Wednesday, January 31, 2007

In 2 weeks' time, we will be on Costa Blanca in Benidorm, Spain, soaking up some much-needed sunshine.

I can hardly wait!

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 11:53 am

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Hey Pesto!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I've always likened the Italian pesto with our Peranakan or Malay rempah. The principle is the same even if the ingredients are not. In both cases, one can employ the old-fashioned way of using a pestle or one can cheat using the blender.

Yesterday I cheated.

You see, I wanted to make something quick for dinner. I'm still manic about my current cross-stitching project so quick and easy without compromising on taste are the by-words nowadays in the kitchen. One can't get any quicker with pasta tossed in homemade fresh pesto. Here's what I did in only a couple of minutes:

And here is the recipe:

Pesto alla Genovese

You need:

30g fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
100g Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

How to:

1. Roughly chop up garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese so you don't give your food processor a hard time.

2. Chuck everything into the food processor and blend until you get a thick, smooth paste. Do not over process or the pesto will be too thin in consistency.


You might want to scrape the sides during processing to really mix it all up.

The proportions in this recipe are made up to suit my tastebuds. You might like to find out what rocks your boat. Say, more pine nuts but less cheese... that sort of thing.

This keeps for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

And now, we've got the pesto, what do we do with it? Here's one way:

I tossed mine with fresh spaghetti and topped it off with lobster meat (not shown in photo). Of course it doesn't have to be lobster, I just happened to have it in my fridge. This goes well with most grilled steak or seafood - it's that versatile.

Here's how to:

1. Cook pasta of your choice till al dente. Set aside.

2. Heat up a little olive oil in frying pan.

3. Scoop an appropriate amount of pesto in pan. Sautee it briefly.

4. Season with salt and pepper, according to taste.

4. Put in cooked pasta. Toss until well mixed. Serve hot.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 7:32 pm

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Keeping It Simple

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sundays are usually the days I make a fancy dinner comprising of three courses. Four, if I'm feeling particularly Johnny-on-the-spot. Last weekend, Johnny was nowhere to be seen. I felt like streamlining things - just the main course and sides. You know how it is, sometimes you just don't feel like cooking, especially when you're in the midst of an interesting cross-stitching project like I am right now.

However, streamlined doesn't mean slip slop. That evening, I grilled some black pepper steaks for the both of us. For the obligatory sides, I made french beans and sweet peas sauteed in garlic butter, brussel sprouts in Hollandaise sauce and potato wedges marinated with Italian herbs and panfried to crispy perfection.

Black Pepper Steak

My son got a dinosaur shaped schnitzel, at which I caught my husband giving it furtive, longing looks. I don't think men ever do grow up. Their toys just get bigger and more expensive and that's about it.

"Mummy, I'm going to eat the head first and then he'll have no head!" - bloodthirsty son

And that was the weekly Sunday Dinner at Cookalot.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 4:49 pm

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Sleeping Like A Baby

Friday, January 19, 2007

Whoever coined the phrase "Sleeping like a baby" didn't have one of their own or were damn lucky in that department.

Case in point, or rather, my case in point:

As a baby and a toddler (terrible twos, threes and sometimes fours notwithstanding), my son was generally sweet in disposition. Until the dreaded Bedtime. No, it wasn't getting him to sleep that caused me so much despair, it was keeping him asleep.

You see, my son was a serial waker-upper (for want of a better term). He would wake up 7-8 times a night on average, once hitting a personal best at 15. In the early days it was for a bottle and a clean diaper but in the toddler years, it was for no apparent reason but to torture me. I tried every trick in the book, trawled websites for help but nothing worked. In the end, I decided it was just a phase and I would ride it out. And ride it out I did. For 5 whole years, I was surviving on naps. I never had a full 8 hour stretch until 2 years ago. In that period, I could never be trusted to sit down anywhere, be it in a car or on a couch, without falling asleep in 2 minutes flat. You only had to yawn in my direction....

You'd think with all this nocturnal activity, my son would be cranky and grumpy in the day. But the only cranky one was me. His Royal Highness was all daisy fresh and bouncing off the walls. Incredible!

Except for the short fuse and keeling over from exhaustion, you'd never know know I was chronically sleep deprived. I never had eye bags or dark rings, thank goodness. I don't know if it's genetics or the serums and creams I plastered on (and still do)but my face and eye area remained unscathed. There is justice after all.

However, when he turned 5, something clicked in my son's brain and he started waking up less and finally, slept through the night. R-E-L-I-E-F!!!

Now, if we can do something about the snoring.....


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:27 am

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies From Heaven

Heaven in a tin

I kid you not. That's what the recipe is called - Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies From Heaven.

Having a soft spot for catchy names and after running through the recipe to see if it was practical, I decided to give it a try.

Verdict: The taste is from heaven but with the recipe requiring 1 cup of butter and peanut butter each, the calories are most definitely from hell. It's one of those evil melting thingies, deceptively crumbly that feels like nothing in your mouth. You aren't quite sure if you just had a cookie or not, so you reach for another. And another. Before you realise the damage you're doing to your hips, you've downed 6 pieces.

This recipe, in my case, yielded 106 cookies (dough size of about 1.5 tsp each). So I did what I always do: Give most of them away, just keeping a little for ourselves. I packed them up in bundles:

What, you didn't think I'd eat everything, did you?!

Click here for your bit of heaven.

Note: One cup of peanut butter might seem excessive in theory but once baked, it doesn't overpower the general taste of the cookie. Instead, it only gives a hint of peanut and leaves a slight cloying aftertaste.

As for the type of peanut butter, I used the creamy ones, hence, cookies with a smoother texture.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:12 am

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Oh, crumbs!

Taking silly photos.

Just another thing to do with an oatmeal raisin cookie.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 8:15 pm

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

For some inexplicable reason, I woke up at 7.30am on Sunday and couldn't get back to sleep. So I lazed around in bed, watching my husband sleep and listening to his gentle snores. By 8am, I got fidgety and decided to start the day. My son heard me fussing in the bathroom going about my toilette and awoke too. By 8.45am, I was showered, dressed and made up.

I plonk my still pyjama-ed son (it was afterall a Sunday) in front of the television with some chocolate milk, then contemplated what to do next. I finally decided I would make some cookies since I haven't done any in a while. I fished out my oatmeal raisin cookie recipe and trooped down to the cellar to collect my baking equipment and ingredients.

Within 30 minutes, I had the first batch in the oven. Lovely aromas of butter and spices wafted through the kitchen and into the living room. Perfect way to start a lazy Sunday.

Here's the recipe:

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

You need:

1 1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cup oats
1 cup rasins

How to:

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.

2. Beat butter and sugars until fluffy.

3. Beat in egg and vanilla.

4. Add flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Mix well.

5. Stir in oats and raisins.

6. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets and bake for 10 - 11 minutes.

7. Remove and cool on wire racks.

- I love raisins so I added 3/4 cup extra of the wonderful buggers.
- I used a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon to get smaller cookies.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 7:40 pm

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Lemon Meringue Tarts

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I made these for a New Year's Eve dinner we hosted. The starter and meal course itself were rather heavy so I wanted something refreshing for dessert. Hence, I went for the Lemon Meringue recipe. However, I made dainty tarts instead of the big pie because they are more elegant and easier on the eye. I also switched the crust recipe to one specifically meant for fruit tarts. Result: Lekker!

That evening, I placed one single tart on a square dessert plate and sprinkled lemon zest over it. The zest was to make it look prettier and to enhance the citrus scent. Asthetics and aromatherapy rolled into one plate.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:28 am

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Eversince I borrowed the series "Band Of Brothers" from the video store last year, I've turned into a WWII junkie. Not only did I buy the entire series which I've since watched 3 times, I've also bought the book on which it was based on. And I'm about to order more related DVDs and books. The Discovery Civillization channel is not helping either. They've got 2 excellent series called Battlefield and Century of Warfare which run daily, both covering WWI and WWII which I follow faithfully each evening. Oh, did I mention they have repeats throughout the day too? Yikes!

On the highway leading from Foy to Bastogne

As if that wasn't enough, we even made a day trip, courtesy of my very sporting husband to the town of Bastogne in Belgium where the 101st Airborne Division fought the famous Battle of the Bulge. The town isn't too far from where we live, about a 1.5hr drive. This is the part where I get 'scary'. I wanted to go at the same time the battle was fought some 60 years ago which was during Christmas week itself. This was because I wanted to experience the same weather conditions the men faced, which was heavy snow and extreme cold.

My husband took the road through the Ardennes, which is made up of rolling hills and forest just as the soldiers would have done. We stopped by the villages involved in the battle before arriving in Bastogne itself. Whereupon we headed straight for the war memorial built by the American and Belgium people in honour of the American soldiers who so bravely held their ground there.

Mardasson Memorial

Interior of the memorial....

....with the story of the Battle for Bastogne engraved on the walls

So too all the air and infantry divisions

Another view of the memorial

Set atop a hill, the Mardasson Memorial is huge, sombre and elegant. It overlooks the surrounding forest and is so peaceful, it's hard to imagine fierce battles and air raids once took place there. It was freezing cold that day. At -2 C and a light snowfall, it was mild compared to the weather in December 1944. I will let the photos speak for itself:

Next to the memorial is the Bastogne Historical Center. This houses artifacts from both the American and German army related to the Battle of the Bulge.

Bastogne Historical Center

One of two Sherman tanks on display outside

Most of the exhibits are donations from the soldiers themselves. One item that caught my eye was a German uniform that was previously used in battle. It didn't belong to a high ranking officer, just a normal soldier. What made me do a double take was the amount of holes and rips the uniform had. To say the least, the wearer must have been through alot for his garment to receive that amount of wear and tear. There were similar worn out uniforms on the American side as well.

Display of airmen and paratroopers

The museum, which had a musty 'old' smell on account of the displays, is very well done. I was pleasantly surprised that it told both sides of the story ie, the Americans and the Germans. They also had newspaper and magazine clippings about various stages of the battle including the famous NUTS! story.

Currahee! The Screaming Eagles. On the top left is the actual town signboard riddled with bullet holes. A GI took it back with him to California after the war as a souvenir. Years later, when the museum was set up, it was donated back

More displays of uniforms, weapons, photos and personal belongings

There was also a small theatre which screens a short film of the battle at regular intervals. My husband, son and I trooped in dutifully. About 10 minutes into the film, my son whispers to me,"Mummy, this is soooooo boring!!!!" and splayed himself all over the bench playing with his scarf. I let him be, since he wasn't making any noise but just fidgeting.

After 3 hours of browsing, my husband also had it. Both dad and son parked themselves on a bench to wait for me. My husband said he's seen everything in there. Twice over. And I had just done two thirds. If you hate museums, I'm your worst nightmare. You see, I read and look at everything.

Here are more photos:

Life-sized displays of battle scenes

.......and air drops. Different coloured parachutes indicated the contents of each parcel. For example, red for ammunition, blue for medical supplies and yellow (I think) for rations

Even soldiers need to eat. Once in a very long while, hot food was available. Mostly, K rations were the way to go

Although I'm not a native, it was still an extremely good and humbling experience. I can't help but think that back in the day, people were a different breed from us.

And er, I think I'm quite the 101st Airborne Division, Easy Company groupie now. Next stop: Normandy, the place of their very first war campaign. Now,if I can convince my husband to make the trip on 6 June when D-Day took place.......

For more reading, check this and this out. More photos here.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 9:53 am

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Christmas Eve

The 3 of us did a raclette grill for our Christmas Eve dinner last year. We bought exotic game meat - I know, I know, not again! Can you tell our family loves game? *heh*

It was very cosy, huddling over the hot plate, cooking our own food in little pans, watching it drizzle outside. And with Christmas music in the background.... lovely!

Here's the list of meats we had: impala, kangaroo, springbok and because it was Christmas - reindeer. I also made some meatballs as an add on. To accompany the meats, I put out an assortment of vegetables, mushrooms and cheese for melting.

Here are the rest of the photos:


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 8:14 am

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Banana Guard

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Protect your banana!

I was browsing through a lifestyle mag while waiting for my turn at the doctor's yesterday when I came across this gadget. At first glance, it looked like a dildo. I'm like, uh-huh, so? But as I continued reading, my eyes got bigger and bigger and then I started to laugh. I got weird looks from the other patients of course but I couldn't help myself.

You see, this isn't your run-of-the-mill dildo, it is in fact a Banana Guard.

What the heck is a Banana Guard? Well, are you sick and tired of having your bananas squashed and bruised when you put them in your bag as lunch or a quick snack while at work or going out? Then this nifty gadget is for you. It keeps your banana in a virginal state until you are ready to ravish it.

Here's the official website for general and ordering information if you're so inclined. If you're living in the Netherlands, the mag I was reading states you can get your very own at the Bijenkorf.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:04 am

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Back At Last

Things are back to normal now that the two men are back at school and work. My husband took 3 weeks off for the festive season and the entire period was a frenzy of activity. We were always up to something or going somewhere. Of course there were days when we hibernated like bears in a cave too. And we ate. Oh boy, did we eat. I'm honestly off food right now. Tonight we're having crackers and pate for dinner. No, I'm not kidding.

Let me catch my breath and I'll put the highlights of the past 3 weeks into words and photos.

It's nice to be back.


The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 8:09 am

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