Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rose Shape Tri-Flavor/Color Marble Cake

Bundt pans have definitely made a huge comeback. And they have certainly returned with a vengeance, I'd say! Bundt pans now come in various shapes and designs to suit almost every occasion. I just love Nordic Ware bundt pans and if only I could own one of each design. Now, wouldn't that be bliss?! Sad thing is, they are quite expensive to buy for folks who are earning in pathetic Malaysian Ringgit like me. I actually bought this gorgeous Nordic Ware rose bundt pan more than a year ago when I was still living in Singapore. I first saw it on Amazon but I wasn't able to order it as there was some kind of restrictions on overseas online purchase for this beauty at that time. Then one fine day, I stumbled upon it at a baking supply shop in Singapore and I know I just got to have it! Period! This beauty is made of cast iron and is non-stick. My cake came out perfectly well-baked and beautifully even too. And no, I'm not doing any promo for Nordic Ware, just that I absolutely love this pan and I'm sure all of you avid bakers would too. :)

Needless to say that the real star here is the pan but the recipe for this marble cake is worth highlighting too. So here it is...

Tri-Flavor & Tri-Colour Marble Cake (adapted & revised from The Australian Women's Weekly's "Marbled Choc Mud Cake")

250g butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups cater sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk

Beat butter, extract and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just well combined.
Stir in sifted flour and buttermilk, in two batches.
Divide cake batter into 3 portions. Flavor 1 portion with 1 teaspoon strawberry essence & tinge of red or pink coloring, the 2nd portion with half teaspoon peppermint essence and tinge of green coloring and the last portion with 20g cocoa powder. You can do your own combination of flavors/colors.
Layer the pan with strawberry batter first, then the peppermint one and ending on top with the cocoa batter. Bake in 160 deg C until cake is done.

Have a great day, all!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Planting Your Own Veggies

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder! How true indeed as it is exactly how I'm feeling with regard to my little world of blogging and all my blog friends. To all my friends and readers, here I am, back again after slightly more than a month of hiatus! And I have to say, I have missed blogging as well as visiting all of your blogs and posts!! In fact, I have missed all of you! And yes, it's good to be back. My daily routine for the past 1 month has been interrupted, but all in a wonderful way. First up, I had a couple of different groups of good friends who visited from abroad. Following that, I was away in Singapore and Melaka (my hometown) for a couple of weeks and then last week, I had to make a trip to London as part of a new job which I've recently accepted. Nope, I'm not working in London (how I wish!)...but was just there for a meeting. After breezing through life as a freelancer for the past 2 years, I've decided to 'sell my soul to the devil' - as how my boss had put it while trying to entice me to take up the offer!! What a way to sell! Fearing no evil I asked him whether the devil wears Prada and pays enough for it too! Although he didn't seem to be too amused, I thought, what the heck! So, yes, I have officially gone to the dark side now. What can I say, they have cookies!!! Although I would love to and had the intention of wanting to contact and perhaps meet up with a couple of you who are based in London, I honestly had not much spare time (after my hurricane speed shopping spree, that is!). So, hopefully they'll feed me with more yummy cookies and I'll land there again and with more leisure time!!

So with all that has happened, I have not been cooking nor baking at all. But the good news is, I have been growing...fresh, crunchy edible greens!!! Other than herbs mentioned in my previous post, I also planted veggie seeds...namely 'pak choy' and 'nai pak', which are popular Asian veggies, especially used in Chinese/Oriental cuisine. These veggies come in broad green leaves and crunchy stems and are delicious if you're a veggie-eating sort of person! They're not suitable for salads but delicious when stir-fried with garlic and oyster sauce. Or simply add them into your bowl of noodle soup! While 'pak choy' has a smooth leaf surface, 'nai pak' comes in slightly crinkly leaf form.

Planting my own vegetables seem like a far-reaching dream once, when I was living in high-rise Singapore. Now, I am relishing that dream and it has been such a rewarding effort and note-worthy experience to share. It doesn't matter if you don't have a garden because planting them in pots will work out equally well, if not better because you get to use all fertile soil. So far, I've harvested my veggies twice and there's plenty more supply left in the garden. So having said all this, okay, here are the evidences of my veggie-growing journey and hope you'll be inspired to grow some yourself too.

The clay soil at my backyard is not fertile so I dug up a straight row of holes about half feet deep, removed the clay soil and replaced with black soil which I bought from the local nursery. I watered the area to damp the soil and scattered a handful of organic fertiliser. I watered the area again the next day.

2 days later on April 9, I scattered about 1 teaspoon of seeds of each vegetable type (pak choy & nai pak) on the black soil area
. Due to heavy downpour in the weeks that followed, some seeds got washed away and the rest got buried deeper into the soil, thus they took a much longer time to sprout.

As this was my first time growing my own veggies
, just imagine how truly enveloped I was in sheer joy when the seedlings sprouted and were showing signs of healthy growing, as shown in the pics below which were taken on 5 May.
These baby plants are 1 mth old. They grew rather slow due to the rain as mentioned above. At this stage, I again scattered 2-3 tablespoons of organic fertiliser to boost growth.

Grow veggies, grow! After almost 2 months, my veggies grew to this size as pictured below. You can see here a couple of bunches had missing leaves or leaves that were left with holes, while a couple other bunches were alright. I left them as they were and didn't use any organic pesticide to keep the worms at bay. Also because I had no time and wasn't at home much. I had thought, oh well..if there were no more leaves left, no worries I'll just eat the stems! Life is short, so fret not.

Pic taken 23 May Pic taken 1 June

Surprisingly, bunches of my 'pak choy' (like the pic below) were not attacked by the worms but the 'nai pak' were not spared. I guess the 'nai pak' must have tasted better for the worms. Pic taken 1 June.

Can you spot the unwanted visitor right in the middle spot in the first pic below?
The second pic shows a bunch that was reduced to multiple holes on the 'nai pak' leaves. Pics taken 1 June.

Below was my 1st harvest on 1 June!! Simple things bring great joy! I had two good friends staying over and we harvested a bountiful of these lovely veggies and cooked simple lunch at home! I harvested only a few bunches and let the rest continue to grow.

...And they grew! And grew! Other than a couple of hungry worms, the rest of my edible greens were growing really well. I wasn't home much for most part of last month and some leaves wilted but the rest were still ok. When I came home for a day, I was actually surprised to find that my veggies grew healthier, larger and with more stems and leaves! And surprisingly, with fewer worms and damaged leaves too. Pics taken 22 June.

Below was my 2nd harvest on 22 June. Healthier and larger veggies than my 1st harvest above! Looking at those that are still growing in my backyard, looks like I will be saving some more money and trips to the supermarket for fresh edible greens! Yayyy!

Such veggies grow pretty fast and thus, do remember to fertilize about 2 weeks once, and water at least once a day if you can. Twice a day is best. The only downside is, if harvested after they have fully grown and matured, the stems tend to taste a bit bitter and fibrous. But I can live with that.

More and more grew, seem like an endless supply. This pic was taken just yesterday.

So, are you inspired to plant your own veggies now? If you are, here's a list from my own experience with regard to why you should just do it!

1. It's a really fun learning experience
2. You get to discover your green fingers
3. Some types of veggies are easy to grow, almost fail proof and they'll boost your confidence
4. Healthier choice as you get pesticide-free veggies whenever you want, fresh from your garden
5. Saves space in your refrigerator as they are 'stored' in your garden and you harvest only when you need them
6. Saves you money as seeds are cheaper
7. Saves you multiple trips to the supermarket
8. Makes you feel accomplished and happy
9. You get to inspire others to plant
10. And finally, you get to show off your veggies on your blog ;)

I shall be visiting all of you again real soon!