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Friday, September 30, 2011

My 10 Fav Kitchen Items and your Q answered - Get To Know Me Week- #4

These are my current favourite items in the kitchen. Some are brand specific, some are not.
No one paid me anything in any form to note these as my favs.

1. Hand mixer.
Ohh... with a KA on the counter doesn't mean I don't need this. I've been using this Philips baby since my Braun died on me in Dec 2007. Cheap at RM59, with priceless memory. I made so much good stuff with this thing. Frankly I prefer using this to make cake batter. I use the KA mostly for bread or sponge cakes, but other than that, it's all this good buddy's job. I prefer this model to Kenwood's. I've used my friend's Kenwood and my arms were 'trembling' after using hers. Because her mixer won't stop trembling and caused me to tremble too. LOL. This brand is definitely more stable. My old dead Braun was good too.

2. Cleaver.
This baby has been with me since............. 1998. When I moved into a student house in Uni, staying together with OiLai, I bought this cleaver at the local crockery shop and has been using it since, until today.
If I could only choose one knife in the kitchen and elimimate others, this will be the one I keep

3. Tesco Baking Paper
It's non stick! Actually, Glad works the same, but Glad is pricey. This paper makes cookies slide off, smooth and beautiful. Even for macarons. I love this. The size and dimension is lovely to work with. Use it either way, horizontally or vertically for the baking tray is fine, either you want it to fit in or have overlaps, just turn the roll around and cut, no wastage at all. But compared to Glad, the size of Tesco's paper is bigger and more user friendly. Glad's paper is somehow, narrower. when I'm done using this paper, I just stick the roll back into the drawer. No need to fold anything like how store bought baking paper is, one big big sheet. Take note that there's another similiar looking paper roll in Tesco and that is greaseproof paper and nope, that's not it.

4. Ikea's 365 Pots
I bought the big one first, and how I loved using it. I love the measurement markings by the side. When I boil soups, I know how much the water has reduced and I know how much I should add back should it went too low. I loved the big one so much that I bought a smaller one to boil lesser amounts. It's easy to clean, plus, it's thick and heavy based, means my congee don't burn easily and cooking jam in this is fabulous. It's so much better to use than Zebra brand. LOL. I know it's not the best pot around, but it's cheap, comparatively to other heavy based pots, this is definitely worth every penny.

5. Ikea's Akut Utensil set
Cheap and nice to use. I use this very very often and I love the small size of the turner. Better than wooden spoons. At least no residual smell and no fungus.

6. Stainless Steel Strainer.
I love this baby. I bought this for RM5, quite big, 7 inches in diameter. Even though I bought other strainers at a higher price at crockery stores, but they always seem to rust and I can't trust and buy another one? This one has been following me for 10 years and it's still shiny and pretty. Cheap but good. Bought it at a RM5 shop in Midvalley but it's not Daiso.
The handle is nice to use when I want to blanch food, like noodles or vege. I can dip the whole thing into my Ikea 365 pot and blanch whatever I want

7. Corelle Dinnerware
I heard some say, scared to buy Corelle dinnerware when kids are small, scared they might break it.
LOL, well, it's because my kids are young that I bought these.
1st, they are supposed to be unbreakable, although 2 pcs did break when they came back. The bumping of taking off and landing could be too much for these plates. So, how can the kids break these? It's safe for them to use
2nd. It's lightweight. I don't worry when my kids take this and use, it's not heavy for them.
3rd: It's safe for them. Do you want your kid's hot porridge to be ladled into a plastic bowl? Why not use a safer material like glass and Corelle is glass.
4th: These save space. I stacked 30 pcs of these into my cabinet and it only took up so little space.
I'm using these babies everyday since I moved to this house and I'm not keeping it for special occasions. It's meant for daily use. Scrub it, boil it, bake it.. just don't burn it.

8. Victorinox peeler
My aunt got me this from Switzerland, but you can get this in US too. Wondering if this is available in this region. I love this because I could peel soft fruits with this peeler that usual peelers can't do.

9. Enameled wok
I won't want to change to another type of wok, unless for very very strong reasons.  I love this type of wok. I can chi chi cha cha with it, not needing to worry about it's surface and enjoy the process of stir frying. This wok also gives very good temperature control. The moment I turn down the heat, the heat goes low, the moment I crank it up, it goes up. Unlike stainless steel woks that retains heat and is so slow to heat up. And unlike cast iron woks, it doesn't rust and I wash it with soap daily. It's very light and I can just keep it anywhere. It doesn't have sticky issues provided you used oil, of course. I love this wok, love it, love it.

10. Tupperware Dish Wash
If you hate cleaning pastic ware because you can't wash it clean, squeaky clean, even after 5 soapings. Try this. After using this dish wash, I never fear washing plastic items anymore. One swipe is enough to get it clean. Hello, of course! It's made by a plastic ware company for you to clean its products, definitely it cleans plastic well. So, it' even better with non plastic ware like glass and ceramic or even stainless steel, squeaky clean!
But if you love sudsy dish wash, then skip this. This is low in suds and even when you see no suds, it's cleaning power is still good. If you are using this and it's very sudsy, then you are really wasting it by using too much.

Your Questions Answered
Not many asked. And no one asked questions about me Wendy, except about the kitchen and house. So, don't send me emails asking about 'me' again. *Jokingla* I know you all are shy :)

Here's the few who asked questions that should be shared with all.

1. Jes's Deli Kitchen :
Q:I'm wondering how often you clean your kitchen
A: No time frame. Whenever it's dirty. But I do clean up the work area properly each time after use.

2, Iceamericanos
Q1: Just wondering, what did u put in the cabinet on top of the hood? So high to reach...
A1: Nothing, yet. My carpenter told me to make a cabinet there to hide the hood's piping.

Q2: And the utensils, do u wash them before every use? Cuz hard to stop lizards crawling by leh.
A2: What you don't see, don't smell don't exist. LOL. So far no signs of lizards there, lizards will always leave souvenirs. I use them daily, wash them at night, drip dry oredi throughout the night, then use again in the morning.

Q3: How do u clean your marble table after each use? U know sometimes its so oily after shaping bread dough.. and how do u clean it before using?
A3: With a clean wet towel? Marble tops are easy to clean. Rinse the cloth a few times. Use hot towel if it's too oily. Not ideal to use soap often (still can use but not often) on them as marble is porous. If they can absorb the soap, so can they release it out on your dough. I grew up with a marble table at home, and that was how we cleaned it all the time

Q:  Still wonder how you manage a clean house with 3 kids without a maid!!...
A: Don't come to my house w/o warning. LOL. You'll scare me. My house is like a warzone. I get fed up cleaning the hall cos each time the girls wake up, it's all in a mess again. I only sweep when neccessary, mop when neccessary. Not daily. Can die if daily. Luckily my hubby didn't complain, cos if he did, pergi buat sendiri la! LOL

And before I close this week, There are some stuff I would like to add. It seems that some of you are interested to know the reasons why I did my kitchen my way.

1. 3sinks, if you noticed ;)
2 sinks for oily stuff and is placed at the work area. One is for non oily stuff like cups and milk bottles and is placed at the drinks section so that the person cooking is not disturbed and of course, the single sink is always cleaner for milk prep. And always place them infront of the window for maximum sunlight. Sinks placed in dark areas tend to grow mould easily, very very easily. I hated my old ktichen sink. Scrubbed it almost daily to remove mould, so does the tiles around it.

2. Bookshelf in Kitchen.
I need cookbooks near me when I need them, not thatI want to run far to get them, or walk far to return them to their original spot. But take note to place them far from the stove area.

3. Big and deep sink
I hate it when it splashes when I wash the wok. So, get a deep huge sink for all you wokkers.

4. Drying rack for pots and basins
A dish drainer isn't enough. So, I added a pot rack on top of the dish drainer to dry my pots, basins and Tupperware.

5. No cabinets above rice cooker/slow cooker area.
Take note that the steam emitted during the cooking process might spoil the cabinet , so, I didn't put any cabinets above the work area as I planned to have my rice cooker and slow cooker there.

6. Dish Cabinet
I placed this as close as possible to where I drain my dishes. Don't want to walk far to keep them

7. Drawers and Cabinets for snacks and drinks.
All placed near the single tap. Convenient and reduces walking :)
Most of all, shouldn't disrupt the person who is cooking

8. Counter height and drawer height.
Make sure the counter is at a height that you feel comfortable with. My old house's counter was too low and made my back ache whenever I do a lot of dishes. I prefer to have my pelvic bone rested against the counter so that I feel comfortable leaning to the front.
I also measured my containers so that I know how tall my tall my drawers should be. It's not good to have drawers only to find out later, your containers can't fit in.
I also measured the height of my tallest book and gave the carpenter a minimum height to work with.

9. Storage spaces suitably filled according to function.
I place sauces and oil in a slim cabinet at my food prep area. Dry ingredients and spices also should be at the same area. Usually in modern kitchens, the bottles are places in a draw out wire rack, but it was toooooooooo expensive to be installed. So, I had my 5kg oil measured out and told the carpenter to do like the cheapest way, that is to make shelves, LOL

10. The fridge.
I'm particular about the door. I don't like storage on doors to waste space. So, I selected my fridge based on space utilization. My previous fridge, Kelvinator, I hated it, I didn't buy it, ok. The racks were poorly designed and wasted a lot of space. The racks on the doors can hardly put a bottle of peanut butter, only jams and slim bottles. And so so wasteful. I hated it.
So far this fridge served me well, and my hubby loves the ice making feature. It creates ice in just 2-3 hours cos there's an air outlet at the ice cubes area.And all the ice cubes comes off easily with a twist. Doesn't get stuck to the container.

11. Location of Oven (added at 3.25pm)
Sometimes, I burn things in the oven. Yeah, I do.
Especially if you make roast pork, the moment you open the oven door, the kitchen becomes heaven. Foggy! Takes a long time for the smoke to dissipate. The house smells like 'urggh!'. With that foggy experience of making roast pork, I told myself, the oven must be near the window or the door, so that the smoke and smell can go away  easily. Or at least near the kitchen hood. If you watch Fresh with Anna Olsen or French Cooking at Home with Laura Calder, take notice of their ovens, it's near the door or window.

Another item to consider: Recycling spot
Actually the space under the stove is used to keep recyclable items. Since the gas tank is there, it's not nice to keep other things, so keep old milk tins, glass botttles, PET bottles and plastic bags. You won't want to peep into the garbage cabinet, LOL. But we do have to start recycling, if not, our children will suffer.

Now, can you imagine the look on my carpenter's face when he was doing my kitchen? Tension!!! Even drawers have a designated height! LOL. He told me, this is the most complicated kitchen that he has ever done in small town KK, simply because the rest just give him free hand whereas I had my own design in mind.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Favourite 7 - Get to know me Week # 3

I've been tagged by Shu Han of Mummy I Can Cook to play this game :) Thanks Shu Han for tagging me.

I'm going to select posts that most of you have never seen, which are from my first 2 years of blogging.
I have a lot of favourites, so it's hard to get only 7 out of 539 posts. LOL.

1. Barazek.
A middle eastern cookie that is my first Step by Step post. Pictures maybe horrible because my hubby was not eager to take them for me and that time, I have never used his DSLR before and neither do I know of any editing software. I love this cookie but have never made this since.

2. Palak Tofu.
I began to explore into spices after this dish after realising the wonderful aroma that a small pinch of cumin can give me. Spices in curries or heavily flavoured dishes are undecipherable, so I have never learnt to appreciate spices even though I've been eating curries since I was a kid. Disgusting this dish may look, but it's very delicious, at least to my family. Cooked this few times.

3. Fern Shoots with Hot and Sour Dressing
I love this dish, but never made this again, although I've made it many times prior to blogging.
Maybe I should to this again in near future

4. Dulce De Leche Cream Cake
I couldn't believe that with this post, I started the DDL frenzy among the regional bloggers. After I posted I began seeing a lot of bakes with DDL coming out that I've never seen before in the regional blogging scene.
But most of all, this cake marked an important milestone in my blogging life. Something that I've worked hard for, long enough.

5. Orange Bread Pudding
Delicious, even until today I still think of it at times. Made just once.
The pictures had me wowed. That time I was just learning to hold the DSLR and I was wondering why those pictures came out so nice, each of them, until I didn't know which to choose. I rarely had such luck with pictures that time. I kept on asking my hubby, "Why today the pictures so nice ah?".

6. Upside Down Apple Sponge with Demerara Caramel
Still my ultimate comfort cake..... until today. Made this twice but am still thinking of it.

7. Spicy Lala
 A delicious dish that my in laws rave about immensely. LOL. Mother in Law, brother in law, sister in law... husband... everybody loved this and I think it's the dish that they replicate the most often.

Sometimes I do think of myself..... when will I repeat the dishes. There are just soooooooo many out there for us to try. And that makes my husband complain.

Have a nice week ahead

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Garden - Get to know me week # 2

Some of you might know that I'm fussy about food names. Yam/Taro or Amaranth/Spinach. Or how sometimes when some fellow bloggers finds some weird fruit, and that will make me go on a crazy frenzy trying to identify them.

I graduated with a Minor in Horticulture. What's horticulture? In short, I studied about plants with commercial value like vegetables, fruit and ornamental flowers. Now you know why I'm soooooooo particular about such things. I'm especially passionate for plant taxonomy, and that is plant classification. LOL. Maybe it's due to an early exposure to orchids. My late dad was a self taught orchid horticulturist, who won numerous awards in major competitions and nicknamed Species King within the orchid enthusiasts in Malaysia during his time. Dad passed away when I was 12, so, my trips to orchid exhibitions were cut short..very short. But during the few years that I followed my dad around, I always helped out with placing the orchids where they belong, according to their type. That's was how I got started, since 10.

But weirdly, I don't have green fingers. Not everything I plant lives. I may know all the theory that I could remember from my coursework, but whether the plant lives or not? Up to God to determine. LOL.

Currently I'm using au naturel nitrogen rich fertilizers produced from non other than my dearie Lyanne. LOL.
Reuben's will be next.

Here are some plants in my garden right now...

Dragon fruit seedlings
They just grew when I discarded some pulp and skin intending them to turn into compost

Lemon trees
These grew out of seed. My hubby's aunt brought some homegrown lemons back from Australia. We never expected them to grow, and it was just eat and throw. :p
I do hope they do fruit later

I purposely planted from the fennel seeds on my spice rack.
I want to see them flower and determine whether the 'jintan manis' we have here is fennel or aniseed. The colour of the flower is different for each and let's confirm the proper name, shall we?
Update 1/3/12: Name is confirmed. Read here

Bird's Eye Chilli.
A must for lovers of all things spicy. Sometimes you only need a few and it's so wasteful buying RM1 and allowing them to rot in the fridge. My FIL bought this and transplanted it into the pot.

Curry leaf plant.
Don't plant them in the ground. They make everything smell like them.

 Just shooted from some store bought roots. I am planting them for the fragrant flowers.

Aloe Vera.
The huge type. Good for dessert, soups or skin care

See some of those lying by the side of the pot? Actually I bought those and they were dried up in the fridge. So I tot, they should be dead and threw them into the pot to rot. But they were revived, and grew roots and shoots. Rootless, leafless, looks dead, but ressurected by contact with soil. BTW, lemongrass is so pricey nowadays. RM1 for 4 stalks only.

Food bloggers always need some mint for decoration purposes. :)
My MIL bought some mint from the market, took the leaves off for consumption, and I kept the stems in water (like flowers in a vase) until they rooted. Only then did I plant them in the soil. Now, growing very well.

A must in the South East Asian home.
It's growing tooooooo slow for my consumption rate.

Passionfruit seedlings.
You can grow your own passionfruit. Just throw some seeds onto the ground :)
But make sure you give them something to creep about

One stalk came together with my bunch of wild amaranth (马屎苋). I just discard like that and it grew.
Never ate this before, but will try it later when it grows more. Read up that it's rich in Omega acids.

Rue / 臭草
It's 'smelly grass'. Used in desserts. My MIL got this plant for me.

Spring onions
Planted from shallots that look shriveled in my pantry.  They may not be good as shallots, but will be good as scallions or spring onions. Don't stick them into the soil. Onto the soil will be good enough.

I use the leaves to make rendang. Crucial crucial!
If you're hardworking, dig up the roots instead of buying.

I won't tell what is this. You guess!
Hint: It's usually found at colder climates and the part we eat is red.
Swee San, you cannot guess. Reese also cannot. OiLai also cannot.
This plant got me jumping up and down with excitement!

 30/9/2011: Answer is :
Strawberry seedlings,
they came out of thrown out mouldy strawberries.

My "To-Plant" list:
Red Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan)
Thai Basil
Sweet Basil
Mutingia Tree (Kaya fruit)

I'll be including some gardening stuff into my blog in the future,
of things that i happen to plant successfully ...
God bless my garden!

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Kitchen and FAQ on your Demand- Get to know me week # 1

First of all, a big sorry to all my readers. I promised pictures of my new kitchen even before Reuben was born. Now he's hitting 4 months old already and I'm only getting the pictures out.

So, here is my kitchen. Nothing fancy about it, just a kitchen. Before that, let me clarify that I'm not rich. I just happen to stay in a small town where property is affordable and renovation workmanship costs are much lower than in big cities. I stay in a small town, where there is no McDonalds, ok.

Just in case you scroll too fast and missed my last paragraph,
Is there anything you want to ask me, for example.............
     "Wendy, do you clean the house daily with 3 kids around"
     "Wendy, when are going back to work"
     "Wendy, don't you get crazy with the kids around and staying home"
     "Wendy, what's your favourite kitchen tool?"
More info at the last paragraph

Here's the story about 'My Kitchen'.

When we decided to renovate the house, we planned to extend 21 feet out to the side, with halfway the length of the house, it's like 21X17. Sounds big right? My wet kitchen will take up 80% of that extension, with the current kitchen turned into a dry kitchen. Not totally dry, just no cooking. I was planning to turn the dry kitchen into a drinks area. And a bar with high chairs will extend into the dining area from the dry kitchen. With cookie jars on the bar counter, bakes all placed there for consumption (provided the ants don't get to it :p), and we can have our drinks made there and the kids, their milk and juice.

In my wet kitchen, I planned my kitchen to have a 3X5 marble top island, if better 3X6. Then I can have friends over to bake. My husband even suggested I have the stools built to insert right under the island like how it is in the Science lab, with cabinets underneath to keep all my baking tools. Then I want to have a 3 ft round table for afternoon tea in the kitchen overlooking the garden through the 5ft tall windows.
I wanted to have a China display cabinet for my grandma's beautiful porcelain sets.

Then changes came by... and more changes ... and more changes. The dry kitchen has to switch to a different area with a smaller space, then later, even the dry kitchen had to go.  Then we had to cut the wet kitchen to make space for a maid's room because Reuben was concieved just before work started. Now, I'm left with only 40% of the original planned kitchen space. Made me wanted to cry. No island, no bar, no separate dry and wet kitchen............... My kitchen's my comfort zone, I don't think i'll move into another house and get another kitchen. The new kitchen outlay does not permit me to have an island as it is shaped like a L. And I can't extend the kitchen anymore to the side, I wanted some space to do some gardening as well. My dream is shaaaaaaaaaaaattered.
Swee San knew about the whole ordeal, about all the changes and pooor me.

When one of my friends came to visit me, she said she must look at my kitchen, and when she did, she covered her mouth and gasped. "Wendy, I am shocked. I imagined you will have a huge kitchen with an island. I never thought it will be this small, small in terms for you." Seee............ even my friend says so.

Well, my husband said, in 10 years time, we'll knock down the kitchen and renovate it again, ok. And since the maid is just for Reuben's time, we'll knock off that room later so that the kitchen can be big once again. Do you believe him? No I don't. The maid is no where to be seen even now. LOL. But then again, frankly, I don't need one. Provided, he doesn't complain about the state of the house. Hahahaha!

*****End of Kitchen Story.********

So now, please take a tour of my ZONE

A general view from different areas of my kitchen to let you have an idea of the layout

Here's where I cook. Yes I'm using a countertop stove. I don't want a built in stove top. Much to the shock of some that I used this old fashioned stove. LOL. Some can't believe that I bought this. Well, I had enough of wiping and cleaning under the stove whenever porridge overflows right into the cabinets via the small opening between the stove and the cut out hole. I totally had enough of it. The stove is Elba but it's not that good. I wanted to get a Zanussi, but the model I wanted keep running out of stock at HSL. The hood is Kelvinator. So far ok, very powerful. Catches a good amount of oil, especially after a good ole session of Char Kway Teow. Clean it often, close the windows when using it for maximum suction power and it'll be fine.

Here's my food prep area

Here's my ovens area, a built in oven and a microwave oven. The cabinets beneath the microwave oven is full of Tupperware. Scary.. LOL.
And I've got my cookbooks right above the microwave oven. Not a huge collection. The carpenter (not an ID, I just engaged a carpenter, see?) got a shock that I wanted a bookshelf in the kitchen. My hubby told me to forgive him for not seeing anyone with cookbooks in the kitchen. LOL.
And the whole cabinet from top to bottom of my oven is filled with my baking gadgets. It's a very tall cabinet :p
Oh yes, the oven's Bosch, not something from the high range, and how was it?...... hmm.. so so la.

Here's my new drinks and snack area, with the breakfast table right infront of it. No bar, no bar!!! I use the marble table for kneading and cake deco. I've got the aircond fixed there so that I can decorate my cakes without entering the bedroom :)

And another view of my kitchen. See the distance of the fridge door (or right) to the mixer? It's only 5ft. Cannot insert any island!!! See the short curtains above my double sinks? My husband hated them, saying they look like petticoats (底裙,kain dalam) and gave the excuse that he doesn't want to stand there and do the dishes. LOL.

And this is my new toy, bought from US. A bowl lifter model. I chose this because I want to bake bigger batches of bread. I'm stingy with electricity so baking one small loaf is out of the question. And if the bowl can be lifted, I can whip my eggs with a waterbath underneath.
My sister in law lugged it all the way back for me. Since its wattage is US 110V, and can't be plugged in directly into our sockets, I used a transformer. Works just as good. I don't know if you realised, I don't bake much bread before this. Hahaha.. Actually I've got a whole bunch of bread postings in my drafts, but I don't want to post them before I show you my kitchen. I'm learning to bake bread, yes proper bread.

I know, to make a good bread, one does not need a machine, like how some manual kneading gurus will tell you. But I don't have the luxury to stand there and knead for 1 hour to window pane stage. I have kids to attend to. And to have a mixer saves me time especially for big batch baking. I love it when I made triple batch of choux pastry for Reuben's full moon. My old hand mixer smelled bad with just one batch. And I could just get the machine to beat my eggs while I prepare the rest when baking sponge cakes. If I beat the eggs with a hand mixer, I need to stand there 10 minutes holding the machine and not doing anything else, what a waste of time. Time is precious to me when there are kids.

So, let me end this with another picture of my breakfast table that I eat my daily home made bread together with my husband almost every morning... And oh yes, I sewed those curtains... all of them, including the petticoat curtain, ;p

If you have any questions regarding me, my kitchen or just anything,
as long as it's not too personal, leave a comment and I'll try to answer you in another post this week. Please take note that I have the liberty to decline answering any too personal questions.
Anonymous questions will not be entertained. Leave a name.
Reason is because that I do recieve emails with questions regarding me, my kitchen and some other stuff.
So, it'll be great to share with everybody what you want to know so that others may know too.

 My Garden and Favourite 7 will be coming up next.


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