Random Kitchen/Life Hacks

Coz I Need Short Cuts.

(This post will be appended when I think of more short cuts to save time)

  1. Mashing bananas. To save up on washing and the mess, put peeled bananas in a plastic bag and squish it. Then to measure, let’s say a cup of banana,  place the whole bag into a cup. You’ll have zero washing up to do.
  2. Unless you need to make a big cake for the sake of presentation, making cake in muffin pans is more eco-friendly as you cut down on electricity used. Generally a big cake takes about 40 min or more, whereas muffin-sized cake only takes about 20 min. It is easier to dispense and store as well. To cut down on washing, line the muffin holes with cupcake liner. Minimal/no washing required!
  3. Cucumber juice. Cukes are good for reducing sugar in your fruit juice. If you want to drink watermelon juice and you are cutting down on sugar, dilute it with cucumber juice instead of water.
  4. Frozen fruits. Blueberries, grapes, bananas are super easy to freeze. Wash blueberries and grapes (remove stems) first, let them air dry a bit and freeze. Peel bananas before freezing. Contrary to popular beliefs, they don’t turn out to be like ice cubes. Totally eatable. Unless if you have sensitive teeth.
  5. Frozen Lemon Slices. Sometimes I get discount lemons by the bag.  I would slice them up and freeze them.  Whenever I want lemon tea, I just get a slice from the freezer.
  6. Cutting up a whole raw chicken is easier and less messy with a pair of kitchen scissors. Cutting them at the joints is easier than cutting through bones.
  7. Cook once, eat twice.  When boiling chicken, I would boil an extra large chicken.  It makes the soup tastier and leftover chicken will be saved for salad the next day.
  8. Gingko nuts are easier to shell if you boil them for about 5 min first. Then using something heavy, bash it to crack it. The gingko nuts are less likely to break into half and get stuck in the shells.
  9. Too much chocolate (really??).  I would toss it into my hot coffee/milo/milk and eat it melty. Yummy!
  10. Too much leftover cut fruits.  Just toss them into the blender and make fruit juice.  It’s easier to drink it up than to chomp on plate after plate of fruits.  Too much fruit juice?  Freeze them for slushy for a hot summer day.
  11. Dried Rosemary Leaves.  I love rosemary.  But it’s not easy to grow it here.  So I have to resort to dried ones.  But they are hard and pokey.  I can’t seem to extract much flavor from it either.  Then I had this brainwave to blitz it in my blender.  Pulverize it to powder.  Bingo!  Now I use it in almost everything.

Sponge Cake In A Jar

I had better write this down before I forget.  This is the BEST sponge cake I have ever made.

The basic recipe for sponge cake is this: For every egg, it’s 25 g sugar and 25 g flour.  So if you have 4 eggs, that would be 100 g sugar, 100 g flour.  Raising agent is optional as an insurance.  So are other add-ons like fat, flavoring etc.  Then I found out that just by adding in a bit of condensed milk can make a whole lot of difference!

I had wanted to make jar cakes and I had finally accumulated enough little jars.  But I was half-hearted.  You know…  I really can’t eat any more junk food if I wanted to fit into The Dress for my cousin’s wedding… But I had already made  Chocolate Ice Cream  and technically, was half way there.  So dragging the recipe out from memory, I whisked 4 eggs with 100g sugar in my Kenwood Chef until fluffy. The KC does a really fantastic job of whisking air into eggs.   As an afterthought, I decided to scrap off the last bit of condensed milk leftover from making ice cream.  It amounted to about 1 Tbsp. Whisked that in. Then I folded in 100g of plain flour and drizzled in about 2 tbsp of oil (I didn’t even measure that). I baked it in a muffin pan and it turned out to be the BEST sponge cake I had ever had!  It was ultra soft, moist and oh so good!  All thanks to the addition of condensed milk.

 

Basic Sponge Cake (12-14 muffins)

4 eggs (room temp is better)

100 g sugar

about 1 Tbsp condensed milk

100 g plain flour

about 2 Tbsp vege oil/melted butter

Whisk eggs in sugar until fluffy.  Then whisk in condensed milk for a min.  Fold in flour and oil.  Spoon into muffin cups and bake for about 20 min at about 180c.

This is what I did to the sponge cake after baking and cooling.

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I halved it and put 1/2 into the bottom of a jar.
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Then I put in a dollop of whipped chocolate cream.
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Another layer of cake and cream until you run out of space.
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Let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to meld.

It’s basically a simplified trifle.  It’s great coz it’s pre-portioned and easy to serve.  It can be kept in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for longer.  If you run out of jars, an alternative is to use a cup.

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If you don’t have cream, I think yogurt and fruits would be a good alternative too.  I’m going to try that next. 8D

Light Chocolate Cheesecake

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There is this one Light Cheddar Cheesecake on the internet which uses sliced processed sandwich cheese.  It’s a very light, spongy cheesecake.  No strong cheese flavor, rather mild, in fact. It’s not very sweet either. Like a chiffon cake but more moist. And you will feel like you can eat the whole cake in one sitting. 😁

The recipe on the internet is regular cheese flavor. So (of course) I need to chocolatify it.  I chocolatify whatever and whenever I can.  One can never get too much chocolate.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before somewhere before.

Light Chocolate Cheesecake (8″ square)

6 slices processed cheese (or 125 g Kraft boxed cheddar cheese, grated)

100 ml milk

100 g unsalted butter

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp instant coffee powder

6 egg yolks

100 g cake flour (or 80 g plain flour + 20 g corn flour)

6 egg whites

150 g sugar

Prepare an 8″square pan by lining it. Preheat oven to 150c.

Put the milk, butter and cheese in a medium pot and heat gently until everything is melted.  Then add in the cocoa powder and instant coffee.  Let it cool down first before adding in the egg yolks and flour. Mix till well combined.

In a really clean, oil-free bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy.  Then add in the sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.  Usually I flip the bowl upside down to test.  The egg whites should stay put in the bowl.

Scoop out about 1/4 of the whites into the chocolate batter to lighten it.  Then pour the chocolate batter into the whites and mix well using a whisk.

Pour out into an 8″ square pan.  Give the pan a few taps to get rid of big bubbles if you are concerned about holes in your cake (like mine).

Bake, bain marie style,  in a preheated oven of about 150c for 50 min.

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It will puff up like a pillow but when cooled, will deflate and give you a nice flat surface for frosting. *You must be wondering about the curtain clips. Haha.  It’s my Ikea stainless steel curtain clips.  I find that it is great for keeping the paper in place.

I didn’t frost it this time round but here’s a quick and easy way to make the frosting.

Frosting

100 g couverture chocolate

100 g cream/coconut cream

Heat up the cream.  When hot, add in the chocolate and stir until melted.  Cool it a little and then just spread on the cake.

This cake may be enjoyed warm or cooled. It doesn’t need to be chilled before you can dig in. I think that’s wonderful.

 

Kaya Kueh with Pulot Hitam

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When I was young, this was my mom’s hit recipe. Everybody loved her Kaya kueh. She would get me to pound the pandan leaves to get its extract. It was hard work extracting pandan essence. The leaves don’t yield much juice. I had to squeeze the leaves really hard just to get that one little drop. When artificial pandan essence was made available, I was all over it. However, in recent years, I have realised that nothing beats the real deal.  However, I am still allergic to pounding and squeezing the leaves.  Instead, I would boil the leaves in a little water and use the water.  I think it works.

My mom’s recipe uses white glutinous rice.  I mixed mine with black because  I read that black glutinous rice is more nutritious than white.  The kaya (custard) part is usually green but I decided to go au naturel in my bid to cut down on unnecessary colorings and additives.  So it got it’s glorious yellow color from the egg yolks.

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Pulot Hitam Kaya Kueh

300g (about 2 rice cups) black glutinous rice (soaked about 3 hours)

150g (about 1 rice cup) white glutinous rice (soaked about 3 hours)

500 ml thin/diluted coconut milk

1/2 tsp salt

pandan leaves or pandan essence

Mix all together and pour into a greased 8″ square pan.  Steam for about 1/2 hour or till rice is cooked.  Remove the pandan leaves. Then using a spoon, press down the rice firmly to kind of flatten them.  This step is to make the rice a bit compact to prevent the custard from seeping into the rice part (I found out the hard way).

Kaya (custard) part

6 eggs

3 tbsp corn flour

4 tbsp plain flour

425 g sugar

400 ml coconut milk

50 ml water (for boiling pandan leaves)

2 leaves or pandan essence

Boil the pandan leaves in the 50ml water.  Remove the leaves.  Then mix everything well together.  Pour the batter on top of the hot rice, through a sieve to ensure a smooth custard.  Then steam for about 1/2 h or until the custard is cooked.

Cool before slicing.

This makes an 8″ square pan size.  Which is plenty for sharing with about 6 -8 people. Depending on how many second helpings everyone wants, of course. 8D

 

 

 

Rojak – Fake it recipe

When we were living in Michigan, there were times when I seriously craved my hometown food.  Rojak is one of them.  The only way I could eat it was to make it myself.  Rojak is a kind of vegetable/fruit salad that is dressed with a dark peanutty sauce with heh kor (aka prawn paste).  Prawn paste was not easily found in Michigan. Then one day, somehow I found out that a mixture of fish sauce, black soy sauce and sugar kind of tasted quite close! After a few tweaks, I discovered how to make fake rojak sauce! Up to this day, this is my go-to recipe whenever we feel like rojak and are too lazy to go out and get it.  It’s really a matter of assembling all the ingredients together.  No cooking involved.  Usually, in a basic rojak, there’s tau pok (dryish beancurd), chinese crullers (fried dough), pineapple, cucumber and sometimes even century egg.  I only always have pineapple, cucumber and green apples at home. Thus, these are what I use in my rojak.  You can add anything you like actually.

Rojak Dip/Sauce

2 Tbsp fish sauce

2 Tbsp dark soy sauce

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp peanut butter

Juice from half a lemon

2 Tbsp ground peanut

cayenne pepper or chilli flakes to taste

Just mix the above together.  Pour the sauce onto the fruits and toss only when ready to eat.  Otherwise, it will get watery.  Alternatively, I just dip my fruits and vegetables into the rojak sauce.

Of course this is not as good as the real thing.  For one, it is missing ginger flower which gives it a really lovely fragrance.  However, during desperate days in Michigan, it comes pretty close.  That’s good enough for me.