Tuesday, March 20, 2018

BLINK and you MISS it

One moment, they were clinging to my knees for dear life and balance. 
Next, they are standing heads to my shoulder. 

Not too long ago, I was reading to them. 
Now, they are reading to each other. 

One moment, they were learning to walk.
Next, they are running and cycling faster than me.

Not too long ago, I was carrying both of them (at the same time) to their bedroom.
Now, they are brushing their own teeth and putting themselves to bed.

One moment, they were throwing tantrums.
Next, they are reasoning with me like a peer.

Not too long ago, they did everything together.
Now, they are carving their own identities.

Till today, they enjoy special cuddles with me and let me kiss them in front of their friends and in public. For how much longer, I wonder. Hopefully for awhile more.

They still call out to me from their bedroom each evening with "I love you", "See you tomorrow" and "More cuddles please". For how much longer, I wonder. Hopefully for awhile more.

Till today, they give me that special look of admiration and love. Even on days or moments when I least deserve their devotion. For how much longer, I wonder. Hopefully for awhile more.

They still cry with me when I am upset and know that words are optional.
They still confide in me and know that I am always be there for them.
They still believe that a kiss from me will dissolve all their aches and pains.

From the moment my pregnancy was confirmed in September 2010, there was a fundamental shift in me and I was forever changed.

Motherhood is the single most polarising role I have ever been blessed with and I am eternally grateful for this honor.

Pause ever so often in your day and marvel because as soon as you blink, you would have missed the moment.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Robust Ox-Tail Stew

Ox tail is one of my favourite cuts of meat when making a stew because it is full of flavour and the meat falling off the bone is simply sublime. The bonus? Everything is cooked in the one pot.

The twins would rank this all encompassing meal one of their TOP 5 FAVOURITES! 

Serves 4

1.5 kg Ox-Tail
1 brown onion
6 gloves of garlic
2 sticks of celery
1 medium sized carrot
1 medium sized sweet potato
4 sprigs of dried or fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
1 tin of diced tomatoes
1 tin of water
1 tin of lentils, drain of liquid
2 glasses of shiraz (or your favourite red wine)
1 tbsp Chicken Bouillon powder
1 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a cast iron casserole pot over medium heat, brown ox tail on all sides and season with salt and pepper. This process will take around 10 minutes.
  2. Remove browned ox tail and leave it aside. In the same deep casserole pot, add garlic-celery-carrot-sweet potato-thyme-bay leaves and honey. Mix well and add honey as well as a small sprinkling of salt and pepper. This process will take around 5 minutes. Add red wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot and be sure to scrap as much of the brown bits so that it clings onto the vegetables (think massive flavour!)
  3. Place ox tail back into the pot, add water, diced tomatoes, chicken bouillon powder and lentils.  Make sure that the liquid just covers the top of the meat.
  4. Cook on high for 5 minutes, followed by a simmer for the next 1.5 hours with a lid over the pot (with a small gap to let the steam out so it does not overflow). Turn off the flame, place the lid firmly over the top (without any gap) and let it cook gently in the residual heat for the rest of the day.

* If you are time poor, brown everything and place it in the slow cooker. Cook it on low for 8 hours. When you return home in the evening, dinner is already made!

* If you have a cast iron casserole pot and you are not leaving the house till after 9 am, start cooking this at 7 am so that by 9 am, you can turn off the heat and resume the rest of the day's activities. When you return home in the evening, dinner is already made! The flavour with that prolonged gentle cooking makes it worth the effort.

* Season and taste your food at every step, do not leave the seasoning to the end. That is how flavour is build.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

In the land of Bulas!

We were very blessed and fortunate to be able to take an overseas holiday at the conclusion of a full school and work year. To re-group as a family and reward ourselves for staying on course with a few wobbles thrown in.

Our first destination was to the pacific island of Fiji. Only 3.5 hours flight from Brisbane. We were on Fiji time from the moment we stepped on board the plane.

It is the ideal location for us because we ceased to be busy, routine was thrown out of the window and we thrived on Fiji time (in all sense of the word).

We rejuvenated at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton on Sonasali Island. To get there from Nadi International Airport is super easy. 

30 minutes by private car and a 1 min boat ride from mainland. 

We arrived at a secluded tropical paradise and stayed in a beach bure (Fijian word for wood-and-straw hut). The unobstructed views, swaying coconut trees, friendly smiles and waves lapping onto the shore serenaded our bodies and mind to just ... relax and breathe deeply.

Our days were spent in the pool, by the pool, at the pool bar, on the sun lounges...you get the point. In the evenings, we would head to the restaurant for dinner, hit our pillows by 9pm, awakened leisurely at 9am, be one of the last families to show up at the extensive breakfast buffet before plunging in to the pools for the day.

There was something for everyone. We were 1000% present with each other and nothing else mattered. Just us.

Charlotte and Daniel went to Kids' Club for a few hours and met other children, learnt to catch sand crabs, made a kite using recycled materials, etc. The husband went to the gym and I read...check out my reading spot below:

Suffice to say, we were very content and grateful.

After three full days on beautiful and relaxing Sonasali Island, we departed for our next destination. To my surprise, I found myself slightly teary when we departed because the Fijian people we had encountered were absolutely beautiful and that deliberate pause was exactly what my soul desperately needed.

Vinaka vaka levu Fiji and your people.  We will return.

Questions to ask kids after school

It is true that time flies even faster when they start school. Just like that, they are in Year 2 and will be turning 7 years of age in a few months. They are definitely taller, certainly more knowing and are generally nice kids.

When I pick them up in the afternoons, it is often a challenge getting any information out of them regarding their day and their usual response is "we did so much and cannot remember" so I turned the tables on them.

On Tuesday, I asked them to find out (through observation) what makes their teacher smile / laugh. Their observations informs me that she has a terrific sense of humour!

Yesterday evening, they told me that one of their classmates has special needs so an opportunity presented itself. Their task is to introduce themselves and give him a high 5. "What if he does not high 5 back?" asked Charlotte. "Well, just tell him - have a nice day" was my response. Charlotte and Daniel beamed.

What about you? What do you ask your children after school?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Recipe: Vermicelli Rainbow Salad

The climate in southeast Queensland lends itself to cold refreshing salads almost all year round. We love salads that are full of colour, crunch and bursting with flavour. 

This week, I was a very grateful recipient of fresh produce that were loving tended by a dear friend and the ideal way to treat them is showcasing their glory without any fuss. Once again, the fresh ingredients listed can be whatever you desire. The element you cannot differ from is of course, THE DRESSING.

Its simplicity and visual appeal coupled with a few key pantry staples saw the birth of this creation which was devoured by my family repeatedly. Oh how my heart sang that evening!

Vermicelli Rainbow Salad
Serves 4 - 6

1 x 250g packet of mung bean vermicelli / glass noodles
1 medium size lettuce
1 medium size capsicum
1 medium size carrrot
1 medium size cucumber
3 tomatoes

3 tsps sesame oil

3 garlic cloves, cut into small bits
90ml extra virgin olive oil
6tbsps soy sauce
3tbsps honey

  1. Cook the mung bean vermicelli / glass noodles in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Put the cooked vermicelli in a colander, run cold running water over it. and ensure that it is drained well. Place the drained vermicelli onto the servicing platter or bowl, drizzle with sesame oil and tossed with fingers.
  2. Prepare the dressing. Place a very small pot over medium heat on the stove, add the oil and garlic. Wait till the garlic is almost medium brown in colour, add honey - swirl the pot to mix it followed by soy sauce - swirl it. Cook the dressing on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn it off and set it aside to cool
  3. Put the vegetables on top of the vermicelli noodles and toss with fingers to mix them all in. Pour dressing over the mixture and toss with fingers again.
  4. Enjoy the salad on its own or as a side with a main meal.

Recipe: Chicken Soup with Meatballs

By the time mid-week comes around, our refrigerator is almost depleted of its supplies so I rummage - work out what is still available and create a meal from it. 

Clear soups are a firm favourite. It is devoured heartily, everyone leaves the dinning table with a full tummy and a firm smile of satisfaction plastered on their faces. That fills my heart with gladness.

So if you have "leftover" fresh produce that are hardy in the refrigerator, consider making a soup (if your weather is conducive) instead of a salad or stir fry. 

The fresh produce listed in the ingredients below are merely what were left in my crisper. Create your own flavour combination with what you have got especially when you know they will impart amazing flavours.

Chicken Soup with Meatballs
Serves 4 - 6

2.5L of chicken stock*
2 medium sized carrots
2 medium sized potatoes
2 handfuls of raw peanuts
1 medium size broccoli
1 corn on the cob
1/2 punnet of cherry tomatoes
1/2 handful of goji berries

500g pork mince
2tbsps oyster sauce
2tbsps soy sauce
1tsp sesame oil
1 egg, beaten
White Pepper

  1. In a deep pot over high heat, add the chicken stock while you prepare all the ingredients. Add the prepared ingredients into the stock with the exception of the meatballs, broccoli and cherry tomatoes.
  2. While the soup is getting up to temperature, prepare your meatballs. In a deep bowl, mix all the ingredients and shape each ball with your hands. Set aside.
  3. When the soup starts boiling, turn the heat down to medium and add the meatballs. Turn the heat down to low and let the gentle heat of the soup caress all the elements. Walk away and have a glass of wine at this stage.
  4.  During the cooking process, you will notice foam / scum rising to the surface of the soup. Skim it off to create a clean and clear broth.
  5. In each serving bowl, add raw broccoli florets and cherry tomatoes. Then pour the hot soup and all the beautiful vegetables & meatballs over them (broccoli florets and cherry tomatoes). Have it on its own or with Jasmine rice / noodles / pasta.

* Chicken stock
If you are a purist and prefers making your stock from scratch - I applaud you.
If you have a favourite pre-prepared chicken broth from the store - use it.

I had none of the above so I used the next best thing which always guarantees me maximum flavour - Lee Kum Kee Chicken Bouillon Powder. You can purchase this at most Asian grocery store. If you are using this in your soup, add 3 spoonfuls (using the plastic spoon) in its container) with 2.5L of water. It is the bomb and my family wasn't thirsty after drinking this soup.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Recipe: 3 Ingredient Asian Glazed Salmon

From the fridge to the stove and transferred onto a plate with a fresh salad in 15 minutes flat. This is one of our favourite weekly family meals that is big on taste and even bigger on ease.

3 Ingredient Asian Glazed Salmon
Serves 4

4 x 125g Atlantic Salmon (skin on)
4 tbsp Ketchup Manis
2 tbsps Honey

  1. Place a non-stick pan over high heat for 1 minute
  2. Add Salmon (skin side down) to the pan and turn the heat down to medium
  3. Brown each side for 2 minutes
  4. Add Ketchup Manis and Honey to the pan and coat each piece of Salmon. Turn the heat down to low. Let the glaze do its magic for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve it up!

Easy Raw Spring Salad
This simple and delicious salad was put together while the Salmon was being glazed in the pan.

Basically, put together a salad of your favourite vegetables and in our case, it is:

1 medium sized broccoli, broken up in bite sized pieces
1 medium sized carrot, cut up into bite sized pieces
1 tin of chickpeas
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp egg mayonnaise
4 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey

  1. Put all the prepared vegetables and chickpeas in a large bowl.
  2. Combine the dressing in a small bowl.
  3. Pour dressing into the large bowl of salad.
  4. Serve it up with your Salmon or any other protein that you desire.

Bon Appetit!