Sunday, September 17, 2017

Family Beach Vacation @ Club Med Bintan Island





This post has taken so much longer to complete than I anticipated. I'm going to blame it on blogger and the recurring problems with saving the post and preview failing to load which are absolute rubbish. And don't even get me started on the formatting inconsistencies I had to encounter. Anyone from the blogger camp listening? I'm not even sure if I have successfully rectified all the issues that propped up so forgive me if anything appears wonky. Seriously, the whole ordeal with this post made me feel like tearing my hair out (which I've lost so much of anyway ๐Ÿ˜’ ). 

Now that I am done with my petty little rant, let's move on to something more pleasant.

So, we were recently on a family holiday to Club Med at Bintan, Indonesia. My in-laws were in Singapore on a visit and we wanted to spend some quality time together away from the mundaneness of the daily grind. 

Club Med has been diffusing stress since 1950 by adopting an all-inclusive package that includes all the necessary ingredients for a dream vacation. Transportation, transfers, accommodation, delicious meals, beverages and drinks, activities, entertainment and a complete range of personalised services for adults and children. 

Being no stranger to Club Med and having experienced the perks of the all-inclusive package that the French company offers on a previous holiday, we didn't think twice before confirming our booking. The icing on the cake being the Club Med philosophy of being a family and child-friendly resort. 

A 45 minute drive to the Tanah Merah ferry terminal, a 50 minute ferry to Bintan and a 20 minute shuttle bus ride later, we reached our destination. With two toddlers who are notorious for motion sickness, I was almost holding my breath the entire journey! But the gods were kind and the travel turned out to be uneventful....double phew!






As is the Club Med tradition, we were welcomed exuberantly by a group of Gentil Organisateurs (GOs) as we alighted the bus and stepped into the inviting lobby. 

This was a shot I took from the lobby soon after getting off the bus. Looks so alluring doesn't it? A welcome drink and a short briefing later, we were whisked away for a late breakfast. 


This was my first glimpse of the beach. Although it is open to public, it can only be accessed from the resort so it almost does feel like a private beach. Calm, serene and quiet were the three words that came to mind. We were fortunate that it was a gloriously sunny day and water looked clear and a demure shade of blue. 



We settled our growling stomachs at the intimate Terrasse restaurant located at the water's edge. It took considerable effort shooing away the cheeky monkeys who were desperately after our food! After that, we spent some time admiring the lovely views of the South China sea from the restaurant. 

Check-in wasn't till 2pm so exploring the manicured grounds helped kill time.





i

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Baker's Corner: Soft & Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I can't believe it is September already! Time is just whizzing by innit? 

Last month was a mixed bag for me. Good because I had a chance to meet up with two really good friends from college on two separate occasions and bad because both kids took turns catching a nasty bug and it was a harrowing time getting them to bounce back to health. Aside from that, I've been busier than usual lately with my in-laws who are here for a few weeks. We just got back from a fun-filled family holiday and I am in the midst of battling a mild case of post-holiday blues ๐Ÿ˜› I am expecting two more visits from extended family members within the next couple of weeks which means that I will have plenty to look forward to ๐Ÿ˜Š

If you have gotten to know me through my blog, you would know that I am more of a savoury rather than a sweet tooth gal. But having said that, I obviously won't say no if someone plonks a dessert in front of me. I do have a 'dessert stomach' and something (mildly) sweet is something I don't mind at the end of a meal. I do enjoy baking but it is mostly for others with only a few nibbles reserved for myself. I hadn't baked anything sweet in a while and considering my kids really love when I bake them a rare special treat, I picked this dessert for my next recipe post. 

I like cookies and when it comes to cookies, I am an all-out fan of the soft and chewy kind. Sure I don't mind a crispy edge but the rest of the cookie HAS to be thick and chewy. If you feel the same way, you have to try The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on my blog because all modesty aside, it is pretty darn fantastic! A little shameless self-promotion every now and then is okay right? ๐Ÿ˜

The recipe I have for you today is for these yummy Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Let me be upfront and say that the only time I eat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies is when I am at Subway ๐Ÿ˜€  Not because I love these cookies any less. It is just that I haven't had much opportunity to try them elsewhere. Nevertheless, I do love the giant Oatmeal Raisin cookies at Subway and I have always wanted to try to make them at home. So stoked that I finally got down to it! 

These cookies use simple, easy to find ingredients and are so easy to make. I didn't have to leave my home to buy anything and 40 minutes later, the smell of freshly baked cookies was wafting through my kitchen. Serve it warm with a chilled glass of milk on the side and you will win any popularity contest ๐Ÿ˜„  This recipe has butter, sugar and flour so don't kid yourself into thinking it is health food just because of the addition of rolled oats. But as with everything else, homemade baked goods made with good quality ingredients will any day be far better than anything you buy outside. The chewy texture of the oats, the plump raisins, the buttery aroma of the cookies and the added perfume from the spices will make anyone's heart sing (just please don't tell me you don't like raisins or cinnamon or both! ๐Ÿ˜‘ ). 

These cookies were family-approved and even my picky toddlers have been demanding one cookie every day so trust me, you don't need any more convincing. Go make! Like, right now!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Recipe of the month: Ricotta, Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli in a Tomato Cream Sauce

This has got to be the most elaborate and photo-heavy savoury recipe post on the blog so far! Phew! ๐Ÿ˜…

This has been a long time coming. Finally I can cross it off my culinary bucket list! Italian cuisine is a compendium of crowd-pleasing comfort food and like most of the world, it has enslaved my tastebuds for as long as I can remember. Pasta makes an appearance on our dinner table at least once or sometimes twice a week. If I am dining out, 70% chances are it will be an Italian restaurant. I experiment with different Italian dishes frequently and I don't see that changing any time soon! Recognizing my love affair with pasta, my husband bought me the pasta attachment for my Kitchenaid stand mixer ages ago and it had been sitting in the pantry unopened and gathering dust. Every time would I tell myself to open it and at least glance at the instruction manual but I would end up procrastinating. Not to mention, making fresh pasta at home had always seemed like such a daunting task that my hesitation was compounded by a sense of intimidation.

It so happened that one weekend, me and the husband were watching Master of None on Netflix. Anyone familiar with the series knows that Dev, the main protagonist, is a big foodie and completely obsessed with pasta. The inspiration to finally bring out the pasta attachment came after I watched the episode shot in Modena where he enrolls in a pasta-making course in a quaint little shop under the watchful eye of an Italian nonna. After that, there was no way I could put it off any longer!

Who says watching tv is bad when it motivates you to do something unprecedented and totally cool, right? ๐Ÿ˜

Turns out, making pasta from scratch isn't really difficult. It is time consuming, sure, but it really isn't that big a deal. The experience brought me to the realization of how different fresh pasta is compared to those mass-produced packets of dried pasta you buy at the grocery store. The silky-smooth texture, the tenderness and the ability for it to be the star of the dish is unparalleled. Not to forget, the cooking time which is drastically reduced. For delicate, creamy, dairy-based sauces, it is THE pasta you should use. So, now, if anyone asks me why I take the "trouble" of going through all that work, I think I need to make them this ravioli dish or else a fettuccine with an alfredo or carbonara to make them understand the difference! ๐Ÿ˜œ

I must also add that making pasta at home is quite addictive. The very first time I tried it, I was hooked! My intention was always to make ravioli which to my sheer luck turned out great on my pasta-making debut. With the scraps of the pasta dough, I decided to make fettuccine and was delighted when the kids relished it like none other! The first time I made them fettuccine in a pumpkin cream-based sauce which they polished off within minutes. After that I whipped up a basil-walnut pesto and that was devoured with equal gusto. Next on my agenda is spaghetti which I am sure the troops will enjoy!


I found a recipe for a ricotta spinach ravioli in a tomato cream sauce on the internet. I followed it and it was appreciated by everyone who tasted it. What I liked most about it was how well balanced the sauce turned out. I am not a fan of intensely tangy tomato sauces because it registers too sharp for my taste buds. On the other hand, overindulgent and creamy sauces tend to be heavy and gluggy at times. This one strikes a perfect balance between the two. I tweaked the original recipe a tiny bit and the result is what you see here. I like my ravioli to be smothered in a fair bit of sauce and so that is how I prepared and plated it. Delicate ravioli stuffed with homemade creamy ricotta, mushrooms and spinach and dunked in this mildly tangy and creamy sauce perfumed with basil is a posh, moreish and hearty dish that is bound to please your family and friends.

I have tried to make this recipe post as simple and easy to understand as possible. I took my time to make this dish, precisely jotting down measurements and taking a gazillion photos in the process. At the end of it, the kitchen was a colossal mess, my hair was in disarray, beads of sweat had started to form on my forehead, I was dusted and streaked in flour and there were bits of dough clinging to my clothes. Yet I was as happy as I could possibly be! Ravioli is a labour of love and so worth it ๐Ÿ˜Š

This happened to be the third time I made fresh pasta within a span of 3 months so I can say that I am reaping the culinary rewards on a pretty regular basis! I hope I have inspired you to do the same if you haven't yet. Be sure to let me know how it goes you guys ๐Ÿ™Œ

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Get Your Green On @ Lotus Kitchen, Singapore

[MEDIA INVITE]

So, judging by the type of restaurants I review on the blog, you must realize by now that a brand-new vegetarian restaurant in Singapore's dining scene will make me sit up and take notice. And all the more if it is a non-Indian restaurant! Not to diss my own culinary roots or anything but it is public knowledge that most Indian restaurants have no dearth of vegetarian options. However when you look outside the cuisine, the choices aren't always plentiful. 

Embracing vegetarianism, Lotus Kitchen is a spinoff of the famous Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant which is a leading Chinese vegetarian restaurant based out of Taiwan. Lotus Vegetarian is the brainchild of Ms Lee and boasts of delicious and hearty meat-free dishes prepared by a professional team of chefs. Much like a lotus flower that embodies love, purity and devotion, Lotus Vegetarian aims to uphold these qualities in their conviction. Greendot, another chain of fast-casual vegetarian F&B establishments in Singapore also comes under the same management. I had heard a lot about Lotus Vegetarian but had never been there so when I received a kind invitation for a food tasting at the sister establishment, I was more than happy to oblige! 

Image Courtesy: Lotus Kitchen
i
The 80-seater Lotus Kitchen brings to Singaporeans over 50 contemporary vegetarian cuisines from made-to-order dim sum to unique handmade noodles and stir-fried dishes. The menu at Lotus Kitchen comprises of signature dishes from its predecessor, as well as new creations by owner Ms Lee who has a penchant for mixing different herbs to create new aromatic blends as well as using homemade sauces and spices to whip up authentic local and Taiwanese vegetarian dishes. All dishes are made with natural premium ingredients known to boost constitution such as lion’s mane mushrooms, agaricus blazei mushroom, tian ma, cordyceps flower, burdock and sugarcane sprouts from Taiwan. 

Located in the bustling heart of Chinatown at Chinatown Point, Lotus Kitchen boasts of a prime and accessible location. Just step outside the Chinatown MRT from the New Bridge Road exit and you will literally fall into the lap of the restaurant!




First impressions: Spacious, bright, inviting and spick and span.

The restaurant showcases a modern minimalist interior design, and its cosy and relaxed ambience makes it an ideal space for foodies to celebrate the delights of the plant kingdom.


I loved this particular nook of the restaurant. It was more private, eye-catching and had a cheery vibe. I was pleased to note that we were dining there. 

Image Courtesy: Lotus Kitchen



i
As I flipped through the menu, I was impressed by the variety the restaurant has to offer. There is something in there for everyone. Meat-lovers will not be disappointed I'm sure! 

I was privileged to enjoy an elaborate 10-course dinner and here are some of my thoughts on it,