Saturday, 30 March 2013

From farmer's table to my plate - a simple lunch.

I love sweet potatoes. Some season back my brother cultivated it at the family's farm. It requires a well prepared soil, and for better yield it has to be planted on raised bed. He said, soon he will plant some more sweet potatoes. Yeah. Meanwhile I get mine from a farmer at our Friday night market.

Bought some sweet potatoes at the night market,
yesterday evening.

My lunch, today: Boiled sweet potato and stir fry chicken
I'd planned to make sweet potato roast. But I had a leftover stir fry chicken from dinner the night before and thought a boiled sweet potato would go much better with the chicken. And it was.

Alternative Foodie.

Friday, 29 March 2013

A - Z Challenge Prelude

A- Z Challenge. What I got myself into? It had been plain sailing blogging until I signed up for a challenge. Should I decide on  a theme, or just random alphabetical thought and take it a day at a time? What if I ran out of ideas? Hmmm .. ooh lala. Should I laid out all A to Z topic, bake it all, and just do a quick reheat prior to get it on air. I don't know. I know me good! I change my mind all the time. I talked to Digital - all he has been doing just adds to my anxiety - 10 more days mum. It is next week, mum!!! Mum?? May be I should just hand over this challenge to him. Or play word game.

water filled balloon

 "Really, we are going to start with a word Game?"


"Alright! I start. Is it a thing?"

"It could be."

"Is it on this earth?"


"Hmm. Too easy mum. It is a place and start with an A"

pressured water filled balloon
"Duuhh, I don't know."

"Well, unless you just want to talk about Alphabets."

"Like ABC?"

"But mum?"

"ABC can be for Air Batu Campur you know".

"Mum, that is in Malay. How about Albuquerque? Or Antwerp. You can write, From Antwerp to Albuquerque in six months."

water filled balloon no more,
only air filled plastic ball is intact.
"That starts with an F. Anyway it would also take six months to write. I'm crazy but not crazy enough, and I don't like half baked work."

"Or also means, instant noddle dinner all month long for me. Alright ... ABC then."

"You mean the Air Batu Campur?"

"Yeah. I want mine only with shaved ice and syrup, no bean no cendol OK. Until you have to write on B & C ...  ha ha ha"

"Ooh shut up. I know what A is for. It is for air (English) and air (water in Malay). I'll show you the air/water signage next time we go to a petrol station."

"Maybe they should just use one word. Air for both air and water. To cool your car and to fill your tires with. Just don't get all mixed up OK. Ha ha ha."


Alternative Foodie & digital

Photos are from geometric project on constant volume, surface variable, and surface integrity. Of dot, sphere and toroid. Non-Euclidean.

P/s Now that this is already published, gotta find another topic for A. That instant noddles daily dinner thought looks promising. It might just work after all. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Super fast food - very frugal fried rice

When hungry, and wanting more than oat meal, I cook a fried rice. Just heat 1 table spoon cooking/olive oil in a pan, fry quickly half sliced onion, and two cloves chopped garlic. Add 1/2 cup cooked rice. Stir. Add a bunch of cut bak choy. Stir. Add salt, pepper, hot sauce and soy sauce to taste. Serve hot. I eat mine with a (half) boiled egg.  Hunger satisfied, nutrient needs met.

Alternative Foodie

Very crispy triple chocolate chip cookies

Cookie time!

The real one. Not those you get from those websites you have been visiting. I wonder if I leave you some virtual cookies too. Do not fret then, as in our house, cookies or what is generally known in Malaysia as biscuits - has to be ever present in the pantry. Earlier in the month, I heard one yang lady screaming, "BISCUITS" every now and then. I asked her mum, what was going on. We run out of cookies & biscuits in whatever form. Ops. Since we were having visitors, I put out the cookies & biscuits in the open. Digital eat them all. Chocolate chips and all the sugars. For cookies to survive around Digital, they have to be hidden, and rationed. He is the real living cookie monster!

So when we were back at our family home, for the wedding, and have a couple of extra days to be lolling about we made heaps of chocolate chip and oat cookies with whatever ingredients we already had. Nothing magic really as my sister run a bakery, from home. But we did not have brown sugar so we just used powdered sugar (from granulated sugar). I was the one who put together the mix ... and am too hard headed to open a recipe note, had put it all from the way I always make cookies. By how I think a cookie mix is made, by eyeballing them with eyes and hands. Err but with a real baker hovering around I used bowls and cups though. So here we go.

Very crispy triple chocolate chip cookies

2 cups butter/margarine
3 cups powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder (3/4 cup for more chocolaty taste)
5 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup instant breakfast cereal mix (corn,wheat, oat, milk,sugar) - totally optional
2 cups almond bits
1/2 cup chocolate rice (optional - we were just using our stock)
1 cup chocolate chips

(1) Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla extract, mix well.
(2) Sift  flour and baking powder together. Add the flour mix to butter and sugar mix. Fold gently. I used wooden spoon.
(3) Add oats, breakfast cereal and almond bits, fold.
(4) and last, add the chocolate rice and chocolate chips. Fold up and down. I used my hands at this stage as the mix can be handled with hand, and not the consistency that needed to be piped.
(5) Shape the cookie, any shape, any size. Ours was two marbles size, then we flattened them, also with just our fingers.
(6) Bake in 180 Celsius for 12 minutes. Yield 100s of cookies. About three big cookie jars.
(7) Enjoy.

The cookies are for the to three families. My nieces - the two twins 3 YO screamers. My three nephews, 2 YO, 5 YO and 8 YO; and one cookie jar for Digital. It has been 10 days, and we still got half a jar.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Shiny Things & Happy Earth Hour

I don't remember when was the last time I bought anything for the kitchen; but I amended that. Yesterday (Saturday) and Thursday, I went shopping at a moving sale at one of the well known stores. The closing date  is March 31st, but on Thursday I saw merchandise were going out pretty fast. I was still looking for a few items so went again yesterday. I was looking for a kettle. Stainless steel preferably, and whistling. I burned two pots already since our last kettle gone mute and got burned. Digital had reminded me over and over to get a new kettle, before we burn everything else. I spied our family home for extra kettle - nope, just one huge electric and a small whistling one. Anyhow, the one thing I wanted was not really put on sale - the sale assistant said it is already on best price. OK. I like to see the number, before, and sale price, weather that is real before price or false mark up price. Still I'm quite happy with our 4 Liter stainless steel whistling kettle. I hope it will last for a long time;  more than 10 years is good. I bought it for RM99.00 Make that RM100. We also bought 4 ramekin bowls. Pot pie & brulee  was on my mind. They were marked down by 70% - hopefully now that we have ramekins won't be feeling like an incomplete baker anymore. But that is not the end. Four ramekins was not enough, what if we had the dinning table filled to the max - all six seat taken? We were short of two ramekins. I first justified my purchase to Digital, he said, not bad, mum. But is it worth it? He asked. Oouucch. And with dignity, I said yes.

So I went shopping again. Remember, for two ramekins. Along the way some other bowls and plates got picked up. They were all had been put back and the shopping list was once again referred - utility scissor, lemon hand juicer and a cutting board. Four pieces of forks and one BPA free Bros water bottle were also added to the shopping basket. We seem to be losing our forks - most likely from our picnics and traveling snack/lunch packs. Hmm, there has to be a way to prevent these loss. One extra water bottle gives us a bottle each. Digital likes this new one.

We already have two cutting boards, one for meat and fish, and the other for fruit, vegetables and ready to eat (to prevent cross contamination). Our current ready to eat cutting board is big (and heavy) that I tended to wash over and over my meat fish cutting board and use it for vegetables and fruits as well. Now, we'll use our giant cutting board just for baked foods.

The exchange list:

Kettle RM 99.00
Ramekins (6) RM 72.00
Cutting board RM 34.00 (best buy)
Utility scissor RM 6.90
Lemon hand juicer RM 4.90
Forks (4) RM 9.80
750 ml water bottle RM 10.00 (best buy)
Parking (two sessions) RM 11.00 (almost the price of one ramekin bowl, Grrr)

Now we have our water boiled, lemon juice for lemonade, and an extra water filled water bottle  to carry around. We are set for next adventure.

Hope everyone's Earth Hour had been a meaningful one.
Alternative Foodie.

Friday, 22 March 2013

From clutter to zen

I started with very little, during the growing up years. The family house was bare with just basic rattan furniture. Never mind if rattan is the most eco-friendly cooling furniture pieces to have in a humid hot Malaysia; in my childhood head I considered the shiny vinyl of the multi colored sofas in my friends' houses as luxury.

Even these days we still have vinyl on our wooden floor, then carpet, then rattan chair or pandan mats, or for that matter mattresses; to sit and lay around. We don't want to really sit on the carpet, unless the cotton and silk ones - otherwise it has to be covered with the pandan mat. I don't know what would our couchsurfers friends Jasmine and Daniel think if we had asked them to sleep on vinyl or that synthetic wool carpets when they came to stay at our family house. They must had already think we are crazy to cover our wood floor and then did our best to sit/lay down on what nature offered us. Well, to be fair, the house was built during our early years of adulthood. The main objective was to have a floor. They are uneven, with nails and a few planks unshaven (uuh, is this a correct term?), and none polished nor varnish. Thus the vinyl covering. But still, that is how I had been brought up, in a very sparsely decorated house.

So how I get to be such a hoarder on my own? Furniture, crockery, clothing, books, DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes, toys, and knick-knacks  got to pile up on top of one another, even gym equipment and a piano. That was my late husband actually, who said, every house should have a piano, and a few thousands book. Indeed, it has always been with good intention when we acquire our things. It is so very very recently that getting and keeping books no longer always a positive action. Ooucch. We will always be avid readers. However, we now know some books are best kept in the libraries. And some books can be passed to the next generation of readers.

My turn about to letting go some of our stuff did not arise from wanting to be a minimalist, but rather to create more living space. We moved from a 2000 square feet four bedrooms, complete with floor to ceiling built in storage/closet to a three bedrooms 1200 square feet apartment with no built in. That was another oouuch. Still, we took our time and go through our things.

The first to go was the easiest. Clothes. All my work clothes went to the still working family members and relatives. The ones my size of course. Any clothes no longer worn, or for years remained categorized to be worn were also given away. Shoes too. Then books. Most of our books were sent to libraries around town, public and privates. I brought magazines to my hairdresser, our car service outlet and passed to my neighbor  who is a radio DJ, and appreciates all the tidbits in the magazine. And we still  have a good number of books, that still needed to be trimmed. But getting much more manageable. I hardly buy magazine now days anyway.

Crockery was easy. Damaged, out to the trash. Pretty and in great condition, offered to family and friends. What we keep are really very basic. The extras are just plates and bowls. Ooh and a couple of huge pots, in case I want to cook for a crowd. Heh, can't be a perfect exhoarder right?

The toys took a long time to go. There are many types and some are still being played with. Thus we decided the clearly age appropriate went to respective age groups. We keep all the board games, from monopoly to battleship, some hotwheel cars, and legos. It is the knick-knacks that I faced difficulty with. They are mostly travel keepsakes, memorable gifts, and little life commemorative mementos. They are now boxed except those broken and cannot be mended. A few are put on display.

So yes, we made it. We now have space for our friends and visitors. Of course we keep our piano too. Hope everyone's journey to less clutter is a fun and satisfying one.

Happy Friday.
Alternative Foodie.

p/s (1) The gym equipment are kept being moved around - depending on how motivated we are with using them. Sometimes they are right in the living room, and often hidden in the 3rd bedroom. One room that has yet to be fully decluttered and made over. (2) DVDs, CDs, VHs, and photos - they are for now being looked at, and played but no attempt yet at reducing the numbers.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Going Italian again with red snapper carbonara spaghetti

One of the fish we got from the fish market by the sea, last week, was a red snapper. We already cooked the head and tail parts in a curry. The middle part was cut as fillets which some was made into soup for the kids. Red snapper is a prized fish in Malaysia, prices ranges from RM 24 to RM 34 for one kilogram. We got a whole fish for RM 41.00. Being Malaysians, we use every part of the fish, including head, tail and bones.

For a simple pasta lunch, I poached some fillets that was cut into small pieces and added them into a carbonara sauce. Instead of milk, I used the liquid from poaching the fillet for the carbonara sauce. The liquid and filet combination  made a delicious pasta meal, another of my son favorite.

Red snapper carbonara spaghetti:

Fish preparation:

2 of 2 by 4 inches red snapper fish fillets
3/4 cup water

Heat water, add salt and pepper. Once boiled drop into it the fish fillets. Let simmer for 3 minutes. Separate fish  from liquid, cut it into smaller pieces. Set aside both fish and liquid aside.

Sauce preparation:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon flour
1 clove garlic, mince
1/4 cup mix cheese (mozzarella, cheddar. parmesan)
liquid from the fish poaching
and the poached fish fillets

Heat oil, add minced garlic, and fry till a little toasty. Add flour, heat it till a little brownish. Add liquid, salt & pepper, mix well. Once the mixture is getting thicker, add cheese, and mix well. Then add fish fillets. Finally add cooked pasta. Once pasta is coated with the sauce, it is ready to be served.

The carbonara spaghetti makes a nice combo with garlic bread and mix salad of apples, oranges, tomatoes and lettuce. The salad we had was topped with some left over baked chicken and parmigiana cheese (parmesan). Dressing was a simple combination of salt, olive oil and lemon juice.

So there was our dinner, very Italian, very Mediterranean. We do have to go slow on the cheese and up the olive oil to benefit from the Mediterranean diet (theory) for heart health.

Happy dining everyone,
Alternative Foodie.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Never fail pizza dough

The classic method of preparing pizza dough, like other yeast bread is by adding dried yeast to water, then adding this mix to the dry ingredients, before kneading it all together. Often the dough gets too wet or too dry requiring addition of water or flour. It is also hard to teach beginners on how to get their dough right. That the exactness of water to flour ratio is dependent on flour characteristics. Learning from what we do while making bread using bread machine or at a commercial bakery where all ingredients are usually mixed from the very beginning, the pizza dough I now days prepare has three steps:
(1) Measure all dry ingredients; flour, sugar/honey, salt, dried yeast and put it all in a mixing bowl.
(2) Add required amount of oil/butter, mix well.
(3) Add water, mix then knead.

I also used to make flour tortilla with flour, baking powder, cooking oil, salt and water. Now I just use the pizza dough to make tortilla. Also out of curiosity I used pizza dough to make a focaccia bread, it turned out just fine too.

Pizza Dough:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2  tsp dried yeast
1 tsp brown sugar/honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed black pepper
a pinch of dried oregano leafs
a pinch of dried rosemary
3/4 cup water

Mix together all the ingredients except water. Add water, mix and knead well. Dough is ready when it is pliable and soft. For tortilla, dough is ready to be shaped after 15 minutes of proofing. For pizza and focaccia bread wait for another 20 minutes. Use dough as it is normally used to make tortilla, pizza or foccacia. This recipe makes six tortillas, or two small pizzas/focaccia, or one big pizza/focaccia.

This method does not eliminate too soft dough, but there should be enough water for the two cups flour, thus if the dough is still too soft and sticky, a little flour can be added.

By the way, the same dough can be shaped into bun, and bake as bread. This recipe makes for some herb & black pepper dinner rolls. Great eaten with olive oil and cheese.

Happy baking
Alternative Foodie

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The ending to our black eyed bean chili

We spent our weekend attending a family wedding. As in many Malay weddings, food was sumptuous, and we had two meals, a pre-wedding dinner, and the next day the wedding lunch. Rich briani rice and meat dishes was among the menu. And all the dessert that was hard to resist. When we got home yesterday evening, and hungry, I went on to reheat my black eyed bean chili for a quick dinner. Today I made some more flour tortilla and again eat them with the last of the very modified chili.


Besides olive oil and garlic, some cut little green chillies (super hot) from the family backyard garden was first added to the pan. This was followed by two tablespoons of pasta sauce, and half cup of water. Once boiled I put in the rest of the left over black eyed bean chili to the pan, and left it simmering for five minutes or so. The soupy chili and some crackers was my dinner.

For our lunch today, I made another batch of pizza dough, and turned it into six pieces of tortilla. My son eat  his tortilla as cheese quesadilla. I eat mine with the last portion of the chili. And the tortilla became the warps for our bake chicken dinner.

With that I've no more chili nor bean. It is about time to get some more black eyed beans and other type of beans for more beans cooking. Soon.

Alternative Foodie

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Black eyed bean chili modified

My Tuesday chili looked anemic and lacking of punch. Luckily I had yet to freeze them, it was still in the fridge. So I ladled about two cups into a pan and added slices oyster mushrooms, diced tomatoes and a blob of Tesco ready made spicy spaghetti sauce. Then some pepper and a pinch of dried oregano leafs. After adding a half cup of water I let it boiled till no more water was left. Finally I'd a decent looking chili. Yeah to a much better taste lunch.

I still have four more serving of the original chili in the freezer. May be I'll add some meat in the next portion I'm going to have, or some root vegetables as I originally planned. The bread was made Tuesday evening, was meant as a pizza dough, but some ended up as tortilla and the rest to make three longish oregano rosemary dinner bread.

In our house food tends to get on our lunch/dinner plate looking different from what it was originally intended. There is not much rule we follow, really, just that food be great tasting, nutritious and non junk. In between we eat some vegetables soup, fruit and salad. And drink plenty of water. Although I eat plenty of plant foods, I'm not a vegetarian. We also drink a good amount of milk. And kind of dependent on cheese and yogurt. My son eat much more animal protein as fish, chicken and beef, on top of dairy products. He certainly has to up his vegetable intake beyond tomato base sauces, and mushrooms. Good thing he is much better at eating his fruit these days than in in his early years. Today his lunch is a simple (bread) pizza ... same bread as mine above, but the bread got spaghetti sauce topping first before it was topped with extra cheese. Dinner will be baked chicken wings, for him. And I'll have another helping of chili.

Hope everyone's day is a great one.
Alternative Foodie

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A really frugal meal - crepes and chili?

Last week my sister and her family stayed with us for a few days. She is a great cook and cooked family dishes that I enjoyed eating a lot. We also had fresh fish and live crabs (that we bought from a trip to fish market close to a fishermen village) that we just made into soup, and steamed dishes. Now that just the two of us in the house I'm back to experimenting with my food.

I had in the pantry black eyed beans and various dried herb and spices. I wondered if I can make a chili out of these ingredients. No beef, but I'd dried anchovies. The anchovies were pounded to a paste, so were the garlic and the cumin seeds. These were sauteed with a little oil in a pot. Next into the pot were sliced onion, grated ginger, paprika, cayenne (instead of chilies), and coriander powder then some water, salt, and black paper. Once boiling the already soaked black eyed beans were added. After 45 minutes or so, the chili looked good but I added a half cup of quinoa for variety. Hah, it changed into something totally not like a chili.

No matter how the chili looked, it tasted not too bad. It would be great with a tortilla. but I was getting hungry. Next best option was a quick (French) crepes. My recipe required two cups of flour, two tablespoons of dried milk,  half a teaspoon salt and half a teaspoon soda bicarbonate. The soda would give a little softness to the crepes. After mixing the dry ingredients and adding enough water - 2 cups, maybe more, and mixing the batter well; one egg and two tablespoons of cooking oil was added. I just used a hand whisk to mix this batter. The following photos show the step by step to making rolled pizza crepes.

I eat my 'chili' & crepe with orange apple salad, and my son eat his with cut apples. It was an OK meal to me, but my son always loves his pizza crepes. For dinner though I made him baked chicken warped in (pizza dough) tortilla. I love the taste of tortilla made of pizza dough, instead of using baking powder as its leavening agent. Next time I'll take some pictures.

Alternative Foodie

Monday, 11 March 2013

The demise of a balcony garden

When we first move into our new condo in the city, in 2005, we installed a Balinese Water Garden. The garden flourished and we added more plants, including edible one, herbs and bitter gourd. Jasmine and ylang-ylang too. The neat garden became a bushy tropical one.

Since then, Plants have to be cut and replaced. In 2008 we started staying longer and often for weeks and months at my late mother's house. Our balcony garden got neglected. Now all that is left are stones and a couple of hardy house plant.

The water pump has not been working for a long time, and I feel like taking the pond out of the way. My brother said, he will take it. Should we decided for another water feature, it will be just a small one. Or maybe we will have our aquarium out here. Hmm. This has to be a new beginning. Maybe more of an outdoor living space - more space as Digital loves to hang out - out here.

First we will do some cleanup, then we will think what is next.

Alternative Foodie.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Photo Weekend: Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Bell Brook Forest


I'm in the wood
Walking aimlessly
I'm sure I'm not the only one
Who has no clue what is it
That I want.

I've been talking with the stars
So far they have been silent
If not for the occasional light displays
That is too far away
To even think of catching.

It has been said
Life without goals
Is like a ship lost
Abandoned by captain and crews
Should it reached a shore
A really rocky one
That would be its end.
Am I looking for that rocky shore?
Is it not better to drift some more?
Till sea water sipped through my
Weathered body
As sea bird perch high
Among my tattered sails
To rest and ponder
Which way to fly next.

Yes, I like that thought
To slowly sink
Into deep watery grave
Where sharks play
And moray eels prey.

Who knows I get lucky
To reach soft sandy shore
With palm trees swaying in warm afternoon breeze
Among children laughing
And a mother calling
"Come home son. The muezzin is calling. Time for prayers"
I think I recognized her.

Penned in 'the wood' on Tuesday morning, Nov 22, 2005: 9.15am local time, while thinking about the Mercury Retrograde Transit

Grapes of Tamar Valley 

All photos are of Tamar Valley of Autumn 2005. A friend who has a hobby farm invited us to spend the cool Tasmanian weather, and enjoy the vastness of Tamar Valley. It an enchanting stay.
Alternative Foodie