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Festival of Light (Eating)

Diwali. Deepavali. Divali. A festival when Hindus celebrate the triumph of good over evil, commemorating the victory of Lord Rama over the evil demon-king Ravana; earthen oil lamps are lit to symbolize the defeat of ignorance through knowledge; home entrances are made colourful with Rangoli designs to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity; and family and friends visit each other, exchanging sweets and savouries.

Ah…. Food… the one thing that never fails to bring people together. Christmas – Lunar New Year – Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Food is a big part of these holidays. And of course Diwali too. I mean, just thinking of the achingly sweet treats (my favourites are laddu, halwa and gulab jamun, among others) and my tastebuds tingle. I go bat-shit crazy and all sense of control is lost whenever my friends brings back a box of authentic Indian sweets from India after their holidays. Simply because I don’t know which one to start eating first. Yes. Horrible glutton, I am. Time stands still as I sink my teeth into those heavenly sweet (and spicy) treats.

As the eating and merry-making of Diwali continues for the next few days, lots of food will be consumed. So to make you feel less guilty about those sinfully good food, I’ve decided to share with you a healthified (low salt/low fat), but no less scrumptious, version of Butter Chicken, which my family loves.




Vegetable oil

500g skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2” cubes

1 onion, finely chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

1” knob of ginger, grated

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp chilli flakes

1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes

125ml chicken stock

1 can (400ml) evaporated milk

Salt, to taste

Small bunch of coriander, chopped


Heat oil in a wok

Add chicken pieces, in batches, and cook 2-3 minutes until browned

Remove from wok and set aside

In the remaining oil, add in the onion, garlic and ginger

Sauté until the onion softens and browns slightly

Reduce the fire

Add in the garam masala, turmeric, cumin and chili flakes

 Stir for about 1 minute, or until it is fragrant

Add in the tomatoes and chicken stock

Increase the fire

Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes

Return the chicken pieces to the wok, and cook for about 5 minutes

Add in the evaporated milk, and stir until heated through. (heating the milk for too long will cause the milk to separate. Not pretty, but still good to eat)

Stir in chopped coriander and serve hot with basmati rice, brown rice, regular rice, chappati, parathas, wholemeal wraps or plain ‘ol toasted french loaves.



** chopped vegetables can be added to bulk up this dish. Examples: potatoes, green and red bell peppers, carrots and mushrooms. Add the chopped vegetables right after stirring in the canned tomatoes and chicken stock. This will give them time to simmer in the sauce and soften a little.

** to make it vegetarian-friendly, substitute the chicken with chopped up king oyster mushrooms. Just start off the recipe by sautéing the onion, garlic and ginger and go from there. Add it in right after the canned tomatoes and chicken stock, same as the above. I find the texture of cooked king oyster mushrooms quite similar to chicken, I kid you not. Try it!

** I usually also prepare a side of cucumber raita. Cut two cucumbers in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Shred the cucumber, and squeeze out as much of the juice as possible. In a bowl, combine the shredded and squeezed cucumber and about 250ml of plain yogurt. I try to get the real Indian yogurt (Alvas brand) for this. Try looking for them in the wet markets. Give them a good stir. I also add in about 2-3 finely sliced shallots (they give a really good kick to it), then followed by squeezing the juice of half a lemon, maybe more. I sometimes sprinkle in some chilli powder, just to give it that little edge. Or if you prefer, chop up a few stalks of red chili (seeded or otherwise, up to you), and stir those in. Taste as you go along. Sprinkle in some salt. Not too much, or it’ll cause the cucumber to leech out more juice. Last but not least, stir in a few chopped up mint leaves. Best chilled before serving, to allow the flavours to meld together.

Oh, wowee, I just realized. Two recipes in one post. Heh, I am making up for lost time. So… go on, try this dish. Nothing stopping you from topping up your rice or reaching for that second piece of chappati to mop up every last bit of butter chicken on your plate. Go ahead, I won’t tell. I know you want to.

So excuse me now as I go stuff my face with those luscious indian sweets…



Vegetables In Disguise

I woke up feeling famished. Weird. I had ice-cream buffet the night before. Cooking up a bowl of instant noodles sounded tempting, but after walking to the kitchen… nah… not feeling it anymore. So I bribed promised The Boy some belgian waffles, and we hustled to ‘Bux for some morning bites. As we sat for a while filling our stomachs, I had to think hard (very darned difficult during weekend mornings) what to whip up in the kitchen today… The Hubster’s at work, so I’ve got to come up with something quite substantial to feed the caveman when he returns to the BatCave (he wishes!) later.

Was thinking of making personal pizzas again, but… nah… shelved. Then I thought… hey… Sheperd’s Pie. Or Cottage Pie. Or whatever Pie you want to call it. But since both The Hubster and I are on a mission to lose weight, I had to switch the lovely carb-loaded mashed potatoes to something else… but what? Well, read on and find out, then!!!

SHAFFY’S SHEPHERD PIE (makes 2 nos 8” x 8” pans)


Olive or canola oil

1-2 tbsp butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

750g ground meat – chicken, turkey, beef, lamb… whatever rocks your boat

Mixed herbs

1 bay leaf

A handful of fresh basil, chopped

Small bag of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed slightly

About a handful of cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters

1 small tin tomato sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste


2 small potatoes, peeled, cubed

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets, centre stem minced fine (nothing goes to waste)

4 tbsp butter, cubed

Small tub of light sour cream, regular sour cream is alright too

Shredded cheddar

Chives, chopped

Dried parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste


Shredded cheddar

Parsley flakes

Mixed herbs

:: disclaimer… since this is a ‘cooking’ recipe, not so much a ‘baking’ recipe, my ingredient quantities are usually approximates. Go with what you feel… a pinch more of this, a dash more of that, depending on what your tastebuds say, hmmmmkayyyy? But if you’re on a mission to clear out dying vegetables and frostbitten leftovers from the refrigerator, be my guest, add them in too, but I won’t be held responsible for the end result. ::


Heat up a good glug of oil and butter in a sauté pan. When the butter has melted, throw in the diced onion and sauté till soft and translucent

Add in the ground meat of choice, letting it cook on medium-heat until it begins to brown, then add in the mixed herbs, bay leaf and chopped fresh basil

Once the liquid has evaporated a little, toss in the thawed frozen mixed vegetables and quartered cherry tomatoes, stir about occasionally until the veggie bits are cooked through

Chuck in the tin of tomato sauce (contents only!) and stir thoroughly

Give it a quick taste, does it need more herbs to kick it up? Add it in. Throw in some salt and ground pepper to balance it out, no specific amounts, just adjust accordingly

Once the taste is balanced out, turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf


Bring a pot of water to a boil, throw in the diced potatoes

When they are partially tender, dump in the prepped cauliflower, reduce the heat, let the water return to a simmer

Use a fork to mash up a few pieces of cauliflower and potatoes to test on the tenderness (I personally prefer it to have a good mix of chunky pieces in my mash, but I have a couple of veggie-phobes at home, so it has to be quite tender and not “grass-tasting” to tempt them to even think about seeing the food)

Once they are done to your tenderness preference, drain them thoroughly in a colander and return them back to the pot

Immediately add in the cubed butter, about three tablespoonfuls of sour cream, a handful of shredded cheddar, chopped chives and dried parsley. Mash them all up real good with a potato masher

Taste as you mash… what does it lack? Creaminess? Need a little more cheddar cheese? Want a little more herb-y kick? Only add in the salt and pepper in the end, because the sharpness and saltiness of your cheddar also plays a part. Once the topping’s taste is to your liking, you can start assembling your Shepherd Pie

(you can choose to steam your potatoes and cauliflower instead of boiling them; but I couldn’t be bothered to dig out my steamer from the store room today)


Preheat your oven to 180C. get ready your baking pans (I usually use the disposable aluminium pans… one less thing to clean up)

Equally divide the filling among the two pans

Then equally divide the topping on top of it, spreading it carefully to totally cover the filling and shredded cheese

Using a fork, drag the tines lightly across the top to even out the surface and neaten the edges

Sprinkle with shredded cheddar, parsley flakes and mixed herbs. How much cheese you want to add at this stage, is up to you.

Bake it in the oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and nicely melted, NOT burnt

Let it cool for about 5-10 minutes for the pie to somewhat set up before cutting, or you might end up with a goopy mess. (Well, unless you are a sadistic person and have a sick sense of humour, serve it up immediately and watch people burn their tongues.)

My resident veggie-phobe, The Girl, inhaled two portions in one go. She didn’t even realize that she was eating cauliflower (BIG WIN FOR ME!) . She just thought I made the mashed potatoes a little differently… but of course! She enjoyed it so much, she didn’t even bother to pick out the veggie bits in the filling.

I thoroughly enjoyed making this dish spontaneously, but my adrenaline rush fizzled out after taking them out of the oven. It totally killed my appetite, but I was contented with just watching my army finish their portions and go for seconds. And because there isn’t much potatoes in the topping, The Hubster finished his plate totally. One thing’s for sure… I’ll be using this topping version from now on. Lighter and less carbohydrates than the 100% potatoes version, it doesn’t leave one feeling queasy after eating, but still fills you up real good.

my plate of noms

** Honestly, it was only hours later after everyone was done, that I felt hungry enough to cut myself a portion and enjoy it with a side of mesclun salad. And THEN found out that we had run out of Sriracha Cock Sauce. Major bummer. Then I spied my salvation… Lingham’s chilli sauce saves the day! **


p.s. : I have tried making pizza bases with blitzed cauliflower too, but they disappeared from the pans before I could smear the sauce and add the toppings.  They ended up being breadless breadsticks. Eh.

p.p.s. :  Try making cauliflower popcorn. Trust me. Do not under-estimate this plain looking vegetable. You do not know what you’re missing!

p.p.p.s. :  Yes, I know I owe people the Apple Bundt Cake and Italian Stew recipes… this scatter-brain can’t  remember on where she has kept them for safe-keeping (because she didn’t want to lose the recipes in the first place. How bo-DOH!!)… I need to eat some gingko nuts… Damn, I haven’t had some killer Or Nee in ages!

. . . and here we go again . . .

Time to wipe off the dust… and get my awful act together!!

It has been AGES since I last posted anything here. Felt a little stupid while trying to log-in to my blog just now. Not only did I have trouble finding the log-in button (BO…), I also forgot my password (…DOH!!!). Like a dear friend would say… “thirty-five thousand”.

School assignments and other mundane, eye-ball-gouging issues have siphoned whatever was left of my free time. Even my experimental activities went southwards. Raided my baking supplies early this month, and there were bags (!!!) of expired stuff that I had to match-make with Mr.GC. Found a few tools and stuff still intact and brand new in their packaging – a micro-plane (from Tangs), a mini-blowtorch (from Phoon Huat), a stack of new measuring cups (from NTUC) and tons of cupcake cases and parchment paper. Wastage alert!!!

I guess my sudden disinterest in baking was due partly also to my intensive effort to lose the jigglies. A little happy to report, I am s..l..o..w..l..y reaching my goal. But truthfully, gastronomical temptations… ohmyword… are my downfall. It doesn’t have to be fancy – softened cream cheese on lightly toasted bread, topped with strawberries or blueberries – easily make me smile. Heck, who am I kidding… bread slathered with condensed milk and heaped wtih powdered milo or freshly toasted bread with a thick layer of butter and sprinkled with sugar is enough to make me bounce off the walls!! What can I say, I am a Bread Baby ;P

Bear with me, okay, as I try to recap what the Kitchen Klutz has been up to for the past half a year? But first I’ve got to crank up Miss A, there’s some bread pudding to be baked for tonight’s night race on tv!!

Toffee Toodles now,

Simple but Scrumptious

I misplaced an old recipe for baked chicken wings. And that made me very miserable. Because I was hankering for some caramelized, finger-lickin’ goodness. I tossed and turned, thinking of those succulent chicken wings. I grabbed my handphone in frustration and went on And almost immediately, I stumbled onto a recipe. It wasn’t exactly the same recipe, but it was close enough. I bookmarked it, plugged my handphone back to its’ charger and fell asleep. Yes, I don’t read bedtime stories to fall asleep, I surf for recipes. And I either fall asleep happy with my bookmarks or fall asleep hungry.


2kgs chicken wings

2 tbsp canola oil

1/2 cup light soy sauce

2 tbsp ketchup

1 cup honey

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp cornflour

Salt & pepper, to taste

Oven : 200C

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine oil, light soy sauce, ketchup, honey, garlic and cornflour

**the original recipe indicates to sprinkle the salt and pepper just before chucking the chicken pieces in the oven, but since I had kids in the house, I added them all in the beginning, in the saucepan, so that the pepper taste mellowed out**

Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, taste the marinade as you go, and adjust accordingly to your own tastes

Set aside to cool slightly while you clean the chicken wings. Separate the drumlets from the wings. Score the fleshy meat of the drumlets to allow the marinade to infuse better

In a big bowl, toss the chicken pieces and the marinade together

Transfer them into a ziplock bag and chuck ‘em in the fridge for a bit. 30 minutes seem ok for me. (I was impatient). But you know, the longer, the better.

**I separated the wings seperately from the drumlets, because drumlets have a little more meat, and they take a slightly longer time for the marinade to seep through. And that I am a little anal about little details wasn’t  the main reason. Haha!**

Preheat your oven while preparing the baking sheets.

Line your baking sheets with aluminium foil (easy cleanup, no scrubbing later) and lightly spray with olive oil

Lay your chicken pieces in a single layer, spooning over some of the marinade

Bake them in the oven for 40 minutes, turning them once midway into the cooking time (at 20 minutes, duh!) and basting them with a little more of the marinade

Once they’re done, transfer them onto a serving platter and spoon over any remaining caramelized sauce left behind on the baking sheet.

For once, attack while still hot. Yes, you’ll get burnt tongues and fingers, but they’re SO worth it. No accompanying sauces needed. If you have leftovers, and that’s a big if, pick the meat off the bones and use it as pizza toppers. Slather some pasta sauce on slightly flattened pieces of bread, sprinkle the chicken meat and top with shredded cheddar. Broil them in the toaster oven for a few minutes, and ta-dah!!, you have some home-made pizza.


My Happy Mistake

I’ve been feeling rather antsy and restless these past few days. I don’t know, it’s like waiting for something to happen. But I don’t know what… when… where… And it’s really getting to me. Yesterday, I re-visited an old favourite, and overloaded on the chocolate bits. Pure heavenly bliss. But somehow it still left me wanting.
So today, I went the healthy route (no chocolates involved) and made some muffins.


1 cup uncooked quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)

2 cups water (to cook the quinoa)

2 cups plain flour

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup vegetable oil – I prefer canola

1 apple, peeled and chopped

A pinch of cinnamon


Oven : 175C

12 muffin cases

Rinse the quinoa and cook it in a saucepan with the water

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer

Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender

Turn off the fire and set aside to cool

While the quinoa is cooking, prep your other stuff…

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon

Whisk it well to break up the brown sugar clumps

Prep the apple : peel, quarter, chop – stir it into the flour mix

In another bowl, combine the milk, egg, vanilla and oil

Whisk it well to combine everything

When the quinoa has cooled sufficiently, dump it into the flour mix

Stir it until well combined

Drizzle in the wet stuff and stir it up real good until just mixed

Scoop batter evenly into prepared cases

Bake for 20-25 minutes (poke with a skewer to check for done-ness)

Remove from oven and cool for a bit before eating them.

Don’t be greedy like me. I ate them straight out of the oven. Burnt my tongue real good. The thing is… after I placed the muffins in the oven and started washing up the utensils…..


But it has happened before. Waaaaaay in the beginning, I baked a batch of muffins, sans eggs. That batch went from oven straight to trash. No point salvaging. But that’s another story for another time. And that is where I am actually The Bumbling Baker, heh.

Anyway… this time, after hyper-ventilating and some hand-wringing, I stood transfixed infront of the oven, waiting for something to happen. Eh… my babies didn’t rise much. After the timer went off, I took the muffins out of the oven and promptly chomped into one. Not bad actually. I kinda liked it. It didn’t feel heavy at all. Burnt tongue aside, I loved how the chopped apples softened slightly, and with the cinnamon, was just perfect. It balances well with the nutty taste of the quinoa, and the brown sugar wasn’t overpowering, it just slightly sweetened the muffin.

I still haven’t tried this recipe with oil in it, but I think I’ll stick to my accidental version that doesn’t contain any oil. Maybe the juicy apples helped in keeping it moist. Or maybe next time replace the oil with apple sauce. And add a pinch of nutmeg. I think nutmeg will bring it to another level… oh… heaven…

My latest craving satiated, I am already thinking of variations. Maybe next time soak a handful of raisins or dried cranberries in orange juice before adding them in? Or adding in some chopped dates? Or mashed bananas and chopped walnuts? Or blueberries? Raspberries? Strawberries? Or switch up the plain flour to whole wheat flour? And add about two tablespoonfuls of flaxmeal? The possibilities… endless!!

I’m happy to say, this is one chocolate-less treat that I absolutely love. And the fact that The Army doesn’t really care for cinnamon, I get the whole batch to myself! What more can I ask for?


Junk Food Made Good

The four of us caught some Seuss silliness last Saturday. The kids enjoyed it thoroughly, and The Boy made known to the whole theatre what he thought of it : “THAT WAS A SUPER AWESOME MOVIE, MUM!!” The bag I was carrying wasn’t big enough for me to hide in, unfortunately. But seriously, The Captain and I were left wondering… why call it The Lorax, when the story was about Once-Ler? But whatevs, the kids were entertained. And they were happy that they could stuff their faces with sweet popcorn and cheesy nachos and inhale a big tumbler of carbonated drink. I have to say, though, dealing with a super hyper six year old after the movie was the best bit of the whole evening. my patience and sanity as a mother was really tested.

I felt the need to win back some points for being a mean mum to The Boy the night before, so on Sunday, I decided to make his favourite, Baked Pasta. And plus I wanted to use up a bag of opened Lays Potato Chips. The saltiness of that stuff made me cringe. It never happened to me before. Something is really wrong with me. Must be the age. Or my current state of mind. Or just plain PMS. But anyways, yeah, I incorporated potato chips into baked pasta. Heh.


(or whatever you want to call it)

Enough cooked pasta to feed your army – whichever type… up to you

Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup (or chicken, or broccoli, or potato)

Sliced button mushroom

Diced onion

Diced yellow, green, red bell peppers

Diced celery : go for organic if you can – why?

tinned tuna

*steamed broccoli florets

*steamed cauliflower florets

*roasted garlic

(*next time, I’ll add these in)

Shredded cheddar

A big bag of potato chips, crushed to bits

A splash of milk

Italian herbs

Pizza topper herbs

Salt and pepper to taste


Oven temp : 180C

Baking pan, lined with foil and very generously sprayed with olive oil

(easy clean-up, no scrubbing – I’m lazy like that)

(or just use those disposable foil tins)


**There isn’t any specific quantities in this particular recipe, cos I was just winging it. I opened my fridge’s crisper and used up whatever vegetables were left**

While boiling the pasta, dice the onions, bell peppers and celery.

I tool the easy way out and bought the pre-sliced mushrooms.

Open up your cream of “something” soup and set it aside

Open up the canned tuna (depends how many tins you want to use, I used two),

drain the liquid and flake the fish, set aside

Heat up a skillet and pour in some olive oil

Sauté the onions, bell peppers, celery and mushrooms until slightly tender

Season with herbs, salt and pepper

Set aside to cool slightly

At this stage, preheat the oven

In a big mixing bowl, dump in the cooked pasta and cream of something soup

Mix in thoroughly

Then dump in the canned tuna, again mixing thoroughly

Then the sautéed vegetables

Then throw in a few handfuls of shredded cheddar and season with herbs, salt and pepper

If the whole mix looks a little dry, drizzle in some milk, but not too much,

you don’t want it to be soggy, just enough to bind everything together

Set aside


Now’s the time to make your super yummy topping…

On a plate, pour out the crushed potato chips

(some pieces or a handful might accidentally land in your mouth, it’s ok)

Add about 3 handfuls of cheddar cheese

Mix it all up real good

Set it aside and stop picking on it… I mean it!!


Scoop the pasta mix into your prepared baking pan

Add the topping on top of it

Be generous, skimping is totally not accepted

Then sprinkle some pizza topper herbs

Chuck the whole gig into your oven for about 30 minutes,

until the cheese has melted – but not burnt – burnt cheese is awful

Cool for about 10-15 minutes before sticking your knife in it (Freddy-style) and sharing it with others

Warning though: your knees might shake in anticipation of the crispy crushed chips and melty gooey cheese. Or maybe that’s just me. I made a 9”x9” pan, and 1/3 of it was gone on 5 minutes. My two spawns kids inhaled them. With tomato ketchup. Wuss! I had them (the baked pasta, not my kids) with my all favourite cock sauce. Sriracha. Nice.

This recipe can also be made into single portions; baked in cupcake liners or ramekins (grease with olive oil thoroughly). Portion control. Yeah. Something which I failed miserably over the weekend.


Birthdays and Cakes

So my little drama boy had his birthday last week. And his crazy (understatement there) mom decided to bite off more than she can chew. A fully frosted rainbow layer cake (+ lots of tears and cussings) and 48 rainbow cupcakes later… I am all baked-out. I swore never to be crazy again (hah!) and attempt such a thing again as I packed away my KM mixer back into its’ box. Not only did that grand misadventure suck up all of my energy, I was reduced to a blabbering fool as I struggled to string words together to make a sentence. Plus the fact I only had 3 hours of sleep in two days… the grey matter up there was in no mood to cooperate, coaxing it as gently as I could.

Cutting a long story short – cake was a success, though my frosting skills still suck. I will NOT be uploading the disastrous end product, in case it somehow ends up on . And thank goodness I still had a semblance of some sense to buy (oh, the blasphemy – supermum – yay!!) a back-up cake to bring to school for his birthday. The spawns of evil adorable children wiped out all the cupcakes and the store-bought chocolate truffle cake. The kids’ reaction when I walked into class with three cake boxes… priceless. Good thing their eyeballs didn’t start to roll all over the classroom floor. And me being a zombie, forgot to take pictures.

After singing the birthday song and cutting the cake, the kids lined up and were given a boring cupcake (at first) with boring cream cheese frosting and blah sprinkles on top. They were a little disappointed (ungrateful little devils), picking miserably on the cupcake’s frosting while eyeing the chocolate truffle cake longingly. But when they started to peel away the cupcake liners… all hell broke loose in class. Shrieks of “So pretty!” and “There’s a rainbow in my cake!” were heard all around. Needless to say, yeap, my cupcakes went down very well. After finishing their cupcakes, they lined up to get a slice of the chocolate cake. These little buggers have endless pits for stomachs, I guess, cos a two-kilogram cake was nearly wiped out in minutes!! And, erh, apologies to a few mothers, whose kids had frosting and cream and whatnots smeared all on the front of their school uniforms. Because they couldn’t wait to get back to their seats to eat the cake. Sheesh!!!

To borrow the idea (well, not the exact words) from one of my favourite mommy-chick-lit books “The Secret Mothers’ Club”… kids are simple to please. It doesn’t matter what kind of cake it is. Just slap on store-bought artificial frosting on a store-bought sponge cake, stick a few candles in ot and call it a birthday cake. In the end, who are you trying to impress? The kids or the adult? Or just plain selfish self satisfaction?

These words kept running through my mind as I limped my way to the doctor’s a few days later for my swollen knee. Yes, I am a warrior mother, and I am a sucker for self-inflicted torture.