Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My first attempt at bread making

RG and I usually have bread for breakfast. Over here, we noticed that most breads have got very high corn syrup and salt content. And one loaf of bread which is of a better quality (low sugar/salt) will cost about USD4 (incl taxes) which we would usually finish in 2-3 days. So, we'd have to spend at least USD12 per week just on bread (this translates to approx SGD17). So I figured it might be worthwhile for me to bake my own breads for a healthier and cheaper option.

I've never baked a loaf of bread before and hence I wanted to start with something real easy. I found a simple enough recipe with the least number of ingredients online. However, the recipe yields at least 3 loaves of bread which is a little too much for us...so I modified the recipe a little to yield just one small loaf (in case my first attempt flop big time and I end up with 3 horrible loaves of inedible bread!).

The recipe just calls for 5 ingredients - I'm only short of 2 which were bread flour and active dry yeast and a quick trip to the supermarket fixed that.

1 cup of warm water (~110F)
1/3 cup white sugar (you can reduce it like I do if you don't want too much sugar in your diet)
3/4 tablespoon of active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon of salt (I've omitted salt but you can add if you'd like some savory taste)
1/8 cup of vegetable oil
3 cups of bread flour

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water in a large mixing bowl.
Then stir in yeast and allow to proof till the mixture is slightly creamy.
Add salt and oil into the mixture.
Then add in flour one cup at a time to mix (add a tiny bit of water at a time if the dough appears too dry)
Lightly flour a clean kitchen top surface and knead the dough until smooth.
Lightly grease (I use an oil spray) a bowl and put the dough into it and flip it so that the dough is coated with a little grease.
Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it rise for about an hour (dough should roughly double its size).
Punch dough down a couple of times and then knead it for a couple of minutes.
Shape the dough into a loaf and place it into a small loaf pan that has been greased.
Allow the dough to rise for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F and bake the loaf for 30 minutes.

Well...the bread turned out quite good I must say, considering this is my first attempt. The texture is soft and fluffy while the crust is nicely browned. The taste is quite good too. I'm very encouraged by the successful outcome and will definitely be looking forward to baking more of my own breads!


If you don't already know, RG and I really love lighthouses. There's just something so special about them. I recalled writing about this in my Byron Bay posting (dated 21 Jan 2009).

Being in the coastal region has given us many opportunities to visit the lighthouses that are scattered all over the Cape Cod area. The lighthouses come in different shapes, sizes and colors...and each lighthouse can look different when viewed from different perspectives i.e the viewing angles, the time of the year/month/day.

So far, we've only visited 3 of the lighthouses (1 in Mattapoisett and 2 in Newport) but we'll definitely find time for more of them. Here's a collection of my favorite shots of the lighthouses around our area...enjoy!

Well, check out the lighthouses on our vehicle number plate, placemat as well as table lamp!

Monday, September 28, 2009

My neighbour and her vegetable plot

Last weekend, we invited our neighbour (TP) over for lunch. As I know TP likes spicy food, I decided to make sambal fried rice, korma chicken, chickpea curry and some sweet and spicy prawns. TP brought dessert which was an apple crisp baked with acushnet apples, blueberries and strawberries. We had a long lunch..just enjoying the food, dessert and chatted to our hearts content.

TP also brought us to her little vegetable plot after lunch to show us all the vegetables that she has grown i.e. tomato, eggplant, bell peppers, lettuce, basil, cucumber etc. I was so thrilled to see all the vegetables hanging off the branches of the actual plants...the only place that I had ever seen those vegetables were on the shelves of supermarkets! Seeing how excited we were over the vegetables, TP took out her garden shears and started cutting off some ripe vegetables from her plants to give to us. She gave us 3 eggplants and 2 cucumbers that we are planning to make some nice sandwiches and to cook an eggplant curry with.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Last weekend was the 40th Annual Bourne Scallop Festival. It was a 3-day event and the organiser anticipated that at least 50,000 people would turn up for it. As we were in the vicinity on Friday, we decided to check it out early so as to avoid the crowd which was expected to thicken over the weekend. And it was so bright and sunny that day...just the perfect weather to attend such outdoor events!

When we reached the venue, we were happy to see only a small crowd. General admission fee was $5...and for $17/$19, one could get a chicken/scallop meal in addition to the admission fee. As RG and I already had lunch, we decided to only get one scallop meal ticket. 2 large tents had been set up for the event. 1 of them was for the "Professional Arts & Crafts Fair and Home Show" while the other was the food hall where one could buy food, sit down to eat and enjoy music from the live bands.

After a quick tour around the fair, we headed for the food hall eagerly as we were looking forward to the scallops. Patrons with the meal tickets were to proceed to one end of the food hall to collect their scallop/chicken dinners. There was hardly a queue and I managed to get my scallop meal almost immediately. The serving staff piled french fries, coleslaw, roll, butter and at least a dozen huge deep fried scallops onto the plate. I also had a choice of a soda which was sponsored by Coca-Cola. The serving staff told me that they had served over 3 tonnes of scallops during last year's event. That's a lot of scallops indeed! I had to walk very slowly to the table where RG was seated as I didn't want any scallops rolling off the plate.

There were other food stalls selling beer, wine, chowder, lobster rolls, raw seafood, hotdogs, burgers, strawberry pancakes etc. We couldn't resist buying a lobster roll ($15), scallop chowder ($5) and fried oysters (3 for $4) and IPA ($5 a cup). The lobster roll was kinda expensive but well worth the money because they stuffed so much lobster meat into the roll and it tasted so fresh and succulent. The scallop meal was just as mouthwatering as the scallops were really big and juicy. We ate while enjoying some country rock music from the band called Plymouth Fury.

We were absolutely stuffed after our big yummy meal...so we decided to take a walk around the outdoor amusement park. Many kiddie rides were brought in for the event and there were also game stores where you can try your hand at winning some really attractive prices such as very huge stuff toys. While we didn't take any rides or play any games, we enjoyed watching others do all those...and seeing the smiles on their faces.

We left before it got dark. It was a very interesting and fun experience for us. We definitely look forward to attending many more such events.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What do you do when you have too many apples?

Make an apple pie of course!

It was RG's birthday and I wanted to bake him something. Seeing that I have got more apples than we can possibly chew...I decided on an apple pie.

I've never baked an apple pie before 'cos it seems so leychey. But we are in America, where there are quick easy solutions to all of our problems.

A quick stopover at the supermarket and I've got all the necessary stuffs to put together an apple pie in the quickest time and with the least effort.

Although the pie didn't look as beautiful as those in Martha's magazines, it tasted great. Most importantly, the birthday boy loved it!

One 9" pie crust
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
1/4 cup of water
6-8 apples - peeled, cored and sliced into thin pieces
1 box of apple crisp (8.50z)
5 tablespoons of butter (slightly melted)

Preheat oven to 425F
Melt butter in a sauce pan and stir in flour. Add white sugar, brown sugar and water. Bring the mixture to boil and then reduce temperature to allow it to simmer for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill the crust with the sliced apples. Then pour the mixture over the apples.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425F.
Prepare the apple crisp mixture by rubbing in the slightly melted butter into the mix with your fingers until even.
Remove the apple pie from the oven after 15 min and spread the apple crisp mixture evenly over the pie.
Return the pie to the oven to bake at 350F for another 30-35min.

The Americans seem to like their desserts really sweet. If you don't like it too sweet, you can probably reduce the sugar quantities to just 1/3 cup each (it also depends on how sweet/sour your apples are). You can also make your own pie crust and pie topping. I'm just too lazy to do so. You can also place another piece of pie crust over the apples instead of using the crisp. I like the crisp 'cos it gives the pie a crunchy texture.

This little coastal town called Marion

Seeing that it was a sunny and beautiful day on Monday, we decided to leave the car at home and took a walk around the town...but not without my camera of course!
This town may be little but it has got big charms! Enjoy the photos.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gone are the concrete jungles

I've lived in Singapore for the last 34 years of my life. I've gotten so used to the high-rise buildings, skyscrapers that it's kinda weird to have vast open views of the sky...totally unblocked by tall buildings. I've almost forgotten how blue and clear the sky can be.

Surrounding our new home is a beautiful garden...lovingly cared for by my landlords before they left the house to us. And behind the house is a small woods where little animals lurked.

Everyday, we'll see little squirrels and rabbits hopping around in the garden. It's obviously a common sight to the residents here...but we were so thrilled the first time we saw a bunny in the yard...and we still are.

According to my neighbour, she had seen wild turkeys too!! Hopefully, the turkeys don't pick a day like thanksgiving or x'mas to run amok.

With nature so close by...it's not hard to smell the roses everyday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our new home - Part 2

So this quiet little town that we've decided to live in has a population of just slightly over 5,000 people. However during summer, due to the attraction of the sun, sand and sea, the population would swell to over 20,000.

This beautiful Victorian-style house that we've rented was built in 1905. It has a living area of over 1,800sqft and a gross area of 3,300 if including the porch, deck, storage areas and wood. Such a house would easily cost over USD700,000 to purchase and yet the rent is relatively low. With the same rent that we are paying for this house, I doubt we'll even be able to rent a 4-room HDB flat back in Singapore!

While the house is over 100 years old, it is not dilapidated at all. It appears that much remodeling and renovation works had been carried out by the various owners over the years.

Given that the landed properties in Singapore are so costly, we can only dream to live in such houses. I'm happy that we've got this chance to enjoy this charming century old house at least for now.

Here are some photos of the house that I'd like to share with you. The credit goes to my landlords who obviously have great tastes in home furnishings and decorations.