Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Baker's Corner: Oven Roasted Herbed Potatoes

Three cheers for December! I know it is still early you guys but I'm all set to ring in the holiday cheer 😊 The countdown has ended and tomorrow this time, I will be in India amidst loved ones *insert jumping up and down like an excited schoolgirl emoji*

The past few days have been insane - an extra busy work week compounded by packing, sorting, cleaning, shopping, Christmas baking and last minute catch-ups with friends. And in an unexpected turn of events, I had extended family visiting from India as well. In the midst of it all, I was hellbent on binge-watching season 2 & 3 of Narcos on Netflix and finishing this blog post so looking back, it was one heck of a week! I am so ready for a change of scene. As usual, my list of to-do's is longer than the Nile when I am on a trip back home. People to meet, food to eat, restaurants to check out, places to visit and most importantly, stuff to buy 😝 I've been reigning in my spending the past two months so I can let loose my crazy inner shopaholic in India 😂 I can't wait! In all probability, I won't be very active on the blog till next year but I'll be posting updates on Instagram so you can catch me there.

It is all about the humble spud today. I have for you a recipe for a side dish that is not only simple and universally loved but also looks appetizing, is hearty and delicious. So much win you guys! Roast potatoes are typically served alongside meat but I make them on certain weekends as part of a western full breakfast comprising of toast, eggs, baked beans, fruit and coffee. 

Potatoes are a huge favourite in my household. We consume more than I would care to admit and in every fathomable form (carbs be damned!). Oven roasted potatoes are not something I use potatoes for that often but of late I have started to. Now, right off the bat, let me tell you that this is a very easy recipe that comes together in about 30 min so I have bypassed the step of parboiling the potatoes which unquestionably results in superior roasted potatoes. Let's just say I'm lazy and I am satisfied with the potatoes this way so I am just going to claim laziness + ignorance = bliss! 

I prefer using the thin-skinned waxy potatoes for this recipe. You don't need to peel them and they roast really well. On the subject of flavour, you can tweak the spices and herbs (dried or fresh) depending on your liking. You can throw in some caramelized onions, toasty pine nuts or add in grated or crumbled cheese (parmesan, cheddar or feta work well). The dish is just that versatile.

Here is another variation of the exact same recipe I make using 3 medium-sized red potatoes cut into cubes. In addition to the ingredients mentioned in the recipe below, I used 1/4 tsp onion powder, 4-5 lightly crushed whole garlic pods with the skins on and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. So yum!

Lightly crisp on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside and bursting with that herbalicious flavour. With Christmas and New Year fast approaching, you will need this in your life so I'll leave you to it folks!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Family Staycation at D'Resort, Singapore

Up until a few years ago, I thought staycations were lame. That is until I actually gave it a chance! Our first staycation in Singapore was a babymoon at Hotel Fort Canning, an iconic luxury heritage boutique hotel nestled in the lush greenery of the historic Fort Canning Park. It came about as a result of a strict travel ban imposed by my doctor during the entire duration of my pregnancy. While it wasn't what I had in mind for a much-needed break before taking on motherhood, I truly enjoyed escaping from work and household chores, getting pampered, ordering room service, catching up on some reading, taking long serene walks and spending quality time with the husband. After a while, I kinda forgot that we were still in Singapore. It ended up being a break that required no planning, involved no hassles or stress, didn't break the bank, was laid-back and comfortable. Not to mention, we lost no time in travelling so it was relaxation mode from the get go! We loved the experience so much that from then on, we decided to make staycations a thing 😊

Fast forward to today - for many people, getting ready to go on a holiday with young children throws up all kinds of stresses such as planning, packing, sorting out what needs to be attended to in one's absence and preparing for worst case scenarios! In all honesty, I do find travelling with my little ones a wee bit stressful primarily on account of of their travel sickness but also because of the planning involved to keep them occupied (and out of trouble!). I find family staycations ideal because by choosing to holiday close to home, you are starting out much more relaxed. It can only get better from there!

For my twins third birthday, we decided to treat them to a staycation at D'Resort located at the entertainment hub of the East - Downtown East. One of Singapore’s first nature inspired resort, D'Resort features an integrated water park experience. The 387-room resort is nestled in the lush greenery of Pasir Ris Park and provides some much needed respite from the hectic city life. 

I originally had my sights set on one of the Rainforest family-themed rooms but they were all booked much in advance. After some thought, I settled for the Beach Cove room. With warm and earthy hues and a minimalist nature-inspired decor, the room was clean and spacious. There were two cozy queen sized beds, coffee making facilities, a microwave, a large fridge (not those typical mini ones), a sink for washing up and a bathroom stocked with fresh towels and toiletries. There was free wifi and the signal was quite strong.

BBQ pits are an available option when booking your accommodation for an additional $35. BBQ isn't really our thing so we passed up on it.  

After a friday morning well spent cutting the birthday cake at school amidst their classmates followed by a visit to the nearby temple, we all took some rest in the afternoon and checked into the resort in the evening. As you can see, the girls took no time in getting comfy 😀

One of the most attractive features of D'Resort is that the vicinity of the resort houses endless entertainment. A cineplex, bowling alley, a huge childrens indoor playground, a fitness centre and legion of retail shops and F&B outlets. The resort itself also offers activities, such as urban farming, cycling to the gems in the east and kayaking to Singapore’s first floating kelong.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Baker's Corner: Chocolate Drip Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Glaze

I said I would blog the recipe of my twins third birthday cake, didn't I? Well, here it is!

First things first - I am no cake decorator. I assume you know that right? So, please be kind and don't judge my effort too harshly okay? 😄 I am just a hobby baker who still has far too many things to learn. Heck, I don't even own a turntable you guys! Enrolling in a cake decorating class has been on my agenda for years and I need to do that without further delay to get my basics right. Next year will be the year!

I'm going to make this post all about this cake and spare you the pain of my frivolous ramblings 😛 This chocolate drip cake was one of my recent kitchen ventures that was a success. The drip cake phenomenon picked up steam a few years ago and I don't know about you, but I have been an ardent fan. I'd been meaning to try it for a long time and the perfect opportunity presented itself at the time of the twins birthday.

This cake has three components - the chocolate cake, the chocolate peanut butter frosting and the chocolate glaze, the recipes of which I tried for the first time on the morning of the girls birthday. I knew I was taking a big risk because I didn't know how everything would turn out, pair together or even if the quantities were right. I earnestly followed the chocolate cake recipe from a blog that I stumbled across but improvised on the frosting and glaze recipe as I went along.

To be honest, this turned out to be the easiest cake I have ever made. The cake itself has oil instead of butter so there is no creaming involved. Just mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, mix the wet ingredients in another, put everything together and you are sorted. The cake turned out tender, fudgy and moist with just the right amount of chocolate flavour. It wasn't all that sweet either so it went very well with the light, fluffy buttercream which was quite sweet and had a mild hint of nuttiness from the peanut butter. I used semi-sweet chocolate for the glaze which further brought the chocolate flavour to the forefront. The chocolate glaze was done in a matter of minutes and creating the drip effect was easier than I thought. The consistency of the glaze was just perfect. After that, it was just a matter of arranging a few chocolates and wafers on the top and I was done! From start to finish, the whole shebang took about 90 minutes. It struck me that I didn't even have to wake up as early as I did that day! But then again, I could have taken my time and done a much better job with smoothing the frosting on the cake for that seamless, uninterrupted finish. I clearly didn't 😛

Obvious cake flaws aside, will I be making this cake again? Absofreakinlutely!!!

So cake done and packed, I gingerly transported it to the twins preschool and they were delighted to see me and a chocolate cake (which brought them more excitement I'm not sure!). After the birthday girls blew out the candles and cut the cake, they had second helpings and were about to greedily reach for a third but as their mother, I had to put my foot down. Two little monkeys high on sugar is more than I can handle! Anyway, I stashed the leftover cake in the fridge and we polished it off within the next 3 days. Just keeping it at room temperature for 10 minutes was good enough to get it back to its moist yummy self.

I enjoy baking my childrens birthday cake. The happiness on their faces when they see it makes my mommy heart sing. Right now, they are at an age where they can easily forgive any flaws with the cake but as they get older, their expectations are going to get bigger 😰  To that I say - bring it on! Jokes apart, I sincerely hope I can improve as the years go by and I can share with you my labour of love.

Trust me, this is a very easy cake to put together. If you you prefer to stay in your comfort zone  by baking simple cakes and avoiding any kind of frosting or decoration, you can begin your maiden cake decorating journey with this one.

Good luck and be sure to let me know how it turns out!

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Letter To My Daughters On Their Third Birthday

Writing this birthday letter has not been an easy endeavor. Unlike the previous two letters which came about effortlessly as a result of my assiduous note-taking throughout the year, this time, I have slacked off plenty. I still have been sending e-mails to both my girls documenting major events and memorable occasions but my memory keeping skills on a day-to-day basis has suffered. Oddly enough, I haven't put my camera to good use either. I've really had to rack my brain to extract the minute details of the past year. Note to self: Up your game and pronto!  

Anyway, I've been up since the crack of dawn to bake a chocolate drip cake for the girls which I promised them a while ago. They have been talking about their birthday for a few weeks now so I owed it to them to make their day special. I did a dreadful job with the cake last year but I think this year's effort sort of makes up for it 😛  I may even blog this recipe so check back soon! 

This year we are celebrating the girls birthday at a local water park followed by a visit to the beach because (like most kids) they are fascinated with water. This morning began by a simple cake cutting celebration at school followed by a visit to the temple. And in a while, we will be checking into D'Resort, a nature-inspired resort at Downtown East as part of a staycation. The resort is located adjacent to Wild Wild Wet, Singapore's most popular water park as well as Pasir Ris beach. So we will be spending the next three days doing all the things they like. This is my treat to the girls and I'm waiting to see the delight on their faces!

Since this is a birthday letter that chronicles the experiences of the past year, let me back up a bit. To be honest, I approached the start of this year with trepidation but seeing how it has unfurled, I feel much differently. To me, the terrible two's don't deserve the bad-rep it has earned and if any other parent of a soon-to-be two year old is reading this, I say to you - two year olds can be outwitted so don't fear them! 😀  On a more serious note, if you can efficiently avoid triggers for undesirable behaviour then you CAN keep the monster at bay! Tantrums are a part of normal child development so know that you are not a bad parent if your toddler creates mayhem. This year brings so much more than that so savour the wonderful moments that undoubtedly mark the terrific two's!

Without further ado, here is the third year birthday letter. Happy reading!