Almond-Chocolate muffins

I frequently try to use yogurt-alternatives* in my baking experiments as I often have them on hand and it reduces the amount of oil I have to use in my recipes. I don’t create recipes on my own but I often adapt the recipes I find online. This particular one I’m going to share below is one that I adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

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Makes 6 muffins

  • 100g chocolate bar (I used a Swiss milk chocolate bar with chopped almonds because it was a gift from someone and I hardly eat chocolate)
  • 64g vegetable oil – about 1/4 cup
  • 150g flour
  • 1 tbsp mocha powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt-alternative*
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Prepare your muffin tin by using 6 liners or greasing it.

Break chocolate bar into pieces and combine it with half of vegetable oil (32g) in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of boiling water and melt the chocolate.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining oil, yogurt, sugars, almond essence and egg. Mix evenly.

In your main mixing bowl, combine the flour, mocha powder, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the oil-yogurt mixture. Whisk gently. Now pour in the melted chocolate and stir to combine evenly.

Portion your batter into the prepared liners and position muffin tin in the middle of the oven. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a muffin. Let cool and enjoy/share. The nutty fragrance from the almond essence combined with the moist chocolatey crumbs is just too good to resist!

*I say “yogurt-alternative” as I cannot take dairy yogurt, therefore I’m using Alpro soy yogurt.

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Penny savers recipe: soy sauce braised meat

I was watching a lot of Youtube when I first arrived here last year, especially 康熙来了, a Taiwanese variety talkshow that was been keeping me company during the lonely cold days here in Bremen. In one particular episode, the guests were introducing foods from their university days, and one guest introduced 卤鸡腿饭, or rice with braised chicken thigh. That sounded and looked absolutely scrumptious so I thought it might be a good dinner idea. I tried to find the simplest recipe and I think I found it. I adapted it a little since there were some ingredients that were not easily available in my area.

The recipe is very versatile – you can use any cuts of meat (chicken, pork, or even go vegetarian: tofu and eggs are nice too), and the leftover braising sauce can be kept in the freezer for future braising sessions. In fact, I think that’s the best part of the dish… you keep leftover gravy from previous sessions and add it to the next one, intensifying the flavors further.

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Apologies for the less than stellar/appetizing photo. I had tried to remove the chicken thigh as a whole piece, but it was so meltingly soft that the meat just slided off the bone as I lifted it up. Hee hee, not that I’m complaining about it!

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My struggle with acne

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Well, well, well… where do I start with this series of posts? So a little background about myself for the new readers: I’m 31 years old this year (2016), and sadly, I am still suffering from acne. When I was younger, I thought that acne is part of puberty and was not too bothered by my pimples. When I entered my teens, I was very active in school and did quite a lot of sports. As far as I can remember, I had uneven skintone due to sun exposure, large pores and blackheads on the nose and occasional pimples when Aunt Flo was visiting, but my skin was still fairly alright. Of course, I was jealous of my other girl friends who still had flawless skin (think fair skin with tiny pores!) despite them going through puberty like me.

When I graduated from high school and went to do my diploma in another school, again I was faced with new friends who somehow possessed fairy-like skins. At this stage, I was 17 years old and started to dabble with makeup. I would apply foundation, powder, blusher, mascara and lipgloss to school. I started to place more emphasis on my skincare since I now use makeup. However, without the proper knowledge on skincare, there were a lot of trials and errors and self-diagnosing. Looking back, my skin started to break out more during this stage, probably because I was not using the right products and not removing my makeup well. I had more pimples (huge ones filled with pus), blackheads and whiteheads. While I know I shouldn’t, I love to squeeze them, causing more problems at the end!

All these while, my mother still maintained “it’s ok to have pimples. It’s all part of puberty”. But my growing phase came, stuck around for a while, and left (I took it that I’m out of puberty when my height stagnated), and I was still suffering from acne. There wasn’t any sign that my acne condition was getting better. In fact, it was getting worse as I got older.

Then I went to Australia for university for 2 years. It was my first time living in a temperate country, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my skincare. I mean I was already struggling with attaining good skin when I was in Singapore, what more with the changing seasons in Australia! When I was there, I was introduced to the plethora of skincare and cosmetic brands, and I became obsessed with cosmetics (oh, vain vain me) and really experimenting a lot. Needless to say, all hell broke loose with my skin when those experiments and it was the lowest point of my life where my skin is concerned. I finally decided to seek professional help.

My regret is that I took my condition lightly and did not take steps to educate myself properly. As a result of my low self-esteem caused by my acne, I do not have many photos from my university days (arguably one of the best experiences of my life) because that was when my skin was at its worst. When you look like a sea monster with so many papules on your face, your confidence level takes a hit, you get withdrawn and taking a photo was one of the last things you want to do. After all, why document your acne-filled face? Sigh.

So if you’re young and suffering from acne, and don’t let anyone tell you “oh, you’ll grow out of this phase soon”! It is your skin and your life, and if you find that acne is hurting your self-esteem, take action and seek help before it is too late!

In my next post, I will touch on the solutions I’ve tried, in my long arduous journey for flawless skin.

A few characters in my acne journey that I thought you should ‘know’:
1) My GP: I went to him for help when I was 15, and then again when I was 20. He prescribed doxycycline (antibiotics) and Diane35 (birth control pills), and also did laser treatment for me.
2) Kin Mun clinic: I went to Dr Victor Wee when I was 23. He prescribed Retin-A, AHA and BHA, and also introduced me to light therapy.
3) Dr Valentin Low: He was my mum and my sister’s aesthetics doctor for a period of time. He did IPL treatment for me.

Recipe: chocolate yogurt cake

Sometimes, the best things in life are unplanned and unexpected. Like this tender, moist and chocolatey cake I baked a couple of weeks ago. I decided to bake a cake using the ingredients I had left in my fridge after my dinner party had ended. I will be gone for the long weekend and so I didn’t want the fresh stuff to sit in the fridge for so long.

These were the things I wanted to use up: eggs, yogurt (the main item I wanted to use), milk. I originally wanted to bake a French yogurt cake, flavored with earl grey, however it required me to blend the tea leaves and I didn’t have the proper equipment with me. So I substituted chocolate for earl grey. Pleasant surprise! The Nesquik chocolate powder worked great in a pinch, and it smelt really chocolatey while baking.

The proof is the taste test though. I let it cool slightly for 20 mins (it was tough resisting the temptation), and then I cut a teeny cube to try (teeny is subjective heh). It felt like chocolate angels singing, and I was brought into another yummy dimension. I didn’t expect it because I didn’t use pure cocoa powder but the cake was super chocolatey, and the yogurt made it really moist (not fudgy though). It reminded me of a Sara Lee pound cake, but less heavy on the butter front. The cake was still as moist one day after baking.

The recipe makes a relatively large cake for one, so I suggest to share the love and the extra calories with your loved ones! 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Wet ingredients: 1/2 cup yogurt + 1/4 cup milk
  • Dry ingredients: 1 cup + 2 tbsp flour + 1/2 cup cocoa powder + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla and mix until evenly incorporated. Alternate the wet and dry ingredients 2-3 times into the butter mixture, ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour into baking tin (I used a 20cm square tin) and bake for 40-45 mins, until the centre comes out clean when tested with a skewer. Do not overbake because the sides will become dry.

My one year anniversary in Germany

One year in Germany. What have I accomplished? Let’s see… my German language skills? I can understand basic conversations by catching key vocabulary but I am still not able to answer very well. I usually just say ‘yes/no, thank you’ and smile. Haha.

I travel a lot, about 600km every week, and I’ve now started to understand why frequent travelers hate traveling. Especially so when I have to wake up when it’s still cold and dark outside, plus fingers crossed that I catch all my connections!

I’ve started working in Germany, at the headquarters of the company I was working at in Singapore, and experienced how it is like to be a minority. And it kinda sucks, more than ever when conversations take place in German and I’m the only one who does not understand the language. I feel so left out and I become withdrawn. It’s not my colleagues’ fault since I’m the foreigner here, but I just appreciate the diversity in Singapore.

As what I have said on my Facebook, sometimes time passes so quickly, we say it flies. But sometimes, it feels like it’s crawling. Especially when I’m working and counting down the days to the weekend or the next holiday. Public holidays are few and far in between in this country, quite different from Singapore. They make up for it by having 30 days annual leave, but the Singaporean in me doesn’t want to spend my vacation days staying at home, doing nothing.

Anyway, it’s now autumn (pumpkin season!), and I should really start planning for my December vacation. I will be taking the last 2 weeks of the year off (Christmas break is mandatory since the office is closed).

We have finally decided on Prague, after having too many different options previously. We are planning to go to Greece for summer next year (I want to visit the DOTS island. HAHA), so we cannot afford to have a big trip now. Since we are located up north in Germany, Prague is not exactly very near us, but luckily we have various travel options such as flying there (4-6 hours), taking the coach (12 hours) or taking the train (8 hours). We eventually settled on taking the bus since we do not have to make any transits with the bus (having missed our train connections way too many times, we are wary now).
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Has anyone of you been to Prague? Your tips and recommendations will be very helpful in planning my trip! 

Recipe: not-so-authentic bibimbap

Bibimbap is probably one of the most well-known Korean dishes globally, besides kimchi. It is a one bowl meal, with the ingredients on top of warm rice. It’s nutritious, easy to eat since it’s all in one bowl, and very versatile because you can put any ingredient you fancy. It’s not easy to make though because you have to prepare all the dishes separately, before assembling them. The tough part is the prep work since all the dishes have to be sliced and julienned thinly. My knife skills ain’t that good but I try to make a presentable meal since my husband likes bibimbap.

To make bibimbap, I prepare the following side dishes:

  • carrots, julienned and sauteed in a small amount of sesame oil
  • spinach, blanched and seasoned with mince garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil
  • beansprouts, blanched and seasoned with mince garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil.
  • stir fried mince pork/beef, seasoned with some sesame oil and soy sauce
  • sunny side up egg (with runny yolk)
  • toasted seaweed, crushed into small pieces

I then put a serving of warm cooked rice (short grain to be more authentic), topped with the side dishes and a dollap of gochujang.

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Our shoes need some lovin’ too

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Sometimes I feel that I have a split personality, like how I see myself as an introvert when others see me as an extrovert. I later found out that there is such a thing as Ambivert. I think I’m one of those.

I also have a weird thing when it comes to taking care of myself. I place high emphasis on my skin (because I’m always battling acne. Damn those hormones!), and my hair (I cannot live without my hair conditioner and hair oils/serums), but I often don’t exercise enough thus those dimply thighs and flubber around my waist and hips. Oh, let’s not forget those flabby arms too.

Then we come to my material possessions. I only wash my clothes on the gentle cycle or wool wash if possible. I don’t use the dryer because they shorten the lifespan of my clothes. My bags are placed back into their protective dust bags after use if they originally came in one. My bags are also never placed on the floor (with the exception of my laptop backpack and Longchamp Le Pliage – those two are meant to be abused).

However, I just had a startling revelation that I don’t take care of my shoes at all. Late last week, I noticed that the rubber heels of one of my Maud Frizon flats had worn off, and I was now wearing down the wooden heel structure! I was instantly so upset with myself because I love my Maud Frizons and that is my favorite pair out of the 5 pairs I bought on my honeymoon. I had ZH bring the pair of shoes back to Bremen for repairs (because the cobbler is too far from me in my little town here).

Looking back, I have constantly abused my shoes. Earlier this year, I had to send my winter boots for repairs though they were only 3 months old because of the same problem. The heels had worn out. Previously, I always had to send my heels to the cobbler for repairs because I had worn down the heels so much that the rubber soles were gone and I was wearing down the NAILS in the heel stem. You could hear the nails filing down on the concrete pavement. Ugh.

I should make a routine now, to check on the state of my shoes, to clean them regularly after wear, to show them some loving care and repair them at the first sign of damage before it is too late and cause me some heartbreak. Those shoes will then last longer, I hope.

Do you have any tips to share? Or are you a shoe abuser, like me?