Friday, October 31, 2008

Easy Peasy Chunky Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Got this recipe from Lily, on faceb00k.
I usually use the box mix from b3tty cr0cker, so I never really bothered with making brownies from scratch before, but Lily's looked so easy and so yummeh, I just had to try it.
I modified the recipe a bit because I think 2 cups of sugar is just a little too much, and I had a hankering for dark chocolate and I had some peanut butter to finish off. I also modified the method a bit because I only have one measuring cup and I wanted to use it without washing it too often.

Easy Peasy Chunky Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cups sugar (I just use granulated sugar)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons chunky peanut butter (or smooth, or more, if you like)
200gram of your favourite dark chocolate bar (cut into chunks)

Preheat oven to 350degFarenhite. Grease, flour and/or line the bottom of 9"X9" square pan or 11" round baking pan.
In a bowl, mix well flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa powder.
In another bowl, mix well oil and eggs.
Add flour mix into oil+egg mix bit by bit and stir to mix well. Add vanilla and peanut butter and stir till well incorporated (you dont see peanut butter streaks anymore).
Fold in chocolate chunks.
Pour into baking pan and bake for 20-30 minutes or until your cake tester (read: toothpick) comes out clean.
Let cool completely before cutting.

Like Lily said, this is a very good recipe to make with your kids. Anis helped me make mine, by mixing the flour and then later mixing the batter. Since my method requires two bowls, you can have 2 kids helping with each bowl if you want.
This recipe was so quick to make, by the time I was done measuring and mixing, I still had a few more minutes to wait before my oven was properly preheated.

The result was a brownie that wasn't too sweet, and had all the different yummeh tastes, textures and dwarves - chocolatey, sweetie, salty, softy, chewy, gooey and crunchy.

I had cut mine into half inch squares and put it in a paper cup because:
1. I do not have a square pan so I used a round pan instead, but brownies just dont look good in wedges.
2. I wanted to bring it to a party and felt guilty about it being so easy peasy so I felt the need to put in the extra effort.
3. I wanted to make it look less threatening to the waist for the lady guests who were watching what they eat.

Try it out with your family and friends! ;)

Side Story:
To tell you the truth, my brownies didn't cook properly at first. After 20 minutes in the oven, I found out that my batter was still wobbly. It was as if it wasn't cooking at all! I checked the oven dial to make sure I had set it properly, and it was. I thought maybe it was because I had added peanut butter, so I decided to let it bake for another 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes it still wasn't cooked! I started to think that I had contracted the Nazrah Baking Curse (Sorry Nazrah!). It was less than 2 hours to the party and my brownie wasnt done, and I still needed to let it cool, then cut it, then put them in paper cups then take pictures... I was starting to panic. But I calmed myself down, put on my engineer hat and started to think about how this could happen.
The only reasons a cake would not cook well is if there's too much moisture in the batter, or if there's not enough heat in the oven. I had not added too much extra liquid (a mere 4 tbsp of peanut butter couldn't have done this much harm!), so it must be insufficient heat. The thermostat is saying 350degrees, so the heat must be escaping somehow. I checked the oven door and I discovered it was skewed, and was not closing properly. I had to adjust it a bit to close it properly, and after 20 minutes of baking with the door properly closed, voila, my brownie was done! (Though the edges were kinda hard and crusty, my kids just happily ate those bits).
I've got to call the maintenance folks to fix my oven. If I'm lucky, I might even get a new one! woo hoooo!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Anis the Scarecrow

I don't really 'celebrate' Halloween. It's not in my culture (nor religion) and I don't really believe in it. I also don't like the idea of giving children cavities. I mean, how is it that you tell them "not too much candy" on other days, but then shower them with candy on this one day? No wonder they're confused.

Every year towards the end of October though, kids in KeyStage1 (ages 4 to 7) at my children's school gets a letter that they get to wear costumes to school on the very last day of the very last week. The idea of going to school in normal clothes itself excites the children, what more costumes! So for a few weeks in October, I get bugged with costume ideas and whines about why they cant go to school as this, or that.
I try to play it down, make them wear their normal clothes and tell them they are a librarian or an army guy in covert operation so they must be disguised in plainclothes. Last year Anis wore her lacy kebaya from bandung and I stuck a fake plastic crown on her head and told her she's a Malaysian princess.

This year Anis wanted to be a princess again, because (whine) "But Hanna's going to be a princess!!!!". I balked at the idea. I mean.. I dont want her to stereotype herself. I actually thought of getting her a hardhat and make her go as a drilling engineer. But I'm too lazy to go look for a small hardhat.
So looking at stuff I had around the house and her existing clothes, I suggested to Anis that she could be a scarecrow. She was excited enough to not bug me everyday with her "What can I wear? What can I wear?".

She went to school today looking like this:

The overalls, long sleeve t-shirt and hat were all from her closet.
I cut up square pieces from remnants of the baju kurung & dress I made her (I swear, I wont mention it again), and sewed them on the overall and tshirt with exagerrated stitching to look like patches.
I cut up strips from yellow plastic bag, tied them on rubber bands to create 'straw' bracelets for her hands and feet. The same strips of yellow plastic bag were also used to line the hat to make it look like it was filled with straw.
This morning I braided her hair, put some foundation on her face, and drew the scarecrow smile, eyes and nose.

She was so happy!
As I watched her walk to the bus, her friend Hanna was dropped off by her dad. I could hear her scream excitedly to Hanna, "I'm a scarecrow!!"
I hope she has fun in school.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mee Kari Leftover

As you may or may not know, I have this habit of using last night's leftovers to make lunch for my kids and I. It's not only environmentally friendly (reduce waste, re-use), it is also economical and time-saving. I don't need to throw away food, I save money on groceries, and I cut my cooking time by at least half.
Every night after dinner, I would look at what i have left and plan for tomorrow's lunch. Sometimes I don't even plan, I just stuff everything into tupperwares inside the fridge, then look at what I have the next day, and try to figure out what to make for lunch. Most of the time, dishes turn into fried rice or porridges or sandwiches. Some time though, like today, I would hit the jackpot.
Yesterday I made goreng pisang (banana fritters) and had leftover batter. I fried the leftover batter into crunchy bits. I made fried chicken and vegetable soup for dinner and had some leftover. Looking at the fried chicken and crunchy fritter batter, I instantly thought of Lollies and had a craving for mee kari (curry noodles).

How to turn your leftover soup into curry gravy for noodles

1 pot of leftover soup (chicken/vegetable/fish)
5 shallots
2 pips garlic
half an inch fresh ginger
half an inch galangal (lengkuas)
2 tbsp curry powder
more water/stock if needed
coconut milk (1/2 cup, or more if you like your gravy thick)
meat/prawns/fish ball or tofu if there's not enough 'stuff' in your leftover soup.
salt to taste

Slice shallots, garlic and ginger into thin strips. In a frying pan, saute in a little bit of oil till fragrant.
Add a little liquid from soup, then add curry powder and galangal. Saute till a thin film of oil rises to the top (add more soup if it gets too dry).
Add into soup, add water/stock/liquid if necessary, bring to a boil.
Add meat and coconut milk, bring to a boil.
Taste and season as desired.
Serve with noodles (egg noodles, rice noodles or spaghetti) and garnishings (spring onions, bawang goreng (crispy fried shallots), sliced chillies, boiled eggs, fried chicken, sliced fried tofu, crispy bits) of your choice.

I had some fish cake and spring onions, and was too lazy to boil eggs and slice chillies and forgot I had bawang goreng, so here's what mine looked like:

Amacam Lolls, ada pass ka?

Happy cooking!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Relationship Realization

After my husband gently crawled over izani to snuggle up to me on my side of the bed, I realized something:
Just as he is my only source of comfort and pleasure, so am I his.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Tunguska Treatment

My husband has this really bad habit of reacting to my anger instead of addressing it.
Instead of getting understanding and comfort, I would often get scolded for being angry. This of course, makes me all the more angry. Sometimes initially I would be angry at something or someone else, but when he scolds me for getting angry, I would start feeling angry at *him*.
I have told him so many times how this habit of his makes me feel. I feel like he is saying I have no right to be angry. I feel like he is dismissing my feelings. I feel like he is dismissing *me*. I feel unsupported and uncomforted when he's the only person I could turn to for emotional support and comfort. It makes me feel unloved.

When this happened again for the umpteenth time, I decided to give him the cold shoulder. (Coz expressing my anger would only mean I'd get scolded again, so what other choice do I have?).

Every morning we have this ritual we do before he goes to work. I 'salam' (something like shaking his hand) him, kiss his hand, kiss him and give him a hug and we say our "I love you"s.
This morning, the effort came mostly from him. I still salam-ed and kissed his hand (coz I want his forgiveness even if he's not asking for mine), but the kiss was not as passionate (just a peck) and he was doing most of the hugging. I didn't bother replying to his declaration of love, even almost replied "yeah... right". I just turned around and got back to cutting up vegetables for making stock.

As I was chopping the butts off the spring onions, I thought of what he was wearing to work. Coveralls, boots and he had carried his cardboard box of hard hat, nozzles, gauges and what not.
It occurred to me that he's going to the rig. That would take at least an hour or two of driving. I felt kinda guilty. I can't let him drive that long and that far with a heavy heart as a result of my behavior this morning. I don't even know where he's going off to!
I checked that he had not driven past my kitchen window, so I ran to the front door hoping to catch him. Sure enough, I opened the door to find him reversing the car.
I held up my hand, but he thought I was saying goodbye, so he waved back and turned the car to move forward. I held up my hand again, and he finally rolled down the window.

"Where are you going?" I shouted from my front door to him out on the street.
"Manifa", he replied, and put up three fingers, meaning 3 hours drive away.
"Drive carefully!" I said to him.
And he smiled a smile that even I could see from that distance.

I bet he's thinking "Sayang jugak dia kat aku" (She loves me after all).
Ya lah.. memang lah sayang. (yes, of course I love him)

I'm still angry though.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Homeward Bound?

The most common question we get during our raya open house rounds was
"Dengar cerita, Elisa dah nak balik, betul ke?"
"I heard that you were going home, is it true?"

Yes, it's true.
The last time we were back in Malaysia, Taufik made his annual visit to his old office in KL, and his former boss asked if he could come back. They wanted him back end of this year, but to be fair to his team in Saudi, Taufik negotiated a later date, most probably in July next year.

When we told everyone we were moving here four years ago, we were asked how long we were planning to be away from home. Our standard answer was "Sampai kaya, atau sampai boring" ("Until we're rich, or until we're bored"). Well, you can be assured that we are not 'kaya' yet. Even though our definition of 'rich' is very simple, i.e. be debt free (and not necessarily own lotsa stuff), we are still a long way from there.
So I guess you can say that we're moving back home because we're 'bored'.
Well, Taufik is, at least. Not that the work is not challenging, it is VERY challenging. Not that he's not up to the challenge.. it's just that... hm.. I guess he just misses home. He misses gardening. He misses his parents. He misses the weather.

If you ask me, I have mixed feelings about moving.
I am really going to miss the laidback, almost pampered life in the kingdom. I'm sure when I go back to Malaysia, I'm going to be expected to drive again. I know it means 'independence', but it also means 'commitments'. I would have to drive the kids to/from school. I'd have to buy groceries myself. I'd prolly have to do alot of stuff myself, and not be able to 'bermanja' with Taufik anymore.. :P
Having to drive would also probably mean I'd have less time for myself. Would I have time to bake? Would I have time to blog? (How in the world did I do it before? Especially when I was working? I have forgotten!)
I feel like I have not done enough travelling. There's still so much I want to see, within the kingdom and also within the region. I still have not been to Shaybah, Madinah, or gone dune bashing. I still have not been to Jordan, or Lebanon. There's still so many things I want to experience and buy...! Trivial things, really...

The main thing I'm worried about is my children's education. Will they be able to cope with the demands and pressure of the Malaysian Education system? Will I? Will they enjoy school as much as they do here? Or will they get bored and discouraged?
We checked out a few schools the last time we came back and most of them stress on academic performance, citing their achievements in nationwide exams. They told me to prepare my child for the BM paper from *now*, and not wait till they take UPSR. When I ask the teachers here in DBGS about the SATS exam, they all said the same thing - "It's just one little exam, we focus more on the total development of your child, so don't worry about it". I'm going to miss *that*!!!

Otherwise, I'm pretty psyched about coming home.
I miss my family. I miss my house. I miss being able to go to the mosque whenever I want. I miss friday lunch dates with my girlfriends. I miss burger special daging garing bungkus telur sayur lebih taknak bawang sos hitam. I miss being able to find food anytime I want. I miss being able to shop anytime I want. I miss taking the LRT. I miss looking at billowy clouds. I miss the rain.

Well, I still have 8 to 9 months to enjoy this place I've called "home away from home" for the past three and a half years... so I'm gonna make the most of it :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Easy Peasy Bubur Lambuk (Mixed Porridge)

Every time I cook bubur lambuk (mixed porridge), I feel like that guy who cooked nail soup.
You know the story - a vagrant asks a miser to make some soup using only water and a rusty crooked nail, then he starts adding more and more ingredients to 'make it better' and ends up with a delicious nutritious soup.

The basic ingredients for my bubur lambuk is simple - water, rice (raw or cooked, the only difference is the time it takes to become porridge), fish stock, shallots and pepper, and a ladle of coconut milk. I might replace fish stock with pounded anchovies/dried prawns or a stock cube or actual fish flesh (pounded to a pulp) or even last nights leftover vegetable soup or even sayur masak lemak, but the other ingredients cannot be subtituted. What else I put in it depends on what I have in the fridge. If you want it authentic, put pucuk mmiding (a kind of fern shoot) and budu, but kangkung (water convulvus) would also do. I have put cabbages, potatoes, carrots, celery and ground beef in mine and the kids just ate it up.

Though this rice porridge is usually eaten un-garnished, I have picked up a habit from my pakistani friends - I brown some onion slices (until crispy or not, depends on how you like it) and add it to my porridge. Yum.

Easy Peasy Bubur Lambuk
(makes 6 servings)

1/4 cup uncooked rice or 1/2 cup cooked rice
4 cups liquid (water or stock)
3 shallots
half teaspoon black peppercorns
a handful of anchovies or dried shrimp
hard vegetables of your choice (cubed or cut into small pieces)
leafy vegetables of your choice (preferrably sliced thinly)
meat of choice (optional, minced or cut into small pieces)
one ladle coconut milk (roughly 6 tablespoons?)
salt and pepper to taste

Pound shallots, peppercorns and anchovies/shrimp till fine.
In a huge pot, put in ground ingredients, rice and liquid, bring to a boil.
Let simmer, stirring ocassionally, till rice has fatten up.
Put in the hard vegetables and meat, if using, and cook till vegetables are tender. (add more liquid if it gets too thick).
Put in the leafy vegetables and coconut milk, stir to mix well.
Simmer till porridge is thick, add salt and pepper to taste.

If your kids don't like fried onions like my kids, serve it seperately as a side dish.
This porridge is also a good way to sneak in veggies into your children's diet ;).

p/s For my non-asian friends who uses the anchovies they put on pizzas, you might want to use only like half a tablespoon of it, and taste it first before adding more salt.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Easy Peasy Sausage and Cheese Croissants

Inspired by Kak Nora's lunch box efforts, I, the ever malas (lazy) bonda, ventured to make an easy peasy version of the sausage roll, using ready made cheese croissants (available at any bakery/grocery store, plain also can) and some mini sausages (look for it at your frozen food section. I guess normal sized sausages will do too).
I just fried the sausages, slit the croissants on one side lengthwise (do not cut through), squeezed sauces per the child's preference (Anis wanted ketchup, Ilham wanted chilli sauce, Ihsan wanted nothing), then stuffed the mini sausages (3 or 4, depending on the size of the crescent bread) into the slits.
Wrap the croissants up in wax paper lined foil, and campak masuk lunch box.

Habis Cerita.

This is the adult's version, with mayo, lettuce and chilli sauce

Monday, October 06, 2008

son sleeping solo

Taufik was still on holiday on saturday while the other kids had to go to school, so Izani got some precious one-on-one time with his ayah

Somehow I feel like Izani is growing up faster than my other kids. Perhaps it's because he has older siblings to teach him stuff. I think he talks faster and better compared to my other kids when they were his age, and he is also more physically adept (he can put on his shoes on his own, even knows how to switch and put the right one on the right foot) compared to the others.

What is most obvious at the moment is he is sleeping seperately from me at an earlier age than the others. If you can recall, it was a battle to get the older ones to sleep in their own room. With Izani however, he was the one who initiated the move.

One night, we were in bed, he asked "I wan seep, iham hoom". At first I thought he meant 'home', and I kept telling him we were home and that his abang Ilham is home as well. He kept insisting "Iham hoom!" till he was almost crying, when I finally realized that he meant he wanted to sleep in Ilham's room.

So we let him.

The first few nights, he'd be playing instead of sleeping. One night he even managed to convince all his siblings to wake up and watch TV. I woke up to find all four of them sprawled on the sofa in the TV room, and they all blamed Izani for 'making them watch TV'. I told them to be firm with Izani and say No the next time he asks. They also got nagged about it everytime they complain about being sleepy during the proceeding day.
He doesn't make them watch TV anymore, but sometimes he does bug them to play or read him a book, but I just told them to go to sleep and ignore Izani (for I know how they can sleep like a log and ignore distractions when they want to). Sure enough, after a while, Izani would fall asleep as well. It's kinda cute watching Izani pull up the covers up to his chin and repeat "goo nite bonda, i love you" after his older siblings.

So nowadays I have my bed and my husband all to myself. tee hee.
I can't help but feel sad sometimes, though. I miss having Izani sleep beside me. I miss getting a little hug from him in the middle of the night. I miss his tiny kicks to my back or tummy or face. I miss his squeaky snore. I miss him nuzzling under my armpit for comfort. I miss reaching out at night to hug his tiny purring body.
I gained a good night's sleep, but I feel like I lost my teddy bear.

Kids grow up so fast, don't they?

Friday, October 03, 2008

hectic hari raya

'Hectic' would be an understatement.

Juadah pagi raya, ketupat, ayam masak merah, kuah kacang, serunding daging, serunding ikan. Nostalgia betul

I made a list of my raya itinerary:-

First raya (Dhahran):
Abg Zaki & Kak Siti (laksa kelantan, nasi briyani)
Abg Azizi & Kak Ita (spaghetti, mee kari, home made banana chips)
Abg Riz & Kak Aida (nasi dagang, satay and ketupat)
Abg Ma'il & Kak Khamsiah (miscellaneous kuih raya and I got to bring home some ketupat bawang that Abg Ma'il woved with his own bare hands)
Abg Mat Shah & Kak Ana (nasi briyani johore, ubi rebus with sambal tumis ikan bilis, pizza)
Abg Affendy & Kak Zaleha (ketupat pulut just like cikgu munah makes, rendang ayam, mee udang power giler)

The only kuih raya I made - rice krispy treats (chocolate and peanut butter) and easy peasy kuih gunting from leftover samosa leaves

Second Raya (Ras Tanura):
Abg Harun & Kak Su (nasi minyak, lontong)
Abg Razali & kak Sue (er.. makan apa ya? i remember very nice kuih raya..)
Abg Zul & Kak Izah (ketupat, rendang, kuah kacang)
Azmi & Gee (mee rebus)
Samsudin & Jo (entah apa I makan pun dah tak ingat .. oh yes, Laksa Johor!)

Third Raya (home & Dhahran):
6 cars from riyadh came to my house for lunch (white rice, fish head curry, fried chicken and assortment of other lauk brought from riyadh)
Abg Bakar & Kak Faridah (nasi goreng kampung, laksa sudan)
Raja Azlan & Kak Zie (I ate tooo much!)
Abg Khairy & Kak Nas (I was so full, I only ate tit bits and kuih raya)

Fourth Raya (today):
Ashok & Kak Aida (yummeh mee bandung and I brought white rice, fish head curry, sambal tumis udang and omelletes as 'support dishes')
I have a dinner invitation from Haji Nawawi and kak Azizah, but I dont think I'll be able to make it.. :P

my tit-bit station - store bought banana chips and mixed nuts

It is no wonder that my tummy hurts.
Looking at the decreasing trend in invitations, I am expecting to do nothing tomorrow. :)