Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ultra moist & citrusy triple fruit poppy seed cake

I told TP that I'd make dessert for our Thanksgiving dinner tonight. Initially, I thought of making some brownie but I thought it might be a tad too rich after a heavy I changed my mind and decided to go for something more light and citrusy instead.

A peep into the refrigerator and I found lemons, oranges & some peach yoghurt. What a great combination I thought! What can I say....I love my cakes ultra citrusy =)

So, here's my recipe...

3 cups of cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup of butter (softened)
2 cups of white sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup of lemon juice (you can use orange juice too...or combination of both)
1 cup of peach yoghurt (or just regular plan yoghurt or any other flavours)
Zest of 2 large lemons & 1 large orange (any combination or zest from a single fruit would do too)
1/3 cup of poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line two 9x5" loaf pans with baking paper.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add in one egg at a time and continue to mix on medium speed.
Add lemon juice to yoghurt and add into the mixer...alternating between juice/yoghurt and flour mixture. Mix until evenly blended but do not overbeat.
Fold in lemon/orange zest and poppy seeds.
Pour mixture into the pans and smooth tops.
Bake at 350F for 50 minutes. Check doneness by inserting a toothpick into the cake center which should come out clean.
Cool on rack before turning out of pans.

Your kitchen will smell like citrusy heaven when baking this cake.

Here's how my cakes turned out.

The texture is very moist and light....but you'll get some crunch from the little poppy seeds. And the citrus taste is just...hmm hmmm hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy holidays!

This picture will always appear during is a classic and it never fails to make me laugh. I do feel a little sorry for Big Bird...but it's such a hoot seeing the cheeky smiles on Ernie & Bert's faces!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tastes like mom's soup....

I like to cook this 'cos it's SO easy and it reminds me of mom and home. And it's healthy too (I'm sure mom will agree with this).

Sorry I do not have the exact measurements as I normally just put in whatever I have on hand. Seasoning wise, you just add and taste and add some more if needed. The beauty of this soup is that there's no need to be exact. Just add whatever, boil/simmer for as long as it takes to release the flavor from the ingredients, then taste it and adjust seasoning/cooking time accordingly.

Corn (cut into smaller pieces)
Carrots (peeled and cut into smaller pieces)
Potatoes (peeled and cut into smaller pieces)
Chicken pieces (I'd remove skin)
Soup stock
Seasoning (salt, pepper, sesame oil, chinese wine)

Add soup stock & water & seasoning into pot and bring to boil
Add corn, chicken and carrot and bring to boil then reduce flame to simmer
Finally, add potatoes
[Note: Depending on how small pieces you've cut the potatoes into, you'll need to gauge roughly when to add them in as the potatoes tend to disintegrate if you were to cook them for too long]
Let the soup simmer
[Note: How long it takes will depend on the amount of heat that you are cooking with, whether you are using a normal pot or pressure cooker. If unsure, just taste the soup at various stages of simmering. When you can taste all the flavors of the ingredients in the's ready!]

I just love it when the smell of the soup fills up the entire's as if I'm back in my mom's kitchen! This is my chicken soup to cure homesickness =)

One of the most beautiful university campuses...

While I've not been to every university in the states....I'm pretty sure not many of them have such a great location as this one. This is by far the most beautiful campus that I've seen. The sunset views from there are the most amazing and every one of them so different and intriguing. Last Saturday, as we were there to watch the sun go down into the distant horizon...all we could do was to rejoice in the fact that we could live to see it.

America's Hometown Thanksgiving Parade

Last Saturday, we drove up to Plymouth to attend the America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade...which is one of the biggest and best in the united states. Plymouth MA is the birthplace of the parade is not only a well-loved holiday celebration, it is of much historical significance as well.

It was a good thing that we arrived early for the event as the traffic was really bad due to the number of people attending the parade as well as the result of road closures. We parked several streets away from the main event area and found ourselves a place on top of a little hill where we had a birds eye view of the parade.

Together with us were hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country and we had all gathered along the streets to watch history unfold before our eyes. The parade of pilgrims, soldiers, patriots, pioneers and floats (appeared in chronological order from 1600's to 2000's)) told a captivating visual story.

I took hundreds of are just some of them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The $40 cup of cappuccino....'d think at $40 a cup, it'd have to be the finest coffee fit for the connoisseur. Wrong.

The coffee turned out to be a regular one at Seattle's Best for $5...and on top of that, a $35 bank fee on an overdrawn debit card!

The long story goes like this...we had opened two accounts with one of the biggest banks in New England - one checking and the other a savings a/c. And we were each given a debit card which is not any different from the ATM/NETS/DEBIT cards that we have in Singapore.

The checking account pays very little or no interest whereas the savings account does. So obviously, we place most of our money in the savings account with very little going into the checking account - just about enough to cover our rent, utilities and other expenses.

We don't qualify for a credit card yet 'cos we are new to the states with zero credit history. So the only cards that we have are the credit cards from back home and the one and only debit card from our bank here.

In the states, people use their cards for every big and small purchases. I hardly ever see money changing hands at the cashiers. When we first arrived in the states, we used to pay cash for our purchases (in $100/$50 bills) and I often got weird looks from the cashiers and once, a snide comment from a shopowner who asked if my $100 note was real! So when we got our first debit card, we decided to go cashless like everybody else...and it's also easier for us to track our expenses that way without having to keep every single piece of receipt as every single transaction made using our debit card will be recorded and reflected in our monthly bank statement.

We ASSUMED that the debit card here is just like in Singapore. You are allowed to charge on your debit card only for the amount that you have in your bank account. WRONG! Then we ASSUMED again that the debit card is linked to the savings account like back home. WRONG AGAIN!

The debit card is actually linked to the checking account in which we have placed very little money in. And over here, the banks are SO KIND to allow you to overdraw on your debit card even if you don't have $ in your checking account.

So for the first month, we swiped our debit card like nobody's damn business as we needed quite a lot of stuff to settle in. We didn't realise that after our check for the rent (first/last month + 1 week rent) was cleared, we were actually left with very little money in our checking account. And also, not having realised that the debit card is linked to our checking account instead of our savings a/c where all our money is, we overdrew on 4 occasions (in a single day) until we found out about this by chance when we went to the bank to make a wire transfer to New York. We were slapped with a $140 bank charge on 4 overdraws! That was when we realised all our assumptions were dead wrong.

So we went to the bank branch where we had opened our accounts with and explained to the AVP that we were genuniely unaware. She was reluctant at first but she eventually agreed to waive the $140 bank overdraft fee. So I asked her how the banks could ever allow for such overdraft facilities without checking with us or informing us at the very least? And who on earth would pay $35 per overdraft? And she said that's how the banks here work and that's how they earn money. She also said some people would rather pay the bank overdraft fee than be put in an embarrassing situation when the purchases don't go through. But seriously, a 700% interest on a $5 cappuccino just to save some face!!! Purrr-lease...our face is really not worth that much.

Anyway, this overdraft facility also applies to checks. And the sneakiest part is....say if you were to write 4 checks for varying amounts - $900, $50, $20 & $10 and there's actually only $901 left in your checking account....rather than clear the $50, $20 & $10 checks first and then charge you an overdraft fee of $35 on the $900 check ($79 overdrawn) ($901-$50-$20-$10-$900 = -$79)...the banks would clear the $900 check first and then charge you $35 x 3 = $105 for the other 3 small checks.

I hate to say this...but even the loansharks back home seem like much nicer people now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Just want you to know that even though we're not together on your birthday, you're in our hearts and minds today....and every single day.

We wish you good health and much much happiness!

Simple joys of DIY-ing...

Back in Singapore, we were so used to eating out, getting our haircuts at salons, having facials/mani/pedi at beauty shops, getting a contractor for home renovations etc. We had delegated most of these tasks to "service providers". The processes (for a fee) always professional, straightforward and no-fuss.

Here in the states, people tend to be more "hands-on". It's not uncommon to hear of someone saying that he/she had built the patio/kitchen cabinets/hardwood flooring/even the entire house all by himself/herself!

Perhaps you may think it's easier here 'cos the home improvement shops sell all kinds of tools and materials that facilitate DIY-ing...but I tell you it's really no joke to do all these on your own even with the power tools...and most people do it 'cos they actually enjoy it.

While RG and I are not gonna attempt to do home renovations on our own anytime soon...we've been slowly learning and appreciating the joys of simple DIY-ing. RG had put together his own bookshelves, fixed/installed our mailbox, decorated his entire office with art/pictures that he DIY-ed....and I have been doing my own cooking, baking and cutting RG's hair too!

It has been so much fun! And knowing that you are actually capable of doing much more than you think you you a great sense of satisfaction. I used to be focused on the end product of what the price can get me...but with DIY-ing, I've learnt to appreciate and enjoy the process in achieving that end product as well.

So a haircut is not just a haircut now. It's nice to caress RG's hair and playfully pull at his ears to get around the tricky parts...and we'd do this on a bright sunny day out in the open yard where we can hear the birds chirping on the trees and feel the sun/breeze on our faces. Such are the simple joys of DIY-ing......

Monday, November 16, 2009

My dream kitchen....

Where we are renting now...although the kitchen is far from being very fancy, it is very close to my "ideal" one with all the following features:

- huge kitchen island with additional storage (something I could only dream of in my tiny box kitchen back home in Singapore)

- hanger rack for hanging pots and pans just above the kitchen island (I love that but RG thinks it's cluttering)

- inSinkerator (I think it's not allowed in Singapore!?)

- huge oven (ohhh, how I regret not having an oven built into the cabinets when we renovated our flat earlier. I can cook all kinds of stuff with an oven now. The sheer joy in that!)

- dishwasher (next best thing to having a domestic helper which is too expensive here?!)

- pantry area (where there's a dedicated area/room full of shelvings just to store your spices/canned food etc)

- a TV in the kitchen (I don't know why I never thought of this before but it's absolutely great to be able to prepare/cook meals without having to miss any parts of my favorite shows!)

I'd really miss this kitchen if we have to move out from here next year.

Do you know that over here in the US...the kitchen is like the most important room of the house. A lousy kitchen is a sure dealbreaker when you are trying to sell your property! Some homeowners would spend over USD100,000 just to fix their kitchens. That's like the price of a 3room HDB flat *gasp*