Last year’s Christmas eve…

We had some friends over for dinner and I put together a mis-matched meal for five.

I’m not terribly creative when it comes to table settings and you can so see it! The colours don’t go, nothing matches but ah well, it’s charming in its own quirky way.

And those drinking glasses – I LOVE LOVE LOVE them. My godparents used to run the snack/drinks bar at The Cathay before its current incarnation when I was a wee kid and my mom worked for them. I used to spend my Saturdays at the stall, scratching lucky draw cards and getting snuck into the cinema for a free movie.

In fact, the very first movie that I can remember watching on the big screen was The Fly, which SCARED THE SHIT OUTTA ME. The visuals of the protagonist metamorphosing into the fly was seared in my memory for the longest time.

Anyway, back to the glasses. When the owners of The Cathay decided to close the cinema, my godparents had no choice but to wind up the business and these glasses are what remained of the stall. Last year, I decided that they would belong to me and my mom was all too happy to pass them on. SCORE!

Christmas @ east end

This year, Christmas has come a little later to east end.

We’ve been both so busy, our weekends have been completely booked solid in November and December. It’s just madness, really. Where has the year gone?

Another reason why we are a little tardy with the tree is because we decided to do away with our fake plastic tree and get a real pine one from Ikea. The fake tree was driving us up the wall: setting up was a pain, it was dusty and disgusting from the previous year and it kept shedding even though it wasn’t alive. Gah!

The real thing only arrived in Ikea at the start of December and we had it delivered around mid-month. And then we were so swamped, we took a while to put up the decorations.

So here you go, a little slice of Christmas in our home.

Christmas has finally come home to us.

Happy meal #34: Moist lemon cake

After months of not venturing into the kitchen – partly because the tyrannical Tiny Human was making me feel nauseous at EVERY SINGLE THING - I finally scratched that cooking/baking itch and made something.

I’ve forgotten how much fun it is to bake! Okay, so the washing up is a major PITA but it’s always so exciting when the warm smells waft out from the oven and your brains are going YUMMY YUMMY NOM NOM NOM. Plus, I love to use husband as my guinea pig and see his face go dinggggg when something tastes awfully nice.

Speaking of awful, I have come to realize that baking for me is not about making it look gorgeous. Unlike Rachel, Lady J and Sherie, I have neither the patience nor the ability to prettify my food and style it. Once I am done baking, I just want to eat it and then share it with others. In fact, it gives me joy to share my baking goodies with friends and family. It’s like therapy for me.

Maybe one day, I might fulfill my dream of opening up that cafe named Ugly Foods, where the cakes look a bit rough at the edges and the cupcakes have splotchy frosting. Hee.

Here’s the moist lemon cake that I baked over the Deepavali holiday. It combines two of my favorites: cake and lemon. And it’s super duper easy to make. What’s there not to love?

Easy Moist lemon cake
Adapted from Cakes (Page One)

What you’ll need:
CAKE
  • 225g all-purpose flour
  • 150g sugar (I used slightly less than that, about 125g)
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 90ml low fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
LEMON FROSTING
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
How to make
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius. Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan (I used a round tin instead because I don’t have a square one)
  • To prepare the cake, beat the flour, sugar, eggs, butter, milk, lemon zest, baking powder and salt with an electric mixer at low speed until well blended. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until pale and thick, 3-4 minutes. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan
  • Bake for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack
  • To prepare the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Beat in enough lemon juice to make a spreadable frosting. Spread the cake with the frosting and tuck in!

The ingredients used for the frosting is only half of that listed in the book. I decided to reduce it because based on past experience, using the full amount will yield me an extra portion of unhealthy frosting. Which I will then proceed to eat STRAIGHT. FROM. THE. BOWL.

(PS Doncha love my new cake stand! Been meaning to get one for the longest time and scored this beauty at the Robinson’s Expo Sale for merely $25. Yay! Oops. Did I just show off my aunty-ness?)

Happy meal #30: Pasta with shrimp & basil

I’m all about easy peasy cooking.

See, for the whole of the week before, we ate out every week day. We were either working late, or I couldn’t bear the thought of cooking because I was so tired whine whine whine, or I had a craving for something soupy, or we didn’t have anything in the fridge to cook with. Anyway, I decided to decree last week as no-cooking week but I felt so guilty that I more than made up for it during the weekend.

I made FOUR MEALS on Sunday. Yes, you read right – four! I’m a happy supporter of cooking in large batches and then freezing everything so that we can thaw out a meal after work instead of slaving in front of the stove. I no longer cook for two, choosing to cook for four instead so that we can brown bag to work too. It’s been a great arrangement so far.

One of the meals that I made on Sunday was a no-fuss, no-stress pasta dish. It’s yummy and absolutely easy to make. After my marathon cookout during the day, I was in no mood to kill myself over dinner too. I love angel hair pasta and I love tomato so it was a win-win!

Angel hair pasta with prawns and basil
Serves 2

What you need
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Angel hair pasta (pick your own quantity!)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 250g prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 1 can chopped tomato
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • A bunch of parsley, chopped
  • A bunch of basil, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 1 tablespoon oil. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. (My durum wheat pasta took about 6 minutes)

Place pasta in a colander, and give it a quick rinse with cold water.

Heat remaining olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring constantly, until the garlic is tender, about 1 minute. Do not let the garlic burn. Add shrimp, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove shrimp from the skillet, and set aside.

Stir the wine into the skillet and let the alcohol bubble for a while before adding the chopped tomatoes, parsley and basil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half.

Add shrimp, and continue cooking until the shrimp are heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve the shrimp mixture over the pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

If you want to cheat like I did, pick up the Waitrose chopped tomatoes with basil when you are in the supermarket. Saves you the hassle of buying and chopping basil (which can be a PAIN).

Happy meal #29: Earl grey tea cookies

And we’re back with another edition of Happy Meal!

Oh I’ve been cooking but I either get lazy to whip out the camera to shoot or I am too lazy to write about it. The early grey tea cookies, for instance, were baked for Chinese New Year. And, erm, that was way back in February. I also made some oatmeal raisin cookies but that’s for another post.

During my recovery from the surgery, I spent a fair bit of time online when I wasn’t sleeping off the GA. One of the sites that I frequented was Martha Stewart and I was pretty intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe. Got husband to smash up the earl grey tea leaves that we had in the cupboard and off we went!

Earl grey tea cookies
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Weddings)

What you need:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground Earl Grey tea leaves, (from about 8 bags)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 226g butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

Directions:
Combine flour, tea, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

Put butter, sugar, and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; slowly mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Divide dough in half. Transfer each half to a piece of parchment paper; shape into logs. Roll in parchment to 1 1/4 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log and force out air. Transfer in parchment to paper-towel tubes; freeze 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Space 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake until edges turn golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.