the third day of the month blues

blues pl n

1. a state of depression or melancholy

2. a feeling of depression or deep unhappiness

I recently observed that I am in a state of depression or melancholy every third day of the month. It has happened without fail for three consecutive months, so I’m convinced it’s a thing. Terrible things will happen to you every third day of the month.

Exceptionally, 3rd January 2014 went by smoothly. This affliction started with 3rd February 2014. It was the day I was to have my first mediation session at the Family Courts. I could make or break a person’s day (sort of). I had to actually make submissions (sort of) before a judge. I’m not good at public speaking stuff and needless to say, I was terrified. And sleep deprived. This was also the Monday right after my trip to Penang over the CNY weekend, where I had barely nine hours of sleep over three-and-a-half days. On top of everything else, I was fighting holiday withdrawal symptoms while trying to adequately prepare for the mediation session. Of course, it was no surprise that I was depressed that day. The mediation was fairly successful however (I was deeply grateful that there were no emotional scenes), but I returned to the office to get told off by my boss on another matter. She must either have been in a bad mood that day or simply pissed off at me because she could not stop calling me that day to scold me on several other matters. Obviously, it didn’t help that I was still facing holiday withdrawal symptoms and sleep deprived. Talk about feeling the blues that day. Since too many things had happened to make it a memorable lousy day, I didn’t think the blues had anything to do with the fact that it was the 3rd of the month.

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we’ve had pretty sky days recently

Before I knew it, February was over and I was overwhelmed with work on 3rd March 2014 (thanks to irritating clients who instruct us at the last minute), managed to piss of my boss (again, I’m really good at this apparently) and naturally, I was depressed. Melancholic. In a state of deep unhappiness. Surprisingly, I was perfectly fine the next morning. Perhaps all my whining (to whoever I could get hold off) helped. Or maybe it was because the sun had set and rose in the east again and the date on the calendar changed from the 3rd to the 4th. Whatever it was, I was flooded with work (to be fair, everyone was flooded with work, and there isn’t a public holiday in March. We officially hate March) but despite all of that, I was happy that month.

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shophouses and skyscrapers

I thought I was (finally) getting the hang of things, but 3rd April 2014 had to come along and the pattern repeated itself. AGAIN. Such that I am convinced the third day of every month is guaranteed to be a bluesy day. A depressing one. Things will happen that will make you pissed off at yourself (I mean, myself) and the entire world in general. You will lose your patience at the slightest thing, and also lose your appetite (which is really sad. I love food.) I hate being depressed. And I dislike crying, though I know I do it often enough that people can’t help but think otherwise. Come 3rd May, I’m more than sure a feeling of depression or deep unhappiness would overtake me. It’s unavoidable.

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Now that we know this is a guaranteed affliction, we need to be prepared. Such as by having some form of chocolate within easy reach, so that you can stuff your face when the blues hit you. Even if you lose your appetite, chocolate will still be welcome (If even chocolate doesn’t help, it’s too serious and professional help is likely needed.) Since I only just discovered this condition, I didn’t have anything at hand to ward off the blues on Thursday (the evil 3rd day of the month). Friday went by smoothly enough, but I still needed comfort, so today, I treated myself to a single serving chocolate lava cake. Which turned out beautifully melty. I’M SO HAPPY NOW.

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I added a toblerone triangle in the centre of the ramekin to up the melty factor – it worked!

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I was so glad it turned out beautifully. A failed attempt might have been too much for me to take. By the way, the recipe for this gorgeous creation is found in the inaugural post. By gorgeous, I mean the recipe/innovation is a thing of beauty. Not my work.

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Can I have more, please?

avocado pudding / smoothie

I have neglected this space for quite some time. It makes me sad. That I have not been able to keep up with my baking pursuits and sharing them here. It’s impossible to do anything apart from work and the other necessaries (shower, eat, sleep) during the weekdays and 48 hours during the weekend is hardly sufficient for you to make up for sleep deprivation, get some exercise, complete work that is due on Monday and/or during the weekend itself, catch up with your family and keep up with social commitments, much less indulge in your hobbies. By “you”, of course I mean me, myself and I. (Although I believe I’m not the only one who thinks 48 hours of weekend is hardly sufficient to accomplish all that a weekend is meant for?)

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All these just means my mixer and all other baking utensils have been collecting dust in their respective storage spaces. Oh wells. At least I did use my blender a few times. While baking requires setting aside at least 3 hours of my weekend, whipping up a smoothie or shake can be done on impulse.

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Such as this avocado smoothie / pudding I made last weekend. Although avocados are painfully expensive at the grocery stores this time (I have no idea why), I decided to just grab a few because it’s been too long since I enjoyed this treat. I like avocados made this Asian way, as a sweet, dessert-like concoction. I haven’t actually tried having avocado slices on toast with chilli flakes or something, which appears to be a common breakfast item, going by my Instagram feed and favourite American food blogs. I guess you can’t go wrong with avocados whichever way you choose to have them. Do try this Asian version if you haven’t – it makes you feel like you’re having a rich dessert, but without all the unhealthy fat and calories since all that creaminess is from the avocado itself.

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It was heaven in a glass when consumed cold and standing in front of the fridge past 1 am after a tiring day. Always good to end the day on a positive/tasty note.

Avocado Pudding / Smoothie 

Ingredients:

1 ripe avocado

120 ml evaporated milk / cow’s milk

1 tbsp honey

Directions:

Blend all the ingredients till combined and creamy. Chill before serving/consuming.

Notes: Do add the liquid to your blender first (unless you’re using a powerful (and expensive) blender like Blendtec or something). These quantities of ingredients produce a pudding-like dessert. If you prefer a smoothie, as in you want to drink this with a straw, add more milk and blend until you get your desired consistency.

chocolate cookie crust no-bake cheesecake with berries

Hi! It’s been some time since we spoke. Kind of got caught up with everything else in my life.

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It’s also been two weeks since my birthday. For which I made this cake with the too-long name. And was very excited to share, but other things got in the way (some were really fun stuff, others not at all. both are however essential in life).

It’s really easy to eat, I mean, MAKE and addictively delicious.

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Well of course, where cream cheese is involved, the dessert would be undeniably delicious. That was one criterion for my birthday cake. It had to be delicious (duh), something my family would like, easy to put together (coz I didn’t have much time), and pretty. I voted for no bake cheesecake, coz I love cheesecake but I didn’t want to worry over a water bath making a baked cheesecake. I wanted berries because BERRIES. (And thank God there were still berries from Chile and Korea available in the grocery stores in January.) Then of course, I had to incorporate citrus into the cheesecake batter (in the form of lemon zest) and finally, I decided on a chocolate cookie crust for contrast (alliteration alert) instead of a plain old graham cracker crust.

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I drew inspiration from various sites for this cheesecake. That’s the beauty of a no bake cheesecake, it is flexible and would accommodate whatever combinations you fancy. Oh, this cheesecake does not have gelatin, so it does not get very firm regardless of how long you chill it. Since it’s harder to get neat slices, you could also serve this in tiny glasses – like cheesecake shooters – instead of assembling it like a cake.

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*I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I made and ate this!*

chewy cocoa cookies with chocolate chips

That’s a pretty long name for chocolate cookies.

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Note, these are not chocolate chip cookies, but cocoa cookies with chocolate chips. The recipe is from one of the first blogs that introduced me to the world of food blogging, the Orangette blog (Molly writes so beautifully), and I fell in love with these cookies the first time I made them. And proceeded to persuade everyone I knew to bake these asap, because I wasn’t willing to share the cookies that I had baked. I wanted them all for myself.

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This time, I was a lot more mature and brought some to share with my colleagues.

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The recipe makes a substantial number of cookies with just 57 g butter and yogurt is also part of the mix (an unusual ingredient for cookies, right?) yet each cookie is perfectly rich and chocolatey, like you would want a chocolate cookie to be. The only downside is that they’re not very photogenic, but other than that, these cookies would be anyone’s favourite! Unless you don’t like chocolate, in which case, I’m not sure if we can ever be friends …

Chewy Cocoa Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Recipe from Orangette blog 

Ingredients

1 cup AP flour

¼ tsp baking soda

⅛ tsp salt

57g unsalted butter

⅔ cup granulated sugar

⅓ cup light brown sugar

7 tbsp cocoa powder

⅓ cup plain yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3. Melt butter. Add the sugars and sift in the cocoa (if there are lumps in your cocoa). Stir to blend well. The mixture will look pasty, like wet sand.

4. Add yogurt and vanilla and stir to mix thoroughly. Add the dry flour mixture and stir to just combine. Add the chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.

5. Use a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon to drop the dough onto the baking sheet. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the tops of the cookies have crackled slightly and look set.

 

in 2014.

2013 was kind of a big year for me, there were several milestones, challenges, learning, failing, growing up, together with lots of fun. So, 2014 has a lot of work to do if it wants to beat that. I think I’m up for it though!

My first weekend of 2014 turned out to be pretty intense. I had promised to make pumpkin cupcakes for my cousin for his engagement on Saturday, 4 January. Since the event was in the late afternoon, I had planned to bake the cupcakes on Friday night, make the frosting Saturday morning and frost the cupcake about a couple of hours before I had to leave my house (so that the frosting doesn’t melt.)

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I had bought all the things I required a week before, but realised I had forgotten to get the main ingredient – canned pumpkin. I don’t know what’s WRONG with my brain sometimes. Oh well. I stopped by the supermarket on my way home from work and got the canned pumpkin (plus extra in case of emergency). My cousin had requested for just 25 cupcakes, but being a typical Singaporean, I anticipated the worst (what if none of my cupcakes turned out decent?) and decided to bake a lot more. So I baked a triple batch of Smitten Kitchen’s pumpkin cupcakes. Do note that a triple batch makes a huge amount of batter! I decided the mixer wasn’t going to do a good job of mixing the pumpkin at the end, so I depended on my trusty arms for that part.

Thankfully, I managed to bake all 76 cupcakes successfully and went to bed 22 hours since I had woken up Friday morning. I love going to bed feeling accomplished

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However, the frosting was kind of disappointing the next morning. Instead of maple cream cheese frosting, I made cinnamon cream cheese frosting this time. Mainly because I didn’t feel like splurging on pure maple syrup. Anyway cinnamon complements pumpkin well. I wanted to use a large frosting tip because I badly wanted to get bakery-style swirls, but my trial run with the large frosting tip didn’t result in the swirls my mind envisioned. I’m not sure if it’s the consistency of my frosting or my skills, but either way, PRACTICE is called for!

Let’s not talk about the challenge involved in transporting 48 cupcakes. Can people involved in making these things please come up with cost-effective solutions for home bakers for transporting a large number of cupcakes? I have faith in you people. Actually maybe these things do exist in the market, but I haven’t looked at the right places. Yeah, that’s probably closer to the truth.

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Despite all my complaints however, I really enjoyed the process. It was the biggest project I had undertaken recently, I did all of the work on my own (including most of the washing up), and while they were not as pretty as I had expected them to be, they tasted just fine (in my humble opinion). I must thank my cousin for requesting something from me in the first place because I don’t think I would have voluntarily undertaken such a project otherwise. I sincerely hope his and his gorgeous fiancee’s family enjoyed the cupcakes! My family and I certainly did (I had many extra cupcakes  since I baked a triple batch – worrying has its benefits for sure!)

This gave me hope, hope for incorporating baking efforts, whether simple or elaborate, into my everyday life. To go back to my trusted recipes, to try something new. To put sweet, salty, creamy, homemade stuff into my mouth on a regular basis. That’s the best part, and if we’re being honest, that’s really the goal of baking here …

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vanilla cupcakes with mocha buttercream frosting

I hate falling sick. It makes me moody and depressed. Especially when my bones are aching. It’s so hard to fall asleep when your bones are aching. I felt like I was falling sick since last Saturday, but I was stubborn and didn’t take any preventive measures. As punishment, it became worse on Christmas Eve. And I had already made plans to go over to my favourite cousins’ place to feast, hangout and likely sleepover.

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prepping your equipment and ingredients is essential

While the sleepover part didn’t materialise, I did manage to go have fun at her place. And also managed to bake some simple cupcakes. I wanted to bake something for her and her family, and after browsing through my numerous bookmarked recipes, I decided on mocha cupcakes with espresso buttercream frosting from the browneyedbaker.com., primarily because the frosting sounded as awesome as it looked on the website. My cousin however isn’t a fan of chocolate, so I decided to make plain vanilla cupcakes instead. Since I wasn’t feeling my best, baking these cupcakes, while easy, took longer than usual. And the frosting was terribly ugly. But it was great to know that I could still carry on with baking despite my cold (and aching bones). Now that I think about it though, it probably wasn’t hygienic to bake or do any kind of food preparation while I was unwell … but nobody seemed affected after consuming the cupcakes so I guess I took sufficient precautions!

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The frosting was awesome as promised, though a tad too sweet. The cupcakes however were not as soft and fluffy as I would have liked them to be. I should have suspected that there would be a problem with texture when I saw that the recipe didn’t include any liquid component apart from eggs, such as milk or buttermilk. I will have to rely on a classic vanilla cupcake recipe next time. The espresso buttercream frosting had the perfect coffee flavour and scent, but even being a sweets lover, I found it too sweet. I know that the powdered/icing/confectioner’s sugar helps the frosting reach the consistency necessary for frosting cakes, but is there a way we could add something to achieve the same consistency but without the sweetness? Or perhaps the vanilla cupcakes were not suitable substitutes for the mocha cupcakes in the original recipe? I have made the browneyedbaker’s mocha brownies with espresso buttercream frosting before, and those were a hit (with a group of teenage to young adult girls), so perhaps the base should have something less sweet, like chocolate/mocha to play off the sweetness of the frosting.

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My lovely cousin had also prepared two other desserts for us – no-bake cheesecake and English trifle. Both were creamy and delightful. I was too stuffed for dinner, but her mum’s cooking is too good to resist. So despite being unwell and all, I stuffed myself, because YOLO you know?

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Oh, in addition to the amazing foodstuffs, I also got a free henna design done by my talented cousin. She wanted to draw for somebody, everyone else were playing cards, and only I was kind enough to sacrifice my hand for a few minutes. Lol. I dislike henna because I don’t like the smell, but this was the inky type so there wasn’t any smell, and anyway I had a blocked nose so it didn’t really matter. I think I chose a pretty design! 😀

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! May you have a wonderful, blessed time with your loved ones 🙂

Vanilla cupcakes

Source: Good Housekeeping – Cupcakes (Flip-it Book), pg. 22

Ingredients

125 g unsalted butter, softened

125 g caster sugar

2 medium eggs

125 g self-raising flour

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions 

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake liners.

2. Beat butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until cream, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla extract, and beat till light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and beat till combined. Do not overbeat.

3. Fill the cupcake liners about 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, when the tops have risen and are springy to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

Source: browneyedbaker.com

227 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons espresso powder

1. Mix the espresso powder into the vanilla until dissolved; set aside.

2. Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar a little at a time, waiting until it is mostly incorporated before adding more. Once all of the powdered sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium-high and whip until fluffy, about a minute or two. Add the espresso and vanilla mixture and continue to mix at medium-high until it is completely incorporated, scraping the sides as necessary.

triple berry buttermilk bundt cake

When I saw this post http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/06/triple-berry-summer-buttermilk-bundt/ on smittenkitchen.com, I was so mesmerized by photos of the berry-studded cake with sexy icing dripping down its sides that I saved the page to my bookmarks so I could scroll through the photos whenever I wished to. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to make it. Alas, I live in a faraway tropical city called Singapore where fresh berries have to be imported from faraway lands and cost a bomb. Frozen berries aren’t exactly cheap, but given the quantity of berries required for this cake, they were a reasonable alternative.

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To my dismay however, frozen berries too aren’t easily available at any grocery store. Also, I didn’t know how economical it would be to buy 600g of frozen raspberries for $16, frozen blackberries for $14 and so forth. With each disappointing trip to a different grocery store, I grew increasingly depressed, bemoaning my pathetic state (why do I have to live in Singapore?! why are berries so expensive?! why do I love blackberries when they’re like practically nonexistent here?!! why couldn’t I live in Canada?! or someplace where I can have access to fresh seasonal berries for godssakes!!! i think you get the idea.)

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Thankfully, on a glorious day sometime this month, I chanced upon a bag of frozen mixed berries of just the right quantity I needed to make this cake. Of course I grabbed it and set about making it as soon as I got the chance to do so.

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It’s a simple buttermilk cake, employing the usual cake-baking method (beat butter, sugar and eggs, add flour and buttermilk alternately, then fold in fruit), but made gorgeous and deliciously jammy by the delightful berries. I believe any combination of berries will be absolutely glorious in this cake, although the original recipe calls for raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. I’m sure using blackberries only will be even more fabulous; I will have to try that another day. The only problem with using frozen berries is that you will likely end up with a purplish batter (caused by the excess juices from the frozen fruit when you fold the berries into the cake batter) which I guess would be unfavourable to most people, but I’m not most people, purple is my favourite colour, I have made pink-swirled cakes many times, so why not purple, it’s time for purple! I’m sorry, that’s how my brain thinks; can’t help it.

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I think the mixed frozen berries I bought had a combination of four or five berries so it turned out to be a mixed berry buttermilk bundt cake, but whenever someone asked what cake this was, I replied ‘triple berry buttermilk bundt cake’ and I really like the sound of ‘triple berry buttermilk bundt cake’, so I shall just stick to the original name. (Was this explanation really necessary? I really do like to talk a lot sometimes.)

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The citrus icing is pretty and will score you points for presentation, especially if you’re a pro at these things (which I am not), but in terms of taste, I felt that it was unnecessary; the berry cake has tremendous flavour on its own. However, I had difficulty with the release of this cake (I nearly cried, after spending so much effort and cash on my beloved berries, the cake was not perfect!), so there was some patchwork to be done. The icing came in helpful here as it covered up the imperfect portions of the bundt and tried to prettify the cake.

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This triple berry buttermilk bundt cake will definitely be part of my go-to stash of recipes, because it got compliments from all my family members and also some guests that happened to drop by. Preparation is also a breeze – I made this within 2 hours. Of course, you need to have sufficient berries lying around if you have a sudden hankering for this cake. Or it could be adapted with any fruit according to the season, as suggested in the original recipe. A clear sign that this cake is a winner was the fact that more than half of the bundt was gone by the end of the day. This, in a household which takes a week to consume 14 frosted cupcakes, means a lot.

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