Monday, October 17, 2011

Thanksgiving round 2!

I get hungry when I'm alone.

I got jealous when Justin said he was getting a FREE BUSINESS CLASS trip HOME!  What made me even more jealous was that he was going to get THANKSGIVING TURKEY as well!

My oven in Singapore definitely isn't big enough for a turkey and I'm pretty sure if I left the oven on for that long my house would resemble Dante's inferno.

So I compromised with myself - my desires with reality - and made some delicious Butternut Squash Pasta.

I found this great website filled with Fall Recipes that turned out great.  Although it seems like every food blog out there is consumed with pumpkin and squash recipes - I made three recipes from this blog and all three turned out to be fantastic!  Between ravenous bites of this pasta I also managed to scarf down a few slices of pumpkin bread and a few carrot cupcakes too - the cream cheese icing recipe was amazing!  They tasted just like they'd come out of a bakery.

Just looking at this picture makes me want to grab the leftover icing in my fridge and eat it with a spoon!

I took these cupcakes with me when I met friends at Bungy Bar for the rugby game.  I got more than one incredibly strange looks, a few laughs, but also a lot of compliments.  Maybe they weren't the best choice for a hot equatorial afternoon but I will keep bringing baked goods to pubs as long as they let me!

Please try the pasta - it is a thanksgiving meal in 45 minutes!

Roasted Butternut and Bacon Pasta (serves 2 very hungry people - or 1 for a weekend)

1/2 Butternut Squash, peeled and seeded, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 small red onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
2 servings of your favourite short-cut pasta
200g back bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped sage
grated Parmesan for topping

Once you have peeled and cut the squash, spread it onto a foil covered baking sheet.  Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the squash and lightly toss to coat.  Spread chopped onions over the squash and season with S&P.  Bake at 200C for 45 minutes, until soft and lightly browned on the edges.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water until al dente.  Set aside.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy water from the pasta.

Saute the bacon in a frying pan or skillet for 4-5 minutes.  Add the sage and butter and saute for 30 seconds. 

Add the frying pan contents to your pasta.  Remove squash from oven and add to pasta as well.  Lightly toss, adding the cooking water as needed, until you've reached a desired consistency (not watery, not dry).

Serve immediately and top with freshly grated parmesan!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Well, I did it.  I finished the New Balance Real Run 10k this morning.  It wasn't easy.

While I was running I was reminded of a scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (starring Kevin Costner!).  At one point in the film the merry men are training in Sherwood Forest.  The youngest boy is practicing archery and shoots a bulls-eye.  Then Robin comes along and says "very good - but can you do it amongst distraction?"  At this point Robin grazes the boy's face with an arrow while he's trying to shoot - resulting in a horrible shot.

That's what this race was like today - full of distractions...

I woke up at 4:45AM - on a SUNDAY!  This was so that I could get to the race venue by 5:30 - before they closed the roads and diverted all traffic.

I got a cab quickly and told the driver to take me to Changi Exhibition Centre.  Then, because I was so tired, I kinda stopped paying attention, tried to relax, and before I knew it I was at the SINGAPORE exhibition centre - NOT the same place.

So the cab driver leaves me at this dark, deserted location as I try to give him the benefit of the doubt by looking around the block to ensure that I indeed was in the wrong place.  Of course I was, which meant that I had to find a cab ASAP so that I could get to the CEC before the road closure - stressful?!

Luckily I found a cab, got to the venue and prepared myself for the run.  The run begins quickly, and I'm off.

The NB real run was advertised as a 10k run with 1.5 k of sand and 1.5 k of trail.  The trail should have been advertised as sand as well.  As I started the race I thought, oh, this sand isn't too bad, I can get through this ok - and I did.  But then at the 6k mark we get to the REAL sand - slanted towards the water, littered with -well - litter, and as hard as can be.  To top it all off we faced the sun at this point, which decided to show its hot, shining face for the first time in weeks.  In addition to these "distractions" there was also the fact that we were running adjacent to the airport and so every 15 minutes or so the ground began to tremble as a 747 took off meters above our heads.  Ahhh...I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning!

Needless to say, conditions weren't great.  I managed to finish the race in about 58 mins - obviously a slower than normal time but considering the terrain I was pretty proud of myself.  Unfortunately there was no one around who I knew to revel in this accomplishment as the two people who were supposed to run with me had to back out for (understandable?) reasons.

This race made me realize how lonely running can be.  It really sucks having to go to a giant expo centre and stretch, hydrate, and stress all by myself.  I really didn't enjoy it much at all, even though I'm usually fine with being by myself.  Maybe I need a running partner?  I thought I had two, but they turned out to be unreliable which is the worst quality in a exercise partner of any kind.  Hmmm...something to keep thinking about, I guess.

Thanksgiving in Style

Last Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving.  While the rest of my friends and family were enjoying Turkey dinner complete with stuffing, pie and mashed potatoes (drool), Justin and I celebrated the holiday by booking a table at the St. Regis restaurant, Brasserie des Saveurs.

This isn't a normal occurrence for us.  Usually we like to keep to relatively casual restaurants where Justin can sit comfortably in shorts and no one needs to dress up but this week was Singapore Restaurant Week!  Similar to Toronto's Summerlicious, Singapore Restaurant Week allows customers to try a set meal at normally expensive restaurants for a fraction of the price.  By the time I got onto the booking site, most of the top restaurants had been chosen but I was able to get a booking for the Brasserie.

So what did we eat, do you ask? 

Justin and I both chose the French Onion Soup as our starter.  I mean, when in a French restaurant we'd might as well, right?

The soup was served as a small mold of caramelized onions at the bottom of the bowl.  The server then came over and poured the broth over top and topped with this lovely toasted sourdough finger smothered in cheese.

Our mains:

Justin was VERY impressed with the pork belly and mashed potatoes.  I tried a bite and declared that I "love fat now".  It literally melted in my mouth in a way that only slow cooked pork can - delish!

I decided on the Artichoke and Parmesan Risotto - yes in the picture it looks like rice pudding - but I guess that's what a lot of Risotto looks like doesn't it?  To be honest, it wasn't something to write home about (even though I guess that's what I'm doing right now...)

Dessert on the other hand was my favourite.  How can you go wrong with fresh raspberry sorbet and chocolate-passionfruit cake?

This dessert had such a great combination of textures and flavours - it was wonderfully satisfying.

Overall, it was a great experience and we're looking forward to trying a different venue for the next Restaurant Week - maybe The Cliff at Sentosa??  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sweet Tooth

I have been following this really fun but also incredibly dangerous blog, ironically written by someone named Jessica.  I think we have more in common than just our names because her love of sweets is both shockingly beautiful and disgusting - she has recipes for "better than crack" brownies and also "peanut butter bacon" blondies.  This woman takes unhealthy food to a new level.  But I love it.

I tried two of her recipes over the past few days.  The Baileys Brownies were a total flop - did not solidify at all (however that didn't keep me from snacking on the crispy edges all morning) and the Peanut Butter Frosted Chocolate Chip Blondies which were so dangerously sweet that I decided only my 13 year old students would like them.

I was both right and wrong.  My students LOVED them and commented that they tasted like "snickers bars" and "reece's peanut butter cups" which are awesome compliments.  I had a few left-over and threw them on to the staff room table where they were gobbled up in seconds.  So I guess they were great for both kids and adults, even though they had about a pound of butter in them!  I'm sure no adult wants to hear that (don't  look at the photos below if you want to delude yourself into thinking that squares are healthy)...

This bowl is pretty much butter, sugar, and a pile of choc chips!

Wait wait...I'm not done yet.

My plan was to make the Bailey's Brownies for my friend Mark's birthday.  Since they flopped, I had to come up with a new plan.  So I made these Chocolate Banana Breakfast Bars and my no-fail Chocolate Chip Blondies.  Both were a hit at the party, even though I got distracted watching Sex and the City and left the Blondies in the oven too long.
These Banana Chips added great texture to the squares!

It was a lot of fun baking these treats - far more fun than the 12k run that I didn't do (but plan to accomplish this afternoon - I hope).  With all the holidays and festivities coming up in the next couple of months, hopefully I will be able to experiment with a few more sweet treats!

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Blondies (from 500 Cookies by Philippa Vanstone, Quintet Pub. Ltd. London, 2005)

You will need a scale for this recipe - or you can convert measurements online.

150g Plain Flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt (about 1/4 tsp)
115g unsalted butter
200g light brown sugar (reg brown sugar is fine but blondies will be less "blonde")
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
115g plain chocolate chips (I usually use more than this)
115g coarsly chopped walnuts (I don't add these because I don't like mixing healthy stuff with unhealthy stuff)

Preheat oven to 175c or 350f.  Line an 8 inch square tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

Cut Butter into chunks and melt in a saucepan over very low heat (do not burn the butter!).  Remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar.  Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth.  Stir in flour mixture with a spoon and add chocolate chips/walnuts.  Spread mixture into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.  

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin.  Lift blondies out by the parchment and slice into squares on a chopping board.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I love my friend Kathryn

My friend Kathryn is the best.

She lives in Brisbane, Australia - the closest western country to Singapore (that is also packed with tons of delicious foodie treats).  Every once in a while she sends some culinary goodies my way, which makes an ordinary day feel like Christmas!  
Most of the freckles above are gone, but I'm still trying to think of what to make with these choc bits...
I also got this sweet cook book:

It is hundreds of pages of amazing recipes

AND I also got this super amazing recipe planner book, which is way better than the sticker-covered plastic box that I've been using since high-school.

These treats are going to keep me entertained for HOURS!  Kathryn is the best :)  All I need now is the time to actually sit down and take a look at them....hmmm...probably not until my reports are done and the school concert is over.  That also means less recipe blogs this week but I do have one or two new recipes to share and a couple of other surprises too!  I swear, I am interesting - don't abandon me yet!