A New Hobby plus A DIY Mini Pom Pom

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Oh look, my first non-food related post! I know, I know. It’s not about food but I was so happy with this little achievement, I thought I’d share it.

Have you ever done something you thought you could never do and when you do it, you surprise yourself because you did such a great job that you just couldn’t stop talking about it? For instance, knitting. I recently learned how to knit. Never did I imagine I would one day be knitting and loving it too. I’ve seen so many people in the train, in the bus and waiting rooms knitting away and there I was shaking my head thinking how can people have the patience for that. Well, it turns out I have the patience for it. Also I thought it’s about time I learn a new hobby. So when I learned how to knit (Thank you Internet) and made this super cute scarf for my daughter, I was over the moon. Just don’t ask me to make a sweater or cardigan. I’m not quite there yet!

It started a few weeks ago whilst checking my Instagram feed. I came across a nifty post on arm knitting from a fellow blogger. Arm knitting. Who would have thought? Perhaps I’m just a little late on this whole “crafty” thing. Anyway I wanted to give it a try because I was so intrigued. There’s plenty of tutorials online and it’s easy enough.  It’s addictive too.  For a whole week, Lincraft was my retail therapy of choice during my office lunch hour.  I would scan the aisles looking for the best, warmest, fluffiest yarn I could get. I was so determined to get this arm knitting done and done well.  I’ve made about five arm knitted cowls so far.

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Since I had arm knitting down packed, I thought perhaps I should learn how to knit properly. I had plenty of yarn to work with at home, we just didn’t have any knitting needles. If you know me, you’ll know I’m quite persistent and maybe a little stubborn. So not having any knitting needles will not stop me.  I like to improvise so I used a couple of long chopsticks we had sitting on the bottom of our kitchen drawer.  I got to finally use the chopsticks, but not for its intended purpose. Of course I only used it for practice.  At this stage I consulted a number of YouTube tutorials on knitting. I learned how to cast on and cast off and how to knit stitch and purl stitch.

After learning all the basics, I decided to make a scarf since that seemed the easiest to do.

The knitting needles I used for this scarf I bought from Daiso (size 8mm) where everything is $2.80.  What a bargain! I purchased the yarn (100% Acrylic, 100gm, approx 65m) from Lincraft for less than $5. The scarf would cost less than $10 but I added some pom poms from a different ball of yarn so it would cost a little over $12.

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There’s really no pattern to this scarf as it it is my very first knitted scarf and I didn’t really want to complicate the whole process. Just knit stitches all the way through. I thought it looked good when it was finished but it didn’t quite look complete. My husband suggested to put pom poms for that extra cuteness.

I learned how to make pom poms years ago from a show called Better Homes and Gardens.  I thought to myself cute, but when am I ever going to use that?! And here we are.  I created a step by step in pictures on how to create a pom pom with yarn. It’s super easy and they look fantastic on scarves and beanies for kids.

Now please excuse me whilst I gather my tools and make a beanie!

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Easy Apple Tart {Recipe}

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I’ve been wanting to make this dessert for so long but every time I had a hankering for it, we didn’t have any apples, or we didn’t have any puff pastry. Plus I always thought because it seems so very simple with very little ingredients, it probably doesn’t taste nice. Wrong. It is simple but it’s oh-so-nice and so quick to put together.

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I finally got the chance to make this during the day with some help from my little girl. You see we have a whole lot of apples now since it’s a regular in the school lunch box but lately they haven’t made their way to the lunch box because my little girl has been away from school the last couple of days. After a mild asthma attack over the weekend, the doctor thought it best that she stay home for a few days.  So yesterday I thought to use up those apples and do some baking with her help because that always cheers her up.  It cheers me up.

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Whoever invented ready frozen puff pastry sheets deserves a massive round of applause!

Clap clap clap clap clap! 

Genius. They don’t take long to thaw, are versatile and they are a time/life saver!

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Looks great, smells amazing and tastes good too! I suggest to always have frozen puff pastry sheets in your freezer because you can always whip up this amazingly super easy dessert whenever you want!

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Easy Apple Tart

2 ready-made puff pastry sheets (cut in half)
3-4 medium-sized apples (quartered, cored and thinly sliced)
50g butter (melted)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped Tbsp of brown sugar
icing sugar (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 190ºC. Lightly grease a baking tray and place puff pastry sheets on greased baking tray.

Add ground cinnamon into melted butter and mix well. Set aside.

Place apples evenly in a straight, overlapping line on top of the puff pastry sheets. Leave a gap on the top and bottom. Brush the apples with the cinnamon butter and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. Serve with a light dusting of icing sugar.

 

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Banutty Wands

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I love weekends. Not only is it a great break away from the daily grind but I get to spend 2 full days with my family.  With my kids especially.

About three weeks ago, my little girl started kindergarten.  It was a big moment for all of us. For me, it was a nerve wracking experience. She is my first child to attend school and it means a lot to me.

There’s so much to take in for a 5 year old at school! Learning each letter, forming words, learning how to write, how to read and count! She would often take a quick nap after school because there’s just so much to do! Here I am still trying to get used to the fact that I now have a daughter going to school when it doesn’t seem that long ago it was me going to kindy. It feels so surreal.

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I was very emotional leading up to her first day. Buying her shoes, her uniform, her bag, hat and supplies was rather difficult. I could never keep my composure. I used to talk to myself about anything just to stop from getting teary and sometimes it worked. Even packing her lunch for the first time made me cry and I thought to myself “she’s growing way too fast. Where did the time go? Did we get to spend enough quality time together? Was there enough bonding between mother and daughter?”. I know time is precious and every second spent with your child is time well spent. Give them a hug everyday.  Tell them how much you love them everyday.  It means a lot to a young person who looks up to you constantly.

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Last Thursday during my lunch stroll, I stopped by a pop up book store near my place of work. I spotted a pink fairy bag filled with about 4 Fairy Food Friends story book (see bottom of post for more information). I bought it for my little girl thinking it would be perfect since she loves pink and fairies and anyway, she’s at the stage where she really enjoys reading time. I still do most of the reading! And the books are adorable. It wasn’t until we were in the car on the way home that I noticed there was also a recipe book in the bag called The Great Fairy Bake Off. Fantastic. We can spend the weekends together making sweet goods. Just a mummy daughter thing!

I got to choose what we’re making this week and I decided on Banutty Wands. Great treats for kids! Simple bananas covered in white chocolate and cashew nuts.  The original recipe uses peanut butter but I’ve had to substitute it with white chocolates because of my daughter’s peanut allergy.

Another great substitute would be dark chocolates or maybe nutella.

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Look at that hand modelling by my 5-year-old!

So the weekends have become extra special to me now that my daughter and I have our own kitchen adventures. I don’t want the day or time to go by too quickly because there will come a time in her teenage years that she’ll probably tell me to stop being too clingy.

Sometimes I really don’t want to let go but no matter how much she tells me that she’s a big girl now, to me, she’ll always be my little girl.

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Banutty Wands 
(adapted from The Great Fairy Bake Off) 

150g white chocolate 
1 ½ cups cashew nuts 
3 medium to large bananas (cut in 3s)

Melt chocolates in microwave safe bowl on low heat until smooth.  Cool slightly. Crush the cashew nuts (but not too finely) and place in a shallow bowl.

Push a stick into each banana piece.  Dip the bananas into the chocolate until completely covered then roll each piece into the crushed cashews.  

Rest each stick onto a styrofoam board to let the chocolates harden.  

- These are best eaten on the same day or refrigerated for a day 
otherwise the bananas will turn brown. -

The pink bag of fairy books contains Izzy the Ice-Cream Fairy, Camilla the Cupcake Fairy, Daisy the Doughnut Fairy and Lola the Lollipop Fairy.  All written by Tim Bugbird and illustrated by Lara Ede. Look them up. They are such adorable books great for little girls who love princess fairy stories, and cupcakes and sweets.  I’m also not in any way, shape or form affiliated with these books – simply just sharing my enthusiasm for such wonderfully written and illustrated story books.

The Great Fairy Bake Off (ISBN 10: 1-78235-625-8 / ISBN 13 978-1-78235-625-7)

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Orange Chiffon Cake

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Well hello there and happy new year! My, how quickly 2014 came to us. We’re cruising into the 4th week of the new year already.  I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and a wonderful New Year’s celebration. 2013 was a great year but let’s make 2014 bigger and better, shall we?

There’s so much to look forward to in the next 12 months.  For starters my little girl turned 5 years old last December which means she begins school this year. In fact, she starts next month.  How terrifying for me and how exciting for her! I was such an emotional wreck when we shopped for her school bag and shoes.  I can’t imagine what it will be like for both of us on her first day of school. I suppose I’m just a little protective of her and maybe, just maybe I’m not quite ready to let her go.  She’s my little girl after all. I know she’s really looking forward to it and I’m sure she’ll enjoy it.

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Now where was I? Oh right.  Cake.

I made this cake over the weekend to bring to my sister in laws house for a quiet lunch and tea with some work colleagues of my husband and brother-in-law. Turns out, their colleagues couldn’t eat it because they are vegetarians and they can’t eat eggs.  I suppose it’s my fault for not checking their dietary needs but in a good way, it meant more cake for me and the kids.  I brought left overs (what was 4 slices) to my work colleagues and they loved it.  Makes me feel all gooey inside when they say that!

Chiffon cakes are soft, fluffy and light in texture.  Sure this one doesn’t quite win in the looks department with that it fails the tall, flat top and flat bottom classic look but it tastes so heavenly.  Like eating an orange flavoured cloud or pillow. It smells wonderful too. Eating this kind of cake always makes me happy.

Chiffon cakes are quite easy to make but does require care and attention, in this case the whisking of the egg whites.  From what I have read, over whisking and under whisking the egg whites will cause the cake to collapse.  So pay attention to the egg whites when you’re whisking them!

So far so good then.

Now let’s bake a cake! Here are a few things you’ll need to make it a little easier for you:

Large mixing bowls
Electric Mixer
Rubber Spatula
Whisk
Tube Pan (23cm/9″)

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Orange Chiffon Cake

Ingredients

Part A
6 eggs yolks (room temperature)
½ cup vegetable, corn or canola oil
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Part B
2 ¼ cups sifted plain/all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups caster sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ Tbsp orange zest 

Part C
6 egg whites (room temperature)
½ tsp cream of tartar
¼ cup caster sugar

Method 

Pre-heat oven to 170ºC (335ºF) fan forced. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients from Part A then set aside.  In the bowl of your electric mixer on low-speed, mix together all ingredients from Part B until just combined.  Make a well in the centre and gently pour Part A into Part B and continue to mix on low then gradually to medium to high-speed until batter is well combined.  Set aside.

To make the meringue (Part C), place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large clean bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat the egg whites until soft peaks (foamy) form.  Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat the egg whites on high-speed until stiff peaks form (until just glossy).

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue (in three additions) into the batter.  Mix until just combined.  Take care not to deflate the batter. Pour the batter into an un-greased tube pan and bake in the pre-heated oven for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. The top of the cake will spring back when lightly touched.  Once the cake is removed from the oven, immediately turn the cake pan upside down and place on a bottle or on the bottom of a glass or anywhere that will leave the cake pan suspended over the counter.  Leave the cake to cool completely before removing from the pan (about 1 ½ hours). 

To remove the cake, gently run a knife around the inside of the tube pan and around the centre. Turn the cake over (the bottom of the cake now becomes the top) onto a cake board or cake stand and then slide your knife in one swift motion under the cake to separate the cake from the ring.  Lightly dust with icing sugar (optional).

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NOTES:

- Prep all your ingredients ahead of time. It makes things a little easier.
- It’s a good idea to separate the eggs while they’re still cold.  Once separated, leave (covered)  on the kitchen counter and bring to room temperature.
- Ensure that your bowls and whisks are squeaky clean, especially the ones you’ll use for the egg whites.
- Wash your oranges thoroughly before you grate them and only grate the orange part of the skin – do not grate any white bits under the skin.  That part of the skin has a bitter taste.
- After reading and watching a number of tutorials for this type of cake, it is really important that you invert the cake once removed from the oven so that it doesn’t shrink or lose its volume.
- For conversions, click here.

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I used a two piece 23cm/9in tube pan with legs (pictured above). When you invert the pan, invert it on a bottle or the bottom of a glass.  It should be fine to balance from the centre hole so long as the surface is flat.  Or you can just let it rest on its legs.

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This cake turned out so well that I plan to make many more in the future.  Of course doing so will help me perfect it. Hopefully.  I see pandan, ube (purple yam), lemon and coffee flavoured chiffon cakes.  Oh my!

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Christmas Rocky Road – A sweet ending to 2013

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Seeing green and red tinsel, candy canes, shiny colourful baubles and hearing carols at the mall is a reminder that Christmas is just around the corner.  In fact, just 8 days away. Thank goodness all my christmas shopping is done.  Although it is tiring walking around a busy crowded mall, pondering on the perfect gift for your loved ones, I do enjoy coming home and wrapping them. I have a thing about wrapping.  Rather meticulous about it.  Even if it means just putting rocky road into 30 individual bags. Then tying them up with pretty twines.  Which is what I did over the weekend.  Just a little something for work.

I was away from the office during Christmas last year and I didn’t get the chance to give some christmas goodies to my colleagues. Aren’t they lucky this year!  Over the weekend I bought some ingredients for a christmas-sy rocky road which I planned to wrap up for my team.
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Here are a couple of fast, simple and delicious treats you can make in time for the Christmas break. Homemade treats are always a winner so these would be perfect to give out to friends and family.

White Chocolate Christmas Rocky Road

420g white chocolates
1 ½ cups pink and white marshmallows
16 small green and red peppermint flavoured candy canes (crushed)
¼ cup desiccated coconut

Line a 3cm deep, 25cm x 15cm  (10inch x 6inch) bar pan with baking paper, allowing it to overhang on the sides. Place white chocolates in a microwave proof bowl and melt chocolates in the microwave on 50% power for 2 minutes. Stirring after 1 minute or until melted and smooth.  Allow it to cool slightly but don’t let it harden.

In a large bowl, combine candy canes, coconut and marshmallows. Add melted chocolate and mix thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan and top with a little more shredded coconut. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Cut into small cubes.

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The result? Chewy and delicious, sweet and minty with pillowy soft marshmallows. You just can’t stop at one.

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Tip: If your  candy canes come in individual wraps, it’s best to crush them whilst they’re still in the wrapping to avoid candy shards flying into oblivion.  Or your face.

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Dark Chocolate Christmas Rocky Road

620g dark chocolates
1 ½ – 2 cups pink and white marshmallows
½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
½ cup pistachios (salted and roasted)
¼ cup dried goji berries

Line a 3cm deep, 25cm x 15cm  (10inch x 6inch) bar pan with baking paper, allowing it to overhang on the sides. Place dark chocolates in a microwave proof bowl and melt chocolates in the microwave on 50% power for 2 minutes. Stirring after 1 minute or until melted and smooth. 

In a large bowl, combine walnuts, pistachios, goji berries and marshmallows. Add melted chocolate and mix thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan and refrigerate for 2 hours. Cut into small cubes.

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I love the combination of the pistachios and dark chocolates – salty and sweet just taste great together.

Although this is a very simple recipe, my number 1 tip to having great tasting rocky road is to use good quality chocolates.
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Wrapped and ready to go! I thought the tags and stickers were cute. Bags were from a local party shop (bag of 30 for $3.50).  Twine, stickers and gift tags from kikki.K stationery. The twine comes in a small tubular container, $7.95 for 50 metres. A book of about 100 stickers (sealers, labels and tags) for $19.95.  Great value for money.  I used plain wrapping paper for my gifts and got my daughter to help me with the stickers to decorate the wrapper.  Kids love stickers so that was a lot of fun for her and there were still plenty of stickers left in the book.

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That’s all from me for 2013.  I will be back posting yummy treats in the new year.  For now, I wish you and your family a safe and joyous christmas.  May the new year bring you much, much happiness.

Lots of love,
MJ xoxo