30 July 2010

Baked Tofu, Beef & Cheese

Recently I have this craving for comfort food with lotsa melted cheese (must be the stormy weather). When I saw Noobcook's Baked Tofu, Beef and Cheese, I knew I had to try it! Step-by-step instructions with photos are shown in her blog so it makes it really easy to follow.

Followed the recipe to a T, but instead of 3 baking dishes, I managed to squeeze all the ingredients into 2 x 12cm diameter baking dishes (these are the 2 personal size baking dishes I have anyway).

Towards the end of the baking, I could see some broth bubbling at the sides of the baking dish, with the mozzarella cheese melted to a golden brown crust and an alluring aroma lingering in the air... couldn't wait to eat it!
Verdict, it was YUMMY! The broth from juice of the beef and onion plus seasonings tasted really sweet and I was slurping up the 'soup' together with the minced beef and tofu. Love the combination of soft tofu, crunchy onion, chewy beef and crispy/chewy mozzarella cheese. I was taking mouthful after mouthful despite the dish being piping hot. Have it hot, otherwise wouldn't taste so nice anymore.

And yep, I finished one bowl (as you can see in the background) and a half (too full already - this recipe is supposedly for 3!). Probably will half the recipe next time. This makes a wholesome and healthy lunch for me (since hubby isn't really keen on foods like baked rice and such). Give it a try, hop over to Noobcook's blog for the recipe!

28 July 2010

Simmered Chicken & Boiled Egg in Sweet Sour Sauce

After attending Chef Aki's Jap Home Cooking 2 Demo Class last Saturday, I was so keen to attempt the recipes that I bought ingredients on Sunday and set out to cook one of the dish, Simmered Chicken & Boiled Eggs in Sweet Sour Sauce for Monday night's dinner.

I halved the recipe as I'm not sure whether hubby would like the sourish taste of the sauce. In addition, I further reduced the sugar by half as I don't want the sauce to taste too sweet and I'm also limiting my sugar intake.

*Apologies but I can't share the recipe here due to copyright of the notes by the Cooking School.

The sauce turned out just the way I like it, more towards sourish and salty than sweet =D I couldn't stop sipping the sauce while cooking :p The taste is somewhat similar to Vinegar Pig's Trotters (typically eaten during confinement) but much more refined and not as overwhelming.

My worry that hubby won't like the taste was uncalled for. He enjoyed the dish and commented that the sauce was really appetising and good to go with rice.

So given our love for chicken wings, and that the dish is really quick and easy, it is now added to my list of regular recipes.

26 July 2010

Japanese Home Cooking 2 Demo Class

One of our (hubby and I) favourite cuisine is Japanese food and we'll dine at Japanese restaurant at least once a month. Used to make sushi at home many years ago, but these days, I guess it's more convenient to dine at restaurants like Sushi Tei where reasonable quality sushi and sashima are served. Nevertheless, hubby always laments the fact that sashimi and sushi taste the nicest in Japan itself (but of course); and that the sushi served in restaurants here has more rice than fish/seafood whereas the ones in Japan are opposite. Oh, we miss Japan! I digress.

Anyways, since I'm cooking almost daily now, I'm running out of ideas what to cook. Quite hesitant to go into Jap cuisine as I think a lot of preparation is required given that Japanese people are well known for their meticulous style and presentation.

Still, I signed up for the Japanese Home Cooking 2 Demo Class conducted by Guest Chef Aki Watanabe at Shermay's Cooking School over the weekend. I guess since it's home style cooking, should be quite manageable. And yes indeed, Chef Aki made the recipes really comprehensive and went through the explanation and preparation in detail so that even newbies to Jap cooking are able to follow easily :) In fact, I went to buy the key ingredients the next day and raring to try the recipes soon!

6 recipes are demo-ed during the 3.5hr class.
1) Dashi fish stock - soup stock for many Jap dishes
2) Seafood, Salmon & Tofu Gratin with Miso Cream Sauce (Tofu to seafood no miso cream guratan)
3) Simmered Chicken & Boiled Eggs in Sweet Sour Sauce (Toriniku to yudetamago no amasuppa ni)
4) Simmered Chinese Cabbage (Hakusai to aburaage no nibitashi)
5) Plum Liquor Jelly (Umesyu kan)
6) Tofu Cheesecake (Tofu no cheesecake)

No photos taken for the Dashi fish stock. Key ingredients are just water, Kombu kelp and Katsuobushi bonito flakes. Very simple steps but need to be meticulous in preparation to achieve best resullts. This soup stock is the essential base for many dishes. Chef Aki stressed to us not to buy those powder dashi as this soup stock is really simple to prepare and extra portion could be kept in fridge or freezer.

This is an extremely easy dish that can be prepared one day in advance, the key being good dashi fish stock. Freshly cooked, the cabbage is slightly tinted light brown. Chef Aki shared with us how to present this dish in the proper Japanese way - to pile the cabbage in the middle of the plate and leave some white area all around. Apparently, it's important to have 'air' around the dish.
If left overnight and re-heated, the cabbage will be more flavourful with darker tinge of brown. We could taste the natural sweetness of the cabbage itself and in fact the sweetness was enhanced by the dashi fish stock. I will definitely try this recipe since both hubby and I like chinese cabbage.

The next recipe is Simmered Chicken & Boiled Eggs in Sweet Sour Sauce. Yet another simple dish which requires little effort. 
I love  this dish which was sweet and salty yet a tinge of sourish from the use of brown rice vinegar. The sauce really whets one's appetite and goes well with rice. Although the chicken is not marinated, it's flavourful having immensed in the sauce. Not sure whether hubby will take to the taste but this is definitely a keeper for me!
Next up, plum liquor jelly which is once again very easy to prepare. Served cold, this is definitely a refreshing dessert to cleanse the palate.
I don't really take alcohol but this is really light. Fans of umesyu will love it.

I'm really impressed with this gratin dish. Most of the gratin recipes I came across use whipping cream, creme fraiche or milk which seem quite overwhelming. But this recipe uses unsweetened soy milk, dashi fish stock, plain flour and miso paste, which surprisingly taste like cheese flavour when combined! Certainly a healthier version of gratin which I would like to try making! Large portion can be prepared for sharing or
personal portions served in individual baking dish.
This is what I call comfort food, lots of cheesy flavour with different textures - soft tofu, fresh seafood, chewy mozzarella cheese, cream sauce, all baked into one dish. Yummy!
The finale and perfect ending to the class, Tofu Cheese Cake. A healthier version of cheese cake where tofu and yogurt are added besides cream cheese. Best part, it's a no-bake cheese cake.
When eaten on the same day, the taste will be more of tofu. If eaten the next day, more cream cheese taste. Best served cold with some berries jam. The tangy berries jam complemented the creamy cheese cake well, what a sweet ending. Will try this one of these days as well :)

The dishes demo-ed in this class change my impression of Jap cooking and Chef Aki is really friendly with easy-to-follow instructions. Will see if I have time to attend more of her classes. Meanwhile, the first dish I'm going to attempt is the Simmered Chicken & Boil Egg in Sweet Sour Sauce. Stay tuned!

15 July 2010

Baby 6 months

My baby is 6 months today and this also marks my 6 months journey of total breastfeeding (latch on 99% of time)! Hooray! Never thought that I could survive this far and achieve this target. Next, aiming for one-year target so long as I still can do :)

Really appreciate my hubby for the unwavering support and understanding, as well as good friend Carol for her advice and encouragement, otherwise I wouldn't come this far during those moments of uncertainties and desperation.

I must say that breastfeeding is really not easy and no amount of theory could beat the practical experience. I read up, watched latching videos, attended classes by private lactation consultant and BMSG... but when the baby arrived, it's a different thing altogether. Luckily my hubby was there to help with the latching position and the nurses at the hospital I delivered in were able to provide advice. I insisted not buying any formula at all (though my confinement lady kept commenting that if my milk not enough must supplement, and kept asking whether baby drinking or not).

The first 2+ months were quite ok, apart from a blocked duct during 1st 2 weeks (it sure was painful, every session felt like needles poking during first 20 secs when the baby started suckling).

However, approaching 3 months, my baby suddenly reduced his milk intake (used to take about 8 feeds). I didn't know what happened so sort of forced him to drink and as a result, he went on a nursing strike and subsequently a milk strike (could went on 5-6 hours without milk or very little milk). After about 1 week, I was totally desperate and broke down as the baby kept rejecting me, won't even allow me to cradle him! Had to get my mother in law over to help with bottle feeding for 3 days. My milk supply also dropped due to the stress and coz I didn't express when baby refused to nurse. After the good break, I picked up myself and read up on nursing strikes and slowly coaxed the baby back to my breasts (had to rock him till drowsy or pump till let-down then quickly latch him). Also took nursing tea to help get back supply.

It took several weeks before it got better. I learnt to ditch the clock and my record book (yes, I was quite a stickler for amount of time baby spent on each breast and such) and learnt to trust the baby. If baby doesn't want to nurse, I let him be. His feeds during 4 months were only 5 times over 24hrs (now also still 5 to 6 times, I guess he's drinking more per session). In addition, he was very distractable which made nursing more challenging.

Frankly, I'm still constantly paranoid over his milk intake whether enough (really dont't know how much he drinks since latch on) and also my milk supply. My hubby keeps assuring me that dear son is growing well and looks stout, though his weight is always on the 25 percentile range. I just have to assure myself that it's ok since he's achieving his milestones (able to lift his head while on tummy by 3 months, able to roll over both ways by 4 months, able to sit unsupported for a while by 5 months, and now demonstrating pre-crawl moves).

These days, he's still very distractable and would keep latching and unlatching during some feeds (especially hearing sounds and movements). The improvement is, he would whine when hungry and search for me/my breasts. Most of the time, he would only nurse when really hungry and sleepy and would fall asleep immediately after. I would prefer him to Eat, Activity and Nap but his pattern is Activity, Eat and Nap... he just wants to play upon waking!!! No choice, will see whether he will change this pattern as he grows older and starts to eat more solids. I've just started him on semi-solids (organic brown rice cereal) and will see how it goes. Weaning is another learning journey for me! Come to think of it, if counting from the start of my confinement, I've been a SAHM for 6 months as well. Wow!
Well, just a little sharing of my breastfeeding journey so far. Besides learning to trust my baby and my breasts (for supply), I learn to take things more easy and accept that baby pattern keep changing. Sometimes, just as I thought we have settled down into a comfortable pattern, he changes again. Really need lots of patience, perseverance and determination.

On another note, we brought him to KL (self-drive) when he was 5 months and just returned from Krabi (his first flight!). Will blog about both trips when I have more time :) *sigh* so many things to blog about, so little time. 

Here's a photo of him in our hotel at Krabi :)