Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fruit Layered Cake

The busy months (sometimes I coined it the monster months) have truly arrived. The last few days have been terribly busy for me that I've started to feel the stress enrobing me. So when I reached home yesterday, I thought of de-stressing through baking. Incidentally, there's this request from the little ones that I've yet to fulfill. After browsing through my favorite recipes, I've decided to make a Fruit Layered Cake. This is  a healthier alternative compared to the sinful ones.

What you need:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
250 ml whipping cream
fresh fruits - strawberries, blueberry, apple, orange
*double the amount for 2 cakes

How to make:
1. Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and creamy.
2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just blended after each addition.
3. Combine the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Spoon the batter into an 8-inch non stick springform pan.
4. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
5. Leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
6. Whip the cream on high speed until it stands on peaks.
7. Spread whipped cream over the top of one cake and add some halved strawberries.
8. Add the 2nd cake and spread over enough amount of whipped cream. Top with fresh fruits.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Dinner

Happy Valentine's Day! How did you celebrate the heart's day? For us, we just had a simple dinner at home. But to make the ambiance more special, we had it by the pool. Apparently, Valentine's Day  is not celebrated big in Singapore compared in the Philippines. Back home, this is a day of frenzy. It's just too commercialized and well hyped down there. But really, regardless of which culture you're in, as long as you have you're own reasons for celebrating it, nothing should stop you in keeping the tradition of love. 
For this dinner, I just had a simple repertoire in mind. Since my first attempt into steaks became successful, why not have it for the second time around? Only, I used a different meat cut this time. I opted for a sirloin instead of a ribeye. To my surprise though, I still preferred the later for a better steak experience. For the dessert, I made a Raspberry Chocolate Cake. Although, the appearance of the cake failed me (blame it to the wrong size of the baking pan), the taste delivered well. 

Raspberry Chocolate Cake (modified version from the Baking Cookbook by Love Food)

What you need:
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 eggs
scant 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup sunflower oil
fresh mints, sprig for decoration
225g semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup fresh raspberries

How to make:
1. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa in a large bowl.
2. Beat the eggs with the sugar and oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the egg mixture, then stir to mix thoroughly, beating to a smooth batter.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the pre-heated oven for 25-30 mins or until risen.
4. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and finish cooling on a wire rack.
5. For the frosting, put chocolate, milk, sugar and flour in a bowl over simmering water until melted. Pour over the cake. Top with raspberries and fresh mint sprigs. 

 Pan Roasted Sirloin Steaks (I used the same recipe I mentioned in this post).

 Aglio Olio Spaghetti

What you need:
500g spaghettti
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsps dried basil leaves
1/2 cup pasta water reserve
1 tsp chopped mint leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

How to make:
1. Cook the spaghetti to al dente texture. Reserve 1/2 cup of water and drain completely.
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add garlic and saute until it turns light brown (don't burn). Add basil leaves and pasta water reserve.
3. Stir in cooked spaghetti. Season with salt  and pepper. Add fresh mint leaves.
4. Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese.

 Fresh Greens Salad with Vinaigrette (this recipe is another inspiration from Ina Garten)

What you need:
3 packs of fresh greens (ready to use)
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

How to make:
1. Mix garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil in a bowl. Continue mixing until the mixture is emulsified.
2. Drizzle a generous amount of vinaigrette into the fresh greens and mix well.

 And here's how our plate looked like for the night.

Friday, February 10, 2012

It's Our 9th Year and Foods Abound In Our Home

Has it been 9 years already? Time is just unbelievably fast. We celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary yesterday. Instead of the usual celebration at a fancy restaurant or feasting on a full spread buffet, we decided to celebrate it at home. Fortunately, I had new cookbooks to aid me in planning a satisfying menu. It was an occasion of many firsts for me in as far as my career in cooking is concerned. It's my first time to cook a steak, first time to try on a real classic lasagna recipe and first time to whip up a devil's food cake. Although unwanted mistakes were encountered along the way, overall it was still a scumptious repertoire. And I couldn't be happier in putting an all out effort to make it work. Now, I have new favorites to put into my list of habitual foods.

What's an anniversary without a special cake?
Strawberry Fudge Cake (a modified version of Devil's Food Cake from the book Baking by LoveFood)

What you need:
140g semi sweet chocolate
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup butter , plus extra for greasing
2/3 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs, separated
4 tbsp light sour cream
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
fresh strawberries for topping

140g semi sweet chocolate
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 tbsp light sour cream
1 tbsp dark corn syrup
3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp water
1 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar

How to make:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Grease the bottom of two 8-inch round layer cake pans.
2. Place the chocolate with milk and cocoa in a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering hot water, stirring until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.
3. In a lrage bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk, then sour cream and melted chocolate mixture. Sift in the flour and baking soda, then fold in evenly. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff enough to hold firm peaks. Fold into the mixture lightly and evenly.
4. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans, smooth surfaces and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 mins or until risen and firm to the touch. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
5. Prepare the frosting, place the chocolate, cocoa, sour cream, corn syrup, butter and water in a saucepan and heat gently without boiling, until melted. Remove from the heat and add the confectioner's sugar, stirring until smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken and hold its shape.
6. Split the cakes in half horizontally with a sharp knife to make four layers. Sandwich the cakes together with about a third of the frosting. Spread the remainder over the top and sides of the cakes, swirling with a spatula. Top with fresh strawberries.

Classic Lasagna (we all love pasta but this one was specifically requested by my son)

What you need:
250g instant lasagne sheets
75g grated mozzarella cheese
60g grated cheddar cheese
125ml pack whipping cream
3 tbsps grated parmesan cheese

Cheese Sauce:
60g butter
40g all purpose flour
500ml milk
125g grated cheddar cheese

Meat Sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g ground beef
800g cut tomatoes (2 x 400g cans)
1 tsp dried basil

How to make:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Brush a shallow ovenproof dish with melted butter. Line with lasagne sheets.
2. Make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and slowly add the milk,stirring until smooth. Return to the heat and cook, stirring over medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
3. Make the meat sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the beef and brown well. Stir in tomato, basil and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Spoon 1/3 of the meat sauce over the lasagne sheets. Top with 1/3 of the cheese sauce. Arrange another layer of lasagne sheets. Continue layering, finishing with the lasagne sheets.
5. Sprinkle with mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Pour the cream over the top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

Pan Roasted Ribeye Steak with Mushroom Gravy Sauce (inspired from Gordon Ramsey's technique of pan roasting a steak). This was definitely the star of the feast!

What you need:
3 ribeye steak
sea salt and pepper
canola oil
sprig of rosemary
2 tbsps butter
1 clove of garlic
1 cup of fresh button mushroom (sliced)
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup of water
1 pc beef broth cubes

How to make:
1. Season the meat with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Make sure the meat is at room temperature and is fresh.
2. Heat a heavy based non-stick pan to high heat, add a swirl of canola oil, 1 clove of garlic and sprig of rosemary.
3. Add the meat and pan roast for 2 1/2 minutes per side. Add 1 tbsp of butter and let it foam. Baste the meat. Let the meat rest for at least 5 mins. Do not overcrowd the pan. Roast 1 or 2 pcs at a time. Set aside the pan drippings.
4. Heat the other 1 tbsp butter in pan drippings. Add mushrooms and cook until tender. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Add water and beef broth cubes. Cook and stir until mixture boils and thickens.

Shrimps Dill Salad ( a personal take from Ina Garten's recipe)

What you need:
1 pack of fresh greens
1 pc lemon, cut into wedges
4 cups of water
500g shrimps, (cleaned, deveined, shells removed)
220ml mayonnaise
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp finely chopped dill
salt and pepper to taste
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped celery

How to make:
1. Add water, 1/2 tsp salt and lemon in a pot. Boil and add the shrimps. Cook until tender. Drain and set aside.
2. Mix in a separate bowl mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, dill, salt and pepper. Add in celery and onions. Mix well.
3. Toss fresh greens and cooked shrimp into the dressing and chill until serving.

*If the salad is too wet, reduce the amount of mayonnaise or add more salad greens.

We absolutely enjoyed this luscious range of great foods and without a doubt, nothing beats home cooked meals. Especially so when it's savored with your loved ones.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Din Tai Fung at Baits, Resorts World Sentosa

I can no longer count the number of visits we had at Din Tai Fung. Just when I thought that our first dining experience wouldn't yield to any future visits (since I felt that the Singapore branches were way inferior compared to the original outlets in Taiwan), it turned out to be the opposite. On occasions when we cannot simply decide on where to dine, Din Tai Fung becomes the default restaurant for my family. Perhaps, because navigating through its menu is as easy as one, two, three. Aside from that, the foods on offer are more than just filling and satisfying but affordable too. However, at one time or another satiation still strikes. Thus, it's a relief that there's a sister branch located in Resorts World Sentosa where you can find more than just the usual foods that a Din Tai Fung outlet normally offers. There are other good stuffs here like the Egg Crusted Fried Chicken and some local favorites such as Hainanese Chicken Rice. So if you feel like extending your dim sum repertoire and Din Tai Fung is at the top of your mind, you can head to the Resorts World Sentosa branch for a delightful alternative.
 Fried Rice with Porkchop

 Pork Xiao Long Bao

 Egg Crusted Fried Chicken

 Fried Rice with Pork

 Wanton Noodles
Shrimp Dumpling

Din Tai Fung @ Baits
The Forum Level 1
Resorts World Sentosa
Operating hours:Mon - Fri: 10:00am - 10:00pm
Sat, Sun & Eve of PH: 10:00am - 12:00am

Friday, February 3, 2012

River Hong Bao 2012

It was my first time to witness a River Hong Bao. Although clueless, I got interested on what this chinese tradition is all about. Upon seeing the ads from the local paper, I was more than encouraged to pay it a visit. Apparently, it is the biggest Chinese New Year Carnival in Singapore usually staged at the floating platform in Marina Bay. It's a gleaming entertainment venue filled with numerous activities, lantern and handicrafts exhibits and a food street for all wandering palates.

The colorful and brightly lit giant lanterns are the highlights of the event. Each symbolizing a significant meaning that relates to power, wealth, prosperity and all other good things that we must have in life.

 The must haves in any carnival - Foods..

 All the animals in the Lunar calendar are represented through the giant lanterns...

 The Martial God of Wealth

The welcome arch that says - "There is an old saying, once you enter the dragon gate, your reputation increases ten-fold."

Notice the crafted dragons climbing upwards

For those people who would like to reconnect to the Chinese New Year traditions, River Hong Bao is a fitting place. For spectators like me, it was a good orientation to the ever intriguing Chinese culture.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lion Dance

I'm always amazed and truly left in awe whenever I see a Lion Dance performance. I can just imagine the discipline that these guys have to put through in honing their skills  to be able to stage a seamless performance. During Chinese New Year, the sights of Lion Dance perfomances are at its peak.

To usher in good luck and fortune for the business, our company recently had one. For an hour and a half, we were all witnesses to a tradition that goes beyond purely elaborate dance moves but more for the hope of a good year and new blessings to come.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Beanstro at Marina Bay Sands

I oftentimes see this restaurant full whenever I'm at the Shoppes at Marina Bay.  It brought me a lot of curiosity since then. So when I had the chance to sample it, I did not anymore hold back. And honestly, the moment the foods hit our table I knew right then that we're on for a nice treat.

 Mushroom Soup

Mashed Potato

 Caesar Salad

 Shrimps and Crab Quiche

 Breakfast Plate

 Classic Lasagna

Rib Eye Steak

Since the Shoppes at Marina Bay is known to house popular restaurants of esteemed celebrity chefs, it's indeed a breather to find a mid range restaurant that's equally acceptable. For the price and the ambiance, Beanstro simply delivers.