The number one, fail safe dish in my repertoire would be fried rice. The term fried rice doesn’t have much restrictions, because all it takes is rice and egg.

It takes ten minutes to whip up, because most ingredients are already in the fridge. In fact, a recipe may not even be necessary, because improvisation is key here. I know, improvisations do go wrong (that is another story), but in all honesty, you cannot put a foot wrong here.

The fried rice I made had baby corn shoots, sausages, onions and egg, because that what what I had in the fridge, but feel free to add whatever you have on hand – bacon, ham, beef, capsicum, Asian greens (chop into small pieces) or even tofu.

To estimate the quantity of the rice you need, just heat the amount you typically need for the number of people you are serving. But be warned, this rice is so tasty your servings for four may only feed two.

Fried Rice
Serves 1

2 sausages
4 baby corn shoots
1/2 onion
1 portion of rice (user left over rice)
1 egg
salt, soy sauce and sesame oil

1. Chop the sausages and corn into medium sized pieces and dice the onion.
2. Fry the sausage, corn and onion in a heavy based pan until sausages are cooked and the onion is translucent and slightly brown.
3. Add rice to the pan, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and mixed until heated through
4. Using a whisk, beat eggs with a swirl of soy sauce and sesame oil. Pour over rice and mix so that the rice is covered in the egg mixture. Stir until egg is cooked and the rice is slightly crisp.

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This was not meant to be a banana date muffin. The ideas was conceived as a banana apricot, but alas, when I bought the bag of dried apricots home, I discovered that the bag was torn. Of course, I could have accidentally made the tear, but there was also more sinister possibilities (and I did not want to take the risk of food poisining). So, I went to the supermarket to buy another bag, but when I saw the dates next to the apricots, I didn’t need to think twice. It is long overdue, because I remember thinking I had to try this out two or three years ago (when I was in my sticky date pudding phase) but never got around to it.

All was going well in the kitchen when I discovered that I didn’t have bi-carb soda for the dates. To make up my mind whether to run out and get some, I had to find out why it is necessary to add bi-carb soda to dates. Looking at the recipe doesn’t solve the riddle, because there is no acid in it to neutralise it. According to one user of this forum , it is to “toffify” the dates. Another user added that without using bi-card soda, her dates turned out like regular dried fruit. From a technical point of view, the bi-card soda also breaks down the skin of the dates. With that in mind, I had no choice but to make a 20 minute trek to the supermarket up the road (which was actually quite pleasant on a Saturday afternoon).

Let me just say that the trek was definitely worth it. These muffins are bananary and are infused with a honey-like sweetness from the dates. The kitchen warm and the muffins smell so good. What could be a better way to ward off the oncoming winter with a muffin in hand, a book in the another, and a pot of tea brewing on the side?

Banana Date Muffins
Makes 12

1 cup seeded dates (chopped)
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cups SR flour (I used wholemeal)
1 cup plain flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup EVOO
2 bananas (mashed)

1. Preheat oven to 180c. Grease a 12 hole muffin pan or line with patty pans.
2. Combine dates and the water in a medium saucepan, bring to boil. Remove from heat and add bicarbonate of soda. Stand for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, sift dry ingredients into a bowl, stir in date mixture and the remaining ingredients. If mixture is dry, add a little more milk. Spoon mixture into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 20 minutes. Muffins are ready when the skewer comes out clean.

When I have exams, I always find an interest to focus on so that I can take a break from my studies and let my mind have a rest. One year it was folding stars for a friends birthday present, another year, it was reading The Empress of Ice Cream . This time round, it was watching Fated to Love You (2008), a Taiwanese drama starring Chen Qiao En and Ethan Ruan as Chen Xin Yi (陳欣怡) and Ji Cun Xi (紀存希) respectively.

I won’t describe the plot, as thousands of others have done so already, so I’ll just give my thoughts on it.

***SPOILER AHEAD***

It is highly addictive. It starts off fairly predictably, but once Xin Yi falls pregnant, it starts to venture into new territory. It certainly tore at my heartstrings, so I would advise all watchers to be prepared with a box of tissues. I loved Cun Xi’s cheeky smile, his antics and his sweet gestures, but he could also be so cruel sometimes. Overall, I loved the story, but I felt the ending was terrible! It was cliched (not to mention unbelievable) to have the 3 sisters giving birth at once, with Cun Xi acting as the midwife throughout the proceedings. I felt that the screen writer could have put a little more thought to it.

I give this drama 8/10.

A few years ago, I was an avid drama watcher. However, I stopped two years ago, as I felt that story lines were becoming old, and even when I watched dramas recommended by other reviewers, I found them tedious. After watching “Fated to Love You”, I developed an interest in watching dramas once more.

The next drama I watched was Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010) . It was confusing at first – I had to read the drama synopsis for the first few episodes to understand whether Sun Joon knew Yoon Hee was a girl and what the whole fuss about the geum-deung-jisa (golden scroll). By the end, it was a joy to watch to camaraderie between the actors. The script is intelligent, inspiring and comical at the right times. This is not difficult for me to say, as I am partial to period dramas, and also to scripts which weave ancient principles into the script to make to understandable to modern day viewers. I am keen on the use of intellect and loyalty to defeat enemies.
The icing on the cake is the OST for the drama – Found You, sung by JYJ. Mindless, I know, but irresistibly catchy!

I give this drama 9/10. I have not given full points, as I found that it drags on in some places.

Here it is the OST – “Found You” by JYJ. Video courtesy of this user .

Ever since I saw the chocolate cherry cupcake recipe in Nigella Lawson’s The Domestic Goddess, I’ve wanted to make my own healthy version – who am I kidding, how can chocolate be healthy? For those who have been reading my previous posts, you will notice that I seem to have an aversion to butter. Let me come clean: I have nothing against butter – I love my crossaints and pastries, but I work in a sedentary job 5 days a week and my exercise consists of walking half an hour or so per day. This is obviously not a good combination, which is the reason I try to follow a healthier diet. This also allows me to experiment using different grains, nuts and seeds in my baking, which is perfectly suited to my cooking habits, because I never follow a recipe to a tee.  
Instead of cupcakes, I made a loaf – because loaves are so much healtheir than cupcakes, am I correct? The recipe that I based my version on called for oats, so I did include it, but I won’t be doing that soon again – when incorporated with the wholemeal flour, it made the loaf very dry and crumbly. I used Coles brand dark cooking chocolate, which turned out quite well, but milk chocolate would work just as well. From Nigella’s comments about the cherry jam, it seems to be difficult to find in Great Britain, but luckily for us, the cherry jam was quite easy to find, and I used Bonne Maman cherry jam.

You will notice that this is a similar recipe to the Berry linseed loaf , and I am using it again, because it uses only one bowl, which means less cleaning afterwards!

Chocolate and Cherry Loaf
Makes 1 medium sized loaf

1/2 cup EVOO
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup soy milk (regular milk is fine)
1 1/2 cup SR Flour
100g dark chocolate (melted)
1/2 cup cherry jam

1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line the base and sides of a loaf pan with baking paper.
2. Mix all ingredients together.
3. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested.

I recently bought a packet of linseeds from the supermarket, so on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, I decided to include it in the cake to see what the taste will be. I had never seen linseed in baked goods before, except in bread, so it was interesting to experiment. I didn’t know much about linseeds, except that it needs to be ground in order for the goodness to be released. After intense session of research some googling, I learn that it contains abundant levels of omega 3 oils (which is usually found in fish) and also high dietary fibre.

As I was baking it, an alarming thought crossed my mind – if the oil component of the linseeds was so high, would that change the flour-sugar-fat ratio of the loaf? Images of the loaf pooled in oil flooded my mind. To my relief, it was just my imagination going overboard, and I can happily continue to substitute the flour components of recipes with ground linseed without worry!

For those who are unfamiliar with linseeds, it is important to grind the linseed as you use it, as ground linseed can easily become rancid (because of the omega oil content). Ground linseed should be stored in the fridge/ freezer for a maximum of 6 weeks.
Whole linseed last for 1 year when stored in a dark, cool and dry area.

Berry and linseed loaf
Makes 1 medium sized loaf

½ cup EVOO
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup berries (any berry is fine)
½ cup soy milk (plain milk is fine)
1 cup wholemeal SR Flour
1/4 cup ground linseed

1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line the base and sides of a loaf pan with baking paper.
2. Mix all ingredients together.
3. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested.

Hello friends! It has been such a long time since my last post. But lately, I have been doing some weekly baking and I am so excited to share this with you.

I have long been an avid reader of Smitten Kitchen. Some how, Deb is able to make me feel like making whatever she is writing about RIGHT THIS MOMENT, even if it involves Banana bread crepe butterscotch pancakes 8am in the morning. 

A recipe that caught my eye was her recipe for Apple Sharlotka, which is a Russian apple cake. Don’t be intimidated by the Russian heritage – there is nothing foreign about the process. It was unbelievably simple and delicious. Dare I add healthy to the list, as it doesn’t contain any butter? 

You may notice that the top of her cake is all knobbly with apples, while mine is quite smooth. This effect will depend on whether you pat the batter down into the tin. As you can see, I forgot, but luckily, no harm done.

Here is her recipe.

Apologies for the teeny picture – it was taken with my HTC Explorer. I should have believed the reviewer when they said that the quality of the photos is not as good as other smart phones. Galaxy S III here I come!

diva-chain

Merchandise from Diva is not known for its longetivity. But I wanted this necklace so much because the charms were so delicate..

However, since buying it, I have not worn it once because it was so obvious and over the top. Any ideas on how to wear it so that it is more subtle?

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