Nov 30, 2008

Wishing you a safe journey

Yesterday, I did a private baking and cake decoration class at home to a family of 2 sisters and 2 nieces. They learn to whip and beat up eggs, flour and butter and made 3 different cakes in 2 different shapes. Two cakes were baked in a round pan and a Lemon Fairy Cake was baked in a cupcake liner.

They also got a chance to try out various ways to pipe fresh cream, and to decorate a full cake.

It was a whole day affair starting from 9:30am till 4pm. I also taught them to cook Guangzhou Fried Rice and served them with Korean Ginseng Chicken soup and a sprinkle of my home made Bai Mi Jiu(Chinese Rice Wine).

Then the sisters told me their brother is still stuck in Thailand and hopefully to be able to catch the next flight back to Singapore yesterday. They decided to put their skills together and decorated a cake for their brother/uncle's safe return to Singapore.

And thus, the words on the cake showed "Welcome Home", piped freehand without any templates or guides by one of the nieces. Overall, I was very happy that they could show off a fully decorated cake to the family as a welcome home reunion dinner. To the ladies, it was their first time handling fresh cream, piping, and even handling a spatula with a revolving cake stand.

Before they left for the day, I treated them with my home made Starfruit wine and also gave them a bottle to bring home for the family to try.

And here's wishing their brother/uncle a safe journey home...

Nov 27, 2008

Back in SHAPE!

Shape Magazine Singapore has ask me once again to create some recipes for their year end issue. This time, the criteria was :

Canned food. I must use various types of canned food to create healthy meals for the busy women. I have created 3 recipes namely the Mini Bread Cups, Mushroom Pot and the Fruit Cocktail salad. Actually, what it is was I improvised the same recipes I had by using canned food.

Go get a copy of the December 2008 issue of Shape Magazine and turn to 128..full recipes and photos too. Here's a glimpse of it.

Nov 26, 2008

My kitchen

When we were looking for a new home in early 1994, we knew what we wanted. Or at least I know what I wanted. I wanted a bigger kitchen to store all my things. I want space and a bigger stove because I tend to cook more than 3 dishes for each meal. But I never planned it for baking. Mainly because I am not so much of a baker. I preferred to cook than to bake. So when we saw this apartment, we quickly sign a check deposit to buy it.

My kitchen looks out to the carpark and you can get a glimpse of the road and the river. Its the brightest and the most windy part of the house. It stretches 20 feet by 10 feet. It has a toilet at the back and a utility room next to it. We had it knocked down and converted it into a small storeroom to put more of my other stuff.

I loved to have a kitchen with wide open spaces where I could walk in and out freely without having to give way to others. So it was made with cabinets near the wall.

The fridge was nearest to the door and it had no obstruction in terms of cabinets enclaving it. It was literally 'free'. That space was made to last for a lifetime, should I decide one day that I needed a big door to door fridge, I would have the space to put it.

Since I stayed so close to nature's gift of greenery and River, I had to make sure all my kitchen gadgets and tools are stainless steel and won't rust as the river flows out to the sea up north.

Over time, I moved things in and around the kitchen, bought new stuff, threw some out. And surprisingly I still have room for a few more big gadgets under the stove or in the storeroom!

Because the kitchen was not built for baking in mind, I had to build 2 cabinets in the dining room to store all my baking tools and ingredients. This cabinet sits directly under the wine cabinet.

Nov 24, 2008

Wa Aye Teng Lai(I want to go home)

Lately, the newspapers and media has been talking a lot about Mercy killing or Euthanasia. Suddenly, I thought I heard my late father in law again. Crying out to me , saying this, 'Gina, wa aye teng lai' in teochew or "Gina, I want to go home". He was a chronic diabetic and was in and out of the hospital for months. Until his death some 13 ++ years ago, he spend most of his last days in the hospital.

I used to visit him at the hospital. If I had time, I would go home and cook some soup for him. Simple and delicious. Just pork bones with bittergourd. Though he was not allow to drink it, often enough, I would give him a sip or two.

2 weeks before he passed away, he cried out to me again saying he wants to go home. In short, he knew his days are numbered and he doesn't want to die in the hospital. But bringing him home would mean that we need to hire a private nurse and have someone to care for him day in day out when the nurse has gone home for the day.

Then I spoke to the family and ask my sister in law to sign the papers for him to go home. And I took it upon myself to care for him in his last days.

And I am glad I did. I took 14 days of no-pay leave, pack my older daughter and moved in to stay with him. Then the family had hired a live-in maid to care of him. I would spent my days with him, cooking his favourite meals of just bittergourd soup with red dates although it was not allowed for his diet. I would sit by his bed and he would ramble on about things and half the time I couldn't make sense of what he said to me. And to be make sure he thinks I knew what he said, I just nodded at each 2 to 3 minutes interval.

My eldest daughter, Natasha, was barely 5 years old at that time. She learnt from this experience what it means to have filial piety and to have respect for the elderly. Years later, she mimick my every gesture and behaved likewise with my mother in law and also with my mom.

After his death, my mother in law had his ashes in an urn and kept it in a Buddhist temple at Sengkang. That's almost 5 minutes drive from my place to reach there. A close friend gave me a Wind chime as a gift and told me to hang it at the window where I could get wind blowing in most of the times. So I hung it at the kitchen window. Out from this window, you can see the river which flows out to the sea up north. Passing by the Buddhist temple which my late father-in-law had rested.

And each time when I cook bittergourd soup with pork bones, for some unknown reason, the wind chimes will 'sing' a beautiful tune as if telling me that he is in peace and in comfort.

That old chime was made of cardboard, and a string and a bell and has long gone from the kitchen window now. But I still get the sense of well-being whenever I make bittergourd soup with red dates and pork bones. I know, even till today, I have made the right decision to bring him home to die in dignity.

Nov 20, 2008

Ah Ma's old chinese remedies

When my mom visited her relatives in China almost a decade ago, she was amazed to find her elderly auntie as fit as a fiddle, complete with rosy cheeks.

When asked about the secret behind her good health, my grand-auntie attributed it to the soup which our great-grandmother had taught her. As they lived high in the mountains and the nearest doctor was a day’s journey away, this soup was taken every three months or so to flush the stomach of toxins and impurities.

According to my grand-auntie, for the best results, the soup must be taken for three days continuously without other types of food. But one is allowed to drink water during this period.

Apart from clearing the stomach of unwanted elements, the soup also helps to boost one’s immune system, making the person less susceptible to catching a cold or the flu bug.

The soup uses the simplest of ingredients – radish, carrot, potatoes and an onion. It should be eaten as part of the meal together with the rich vegetable stock.

Having taken this soup for the past decade, I can vouch for its efficacy as a health food.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
1 radish, skinned, cut into chunks
2 carrots, skinned, cut into chunks
3 local potatoes, skinned, cut into half
1 large brown onion, quartered
1,500ml water

1. Heat water in a large pot till it boils.
2. Add all the ingredients into the pot to boil over low fire for 30 minutes.
3. Turn off the fire.
4. Serve hot.

Nov 18, 2008

C is for Cookie!

I am not a cookie fan. Never have, never been. But my mother in law loves cookies. Especially any type I baked for her. Because she knows I take into consideration about her eating habits and tries to create cookies that she could eat now as she has become a vegetarian.

My mom also loves cookies. But she loves anything that is made with SCS Butter. My sister only likes crunchy cookies. In fact, come to think of it, my whole clan loves cookies. Anything that is buttery and crunchy and fresh.

So lately, with spare time at home, I have been playing with ingredients, revising old recipes I had and improvising it. And came out with these.

I made a batch for tea after my sugarpaste modelling class last weekend. My students raved about it and begged me for the recipe. So here it is, a cookie for vegetarians too. No egg, no butter.

Dates Cookies
Recipe by Gina Choong

150g plain flour
100g corn starch
70g Margarine
50ml Corn oil
80g icing sugar
Dried dates, seeded, sliced

1. Mix margarine, sunflower oil together in a mixing bowl.
2. Add sifted flour and icing sugar and fold in gently to a smooth dough
3. Use a spoon or cookie scoop to scoop the dough and place on baking tray.
4. Add a piece of sliced dates on top of the dough.
5. Bake in pre-heated 180C oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to cool on wire rack before storing in airtight containers.

Lemon Scented Melting Moments
Recipe by Gina Choong

150g plain flour
100g corn starch
70g Margarine
50ml sunflower oil
1 tbsp lemon oil
80g icing sugar
zest from 2 lemons

1. Mix margarine, sunflower oil together in a mixing bowl.
2. Add sifted flour, lemon oil, lemon zest, icing sugar and fold in gently to a smooth dough
3. Use a spoon or cookie scoop to scoop the dough and place on baking tray.
4. Add a piece of sliced dates on top of the dough.
5. Bake in pre-heated 180C oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to cool on wire rack before storing in airtight containers.


Nov 17, 2008

Jolly good fun

I have a sugarpaste modelling class for kids last weekend. It was jolly good fun for all of them. They made snowman, santa hats, mini food icons like bagette, french loaves, sausage buns, hamburgers, and even tiny udon soup in a bowl. Some tried their hands in making pizzas and after class, they had another round of fun...playing in the balcony with my dog and Chocolate, the dwarf rabbit.

Here are some of the kid's work. Good Job boys and girls.

This class will be repeated again next month. Do check out my website at to find out about it. All kids will get a free Fondant Tools set* and 120g of coloured fondant flavoured with Strawberry and also 4 cupcakes for them to decorate.

This particular set of Fondant tools are made safe for kids' use. No sharp edges or pointy ends. They use it during class to make all the figurines you see above.

Nov 16, 2008

Darling, Happy Anniversary

My hubby and I celebrated our wedding anniversary quietly. No dinners, no special messages of "I Love You" or presents of any kind. We believed in loving and caring for each other daily, every moment, every second, every minute and hour. I remembered that old song by the late Jim Reeves that goes like this:

Darling, Happy Anniversary
Another year of love has gone by
Thank you for each day you give to me
My darling, happy anniversary

We were married on 12th November 1988. So it makes this year our 20th year of wedded bliss. I was out of town this time. So a week before I left for China, Hubby bought live crabs and we cooked and ate till we had nothing in our tummy except crabs.

When our girls are born, we may have celebrated in a small way. With kids in tow, going for dinners outside. But it was never a big thing. From young, our girls never noticed about wedding anniversary, only birthdays. But they grew up watching us fight over petty issues and things and learnt that even adults quarrelled too. But we make up really fast and forgive each other soon after.

Since I was in China this time round, I msn-ed my 2 daughters and told them to draw up a card to wish their daddy a Happy Birthday. Hubby's birthday was on 13 November, a day after our wedding anniversary.

Instead, my girls both got up early and made him breakfast while mummy was in the airport in another country. Melody made a ham and cheese sandwich, while her elder sis, Natasha made a healthy potato salad. It was a wonderful thing they did for their father.

When I got back to Singapore, the whole family came to fetch me. And he brought us out for dinner. He knew what I liked, and he only orders seafood.

So here it is again, hubby dearest:

Happy Anniversary
And thank you for each day of love and care you have given to me...

This photo was taken in 1987...a year before our wedding. at my mom's place.

Nov 14, 2008

7 things about me

Hmm..been tagged by 2 fellow bloggers. I haven't never done this before. I hope I get this right.

Here's 7 things I can roughly think of that many do not know about me:

1. I am allergic to chocolates, preservatives, additives. And also to metals, rust and cats!
2. I have learn to play the piano since I was a kid. But pass till Grade 3 I think. Then drop out because I got lazy. But I can still play the piano. I don't have a piano at home..I play the one at my mom's place.
3. I was an ace in swimming when I was in Secondary school. Always come in first and represented my school against Cedar Girls Secondary school.
4. I am good in Arts, in drawing, in painting, in clay modelling and got an A for that in my O levels for Clay modelling. My whole family(maternal side) are all good artists.
5. I am a home body, I rather stay at home than to go out. Thus I do not eat out often. Don't know what is good or where has good food. I will only go out unless I really have to.
6. I only started seriously cooking when I got married. Before that, I can't even boil water properly. Trust me on that!
7. I like to do things randomly and won't sit still. One moment I may test out 4 to 5 recipes at one go, next moment I may just mould fondant just for fun. Before culinary, I spent alot of time drawing by pencil and paper. I love to draw animals and nature, of surroundings and life in general. I am to tag the other bloggers.

1. Happy Cup
2. Cutejoos from Philippines
3. KWF
4. Shira's Choice
5. Vanessa
6. Aunty Lily Ng
7. Yuribake

Here are the rules for tagging:
Link to my blog (tagger) on your blog.
1. Give seven facts about yourself.
2. Tag another seven bloggers by leaving a comment on their blogs and letting them know they were tagged and listing them (and their blogs) on your blog.

Nov 3, 2008

Making happy food

My mother in law loves yam. I would like to think of yam as 'happy food' for her. It never stops to bring her a smile if I made anything out from it. So last week, I had tested a recipe using yam to make into cookies for her. And this morning, I got up early to make it again. This time, I baked it fresh and send it to her ...still warmed.

And I also tried something else with it. Making that sticky yam paste(orr nee) into a cookie.

And true enough she was all smiles today. I also took the time to visit her after her fall...while going to the market to buy food. It wasn't serious, but was badly bruised in both knees.

And I also made some for my mom, who isn't too well the last few days. Nursing a cold and flu, she has lost her appetite and not eating well. Mom, on the other hand was more tired, listless and sleeps on most days.

So today, my happy food goes to 2 important women in my life..: My mother and my Mother-in-law. The former who shaped me and the latter who loved me for all that I am.

Thank God for mothers...!