Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Recipe: Oatmeal-Sunflower Bread

Nothing beats the aroma of a freshly baked bread. A cliche, but true. And digging into a loaf of freshly baked loaf is simply heavenly. I used to bake until it got too troublesome to get bread flour or wheat gluten (to make bread four). We'd eat the freshly baked loaf with ham, luncheon meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes dinner. Any leftovers would be finished at breakfast the next morning.


Of all the loafs I had made, the oatmeal-sunflower bread remains one of my favourites. This modified recipe is specially posted up for the benefit of Fern, and anyone who loves to bake. The original recipe, and why I modified it, is explained at the bottom of the page.


Ingredients:


1/2 cup fresh milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoon butter
3 cups bread flour
4 tablespoon rolled oats
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
4 tablespoon sunflower seeds


Method:


1. Measure carefully, place all ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer. Add sunflower seeds at the raisin/nut signal or 5 to 10 minutes before the last kneading cycle ends.


2. Select Basic/White, Regular cycle. Use Light Crust colour. 


3. Remove baked bread from pan and cool on wire rack.


I modified the recipe after a few times of baking it. The original recipe called for 1 cup water and 2 tablespoon milk powder instead. It also called for 1/2 cup rolled oats. I found using 1/2 cup fresh milk and 1/2 cup water, and reducing the rolled oats to 4 tablespoons produce a lighter texture.


To make bread flour (if none is available), add 1/2 tablespoon wheat gluten to each cup of plain flour.


Enjoy...........

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Operation Mincemeat by Ben Mcintyre



Upon finishing Agent Zigzag by the same author a month ago, I started right away on Operation Mincemeat. I usually take less than one week to finish a paperback of 600 pages. However, April and May have been particularly busy months, and the weekends were no different. There was always one obligation after another. I was surprised to note that I took one month to finish Agent Zigzag and another month to finish Operation Mincemeat. At the rate I'm reading, it's going to take me more than one lifetime to finish all the books I have!


Operation Mincemeat was the codename of a very bizarre deception carried out by the British Intelligence to fool the Nazis.  One of the person involved in the deception was Ian Fleming who was in Room 35 of the Admiralty, the nerve center of British naval intelligence. He later went on to write the James Bond spy novels.


And his colleague, Charles Fraser-Smith, was the inventor who provided Ian Fleming with equipments for his more outlandish plans. Needless to say, Charles Fraser-Smith was responsible for the character 'Q' in the James Bond novels while 'M' was based on Admiral John Godfrey.


The deception involved getting a corpse with no family and dressing it up as an officer and floating it off to the Spanish shores with planted intelligence documents to fool the Germans about the Allieds' invasion plans.


I particularly enjoyed the first half of the book. Stephen King couldn't have been more macabre. 
Bentley Purchase came up with a solution. "I've got it," said the coroner. "We'll get an electric fire and thaw out the feet only. As soon as the boots are on we'll pop him back in the refrigerator again and refreeze him."
 The mouth of the corpse has fallen open. The skin around the nose has sunk, and the upper part of the face appears discoloured. The fingers of the left hand are bent, as if clawing in pain.
......a person was formally pronounced dead without ever having been alive.
I don't normally quote paragraphs from the books I read, but those passages just stuck in my mind.


Read together with Agent Zigzag and The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva, one has a better understanding and appreciation of how a war could be won even before it actually began. History lesson has never been so interesting, dead bodies do tell tales. 


And now I'm going to start on a fiction that has nothing to do with war....time to take a break from history.  Should I read The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson or Snow by Orhan Pamuk, or......

Friday, 27 May 2011

Friendscino @ Damansara Perdana


Located in Damansara Perdana, Friendscino is a family pub restaurant. When we were there two weeks ago, there were several families with children in tow.


Board games for the whole family are available on the mahogany shelf


This guy can really croon


Hubby had bought a 4-course dinner package from one of those online prepaid promotions for RM27 each. It was really value for money. They did not shortchange on the quality of the food at all.


The Ceasar Salad with cheese was creamy and has a strong cheese flavour. Yummy.




Next came the wild mushroom soup. I enjoyed the home-made soup to the last drop, and putting the chutney on the garlic bread was an ingenious idea. The sweet and tangy chutney went very well with the garlic bread.




The Norwegian salmon was grilled to perfection. It was accompanied with baked baby potatoes, sauerkraut, sweet peas, brocolli and the barbecue sauce had a slight tang of chutney, too. Two thumbs up.




The bread and butter pudding with ice cream and raspberry sauce was not too sweet. It was just right for me, and acceptable by diabetic hubby. Although he did say that his blood sugar has probably spiked.




They didn't have wine on the menu so I opted for a glass of Pina Colado. I almost didn't get that, as they had run out of coconut milk, but before I could make up my mind what to order instead, one of the staff came up to our table to say they could rush out to get the coconut milk if I really want Pina Colado. Yes, I do, thank you.  :)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Little Tyke Is At It Again

Plants and flowers used to be found in every crook and corner, and on side tables, coffee tables, or dining tables in my home. Those were things of the past ever since Blackie took over my home five and a half years ago.

Nearly two weeks earlier, a friend, AC, gave me a lovely bunch of chrysanthemums for my birthday. Thank you for those lovely flowers that brightened up my home, A.


Less than three hours later, Blackie started to chew them. By the time I returned from Cameron Highlands, they were half gone. 


And this morning, I caught the little tyke chewing the lavenders I bought at Cameron Highlands.



Trying to look innocent

Oops...he knocked down the vase....I caught it just in time

The vase is now sitting on top of my shoe cabinet outside, between the gate and the door, and Blackie is now sitting there, working out the details of how to get up on the shoe cabinet. He rushed back inside when I tried to take a picture of him. Goes to show the little tyke knows the flowers are off-limits to him.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cameron Highlands Apples

You would be forgiven if you thought "Oh no, she got conned again with another dodgy apple from Cameron Highlands" (see Conned - Hybrid Guava-Apple It Is Not). Forgiven, but wrong.  


My first thought when I walked into a farm and saw these plants was "What are these? Eggplants??" I wasn't alone in thinking that. A woman very authoritatively told her husband and kids that those were definitely eggplants. However, I wasn't as hundred percent sure as she was. And hubby was certain those were not eggplants. So I went and asked one of the farmhands. He said those were apples. Apples?? Yes, Cameron Highlands' very own apples. Are they sour or sweet? Sweet. They taste like honeydew. Ohhh.....


The farmhand said all the riped ones had been plucked. Being someone who loved to try new things, I didn't want to go home without getting some. After badgering him, he said if I saw any that was yellow with red stripes, I could pluck those. But I'd have to keep them in room temperature for about two days for them to completely ripen, otherwise they won't taste good.


 Nope, not ripe for plucking


Ready to be plucked, and should ripen in two days


We only managed to find six apples that could be plucked. I guess there must have been a lot of tourists that visited during the May 1st holiday, as this is not the peak season. 


Today, three of the apples ripened and they exuded a rich honeydew smell. After chilling them in the fridge for a few hours, we sank our teeth into them. And......they were wonderful. Very juicy, juicier than regular honeydew, and sweet, those apples taste exactly like honeydew. The skin was a little funny, though. Felt like plastic. I couldn't peel them with a peeler, but after I had cut them, I could peel it off by pulling at the edge and dragging it off in one neat tug. Another hybrid??!! But the farmhand did NOT say it's a hybrid apple-honeydew......


The apples were very juicy and sweet


"Riped" pak choy for picking


Didn't pick any cherry tomatoes as those that were riped were too tiny while the decent sized ones were not ready for picking


The sunflowers were not for sale and signs were posted prominently forbidding picking of the flowers
Bigger than my head -- I took a photo standing next to it to compare who has a bigger head and the sunflower won hands down

Jasmine Cafe @ Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands

Located along the main road at Tanah Rata, Jasmine Cafe was touted as the best Western food in Cameron Highlands. It has been around since the early 1990s and supposedly opens till late as the outlet has a liquor license and was supposed to be a place to hangout at night (Cameron Highlands does not have a nightlife).


Imagine our surprise when it started rolling down its shutters at five minutes to nine (8.55pm) when we were there. Not that we had planned to hang out there, but still, we wondered if 9pm is considered late hours by Cameron's standard. Here, in KL, if you close at midnight, it's considered early.


Anyway, we had already finished our dinner and were already out of the premises, so we have no complaints with their extremely early closing hours.


Their smoked duck was touted as one of their specialties, so we ordered that.


While the meat was tender and juicy, the high sodium level put me off completely. I thought I had eaten a teaspoon of salt instead of duck. Hubby, who has a higher tolerance for salty food, was asked to help finished it. Even he could not finish the duck, that was how salty it was. 


When we paid the bill, we gave our feedback to the proprietor, and he seemed surprised that we found it too salty. I suppose his sodium-tolerance is even higher than hubby's.


The beef fillet was alright, done medium-rare, the way we liked it. But it could have been better if they had used a less chewy and fibrous part of the cow.


The only saving grace is the tomato soup which we both ordered a bowl each. 


Overall, we were disappointed in Jasmine Cafe. The proprietor, who is also the chef, is supposed to have learned the art of cooking in Europe. Yet, what we had was subpar quality.


Related topics:
Where to eat at Cameron Highlands
The Best Scones in Cameron Highlands
Charcoal Steamboat @ Restaurant Kwan Kee

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Charcoal Steamboat @ Restaurant Kwan Kee

Steamboat, or Chinese hot pot, is a meal eaten in China in winter months, and is a tradition carried over to Malaysia when our ancestors migrated here. It is also claimed, but not verified, that the steamboat actually originated from the Mongolians. 


Today, in KL, the traditional coal-heated steamboat has been replaced by gas or electric cookers. That said, in Cameron Highlands, it is still available in some restaurants in Brinchang. One of them is Restaurant Kwan Kee.


The steam rising from the hot pot - we chose the herbal soup base


The long funnel attached to the steamboat acts as a chimney for the fire, without which the fire would be crackling up and above the pot. It looks much more interesting than the gas or electric steamboats we see in KL. 


But there is a reason why people switched from the traditional charcoal steamboat --- there is no control over the fire. You can't turn the fire up or down as you like. The soup dries really fast and the proprietor has to keep asking their staff to add soup to our pot.


The raw ingredients waiting to be cooked by hubby


Hubby did the cooking whenever we have steamboats or barbecues outside. I believe in letting the poor man have a chance at playing the cook. Yes, I don't let him cook at home. My kitchen looks like both a tornado and tsunami has invaded it if I let him cook. And I have no desire to clean up the tornado and tsunami aftermaths. No thank you, sirree.


Related topics:
Where to eat at Cameron Highlands
Jasmine Cafe @ Tanah Rata
The Best Scones in Cameron Highlands





The Best Scones in Cameron Highlands

Cameron Highlands is known for three things --- strawberries, tea and scones. But not all scones are made equal. There are scones and then there are scones.


And when it comes to the topic of scones, I believe I am quite an expert on the subject. Besides having lived in the UK for some time, and making regular day trips to the Isle of Wight, Brighton or Devon just to have their world-famous scones with cream and jam, I also had two housemates who made scones for tea all the time: one from Canada who made the American version and one very English girl who made the English cream scones. So, I know the difference between a real English scone and an American one.


Having tried the scones at various places like Cameron Valley Bharat Cafe, Bala's Chalet, Smokehouse, The Lord's Cafe (formerly known as T-Cafe) and Cameronian Inn, I must say the best English scones award in Malaysia, if there is one, should go to.....Cameronian Inn.


Located behind the Agro Bank and Maybank at Tanah Rata, Cameronian Inn is a nondescript but charming little backpackers' lodge. The scones are made by the proprietor's wife, and they are the soft & fluffy types that English scones are famous for. The other scones at those places I mentioned above are soft, but crispy on the outside and crumbly on the inside, more like the American scones that are sometimes called biscuits.


They have a smaller version of the scones, which is good for diabetics who shouldn't be eating scones


On the first day we arrived at Cameron, I was gluttony and ordered a banana and honey pancake plus two regular-sized scones for tea. Their pancake was not as good as their scones, the dough was a little 'heavy'. 


On our second day, we had scones for dessert after our lunch, and had scones again for tea at four-ish in the afternoon. On our last day, we decided that we should not have any more scones, as the refined carbo plus the cream and jam might have spiked up hubby's blood glucose too much for comfort. 


As I type this, I'm playing with the idea of baking my own scones again, but hubby was not keen. He said my scones didn't taste half as good as the not-so-good ones let alone Cameronian Inn's. I know, I'm not talented in the kitchen, what a bummer!


Related topics:
Where To Eat At Cameron Highlands
Charcoal Steamboat @ Restaurant Kwan Kee
Jasmine Cafe @ Tanah Rata

Century Pines Resort @ Cameron Highlands

For some reason, hotels in Cameron Highlands are pretty run down, no matter whether they are in the range of RM100+, RM200+ or RM300+. Heritage Hotel, Hotel Equatorial, Hotel Casa De La Rossa, Smokehouse Hotel, are just some of them. I'm not sure why they couldn't be maintained better, but I suspect it could be due to either the damp weather or that Cameron is a seasonal holiday destination, and they do not have enough income during off-peak season. 


So, when I stumbled onto a review that Century Pines Resort at Tanah Rata has added on a new wing, I decided to check it out. 


The room was spacious, clean and comfortable with a super-king size bed
The housekeeping service was very prompt in attending to our requests to change the two light bulbs that weren't working. Someone knocked on our door less than six seconds after we hung up the phone.


The staff were very accommodating, too. At about 9pm, after the gym and sauna was closed, we asked if we could use them, and they immediately said yes, and one of them opened the doors for us right away.


The room came with a western and local buffet breakfast, and the spread is so far, the best that the hotels in Cameron has offered. I like that I could customize my orders although I think the chef wasn't too happy with my very detailed requests, like, "Could you make my omelette a little under-done please? I don't like those well-done ones" or, "Could you make me some French toasts, please? I like them well-soaked in the eggs before they're fried." 


The garden


The lobby


Other topics of the same trip:
Conned - Hybrid Guava-Apple It Is Not
The Best Scones in Cameron Highlands

Conned - Hybrid Guava-Apple It Is Not


Till today, Cameron Highlands remains one of my favourite places to unwind and relax, second after Penang. The last time we went to Cameron Highlands was in September 2009, and we thought it's time to revisit the place. There were not much changes, other than a couple of 'new' fruits. 


One of the fruits that could be seen everywhere in Cameron was Jambu-Epal, a hybrid of guava-apple. It comes in a packet of two, and sells for between RM8 and RM10 each, depending on the store, and RM15 for two packets. The colour of the fruit is a very bright apple-green colour. 


The colour is so unnaturally green that it looks like it has been colour-treated. When I posed the question of whether the fruit had colour dye added to it, the vendors denied it. They claimed that this is the natural colour of the fruit. The fruit, they claimed, is known as guava-apple and grown locally. It tastes like an apple but has the texture of a guava. 


On the day we left Cameron, we succumbed and bought two packets for RM15 after one of the vendors let us taste a small slice. On hindsight, the slice was too small for us to realise that the apple sweetness we tasted is not natural.


The shock came when we got home and I cut one of them. As I was washing it, I thought I saw greenish water running down the sink. As I rubbed the fruit more vigorously, I could feel the sliminess of the flesh of a fruit that has been de-skinned. 




What I discovered after I had cut it into slices and even removed the green part was that the guava-apple is none other than your ubiquitious regular guava, nothing more, nothing less. It must have been soaked in an extremely sweet green colour syrup for a very long time, for the saccharine sweetness has permeated all the way into the guava. Despite removing the green coloured part, it was still too unnaturally sweet to be eaten. 


I threw all four away. But before I did that, I washed and cut another one for the photos and this blog.


The green colour water that dripped from the fruit after I scrubbed it with my hands.


I 'soaked' my fingers in the water that ran off the 'guava-apple' for about 60 seconds


My fingers are turning into an incredible hulk!!


After washing with soap, I still have green fingers! I should pick up gardening as a hobby now.


If you've bought one of those guava-apples, do try the experiment above. You won't be disappointed with the results. Their marketing tagline should be --- Cameron Highlands guava-apple, green fingers guaranteed. 


Other topics of the same trip:
Century Pines Resort at Cameron Highlands
The Best Scones in Cameron Highlands





Wednesday, 4 May 2011

eGarden Recipe Cafe @ SSTwo Mall



For those who are diabetic, and are on a very limited variety special diet, and has problems eating out, good news is around the corner. eGarden Recipe Cafe, a new outlet at the equally new SSTwo Mall, caters to the health-conscious, vegetarian and diabetic-diet group.


eGarden Recipe Cafe started in Melaka, and their first outlet in KL is at Solaris Mont Kiara. This is their second outlet outside of their home state. Their tagline is "It's Almost Home" and boasts of a homely feel environment.


They serve brown rice, brown rice beehoon, brown rice ramen, brown rice mee sua, and uses only brown sugar and olive oil in the cooking. For those who do not like brown rice, they can opt for basmathi rice. They also use only deep ocean fish high in protein, and salmon dominates the menu. No msg, colouring or preservatives are used either. All sauces are home-made.


The menu is a diabetic, vegetarian and health-conscious's gourmet delight


Hubby ordered the Salmon Fish Fillet Soup with Brown Rice Bee Hoon while I ordered the Grilled Salmon with Spaghetti Tomato Concasse, Healthy Salad & Fruit set.


Salmon Fish Fillet Soup with Brown Rice Bee Hoon - RM14.90


I'm not sure why it is called Salmon Fish Fillet Soup when the salmon is grilled separately and not added into the soup. The soup has an extremely clear flavour, without any fish taste. It's definitely your Yee Tau Mai (Fish Head/Fillet Beehoon) without the fish. The soup was cooked with ginger, salted vegetable and tomatoes. I found it too bland. But hubby loved it. Ever since he got used to eating food without salt and flavouring spices, he found those cooked the ordinary way to be too overwhelming, and likes those that are bland. He calls it "subtle" while I call it "sick man's food".


Grilled Salmon with Spaghetti Tomato Concasse, Healthy Salad & Fruit set - RM24.90


You have three choices for the sauce on the grilled salmon. They are: King Sauce, Miso Sauce and Japanese BBQ Sauce. I opted for the third on the list. My verdict?? The salmon was superb, while the spaghetti was done just the way I like it - al dente. The tomato concasse tastes great, too, with a fresh tomato sourish flavour. I didn't like the salad, though. It came in a peculiarly sweet vinegarish sauce.


Organic Beans Tong Sui - RM4.90


We decided that we have enough room for a dessert, and ordered the Organic Beans Tong Sui to share, which turns out to be a combination of red kidney beans, red beans and black glutinous rice. It was not sweet at all, and is just perfect. We both loved it.


We're glad we stumbled upon this cafe. It's definitely going to be one of regular our hang-outs.


Address:
LG-55, SSTwo Mall
Jalan SS 2/72
Petaling Jaya

Is It Better To Be An Insomniac Vampire or A Walking Dead?

It's 4:58pm on a hot, sunny Wednesday afternoon, and I am feeling particularly sleepy, and with nobody to talk to (hubby is at work, mum and two kitties are sound asleep, emails from cousin and friends have been replied to), it's time to indulge in some verbal diarrhea a.k.a. ramblings in my blog. Dear readers, this is your modern day's old lady mumbling to herself. I think I could grow to love this image of myself. It is more sophisticated than that of an old crotchety lady, sitting on a rocking chair, knitting and mumbling to herself, no? 


More than two and a half years ago, I rambled on about the nicknames hubby gave me in a self-indulgent post titled List of Nicknames. The nicknames have not changed much. I am still called the Insomniac Vampire, due to my insomnia. But a new nickname has emerged. I now have the dubious honour of being called The Walking Dead. Is that a promotion or what??


I've always had low blood pressure (hypotension), but it's not something in the forefront of my mind. Ever since hubby started monitoring his blood pressure and blood glucose level diligently, he puts me under the 'microscope', too. And he found, to his horror, that my blood pressure does not vary too far from what has now become the benchmark of my 'normal' blood pressure readings: 88/52. My systolic reading does not sway too far from 88, and neither does my diastolic reading. The highest ever recorded was 90/55. But it's usually 86/50, 88/52, never dropping below 50. 


According to the doctor, if my diastolic reading ever plunges below 50, I am to be rushed to the hospital immediately, because that is considered a critical morbidity stage. So, when my readings are 88/52, hubby says he sees his dead wife walking around. And that's how the nickname The Walking Dead started. I can't quite make up my mind if I should be flattered. I do believe I prefer to be an Insomniac Vampire, at least a vampire is more attractive than a zombie.....the latter has a rather distinctive, err, scent.  :)


And now I have a cousin with Graves' Disease. What is that?? Is she a grave-robber? Or grave-digger? No, nothing so glamorous unfortunately. Graves' Disease is an autoimmune disease that causes high thyroid, and I am so concerned for her. I've always pictured her to be forever young, healthy, bubbly and happy, to imagine that she could be anything less than that is very disconcerting, to say the least. 


It's now 5:22pm,  time to 'pen off' and perform some wifely duties -- hoover the floor and then retreat to my kitchen to cook up a storm for hubby. 



Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Book Review: Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre

A friend who read a review I wrote on The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva suggested that since I enjoyed reading about British double cross espionage during World War II I might like Agent Zigzag, a true account of love, espionage and betrayal . And she was right. 


While I had learned a fair bit about how the British concocted a very daring and remarkable deception plan to deceive the Nazis, Agent Zigzag completed my 'education' and I knew all the spy masters by name now, if not their complete personality, on both the British and German sides. Well, almost, anyway. There is one more deception, a very famous dead body operation called Operation Mincemeat, which I will write a review on when I finished reading it.


Eddie Chapman was the most unlikely hero I had ever come across. He began his life as a criminal and was a member of the Jelly Gang who used chewing gum to stick the gelignite to the safes on their heists. 


And yet, he was also a gentle criminal. He abhorred the use of violence in his crimes. He was also a very charming young man, and made friends easily, both of the female and male gender. This was a man with two fiancĂ©es at the same time! 


He was serving a sentence in Jersey when the Nazis took control of the island. And so began a story that was more astounding than fiction. His British handlers codenamed him 'Zigzag' due to his erratic personality.


The book's account is taken from documents released by the British Secret Service MI5 to the UK National Archives in 2001 and is a must read for fans of espionage. 

Monday, 2 May 2011

Chocolate Lounge @ The Curve

After spending an entire day at The Curve and Ikano (hubby needed more T-shirts while I needed a pair of Nike shoes as my 10-year old pair fell apart at the gym the other day), we were bushed and decided to have our dinner at The Curve.


We were walking to Bubba Gump when a menu displayed outside Chocolate Lounge stopped me in my tracks. Spaghetti in Pesto sauce screamed a picture. A dish I can't turn down. I love pesto sauce, especially when it comes with pine nuts and almond flakes. Or at least, that's what the description was. And it was only RM19.90, and came with either tea or coffee. Without a second thought, I stepped inside Chocolate Lounge and forgot all about going to Bubba Gump.


Chocolate Lounge is an eatery outlet that 'specializes' in chocolates. They have a few outlets in KL and PJ. There are various types of chocolate bars and chocolate cakes at the counter. But they are not just a chocolate house. They also offer main courses.


Hubby ordered the Spaghetti Olio-olio, and a cup of coffee while I had Spaghetti Al Pesto and a cup of tea, both at RM19.90 each. 


Hubby's Olio-olio was great. It was neither oily nor spicy, and the seafood was fresh. It had a subtle taste, and was not overwhelming like some other Olio-olio that we once had somewhere.


My Al Pesto. See the layer of oil at the bottom? They were definitely generous with the Extra Virgin Oil when they made the pesto sauce. But that's fine, extra virgin oil is healthy, so no complaints from me in that department. The shitake mushrooms and chicken cubes went well with the pesto sauce, I must say, even though I'm not a great fan of chicken. However, there were no pine nuts nor almond flakes. Oops, sorry, they lied....the description was for the non-promotional price, at RM22.90, without any of the beverages, which would have cost RM9 each. Considering that I had thoroughly enjoyed my meal I could overlook that little misrepresentation. Yum-yum.

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