Minestrone Soup

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I swear it looks totally delicious (and taste delicious) and way much better than this mash.. This is taken after microwaving my lunch. Yes, I am slowly settling into my new workplace, which is a pain in the ass to get to, as any 1hr+ bus ride almost equal discomfort for sure. Multiply it by 2, then 5 days per week. After the bus ride, it is another short bus ride OR 20 min walk. It is a big inconvenience.. which I overlooked before accepting the job offer.

On top of that, there is an infamous canteen in the area. Infamous because it is the one and only. Once, I bought watermelon from the fruit & drinks stall. While the watermelon looks like it has been left overnight and not fresh, it costs 20cents more expensive compared to similar places in Singapore. And, because I requested to cut the fruit (I cant figure how to eat the huge melon without squashing it against my face.. not fun in the early morning. Perhaps the auntie finds it a good way to earn extra money, and it is too hassle for her, she decides to charge me extra 10 cents. Nice. While 10 cents is a meagre amount, I decided not to patronise her ever again. Too bad that she will lose the many more cents she would have earned from me (whenever I might buy from her out of convenience), just because she wants to earn this “10 cents”. It is not a huge amount really… what a shame.

I have recently become vegetarian, after a trip to India, and trying to keep things this way. The only option in the canteen is Indian food, which by the way also serves meat. Hmm, excuses aside, I actually do not wish to let others decide my health anymore. I want to know exactly what I eat. I want to eat better and healthier. So I decide to make my own.

This minestrone soup is a spinoff from the first result of google search. From Food network. My sis says it looks weird with lady fingers, and she doesn’t eat that. But I actually find it good. I decided at the spur of moment to cook this, hence I was not able to get some of the ingredients.. Anyway, I think it turns out pretty good.

I kept it in fridge and microwaved it for lunch. Keeping some in the freezer too.

Ingredients:

1 large onion

2 stalks of celery

1 large carrot

5 lady fingers

4 cloves of garlic

2 tomatoes

1 large can of baked beans (with the sauce)

1 large can of diced tomatoes

1 cup of pasta

6 cups of broth or water

Method:

  1. Dice all vegetables. Mince the garlic.
  2. Saute onion in a little oil, until it softens
  3. Add in carrot and celery and continue to stir fry.
  4. Add in the lady fingers and saute for a while.
  5. Add in garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, taking care to prevent browning of garlic, which would cause it to be bitter.
  6. Stir in tomatoes and diced tomatoes, until slightly reduced.
  7. Add baked beans, pasta and broth. Bring to boil, and then lower to simmer and cook until vegetables turn tender.
  8. For seasoning, add some salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • Used baked beans as I could not find any beans at that hour.. Not a staple in Singapore. It turned out pretty good, but probably not very healthy..?
  • Wanted to add cabbage but the cabbage left at that late hour did not look fresh, hence added lady fingers instead. If using cabbage instead, there is no need to stir fry. Just add it together with broth.
  • Lady fingers sounds like a weird combi, but I figured that I really liked the vegetable. It turned out well. Just make sure to stir fry it, so that it will be more fragrant, before adding broth.
  • With only water (instead of broth) and no salt, the soup tasted pretty decent already. I think it’s because of the sauces from the cans, which are salty enough. But extra salt just brings it up to another level. (unhealthy I know..)

Chocolate Sunrise Smoothie

This recipe is adapted from Tone It Up. Took no pictures as I was running out of time for work.

Used in combination with my new Thermos waterbottle, my new toy. 🙂

Ingredients:

1 cup of HL low fat milk

1 banana

2 tsp cocoa powder

1/2 scoop whey protein powder, chocolate flavoured.

2 tsp flaxseed

Method:

Blend all ingredients together.

Notes:

– 1/2 scoop instead of 1 scoop because one scoop is 120 calories..

– texture was kind of thin, I wonder is it partially because of the reduced protein powder content.

– For thicker smoothie, maybe substitute half the milk with yoghurt.

– flaxseed clumped together without mixing, and caused a mudslide on my white tank top this morning, as I thought I finished the drink and was trying to eat the flaxseeds.

– flaxseeds thickens the smoothie.

– not very filling, maybe because I drank it in small portions.

Conversion of music to ringtone for iphone

Saw this article on TechHive. It worked on PC too. Rewriting for my own reference.

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Preferences > General > Import settings > convert to AAC
  3. Select the music u want to convert. Right click > Get Info > Options > select the 30 sec (maximum for ringtone) u want
  4. Click “Ok”. Right click > convert to AAC
  5. Control Panel > Folder options > View > uncheck “Hide file extension”
  6. Locate the converted file in Windows explorer. Change extension from “m4a” to “m4r”. Double click and it will appear in iTunes > Tones.
  7. Sync.

Peanut cookies

 

I first tried this recipe 3 years back, after founding the recipe on Bread Et Butter. I liked how she presented it with the simple 2:2:1:1 ratio. (2 cups peanut: 2 cups flour: 1 cup icing sugar: 1 cup oil) Voilà! I loved peanut cookies and was amazed how simple it was. No weighing scale needed (unless if u need to weigh out the balls for business purposes).

Peanut cookies are easy to differentiate from the white almond cookies. But anyway, I took extra effort to make it look like golden coins (ancient Chinese coins look like that). Did not apply the egg wash evenly.

The peanut cookie dough was extremely cohesive. It was the easiest to make as compared to almond cookies, especially the crunchy almond cookies, which requires “extra squeeze” to make the dough come together.

I used a chopstick with square ends to gently push the middle to create “coin shape”.  The one at bottom right was leftover dough, about 5g instead of 8g.

I purposely left some of it with the bubbles from egg wash. It all dissipated with baking. (e.g. second one from bottom left) Without egg wash, the taste was not very different.

Finished product.

 

Peanut cookies

Makes 60-65 cookies, 8g each.

 Ingredients:

1 cup ground peanut (~125g)

1 cup flour (~125g)

½ cup icing sugar (67.5g)

½ cup oil (67.5g)

Method:

The ratio of peanuts: flour: icing sugar: oil = 2:2:1:1.

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add in oil and mix well. It should form cohesive dough (not crumbling). Form dough into small balls, 7-8g each. Glaze with beaten egg. Bake at 180oC, 15-20 min.

Notes:

  • The dough for peanut cookies are much more cohesive than the almond cookies (both types), thus easier to handle.

I am submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb)” hosted by Miss B of Everyone Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.

Traditional Almond Cookies

This was really fragrant. Even my grandma (who does not eat CNY cookies as she is afraid of butter) says its nice! She ate three. Nice feat. I took it out to let everyone try during the reunion dinner at Grandma’s house and all of them except one liked it, to my delightful surprise. One of my uncles can’t stop at one and specifically requested to grab the container of cookies I gave Ah-mah (grandma) and kept popping into his mouth right after dinner. He liked it so much he wanted to order. But I have no time for that cos CNY was next day!

Moreover I made a mistake by using the fine grain table sugar as it was too late to get caster sugar anyway (most shops were already closed when I started baking).  I thought the sugar would melt with high oven temperature, but it did not. If u want the sugar crystals to blend in better, use caster sugar (super fine grain, specifically for baking). Some people like the sugar crunch though.

Nevertheless, I looked for ways to solve the crystal problem. I want to find a recipe which creates melt-in-the-mouth-even-more almond cookies. I found one using icing sugar in much less quantity, which I had thought of after baking the first batch, but threw the idea out as I was not sure how the cornstarch content will affect the product. Maybe next year.

It looks similar to the crunchy melty almond cookies I baked earlier, but that’s just the original colour of almond cookies. The yellow colour saw in stores were bestowed by egg wash, which has to be omitted because my friend’s wife is vegetarian.

1 batch makes about 60-65 cookies, 8g each. Slightly more cookies than required to fill one container. I used a medium large container. This “business” was no easy task. Hourly pay could be $5 or less, depending on various factors. But the bonus is, I get to do the things I like.

Cooling on a rack immediately after baking. My oven pan was too hot and the bottom got slightly burnt. On the upside, there was a nice “burnt taste” if u know what I mean.

Traditional Almond Cookies

Makes 60-65 pieces, 8g each

 Ingredients:

120g ground almond

95g caster sugar

180g flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

122ml oil

1 egg yolk

Method:

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt together. Mix well with almond. Incorporate oil into the dry mixture and stir quickly. Roll into small balls of 7-8g each (about 1 tsp). Bake at 180oC, 18 min or lightly browned.

Notes:

  • Bought the wrong type of sugar, the fine grain table sugar. It did not melt fully in the finished product. Some people like the “crunch” sugar crystals gave. I think it’s a blessing in disguise, but if I bought the normal table sugar (coarse grain), then people will probably shun the cookies.
  • Baking at 180oC for 18min results in slightly overbaked cookies. Anyway baking temperatures and timing in recipes are mere guidelines. Every oven is different. My oven pan tends to be very hot and I think that’s why cookie bottoms were slightly burnt. I ended up baking for 15min. No burnt taste but slightly less fragrant overall.

I am submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb)” hosted by Miss B of Everyone Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.

Crunchy Almond Cookies

Recipe at end of page

I first started baking these Chinese New Year goodies 3 years back, armed with a curiosity for “How are my beloved CNY goodies made?”. I explored my favourite peanut cookies and almond cookies, and the classic pineapple tarts. And I was tired enough. My family was intrigued by the process of making the cookies, which was something new to us, and everyone was eager to try the product. My mum was pretty impressed and decided to order 10 containers of peanut cookies and almond cookies each for her friends, despite that she did not like people “messing” her kitchen. She paid for the ingredients while I do the things I like.

That was a busy year.

While looking for recipes, I chanced upon this recipe, Crunchy Melty Almond Cookies by j3ss kitch3n. Her description of the cookies and the way she presented in pictures were so tempting, that I knew I had to try it. I baked about 10 containers of cookies (in addition to the 20 my mum ordered) for my friends and then-boyfriend. The response was overwhelming. Everybody likes it. I continued to bake for free the next two years.

This year, my house was chosen for the Home Improvement Program just one week before Chinese New Year. Great. I decided not to bake anything. Moreover, I quitted my job which I had thought of leaving for years. It was not wise to spend too much. Some of my friends were the most supportive people ever. During a meetup in Jan for a friend’s birthday, I announced the quitting of my job, and they started to come up with ideas to earn money for me. The group unanimously suggested me to sell my CNY cookies since CNY was around the corner. They thought the cookies were good and one of them even wanted me to bake some samples to bring to office so she could help me promote. Very enthusiastic of them. I did not follow up as I knew mum would be upset as after HIP she would need the kitchen too.

Somehow, I ended up taking orders and occupied the kitchen while mum was doing her CNY shopping (with her consent of course).

After a few years of practice, I have become better at moulding the cookies. I figured if I wanted to make it a business, this is a good time to put it to test. I also need to be precise in every step, from the sources of ingredients and containers, price (good quality and not too expensive), size of cookies, rather than using my freestyle methods to estimate. This time, each cookie weighs 8g (+/- 0.5g as my weighing scale rounds to the nearest whole number). Why 8g? I think its a lucky number 🙂

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Incorporate the oil and mix it fast. It may look crumbly but when u pushed the dough with the back of spoon, the dough comes together. I never have to add extra oil.

My uncle was horrified when he saw the cookies on the left. I told him it was work of art. Just kidding. It was easier to weigh out the 8g each, before shaping into neat balls (picture on the right).

Finished product

The cookies were crunchy and slightly “fluffy” when hot from the oven

Crunchy Almond Cookies

makes approximately 60 cookies, 8g each

Ingredients:

150g self-raising flour

80g icing sugar (reduced to 60g)

80g diced almond (blanched)

80g ground almond (blanched)

100ml corn oil

½ tsp almond essence (omitted)

Egg yolk for brushing (omitted)

Method:

Sift flour and sugar together. Add almonds and mix well. Mix almond essence to corn oil and stir well. Mix both wet and dry ingredients to form a soft dough. Shape into small round balls and place in paper casing. Bake at 170oC, for 15-20 min or till slightly brown.

Notes:

  • You can make the self-raising flour as shown. Self-raising flour recipe:

1 cup flour (125g)

¼ tsp salt

1½ tsp baking powder

  • Even with reduced amount of sugar (60g instead of 80g), there are people who still find it too sweet. Majority thinks the sweetness is acceptable though.
  • Toasting the diced almond before mixing might give a better flavor.
  • Without almond essence, almond taste is still strong. It is quite good as almond essence gives an artificial taste sometimes.
  • Using oil with neutral taste like corn oil or grapeseed oil is preferable to those with strong flavour like olive oil.

 

I am submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb)” hosted by Miss B of Everyone Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.

 

Classics: Chocolate chip cookies

Crunchy chocolate chip cookies (pardon for poor lighting)

soft chocolate chip cookies. (10 min baking time)

I first made this classic in 2010. Found it in

All Recipes is my favourite recipe site because the recipes were contributed by real people who tried it and reviews by people who also tried it. Its almost foolproof. This particular recipe is by Dora and has over 6000 positive reviews.. I knew I gotta try it.

As it would be the last Christmas cookies I bake for my colleagues, I decided to do the same cookies again. But when my sis saw the soft cookies, she commented that most people would prefer crunchier ones. True. So I Increased baking time and my colleagues seemed to prefer it over soft ones anyway. Enjoy! 🙂

I mix it with two spoons.

not smooth I know..

After adding eggs.

Add in flour, chocolate chips and walnut. Mix well.

Flatten slightly. Bake for 10 or 20min, depending on the texture desired.

Ingredients:

225g butter

200g white sugar (reduced to 50g)

220g packed brown sugar (reduced to half)

2 eggs

10ml vanilla extract (2tsp)

375g flour

5g baking soda (1 tsp)

10ml hot water (2 tsp)

3g salt (1/2 tsp)

335g chocolate chips (semi sweet)

115g chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 175oC.
  2. Cream butter and sugars till smooth. Beat in eggs one by one. Stir in vanilla extract.
  3. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to mixture, together with salt.
  4. Sift in flour. Add chocolate chips and nuts. Mix well.
  5. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased pans (flatten slightly for crunchier result)
  6. For soft cookies: Bake 10min or until edges are browned.
  7. For crunchy cookies: Bake 20-22min or until the cookies are brown.

Notes:

  • Baking time determines whether it is a soft or crunchy cookie. Increase by twice as much time for cookies with a crunch.
  • Did not read carefully and added salt to flour instead. Not a big impact I guess.
  • Cookie will slightly spread but flattening it will produce a more evenly spread and crunchier cookie.
  • Baking it for too long will result in an overbaked product – the cookie will taste slightly bitter. But most people will enjoy it anyway. Only the most picky tastebuds will be able to tell. Most people around me prefer crunchy cookies.
  • The chocolate chips are way too much. Semi sweet (Hersheys) is still too sweet. Reducing it by half is a good idea.
  • Reduced white sugar as I ran out of it. Brown sugar was weighted loosely instead of “packed”. It was still too sweet for some people. Could reduce sugar content further, but not sure how it might affect the outcome other than sweetness.