these days, my thoughts turned to whether it was possible to make these lovely cookies for myself (on the pretext of saving money). So, as is my typical response to  whimsical ideas like this, I looked it up on Pinterest. 

And, good news, there ARE people out there who created homemade Biscoff cookies. Yay! 

Unfortunately, it seemed to require a long list of spices in the ingredients list. Which for awhile, put me off making them because I couldn’t find what was required. I mean, I found some of them but not all (eg I had difficulty locating allspice and clove powder). 

Then I stumbled upon some recipes which required less of the said spices, and one blog  post that even said Biscoff cookies were primarily about the cinnamon taste and flavour, and that the other spices weren’t really necessary. So I took heart in that, and decided it’s time to give Biscoff baking a go. Finally. 

Even then, it has taken me awhile to actually get round to baking Biscoff since, as you know, my life is mostly occupied with caring for Jamie and managing home based writing work. However, I have done it at last with a recipe that only relies on nutmeg and cinnamon powder.

Introducing… my very own homemade Biscoff! Whee!

Take a peek… Do they look authentic? Honestly, they look like butter cookies to me (or maybe it’s due to the kind of cookie moulds I used to make them with). 

Things to note about the recipe I used: 

1. I reduced the cinnamon by half out of fear that the smell/taste would be too strong. It appears not to be with this batch, I might bring it back up as per recipe for the next time. 

2. I see now why the dough needs to be refrigerated. Once it goes back to room temperature, it becomes really hard to work with (ie soft and sticky). Me being the dawdling, easily distracted self that I was, I took too long working with the batch for the first tray that the dough reverted to its former self. Heh. Lesson learned. 

3. Also because of the tendency of the dough to become sticky, it was tough getting it out of the cookie moulds and safely onto the baking tray without it becoming deformed in the process. So perhaps for the future, I should stick to simpler moulds like just circles or something like that. 

4. Recipe warned that the cookies brown very quickly and need to be monitored closely. I did try, but having Jamie needing my attention constantly and hovering at the kitchen’s safety gate made that difficult. I also couldn’t decide how brown I actually wanted them. Hence, you can see various shades of brown in the photo I shared. Hehe. Something to improve on for next time. 

5. Does it taste like the actual Lotus Biscoff? Not really, but it tastes nice as it is. So… hmm… What shall I do about that? Try other recipes? 

I think I’ll need some nicer cookie moulds to shape my homemade Biscoffs.

Just in case you want to try your hand at the recipe I used, you can find it here

I just might want to whip up another batch soon to refine the recipe further, so I’ll post about it again if I learn anything new. Tata for now πŸ™‚  

Piece of cake

A quick cake fix option I should have explored eons ago.

Lately I’ve suddenly developed an affinity for mug cakes.

With my busy Work-At-Home-Mum lifestyle in full swing, most days I barely have enough time for much of anything. So the idea of a quick fix for a cake craving is very much appealing at this phase of my life.

It all started out with me wanting to bake my Mum something which I could use to surprise her on her birthday. I needed it to be small in size and for the recipe to be manageable enough for my baking skills (which is mostly only at the level of being able to follow directions).

So I decided to look up mug cake recipes since they would yield a decently sized cake which would be just nice for my Mum to consume by herself. Not to mention it being really quick to prepare too (a plus point definitely with my lack of hours in each day).

Poking around on Pinterest led me to this 2 Minute Coffee Cake in a Mug recipe. I thought to myself, ‘This would be perfect since Mum likes coffee!’ Only to realise halfway through trying out the recipe that there is NO COFFEE in the ingredients list.

Turns out the author just meant cake that can be consumed with coffee. But… but… but… that’s NOT a coffee cake!

Back I went to searching the Web for a mug coffee cake recipe. This time via Google rather than Pinterest. So finally I chanced upon a Chocolate Expresso Mug Cake recipe. It was just what I was looking for. Yay!

The final outcome is what you see in the pic above.

From that experience, I decided that mug cakes are really great and made another round of that chocolate expresso mug cake all for myself. I also retried the “coffee” cake (which is more like a cinnamon apple cake actually).

My conclusion from all of this is that I will most certainly be adding more mug cake recipes to my baking repertoire for many more days and months to come. In fact, I read somewhere that it’s a cool thing to teach kids to do too, since it’s really simple and yields fast results.

So yay for mug cakes. I can finally have my cake and eat it too.

* Β  Β  * Β  Β  *

Notes (in case you want to try those recipes too)Β 

For the Chocolate Expresso Mug Cake, I used 3 tbsp of castor sugar and since I baked with cocoa powder instead of drinking chocolate, I also added an extra 1 tsp of sugar. Had it baked in my microwave on High for 90 minutes and it turned out fabulous.

The 2 Minute Coffee Cake in a Mug turned out too sweet so I decided to reduce the sugar content. For the cake itself, only put in 1 tsbp castor sugar whereas for the streusel, I put in only 1/2 tbsp of sugar. Also decided to weigh the butter since having to smash melted butter into a measuring spoon irks me a bit. So… it comes up to roughly 12g for the 1 tbsp of sugar. Baked it for 70-80 seconds on High.

My microwave is a Panasonic one. Non-convection.