Red Dates Longan Peanut Porridge

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My Grandma used to make this special sweet rice dessert.  We call it Ow Ow Mui.  I know, sounds strange. Never knew why it has such a funny name.  She was Hok Chia and this was one of the traditional dessert that she would cook. It has to be eaten on the 29th day of the first lunar month for good luck.  On the day that we eat this, nothing negative must come out of our lips.  It’s happy porridge day, when nobody is allowed to scold anyone.  Over the years, I have searched for this recipe and asked around but nobody, apart from my mom’s family, has even heard of it.

Lately, my search on the internet led me to Taiwan. I asked my Taiwanese friend and she confirmed that they have a similar dessert minus the peanuts and it is for post-delivery.

My kids, my mom and I enjoy it very much.  On some days, we have it for breakfast. Some days, even for lunch. It’s no longer reserved only for the 29th day of the 1st lunar month.  To quote my mom:”I can eat it any time and every time.” Ya. So can I.

In the pre-convenience food days, my Grandma would cook from scratch using raw peanuts which she would boil for hours. These days I just pop a can of sweet peanut soup.  So that we can start eating sooner.

Ow Ow Mui (serves 2)

1 canned sweet peanut soup

1 rice cup glutinous rice (washed and soaked for 1 hour or overnight)

10 red dates (or more if you love it)

10 dried longans (or more if you really like it)

About 1/2 to 1 cup water

orange color sugar to sweeten

Put everything into a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until rice is just cooked. Add water if porridge looks too thick.  I like it thick.  Sweeten with orange colored sugar.

Enjoy!

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How To Choose Watermelon

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Watermelon is the kind of fruit that you sort of invest a lot of hope on (and which you can only buy if there are at least 2 watermelon fans in a family). With grapes, cherries, blueberries, if one fruit is sour/bland/blech, there are many more others in the bag on which you can pin your hopes on. But watermelon? There’s only that one solitary, humongous, heavy watermelon. If it’s bad, you will be disappointed. Because who buys 3 or 4 watermelons as back up? And oh ya, you’ll be stuck with a huge water-flavored watermelon.

Have you noticed how people like slapping watermelons? I guess coz that’s the only fruit that they can slap (can’t slap oranges or durians). They slap it to listen out for…. Er… I’m not sure. Let me tell you how I choose. My success rate is about 9 out of 10.
(1) Circle the watermelon stand (like an eagle) with a critical eye. If you see sad-looking fruits and flies hovering around, change plans or go elsewhere.
(2) Choose the biggest one (more value for money, duh) and check for a creamy spot. That spot is an indication that it has been sitting on the ground long enough to develop that spot. In other words, it’s been given time to grow and ripen before being plucked. If the creamy spot is more yellow than creamy, that means the watermelon has been plucked and sitting around for too long. It may still be good but the flesh probably won’t be as firm.

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(3) Gut feeling. If after circling the watermelon stand and none of them are calling out to you, just walk away. You can’t force it.

That’s it. Good luck.

Quick & Easy Fruit Jam

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Making jam doesn’t have to be complicated or lengthy. Not if you only make enough to feed a small family for tomorrow’s breakfast. If you want to make many huge bottles of jam to give away and to store for the next few years, then you should go elsewhere and do a proper jam-making research. If not, as long as you know how to boil water, you can make jam.

I enjoy making jam. I used to make a lot of jam in my younger days. We were living in Michigan then and during fruit season, I would pick more fruits than we could eat. I enjoy picking fruits. Very much. Which explains why I had more than we could eat.

It’s difficult to get jam that is just pure fruit and sugar, without additives and preservatives. I think it’s easier and faster to make it than going to the stores to buy a bottle of good jam! And you really only need fresh fruits, sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Generally, my rule of thumb  is equal parts of fruits to sugar. BUT! Since we plan to consume the jam almost immediately, we can cut down on the sugar. Amongst other things, sugar serves as a preservative. If I don’t make too much and don’t plan keep it beyond a couple of days, I don’t need it preserved. Right?

I have made many types of jam. Cherry jam, strawberry, peach, roselle, blueberries, grapes, mango, marmalade… All these make pretty tasty jam.  But my favorite is grape jam. It’s nothing like grape jelly which you get from the supermarket. It has a deeper, more complex flavor. Like raisin jam, but yummier.

People think jam is made from overripe, leftover fruits. It’s not. That’s because slightly unripe fruits have more pectin and that is needed for the jam to gel up. Some fruits have more pectin (eg.lemon),some have less. But there’s no need to stress over pectin levels in fruits. I just add a bit of lemon juice for insurance.

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Recipe:
250g Green grapes
100-250g Sugar
1-2 tsp lemon juice

Wash the grapes and cut them up. Put all the ingredients into a pot. Bring to a boil and kind of mash it up along the way. Leave it to boil on low fire for about 25 min. To see if it is ready, scoop out a little and put a dab on a clean plate. Leave it to cool. When it cools, if it looks like jam, then it’s done. That’s it.

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If you want to bottle it, sterilize a bottle by boiling it in water. Then pour hot boiling jam into the bottle and cap it immediately. Do not let it cool first.
If not, just do what I do -standby with your bread and butter.

Sweet Potato Zeppoles

Sweet Potato Zeppoles

I only recently discovered the wondrous Italian fried donut that doesn’t have a hole. It is incredible. Firstly, it doesn’t have a hole. So I get to eat more! Haha. Secondly, I finally found a recipe that is quite close to the Chinese Buffet donuts which I used to inhale 13 over years ago in Michigan. It is squishy soft with a wonderful slight chew. It’s tasty and oh-so-light that my kids can’t stop eating! I have more self-control but just about barely. Heh. DS likened it to Krispy Kreme. I can’t say coz I haven’t had KK for over a decade. Looks like I need to get some soon. To compare. Things I do in the name of research.

Since it is our current favorite food and we are consuming them like there is no tomorrow, I couldn’t possibly just make plain Zeppoles… The recipe I found only uses plain flour and water and leavening/seasoning. No nutrition-packed egg, no calcium-rich milk, no nutritious fibrous whole grains. Thus, I had to soup it up and make our indulgence more justifiable. So enter… Sweet potatoes! Isn’t that like a nutritional powerhouse or something? But will it be just as yummy? It’s sweet potatoes! Delicious, sweet, moist, tasty Indonesian sweet potatoes. Can’t go that awfully wrong! And indeed it went wonderfully right!  Perhaps next time I can try some chopped apples, bananas, pumpkins etc. Don’t worry. It’s a very forgiving recipe. The only thing that might go wrong is if you burnt them.

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Sweet Potato Zeppoles (makes about 25)

100g-200g Indonesian sweet potato (boiled skin on) mashed coarsely

200g plain flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp instant yeast

250ml water

1 tsp baking powder (to add in before frying)

peanut oil for deep frying

sugar & cinnamon or Nutella

Method:

Mix everything together in a large bowl and leave to proof for about an hour or until double its volume.  Then add in baking powder and mix. The dough will be loose. There is no way to shape it. So just get a spoon and drop spoonfuls into the hot oil and fry till puffy and golden. Then coat with cinnamon sugar. Or Nutella. Or peanut butter.

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I made a batch last night and this morning they were still good. Pop it into the oven to warm it first if you wish. Personally, I can’t wait that long.
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