Friday, November 9, 2012

Banana Chocolate Walnut Loaf Cake

I try to be health conscious ... honest, I do!  But many times ... ok, virtually all the time, I don't succeed.  When I found out that overripe bananas are supposed to be really good for us, a light bulb went off in my head and I started to search for a really good banana cake recipe.  I figured bananas (good for our health) + cake (I love cake) = a healthy food I'll love :)  (Although, at the back of my mind, I did kinda realise that I may just be disguising a fruit as a cake ... which may not actually be as healthy as I hoped it would be ...)

So, where to start when searching for such a recipe?  Especially since there are soooooo many recipes for banana cakes and banana bread floating around on the internet?  As I've had some good experiences with tried and tested recipes by bloggers I follow, I thought why not check out them out?  Some of my favorite food blogs for such home baking are on the blogroll for the Daring Bakers and TWD (Tuesdays With Dorie).  I ended up trying out this recipe, and now it's on my keeper list of fantastic recipes!  In fact, I shared some with my mom's friend, who told me that her granddaughter, who dislikes banana cake, actually ate up an entire slice of the cake!  Quite an endorsement of this recipe, I think! :)

The recipe was for a pretty huge bundt cake, so I split the batter into half and baked 2 loaf cakes.  Wrapped one up in this ever-so-pretty serviettes fm Ikea (and I was wondering what to do with such pretty paper when I impulsively bought it!  Heh heh heh ...) ...

I did add chocolate chips and walnuts to the banana cake ...


Earl Grey Tea Cookies

Continuing on with my baking spree, while I was baking up a storm with the pies & tarts & blueberry cake, a friend was baking some earl grey tea cookies.  She highly recommended it, so once I was done using up all my baking byproducts, I quickly whipped up a batch of these Earl Grey Tea cookies.  They were indeed as good as she said they were!  I later gave some to some other friends and they all loved it too!  This recipe sure is a keeper!

Blueberry Lemon Loaf Cake

Ok... so what does one do with lemon curd?  Perhaps have it with some blueberry cake?  And that's how I went on to baking up a Blueberry Lemon Loaf Cake (adapted fm this recipe) ...

Lemon Tart

After the fig tart, I had some more dough for the tart shell ... and I had some lemons in the fridge which I'd bought, thinking to make some lemon tarts, so off I went ... baking up some lemon tarts ...

Extra Lemon Curd ...

Fig Tart

And so began my tart craze ... it all started with the delicious Banana Cream Pie, which resulted in some extra oreo cookies.  I used that to make another oreo crust for a round banana cream tart.  Then I had to make more custard for that small tart.  In the end, I was left with lots of custard.  So, I started thinking of how I could use it up.  Talk about a vicious cycle! :)

As it happened, figs were in season.  Since they are one of my favorite fruits, I simply had to make a fig tart .... and it turned out really well :)

Banana Cream Pie

After reading cupcakesandcashmere's post on her favorite banana cream pie recipe, I couldn't resist trying my hand at this...  

I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Emily Schuman's endorsement of the recipe.  The combination of the oreo crust, sliced bananas, lusciousness of the custard, with the sweetness toned down by the rum-laced whipped cream, and topped with chocolate shavings ... was sooooooo good!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Roast Chicken

I was thinking of having a good roast chicken and had been seeing fennel being sold in the supermarkets in Shanghai.  As fennel isn't really an Asian vegetable, but I'd seen it being used pretty often by Jamie Oliver, I decided to look for a recipe to try.  Found this one fm Ina Garten, adapted it by adding some squash and zucchini, and it was soooo good!!!

Baked French Toast/Bread Pudding

I had some leftover homemade bread (cranberry and almond), and was thinking it'd be a waste to throw it away when I saw a post by Joythebaker on a Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding.  Everything suddenly clicked and I was in my kitchen whipping this up ...

This was simply uh-maze-ing!!!!  I substituted with rum and didn't use any bananas and it was still delicious!

Sun With Aqua, The Bund, Shanghai

Some time back, we had been longing for the wonderful Japanese food in Taipei, and lamenting the lack of reasonably priced good authentic Japanese food in Shanghai.  So when some friends recommended Sun With Aqua, a Japanese restaurant on the Bund, we eagerly went off to try this out, hoping it would have the kind of Japanese food we were looking for.  We were not disappointed :)

A glimpse of the counter seating ...

As their set lunch was pretty popular, we opted for the Tokyo set, which effectively had almost everything one could desire in Japanese cuisine ... suffice to say it was definitely filling ... just look at this sumptuous spread ...

A closer look ...

 Tempura ...

Udon noodles ... (I had a tempura set which came with soba noodles, but unfortunately my camera skills were somewhat lacking and it was too blur to post ... but they were yummy!)

An overview of my tempura set ... it came with sushi ... dee-lish!!!!

A closer look ...

Our friends ordered a teppanyaki set with beef, prawns and crab ...

After a satisfying meal, we decided we would definitely be making a return visit to Sun With Aqua.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Stalls on Bikes, China

I'm gradually getting used to seeing all kinds of things being peddled on the streets of Shanghai.  But just when I think I've seen everything, I see something that makes my jaw drop ... like this peddler (literally!) ... 

It was raining and this man parked his bike just outside our window seat in La Creperie so we had a good view of his merchandise.  Yup!  Those are baby bunnies and guinea pigs in the blue cage.  

I think those are squirrels in the pink cage.  Below that are bright yellow fluffy baby ducks.  And in the brown weave baskets are crickets.  Fascinating!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

La Creperie, Taojiang Rd, Shanghai

I actually stumbled upon La Creperie while shopping for kitchenware next door at Lemon Zest.  As I thought the area looked very charming, and they had the French style brittany crepes I loved after first trying them in Paris, I promised myself to return with Hubby in tow to try La Creperie.

We ordered these appetisers - rolled crepes with minced pork ... (after trying these appetisers during another visit, we thought the spicy minced chicken was our fav)

 We had their Daily Special set ... I believe this was La Complete ... basically brittany crepes with egg, ham, sausage, lettuce, mushrooms and tomatoes ... yum-my!!!

The set came with dessert, which happened to be a banana caramel crepe ... dee-lish!!!!

Zen Lifestyle, Shanghai

I fell in love with this shop, Zen Lifestyle, when I first walked into their branch in Xintiandi, Shanghai. The problem with Zen is making a choice of what to get cos everything is sooooo beautiful!  I eventually decided that I wanted to get a teapot in this floral design .... but sadly it was all sold out (their  products seem to fly off the shelves!).  To console myself, I got a dish in the same floral design :) ... I love the pink trimming around the edges ...

I also wanted a small dish to place the jewelry I wore daily, and chose this design ...

Antique Indian Perfume Box

I got a surprise the other day when Hubby came back with this gift from our kind New York friend.  She knew I was decorating my apartment, and sent this antique Indian box to us.

It contains these bottles which used to hold perfume ... fascinating!

Thanks D & K!

Cinnamon Buns

After our dumpling lunch, we proceeded to bake up some cinnamon buns ... fm Nigella's How To be a Domestic Goddess  ...

Home Made Dumplings

When a friend invited me over to her apartment for lunch the other day, I never expected to pick up a new skill - making dumpling skins!  I had always simply bought dumpling skins from the store, and everyone I knew did the same, so I just assumed it required mad skills to make them.  Turns out all one needs is all-purpose flour and water!  Yes!  It is really that simple!

We mixed up some minced pork with corn and egg for the filling and I helped her to shape the dumplings while she rolled out the dumpling skins.  Our dumplings before being cooked ...

I had asked her for the recipe for the dumpling skins but she said she never used one.  She then told me that when she and her siblings were little, her mother would enlist them in making these dumplings, and that was how she learnt.  Fascinating how parents pass their skills down to their kids, and how some stuff really stick and evoke memories of family!

As we made loads of dumplings, my friend gave me some to take home.  I mixed up some vinegar with a Szechuan style chili from Shanghai, then tossed the dumplings in the sauce .... YUM!!!  (This may not look that appealing but it was so delicious! )

(Apparently, well-made dumplings should have this wrinkly kind of look ... according to my dumpling friend :))

This particular vinegar - Zhenjiang Vinegar - is supposed to be the type that's good for dipping dumplings in.

I tried this particular brand of szechuan chili sauce and thought it was really good, especially in making the above dish - dumplings tossed in vinegar and chili sauce.

I was eager to try out my new skills at home.  Here are some of my dumpling skins ... not as regular and round and pretty as my friend's, but they'll do :)

I made them in different shapes in order to differentiate amongst the fillings - minced pork with shrimp with pine nuts, minced pork with spring onions, minced pork with corn, minced pork with shrimp with chives ... delish!  I cooked them in soup, au naturelle, with noodles ... makes for such wonderful easy meals (I froze some)!

All deliciously wrinkly :)   ... one of the few times you actually want wrinkles!  :)


Lemon, Rosemary & Cheddar Cheese Bread

Some time ago, I saw several bloggers posting about this no-knead bread which looked extremely simple to bake in a dutch oven.  As I was thinking of ways to maximise the use of my one and only Le Creuset dutch oven, I decided to give it a try... 

This is a pic of my no-knead lemon, rosemary & cheddar cheese bread all nicely wrapped up in my Japanese tea towel ... a fantastic way to use these beautiful tea towels incidentally ... (all above ideas inspired by simplysogood )

Dough being proofed ...

Fascinating!  Sometimes I think baking is like watching TV ... recipes that require more waiting time are just like TV in s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n .............

Finally after 12-18 hours of proofing, I got it into the oven baking ....

Oh wow!  Fresh bread!