Friday, November 28, 2008

Meaning of Christmas

Christmas is coming! Yes, it's now less than a month away from Christmas. Shopping centres are beautifully decorated with Christmas decorations and even with the fear of a potential recession due to current global financial market meltdown, department stores still bustled with people and activity.

Myers popular yearly Christmas window display theme is "How Santa Really Works". Needless to say, long queue forms outside the window everyday especially at lunch time, everyone wants to take a peek at it! Though the art work was really nice and very detailed too (see the photos below), let's not forget what Christmas really means.

For many, it means holiday, a break from work. To some, celebration and partying and food and alcohol. Yet some people see it as a time for gifts and spending time with fanily. No doubt all this are activities we do during this holiday season, but the real meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ.

One of David Meece's song say of this quite well:

We Were The Reason
David Meece
As little childrenWe would dream of Christmas morn
Of all the gifts and toysWe knew we’d find
But we never realized a baby born one blessed night
Gave us the greatest gift of our lives
We were the reasonThat He gave His life
We were the reasonThat He suffered and died
To a world that was lostHe gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live
As the years went by we learned more about gifts
The giving of ourselves and what that means
On a dark and cloudy dayA man hung crying in the rain
All because of love, all because of love
I’ve finally found the reason for living
It’s in giving every part of my heart to Him
In all that I do every word that I say
I’ll be giving my all just for Him, for Him
He is my reason to live

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rich Shortbread

After baking the Choc Chips Cookies, hubby requested another type of cookies. You know, the type that melt in your mouth. Hence I baked another batch of cookies - Rich Shortbread. I do get a lot of satisfaction cooking/baking for my my hubby, but he is such a non-fussy eater, he usually just eats everything I cook. So I jumped at every occasion when he specifically requested I make something for him.

If you are wondering if there is a lot of butter in the cookies, you are right! Very little sugar. Other ingredients are flour and vanilla essence and eggs, that's all!! Very easy and it literally melt in your mouth and crumble easily. Yummy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies & ANZAC biscuits

The weather in Melbourne had been very cold lately. Definitely not the typical November Spring weather with rain and wind and temperature below 20 degress C. This is actually a perfect time to heat up the oven and bake some cookies! Flipping through the recipe books I became greedy and tempted tp try many recipes. At the end, I just couldn't resiste the good old chocolate chip cookies and ANZAC cookies!!

Instead of the small sized choc chip cookies I have opted to make the bigger size cookies this time. This cookies turned out crispy on the outside but a bit chewy inside, i wonder if it is because of its size?

The cookies didn't stay long in the container for long .... who can resisit chocolate chip cookies?!

As for the ANZAC cookies, this time it turned out a bit dry and because I reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup, it actually made a quite a difference to the overall taste of the cookies. This is a recipe I have tried before so I decided to make some variation to the measurement but though it is still ok, it is not as tasty as last time. The lesson - stick to the recipe!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Volunteering (World Vision) at Richmond

One of the great initiatives my company is involved in is giving to the community. And of the ways this is done is by giving staff one day volunteering leave per calendar year. Staff can use this one day paid leave to assist any charitable/non profit organisations. This is the second time I utilise this leave, and both times I have chosen World Vision as the organisation i would help.

The previous time I volunteered, it was at Burwood East but this is now being handled by a financial organisation's back office processing at Richmond, where I used to work. Hence I took this opportunity to catch up with Suleka and also saw many familiar faces ... it was great!

The work involves is really very simple - it involves mail opening, sorting the action slips depending on what the child sponsor has elected. For example, donation $5 or over, by cheque or credit card, cash (Yes! some poeple actually send in CASH). Sadly there are also those who willingly donated but they forgot to write credit card details or expiry date! Some poeple also advised changes of address, emails etc so it definitely requires attention to details when sorting the slips. As Christmas is appraching, there are heaps of mails coming in, especially those Xmas cards from sponsor to the child. Some people also send in their photos, personal letters, additional gifts like stickers etc. It is very touching to see the personal touch, and the generousity of the Australian people.

Stack of sorted Xmas card, I think I handled at least 1,500 letters yesterday!

Met many nice people in the processing centre, Federico from Philipines and Priya from Sri Lanka, thanks for making me so at home there. I enjoyed the chats while sorting the mails!

This is truly a great experience, doing something different to my normal work. I am trully encouraged just knowing that there are so many generous giver out there who give to a great cause - sponsoring needy children, provising practical help (money goes to support their living, education, immunisation etc).

If you are not currently sponsoring any child, would you please consider?

Tools of trade - staple machne, letter opener, pen and highlighter and you are set to go!

Processing Centre at Richmond (picture below). It was quiet in the morning as most of these macines are for processing cheques and vouchers, and the operators work afternoon shift till night.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chicken Rice (my modified version)

One of my fondest childhood memory is having Hainanese Cchicken Rice with my cousins at a foodcourt near the Penang Bus Terminal. I was probably around 10 years old? During that period of my life, my family lived in a shop house with my grandmother and my other 2 uncles and their families. Including maid servants and other cousins who live in another state but visit from time to time, the shop house sometimes contained up to 18 people. My memory of the best chicken rice was at this run down foodcourt near the bus terminal where my cousins, my sister and I would sometimes go to on our own without adult supervision.

Memory is a interesting gift God has given to us. It consists more than just replay of the events/facts but sometimes we remember a person or an occasion by the senses, smell, thoughts. I can't really recall a lot of things about that place or how we could get away by going there on our own without adult supervsion, or how much we pay for the rice but the taste of the chicken rice stays vivid in my memory and whenevwer i recall this taste or when I smell the fragrant of the chicken rice, it brought back this sweet memory of my childhood.

So I decided to try making Hainanese Chicken Rice today. After doing google search, based on how much work i want to put in (as i have said before i do not fancy too complicated recipe), and taking into account my love for ginger and spring onion, I have modified the chicken rice. I chose to steam the whole chicken instead of putting it in boiling water as one recipe suggests, and I also made the mince ginger + spring onion suce that usually go with cantonese steam chicken instead of Hainanese Chicken Rice. (Love this sauce, I can eat a bowl of rice wit just this minced ginger + spring onion sauce!). The rice is so fragrant even as it was being cooked I can smell it! (this of course is because I used the chicken stock from the steamed chicken to cook the rice instead of water.)

One of the challenge lies not so much in the cooking, but the deboning of the cooked chicken. Authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice (HCC) is served with deboned chicken slices but I have left the drumstick without deboning simply because I think it looks better =)

To complete the meal, you MUST, yes you MUST I stressed again - have the garlic chillie sauce to go with the chicken.

There is heaven and earth difference having HCC with or without this garlic chillies sauce. You can make this from scratch, or purchase from asian grocery store. I am very picky with this chillie sauce. There are so many brands out there, but I prefer one with strong garlic and with a lighter red/orange colour over a darker red one. I think the lighter red means there are more garlic mince in there.

So as I put a spoonful of this chicken rice into my mouth and enjoying every bit of the chicken essence combined with the chillie sauce and soy sauce and ginger mince, it brings back the fond memory childhood again ....

Oh one more thing, I did not serve the chicken rice with soup (typically you will serve this with a small bowl of chicken soup with spring onion sprinkled on top) but i omitted this as i chose to store up the remaining chicken stock for use later as a soup base with wonton and dumpling I have made last weekend.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My fisrt layered cake - Layered Green Tea Pound Cake with Red Bean Filling

Layered Green Tea Pound Cake (with Red Bean Filling)

I have been day dreaming about making a layered cake but being a queen of procrastination, i have deferred this idea long enough. As we are celebrating 3 birthdays in the care group this week (Daniel, Eric & Sarah), I was determined that I should put my dream into action and bake the cake for them. I used a combination of 2 different recipes - green tea pound cake (one of my favourite cake at all time) and a recipe I read some time ago for the red bean filling (can't even find the blog anymore as i forgot to bookmark it!).

The challenge lies in the layering and making the cream as I have never done that before. I baked the cake a bit too long, the top part was cracked
(even though the cream will hide this eventually it presented some risk when I cut the cake into halves sideway).

I cheated a bit as the cream I made was beaten for too long and the texture didn't turn out as anticipated. It was not smooth, but more coarse, when applied on the cake it doesn't look very presentable. To overcome this imperfection, I bought ready-made whipped cream and applied to the cake to make the finished product more soothing to the eyes. The finish touches - strawberries and matcha powder made the cake looks pretty good :) Now I am motivated to make a different layered cake!

The cake seemed to be well received by all, some friends have requested for recipe so here it is:

Green Tea Pound Cake
125g butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup of sugar
3 eggs
125g philladelphia cream cheese
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tbp baking powder
1/2 tsp green tea matcha powder (I actually used 4 times the amount as I love green tea)
1/2 tsp salt

Red Bean filling:
600ml thicken cream
1/2 cup red bean

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add cream cheese and beat to mix well. Add in lightly beaten eggs (one at a time). Combine dry ingredients well and sift before folding into the mixture. Pour well combined mixture into lined 8"round cake pan and bake in preheated oven at 180C or 360F for 40-50 minutes. (note baking time can vary slightly depending on your oven).

When cake is cooled, cut into half.
Whip 300ml thicken cream until soft peak formed. Add in 1/2 cup of red bean and fold in gently with a spatula (I used pre made red bean from a can, easily obtained from Asian grocery store)
Spread the red bean cream filling on the top of the bottom half of the cake.
Cover with top layer of the cake.
Whip 300ml the remaining thicken cream (300ml) until soft peak and spread on top cake layer and side. Refrigerate and decorate with strawberries and green tea powder (or other more creative ideas!) before serving. ENJOY!