Chocolate and Apple French Toast

>> Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ok, this isn't how it was supposed to happen this morning.

I'm usually pretty good with breakfast.  I have my heart healthy oatmeal or quinoa and a whole lot of fruit on a normal day. And if you have been reading my blog, you'd know that I do try to post healthy recipes and enjoy taking out 'bad' ingredients in my meals and substituting them with more wholesome alternatives.

But maybe today just wasn't a normal day.

You see, I woke up craving for chocolate. And some jazz. A strange morning indeed.

Then a block of chocolate with raisons and pistachio from Koko Black was just sitting on top of my dressers.

It was meant to be sent to a friend in Sydney last week but unfortunately I left it near my window and the sun melted the chocolate and turned it slightly wonky shaped.

That can only mean one thing. I need to buy another block of chocolate...and eat the wonky one myself.

So I turned it into a french toast along with apples. 

Oh my...I'm not sure if this was a good idea afterall.

Because I don't know if I can ever go back to my oatmeal. 

As if french toasts aren't tempting enough, the addition of the melting chocolate goo and the crunch of the apples makes eating this so finger-licking good. I think bananas or strawberries would work well here too.

Chocolate and Apple French Toast
Inspired by Masa
Serves 4
  • 8 slices of toast (I used multi-grain)
  • 1 Fuji apple (don't use granny smith)
  • 2 blocks of chocolate
  • Handful of Almond slices
Flour Batter
  • 1 tbsp of flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
Milk Batter
  • 1 egg
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I used brown sugar)
1. Mix all the ingredients from the Flour Batter section of the ingredients together in a small bowl.

2. Peel and slice the apple thinly and place evenly on the toast. 

3. Break a block of chocolate in half, and place it on top of the apples on the toast.

4. Use a spoon to carefully ladle the flour batter onto the side of the toast before placing another slice of toast on top of it. Place a plate on top of the 2 slices to ensure they stick together.

5. Mix the ingredients from the Milk/Egg Batter together in a large bowl and dip the 2 'glued' slices of toast into the batter on both sides. Make sure you don't dip it for too long otherwise the toasts will be soggy.

6. Turn the gas on low heat, add some butter as once it's melted add the sliced almonds and gently stir around the pan.

7. Place the batter-dipped sandwich onto the pan directly on top of the almonds and leave it there until it is golden brown on the bottom side. Flip the sandwich over and again wait until it is golden brown. Remember the gas/stove is to be set on low, you don't want the crust to be burnt and the chocolate not melting inside.

8. Once out of the pan, place on a board and cut it in half!

Oh, and it might be a good idea to sprinkle some icing sugar (powder sugar) on the toast. I didn't have them in my pantry.

But yeah, you know the rest.

Go make yourself some tea or coffee and sit back. Watch the rain outside (raining on Melbourne Cup weekend!) and and turn on some sweet vocal jazz ;)


Japanese beef and potato stew with konnyaku noodle

>> Tuesday, October 26, 2010

As strange as it may sound, for the past few weeks I've been feeling like an alien (not the glowing green type) in a foreign land. I might as well as have moved to a country whose name I can't even spell. Like Kazakhstan (spelt with the assistance of Google autocomplete of course.)

Raining...but at least I have an umbrella!
Everywhere I went, I looked for 'familiarity' and found little of it.

In the supermarket, the brands of my usual staples like milk and eggs are different (who would've thought that those everyday items are different even one state away!) No big deal obviously. Changes are good.
Coffee at Brunetti on my first day in Melbourne!
Then on Thursday night, I strolled around the city confused as to why the shops were closed before 6pm. Isn't it late night shopping? Nope, it's Friday. Seriously, who goes shopping on a Friday night? (Ok, I did...after I found out).

Then there's the train which is incredibly unstable and literally shook me off my seat. And I also learnt that the train doors don't open automatically. On my first week here, I missed a train because I stood in front of a door waiting for it to open and before I could comprehend what was happening, the train started moving again! I guess this is more silliness on my part ;)

There is something deeply romantic about a flower shop on a rainy day. Don't you think?
Maybe it is also because I've moved into a different industry...away from all the computer geeks and into research where people in the office spam my inbox with abbreviations as long as a strand of the human genome. Ok not really. But initially it was strange not to see people in their pin-stripped uniform and a mouthful of corporate buzz-words.

And so I did come up with ways just to find that feeling of familiarity - a smell, a sight, a sound, a taste or a prayer. I found it in a few places. And one of them is my kitchen. My food. My food seems to taste the same everywhere I go. 

This Japanese beef and potato stew with konnyaku noodle (to replace my usual Chinese noodles) tastes the same as the version I grew up with. The simple sweet soy broth with tender (and fatty!) beef, hearty vegetables and the slightly chewy strands of this healthy konnyaku noodle is best eaten curled up on the couch while you watch a movie on T.V you've seen a few times already. 

Ahhh, the familiarity of it all!

Japanese beef and potato stew with konnyaku noodle
Adapted from MASA

  • 200g beef, sliced thinly (I used wagyu beef)
  • 500g Potato, peeled and chopped roughly (although I chopped into cubes to shorten cooking time)
  • 100g Carrots, chopped any way you like
  • 1 tomato (optional)
  • 300g Onions, sliced thinly
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cooking sake
  • 1.5 tbsp mirin
  • 1 packet of konnyaku noodle (from Japanese/Asian grocery stores)
1. Boil the konnyaku noodle into a pot of hot water for around 2 minutes.

2. In a big pot, add a splash of cooking oil and put in your meat slices.

3. Add the konnyaku from step 1 as well as the onions into the pot and stir around the pot for a few minutes.

4. Add the potatoes, carrots as well as the tomatoes and stir around the pot. Then add into the pot around half a litre of water.

5. Turn the gas up to High and bring to boil for 2-3 minutes. Then turn down the heat before you add in the sauces (soy, mirin, sake and sugar).

6. Put a lid over the pot and cook until the water/stock has reduced and the potatoes/carrots are soft and cooked through.


Your Place Or Mine? Book signing + Pumpkin Pudding with Cinnamon sauce

>> Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You know those movies which start at the peak of actions and have you at the edge of your seats...then all of a sudden they rewind back into the past where you discover all the incidents that lead to that present action-packed day?

Well here is mine:

So let's go back to last week and how it lead up to the above moment.

No no, let's go back to the day I was born and how I was born with good tastes in cups ;)

You see, I love collecting cups but every cup I've purchased and taken to work - it gets stolen.

Last week was no exception. I spent the weekend picking out a cup for my new job as I wanted something that I will be drinking out of to be pleasing to the eyes. Who doesn't?

Yesterday I naively took this new cup to work and I left it outside the bathroom for a brief 2 minutes and when I was gone! How can it be?

I walked around the office frantically looking for this new but lost friend.

I even sent out an e-mail to the entire office...something along the lines of:

...will the person who accidently borrowed my cup, please return it to me? I will buy (or make) you a cup of coffee if you return it safe (and preferably unused)...

No response with details of its mysterious disappearance.

There are times in a persons life where you just have to quickly accept the cold hard facts. They call it signs of a character...or something like that.

So today at lunch (I am getting somewhere with this story, truly!) I was on the way to buy a replacement cup. And I was intending on getting a realllly ugly one. You gotta learn your lessons right?

Walking past Target, there was a line of people each with this book: Your Place or Mine?

Book signing? I've never been to one before! Or maybe lately I've not liked a book enough to want to get it signed. All the authors I adore are no longer alive actually....

So I walked in and saw Gary and George! The MasterChef Australia judges! Pretty neat huh? They are exactly as how they're on TV - relaxed, down to earth and they joke around and interact with their fans with such ease!

I wasn't planning on getting the book initially, but when I flipped through it and saw recipes like 'Twice Baked Gruyere Souffle' and 'Carrot and Olive Caramel cake', I was sold. Plus I planned to get a cookbook anyways since I have none on my bookshelf since the move from Sydney. What perfect timing! Watch out for their recipes on this space in the near future!

When I was getting my book signed, I told Gary that I'm from Sydney and when George heard that, he gave me a disgusted look. He loves Sydney, that guy. I also told them that I'd like VIP treatments when I go visit their restaurants. I can't remember what they said in response. I think they said of course. We will see, won't we?

Anyways, it is an unfinished story with my cup. But what an serendipitous moment I had today! :)

I leave you with more pictures of my pumpkin pudding with cinnamon sauce in which I made recently.

It was so deliciously spicy and full of sugary pumpkin sweetness.

I will post up the recipe the next time.

For now, I need to go and make myself dinner...maybe something out of the book aye?


Steamed chocolate and adzuki (red bean) cupcakes

>> Sunday, October 17, 2010

I don't mean to bore you with another steamed cupcake recipe, but I enjoyed this cupcake so much that I do want to document it for future reference :)

When I think back on the past few years, certain things have been tough. In fact, very tough.

There were days when I felt completely defeated. You know, those days where you just can't see the light at the end of the tunnel? But usually sometime during the day, I'd get a text message saying,

'Meet you at the gym at 6:45pm?' from my friend Miss P.

Despite my exhaustion, I did look forward to those gym sessions...because, truth be told, those weren't really gym sessions. I did jog (ok, I mainly strolled) on a treadmill with my fancy and shiny sneakers, but for the next half hour or so, I would pour out all my days frustrations and minute details to this dear friend (poor girl!) and she'd walk alongside with me and listen.

And eventually I'd feel calmer and inevitably, I'd start talking about food...

...and when I'm talking about food - I am laughing and I am rejuvenated and relaxed. The treadmill would then read 30 minutes and it's time to call it the end of a tough workout session.

So one thing I am missing now that I have moved away is an exercise buddy. Actually it's more than that. I'm missing a good friend who sometimes has to sample some of my baked goods gone wrong and who, like me, believes that ice-cream should be part of your everyday diet ;) I cannot recall how many times we've visited Coles just to stroll through their ice-cream section!

So obviously this post is dedicated to this dear friend. Not only is she truly a genuine and beautiful friend, she's the type of person who really prays for you and is always conscious of the things going on in your life.

Having friends like these are such blessings huh?

Thank you for the friendship and the encouragements. Gym sessions will never be the same again without you!


Miss P treated me to delicious meals and gave me a most thoughtful present just before I I baked (no, I steamed!) those incredible cupcakes for her just to say, thanks! They're super soft, moist and rather healthy! I used whole adzuki beans (as opposed to red bean paste) to add texture to the cupcakes. Red beans on it own are rather flavourless. But when mixed with chocolate, you can just smell the faint aroma of the beans but they hardly overpower or clash with the rich chocolate in anyway. 

If you're a fan of red beans like me, give this a go - I think you'll like it! 

Steamed chocolate and adzuki cupcakes
Makes 6 cupcakes

Ingredients (updates in RED)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30g sugar (I used brown - you may want to up on this to say 50g as I tend to prefer my food not too sweet)
  • 1/4 cup of milk (or yoghurt)
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (can use other oil like canola or olive)
  • 40g all purpose flour
  • 20g cocoa powder (I used dutch processed)
  • ~50g cooked adzuki beans (whole)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
1. In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly then add the sugar and mix well.

2.  Then add the milk (or yoghurt) into the mixture as well as the grapeseed oil. Beat well.

3. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and incorporate into the egg mixture and mix until the batter does not have white parts from the flour.

4. Finally incorporate the adzuki beans into batter and mix gently.

5. Ladle the batter into 6 separate cupcake/panna cotta containers which are lined with cupcake liners/muffin cups. I used jelly moulds! Please refer to my previous 

6. In a large pot (I used cast iron casseroles), fill it with enough boiling hot water such that when you put the cupcakes in, the water comes about half way on the mould. Refer to the photo in my previous post.

7. Steam for around 13-15 minutes with the lid on on low-medium heat. I prefer to wrap a cloth/towel on the lid to prevent water droplets dropping onto the cupcakes. Don't steam over-time as the cake will become 'soggy'.

8. Carefully remove from pot as the cupcakes will be steaming hot!


Steamed Goji and Longan cupcakes

>> Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Since my last post, I've managed to fit 'my life' under 20kg and left Sydney to begin this new journey of mine!  So, hello from Melbourne! I am feeling a little unsettled - one reason may be because I don't have anything in my pantry except for oatmeal and rice! And I am also feeling a little out of place and disoriented thus have been avoiding this space lately.

So the packing proved to be a massive challenge. I had to take out more than half of what I had initially packed whilst reminding myself...'what you need, not want Viv!' and relunctantly took out my favourite cookbook and the fluffiest pillow. Nothing from my kitchen made it into the suitcase (except for 4 random sticks of cinnamon! And I don't even know why!) 

It really is a privilege to cook whatever I want and to share it in this space of mine. A privilege I too often take for granted.

I may have to give up on this privilege for the time being as I try to find my feet around here and get my kitchen set-up (a chopping board would be a great start!)

Anyways, these cupcakes are one of the last things I made back home.

You know why they're special?

Because they're healthier than your usual cupcakes (steamed with no butter!) and can be done in less than 30 minutes (including steaming time!)

I do love my goji and longan! Feel feel to substitute with other ingredients you may have like walnuts, cranberries or red beans!

Steamed Gogi and Longan cupcakes
Makes 5 cupcakes

  • 1 large egg
  • 30g sugar (I used brown)
  • 1/4 cup of milk (or yoghurt)
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (can use other oil like canola or olive)
  • 80g flour
  • 25g goji berries (soak in hot water first)
  • 25g longan
  • 20g soy bean powder (if you don't have it, simply add another 20g of flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
1. In a bowl, beat the egg lightly then add the sugar and mix well.

2.  Then add the milk into the mixture as well as the grapeseed oil. Beat well.

3. Sieve the flour, soy bean powder and baking powder and incorporate into the egg mixture and mix until the batter does not have white parts from the flour.

4. Finally incorporate the goji and longan into batter and mix gently.

5. Ladle the batter into 5 separate cupcake/panna cotta containers which are lined with cupcake liners/muffin cups. I used jelly moulds!

6. In a large pot (or cast iron casseroles), fill it with enough boiling hot water such that when you put the cupcakes in, the water comes about half way on the mould.

7. Steam for around 13-15 minutes with the lid on. I prefer to wrap a cloth/towel on the lid to prevent water droplets dropping onto the cupcakes.

8. Carefully remove from pot as they cupcakes will be steaming hot ;) 


Japanese style Tofu glutinous rice balls + Packing

>> Monday, October 4, 2010

I am attempting to pack up my life into 20kg this week.

The last time I packed like this, it was 5 years ago when I had to move to Illinois to study. I learnt back then, that living on 20kg for a year is doable ;)

This time, I am making the transition into the next chapter of my career in a different industry...and a different city - Melbourne! Lots of changes for sure. Definitely exciting and very scary.

So it's a jam-packed week for me this week as I am trying to do a gazillion last-minute things and catch up with my Sydney friends. It is times like these you need quick and easy recipes for snacks (snacks are essential when you pack...really!).

I normally don't make rice balls but the only reason I made these was because the recipe uses tofu! I was curious. I was intrigued. I also look for every opportunity to health-ify and experiment with my food as you may know! While I couldn't taste the tofu at all, they did make the rice balls softer...nom nom nom.

I flavoured a third of the dough into green-tea (matcha) and also dipped the rice balls in 3 different 'dressings' - freshly grinded black sesame, soy bean powder (this stuff is amazing) and lastly the left-over sweetened red bean from the fridge.

This recipe is inspired by Masa, a Japanese foodblogger living in Taiwan. I bought his cookbook when I was in Taiwan few weeks back. Go and check his other recipes if you can read Chinese :)

Anyways, here's the recipe below and I hope you do make this and enjoy it as much as I have.

Oh, and I hope you smile today too :)

Japanese style glutinous tofu rice balls 
Adapted from MASA
Serves 4

  • 100g silken tofu (do not use firm tofu)
  • 100g glutinous rice flour (I recommend the Japanese version which are in flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp matcha (green-tea) powder
  • 1/4 cup ground black sesame (I blasted my sesame in a food processor)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened soy bean powder (can be purpose from Asian stores)
  • 1/4 cup sweetened red-bean (may use cans but I boiled mine and added sugar)
  • ~4 tbsp sugar
1. Combine the tofu and the glutinous rice flour in a bowl. Break up the tofu as much as you can with your hands and knead until a dough that is not too sticky is formed. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour as required. If the dough is too dry, add more tofu.

2. Take 1/3 of the dough and knead it again with green-tea powder until combined.

3. Roll out the each of the dough (one plain, one green) on a clean surface and stretch into long strips. Divide into however many rice balls you want and roll each part into a small ball with your palms.

4. Fill up a saucepan with water to the top and bring it to boil. Place the balls into boiling water and immediately stir the water to make sure each ball doesn't stick to the bottom. Cook until the balls float onto the surface of water. Drain them and place into a bowl of ice cold water. (I forgot to boil the water first - catastrophe! The photo below is a big no-no as the water wasn't boiled and not enough!)

5. Once cooled down, add 3 rice balls to each skewer (you may have to twist the skewer or you might end up squashing the rice balls!)

6. This step is optional, but I like to grill my skewers of rice balls lightly. It makes the surface less sticky and the rice balls softer. You can wrap the ends of the skewers with foil as I have done.

7. Prepare the 'dressings'. In a bowl, mix the black sesame with ~2 tbsp of sugar (I used dark brown) and in another bowl, mix the soy bean powder with ~2 tbsp of dark brown sugar depending on how sweet you prefer the powders. 

8. Sprinkle or dip the skewers into the powders or sweetened red-bean paste.


Orange and Honey Pudding

>> Saturday, October 2, 2010

I love the smell of

*freshly washed laundry
*popcorn-filled cinema
*freshly shampoo-ed hair
*a new book
*a good patisserie (with croissants) at 5am
*fresh cut grass
*leather seats in new cars
*seaweed at the beach
*fresh brewed coffee
*fireplace on a cold night
*damp smell after the rain
*freshly painted house
*something that brings back memories
*garlic stir-fry anything
*my fingers after i eat a juicy burger
*my kitchen when I bake banana bread
*newborn babies

I also like the smell of an orange when you cut into it.

This may (unconsciously of course) be the reason why so many oranges were unnecessarily used to make this pudding. I'm already a bit embarrassed sharing this.

You see, I've been a bit jet-lagged...

Gelatin were supposed to be softened with 40mL of water.

I read 400mL.

Oops. Take two (a day after as I needed to replenish my orange supplies).

Accidently warmed up my milk before I combined with the orange juice.

Don't ever do that. It curdled into the most horrible looking something that I hope you'll never see. 

I almost used another word for that something. 

Glad I didn't because it will ruin the appeal of the pudding.

Take three.

The smell of success!

Sometimes, it does take time just to do the simplest thing. But it's worth the effort.

Light and healthy...and took me straight back to childhood.

Orange and Honey Pudding

  • 1 cup Freshly squeezed orange juice 
  • 1 orange (flesh), chopped into cubes
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup milk - I've used full fat (alternatively, you can replace 1/4 cup of milk with cream)
  • 8 grams gelatin powder
1. Add the gelatin powder to 40mL of water in a small bowl to soften.

2. In a pot, combine the milk with the orange juice and turn up the heat to cook (It is important that you combine the orange with the milk before heating up i.e. not warm up the milk first then add the juice).

3. Once the liquid is hot (not boiling), remove from stove and add in the softened gelatin from step 1 and honey. Stir to combine.

4. Sieve the liquid from the previous step.

5. Put the cut of orange flesh into your containers evenly, and pour in the liquid from the pot. Once cooled down, place into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

6. Once set, you can pour a small amount of orange juice on top of the containers as I have done.

So, what is your favourite smell?


Quinoa with Apple & Cinnamon

>> Friday, October 1, 2010

It's been a while since my last post - my apologies dear readers! I've been doing a whole lot of traveling in the past month and have just returned to Sydney! 

One of the signs of a relaxing and carefree holiday is when you return home and put on your baggiest pair of jeans to find that it's not so baggy anymore! 

One of the things I missed during the time away was cooking a simple meal. I've been completely spoiled during my travel with my parents and friends taking me out to eat out like a king! But you can only have so much of delicious food before you crave for something healthy and nourishing...hmmm right? No? Okay, I'm pretty sure in about a week's time - after a week of this so-called simple food - I'll be craving to eat out again. The grass is always greener. Not sure if this phrase works here but you understand...right?

One of the food I bought since I've been back was quinoa. I've wanted to try this for a long time just because it sounds exotic...keen-wah! And is healthy of course. I bought it to replace my usual oatmeal for breakfast this week. You can get it in health food stores or most supermarket nowadays. Just make sure you give it a good rinse before you cook it capice? The surface contains saponin - a chemical that needs to be washed off!

One of the privileges of being temporary unemployed is that I can take my time eating breakfast. No more running out of the kitchen with my weetbix or cereal in a bag and eating out of a mug at work. Not a good sight!

After a sleep-in (no alarms!), I can take my time stirring my pot of bubbling creamy quinoa. Is it done yet? Then I can savour each bite of this nutty and crunchy porridge-like goodness while gazing out at the clear blue sky and feel like I'm about to catch a cold again from this freezing Spring breeze...and then I thank God for this brand new day that He has made. Rejoice and be glad! 

This is how food should be enjoyed, no?

Quinoa with Apple & Cinnamon
Inspired by Canelle and Vanille

makes about 2 servings
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 apple, diced
  • 1 cinnamon bark
  • chopped walnuts
1. Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse it with cold water for a few seconds.

2. Combine the milk, cinnamon and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the quinoa and stir. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 15 minutes stirring every few minutes. If skin starts to form on top of the milk, just stir it back in. The milk will reduce and thicken. Ladle into bowls or jars.

3. Place diced apples into the pot half way through cooking if you prefer less-crunchy apple, otherwise toss them in at the end.

4. Top the quinoa with the walnuts and cinnamon powder (optional).

This is a rather short post, but stay tuned for lots of yummy recipes to come in the next few days!  ;)

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