Monday, July 24, 2017

A Typical Day in My Life as a Full-Time Working Twin Mom

So how this post came about is, I was lying in bed mindlessly watching tv and concurrently thinking about what I wanted to do for my next blog post. I didn't want to do anything related to cooking as I was bored of it and I couldn't do anything pertaining to new books, movies, travel or restaurants (even if I wanted to) since I didn't have any material. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do a post that was different to what is usually expected of me. How variety being the spice of life and all....

So, I just thought of doing a post chronicling my daily life as a full-time working twin mom. I am interested in expanding my blog into the parenting corner of the blogosphere and so far, I have only made a few feeble attempts in that direction. I like to read about how moms (especially of toddlers) go about their day so if anyone out there reading this is a busybody like me, chances are, you might just find this post interesting ๐Ÿ˜

I've said this before - I don't like the term "working mom". Exactly a year ago, I was at home juggling housework and caring for twin toddlers with no extra help and if anyone had asked me then why I wasn't "working", I would have felt like punching them in the face! I've used the irksome term in this article only because it is the most universally understood term for moms who are pursuing a career. Okay?

People often ask me how I manage to keep a blog running despite juggling work, two young kids and a household. Social media often has a way of making things look easy, perfect and effortless. In my case, I have a help so, no, I most certainly don't do 'it all'. Come to think of it, I don't even want to do it all! 

I am not a particularly interesting person who leads a spontaneous exciting life. Far from it actually! My life is pretty much ordinary but it does happen to be the good kind of ordinary ๐Ÿ˜Š  My home isn't clean all the time, I don't cook fancy meals every night of the week, I do allow my kids to watch tv (and have sugar!), I don't always have everything under control etc etc but me and the husband have implemented a routine that works well for our family. 

I have tried to keep this post as transparent as possible giving you a peek into one typical weekday from sun up until sundown. There could be minor variations from day to day but for the most part, it is quite similar. 

So, here we go!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Baker's Corner: Blackberry Cheesecake Brownies


I am a self-confessed chronic lurker on Instagram. It is solely food that I stalk with an unshakable obsession. What else can I say folks - good old-fashioned food porn is what I seek! ๐Ÿ˜‚ For starter cooks, IG is a reservoir of basic and easy cooking videos and recipes and for the more experienced cooks, it is a great platform to get introduced to complex and luxe dishes using fancy ingredients. For me, most of the inspiration to try out new recipes comes from there.

So, one day, I saw these gorgeous Blackberry Cheesecake Brownies on the feed of The Kitchn and it was love at first sight! It appeared like a work of art and the colors and textures just made perfect sense to me. Brownies are always in huge demand in my home, I love cheesecake in any form and after raspberries, blackberries are my favourite kind of berry. So of course I was going to try this recipe!



I was up relatively early on a Saturday morning. I peeked into my kids room and was relieved to note that they were still sound asleep. I headed to the kitchen and got started on making these brownies. The recipe turned out to be undemanding and even at my own leisurely pace, I was done with making the blackberry puree, the brownie layer and the cheesecake layer by the time they started to stir. After that, they of course wanted to see what the fuss was in the kitchen and "help" me finish (what they described as) the "cake" ๐Ÿ˜„ I did the swirling of the blackberry puree over the cheesecake layer as my girls intently watched over me (with rather unhelpful inputs may I add) so I didn't do a very good job of it ๐Ÿ˜› Next time I'll take a better stab at it (literally speaking!). 

The brownies met my expectations in terms of taste. I felt like the chocolate brownie layer would be too intensely chocolatey for the kids but oh-no! They polished off one and then immediately demanded for another one. Since that day, they have been eager to finish their dinner so that they can eat a small piece of "byownie" for dessert ๐Ÿ˜‚  It is safe to say that they liked it very much indeed ๐Ÿ˜Š The husband didn't have any negative critique so I was glad to have tried this recipe out for myself.

If you are a fan of anything chocolate as well as cheesecake then this dessert will have to go on your to-do list right away. Go make folks!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Recipe of the month: Corn Koftas in Palak (Spinach) Gravy - A Guest Post by Amritha

I haven't been able to devote a lot of time towards formulating new recipe posts lately. Not due to the lack of cooking really. It's just that I haven't had the time for all the other stuff that goes with it! I thought that dialling back on the use of social media (which I have been sincerely trying to do) would have left me with a lot more time on my hands but oddly that hasn't happened ๐Ÿ˜•

I always rely on my ever-dependable husband to bail me out whenever I find myself falling short of recipes. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't do that as his last guest post wasn't too long ago. The idea for this guest post came from my sister. Like most families, we have a string of WhatsApp groups where we share everything under the sun ๐Ÿ˜  One of those groups is dedicated solely to culinary pursuits and that is the one I am most interested in (for obvious reasons!). So, my SIL, Amritha, shared this recipe along with positive feedback and it caught most of our attention immediately.

I love anything and everything to do with spinach and well, koftas, what can I say - I can eat those bad boys all on their own in a single sitting! Give me a kofta-based curry and I'd shamelessly ask for an entire basket of Indian flatbread and then maybe some more ๐Ÿ˜

My SIL, although several years younger than me has been pretty close to me ever since her foray into our family. Pediatrician - bharatanatyam dancer - classical singer - fashionista - cooking and baking enthusiast - this girl wears many hats with ease! My kids love her to bits as do we all ๐Ÿ’— So when my sister planted this idea in my head, without any hesitation I asked Amritha if she could re-create the same recipe for my blog. Being the sweetheart that she is, she agreed immediately with cheery enthusiasm. She doesn't have a blog of her own (which considering how multi-talented she is, she really should!) so she is sharing this platform with me to bring you this wonderful recipe.

My family back home gave this recipe a huge thumbs up and although I didn't have the good fortune of tasting it myself, I'm pretty sure it was legit. This recipe has ingredients that are commonly available in any Indian kitchen, comes together easily, has the goodness of spinach and looks very appetizing. Soft melt-in-the-mouth koftas served in an aromatic, vibrant and luscious gravy is an irresistible dish that will have your family or guests licking their fingers. Thank you Amritha for doing this for me! I owe you big time  ๐Ÿ™

So, please show my sistah some love and head to the kitchen to make this side dish for yourself. I need to do it too and pronto! You can catch my latest updates on Facebook or Instagram.

Till next time! ๐Ÿ™‹

Sunday, June 25, 2017

All-Girls Weekend Trip to Batam, Indonesia


Everyone knows the purpose of going on a holiday right? It helps you relax, unwind and recharge those drained out batteries. Now what about the increasing global trend of girls-only trips? Trips taken with your girlfriends/BFFs/gal pals/tribe....whatever you want to call it. This one is (unsurprisingly) being backed by medical science as beneficial for a woman's mental, emotional and physical well-being. A complete no-brainer if you ask me! 




Being away from the humdrum of daily life, be it work, managing a household, chasing after the kids or doing routine chores, taking a holiday with girlfriends can bring some much-needed respite and make the spirits soar. Taking a holiday with BFFs is all about celebrating life – all the adventures past and all the adventures to come. Not to mention, with girlfriends, you have plenty of time and opportunity to do all the things you want which the menfolk may not necessarily be interested in. It may sound like stereotyping but take a couple of instances - spending the day at the spa, window shopping and scouting for good deals, using the camera like a machine gun, upping your insta game or taking funny videos on boomerang (any other Instagram addicts here?), giggling at the silliest of things, watching a romcom late into the night or going for a dip in the pool is something a guy may not enjoy. On your women-only holiday, you can do all the things that you want to guilt and judgement-free!

Are you sold on it yet ladies? 

Going on an all-girls trip was kind of on my bucket list so it was bound to happen. I might even make it an annual "thing" now! ๐Ÿ˜  I'll have to admit, it wasn't easy zeroing on the date since six full-time working professionals (each leading a busy life) with limited holiday leave aren't likely to be available at the exact same time. Being the only mom in my group of friends, the thought of ducking out on my family (even if it was just for a weekend), made me feel bad. But in the end, I convinced myself that I deserved a break. I knew I would come back relaxed and jaunty and everyone knows that a happy mom makes a happy home! So I pushed the guilt aside and prepared to leave the husband and children to fend for themselves. Wait....who am I kidding? It took several days of meticulous planning, advance grocery shopping, deciding the menu for the weekend, giving specific recipe instructions to my domestic helper and scheduling kids activities before I was ready to head out. And despite everything my heart did feel heavy as I kissed the little ones goodbye. Oh well....it's all part of the motherhood package! 





Located only 20km from Singapore and 25km from Johor in Malaysia, Batam in Indonesia’s Riau archipelago is a popular weekend getaway from the two neighbouring countries. Apart from its close proximity to Singapore, this small island is frequented by visitors because of its quiet beaches, smattering of family-friendly resorts, golf courses, discounted shopping and vibrant nightlife.



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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Kidzland Indoor Playground at the Grandstand, Singapore

I can't digest the fact that after more than a decade of living in Singapore, I was finally able to make my way to The Grandstand. The amusing part being that when I did, it was at the behest of my kids!

Engulfed by lush greenery within one of Singapore’s most elite neighbourhoods, The Grandstand is an expansive lifestyle destination. The foodie that I am, my main motivation to visit had been PasarBella, a gourmet paradise tucked away in a family, lifestyle and dining enclave. To put it simply - PasarBella is a farmers market. One of my closest friends in Singapore had highly recommended going there on many occasions but it never came about.

When the day finally arrived, there was another reason for us to go which was to keep the kids engaged for a major part of the day. My parents were in Singapore and we wanted to take the kids out to someplace they would enjoy. Kidzland is one of the largest themed and integrated indoor children playground and family entertainment centre located at The Grandstand. Suitable for children aged between 2 to 10 years of age, this huge space packed with abundant activities is guaranteed to entertain the little critters!

After my kids were done grabbing a quick bite at PasarBella (while I was going around gawking at the fresh produce!), we headed over to Kidzland. It was just after opening hours on a weekday morning so we were fortunate not to encounter too much crowd during the whole time we were there. 



It was our first visit to Kidzland and thus we were non-members. The membership offered at Kidzland is free. How it works it that first, you have to register your child at the counter. You will then be given a card and you have to top-up money into the card (either $50 or $100). This stored value card then gets tapped at each station and the relevant amount of money gets deducted. If you run out of money, top up the card again. Simple enough right?

Adults entering the centre will be charged S$5 for the second and subsequent adults/guardians.

I don't know the reason but the process of registration seemed to take eternity. That was my only gripe with our experience at Kidzland. For those who don't have their own mode of transport, another could be that The Grandstand is not easily accessible by public transport so taking a cab would be the most convenient option. Anyway, moving on, once the initial formalities were over with, it was time to get in on the action! The kids had already been running around the games arcade exploring every nook and corner until then. The blinding colors and dazzling lights had done their job to keep them engaged for a while. But they were too young to really comprehend the games (that are typically catered to kids aged 4 to 10 in my opinion).

The Forest
This jungle-themed indoor soft playground is the prime play area for toddlers. It consists of 3,000 sqf of playing structures including a giant rainbow net, climbing structures, a swing, slide, merry-go-round, soft shooting & a mini rock climbing wall.

Know that all children and parents (or guardians) must wear socks and Kidzland wristbands before entering The Forest. Also be aware that re-entry is allowed for that day which means that young visitors can enter to play, exit to grab lunch at The Grandstand, and then go back in again to continue to play to their heart's content, within a day. 



My 2.5 year old toddlers were quite taken with the psychedelic rainbow net but they were too young to truly enjoy it. They did climb up and bounce a bit but after a while the novelty wore off and they wanted to explore the more age-appropriate play areas. 



They absolutely loved the giant three-lane slide and one of my twins in particular went on it about 50 times even though the ascent to the top was inundated with obstacles!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Baker's Corner: Fresh Mango Cake with Whipped Cream and a Dark Chocolate Collar

I know things have been a little quiet around here lately. My parents are in town and that has been a big welcome distraction. I love having family around....it makes coming back home after work feel all the more comforting. On the flip side, my last four weeks worth of exercise and healthy eating (in the valiant efforts to lose weight) have gone down the drain within a matter of days! All that has ever been said about a mother overindulging her children with food and exacerbating laziness is completely true! Not to mention, ever since my mum and dad set foot in my home, both my daughters attitude towards me has been on the lines of - Your kind services are no longer required. You may go now ๐Ÿ˜’ And these are kids who normally want me for everything. "Amma come here" "Amma help me", "Amma give bear hug", "Amma feed me", "Amma do this" Amma do that"......you get where I am going with this? The way things are right now, I could go on a week-long cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean and I don't think they would even notice (on second thoughts, that is not a bad idea at all!). Humph....toddlers! Not too big on gratitude are they? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, I had been feeling guilty for not taking advantage of mango season this year. I had all these grand recipe ideas in my head but I failed to execute any of them. The mangoes that would make way to my household would be gone before I could do get creative with them. After a while, I just made peace with the idea that I wouldn't be featuring a recipe with mangoes on the blog anytime soon.

As luck would have it, just before my parents were due to arrive, I asked my husband to get a stash of alphonso mangoes from Little India in case they felt like eating some. On my parents arrival, I discovered they had brought with them a sackful of alphonso mangoes (that were bigger and better than the ones we had gotten!). I had about 12-15 mangoes in the refrigerator that were beginning to freak me out a little bit!

So, TADA!! Say hello to this vibrant fresh mango cake with lightly sweetened whipped cream and a dark chocolate collar. This was a very on-the-spur-of-the-moment kinda bake. We had family visiting us and I had already decided to bake a cake to commemorate a special occasion. A mental image of all those lovely mangoes lying around waiting to be consumed and it really was a no-brainer ๐Ÿ’ก


Believe it or not, this is not a very complicated cake. The vanilla sponge comes together quickly and the whipped cream can be made in a flash. After that it is a matter of frosting the cake (a very basic job will do), thinly slicing the mangoes, arranging them on a rosette pattern on top and making the chocolate collar. The latter two aspects are more time-consuming and requires a bit of patience.

I'm happy I attempted something different (and slightly out of my league too!). The cake turned out looking quite elegant, wasn't too sweet and was appreciated by everyone. I used up around 4 mangoes from my mango booty to make it. The rest have been slowly dwindling and we are now down to the last two!

So, I know that we are at the tail end of mango season and I may be a tad too late in bringing this recipe to you. But if you still have the king of fruit sitting around and you want to do something special with them then try this cake. If a cake decorating novice like me can pull it off then I'm pretty sure anyone can! ๐Ÿ™Œ

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Recipe of the month: Spicy Mushroom Capsicum Fry

It is Mother's Day today. The second sunday of May each year is dedicated to celebrating these selfless souls. On this particular day, moms are acknowledged for their presence in our lives and pampered. Hardly enough is it? It seems more fitting that they deserve a lifetime of appreciation. Oh well....I don't make the rules! Wishing all the mothers out there a very Happy Mother's Day! From one mother to another, know that you are important, special and irreplaceable ๐Ÿ’–

This is going to be a short (and spicy) post! Since it is Mother's Day, I am going to share a recipe that I got from my dear mom more than a decade ago. Rewind back to the time when I was a new bride, frazzled at the thought of managing a household by herself. Before embarking on my new journey as a married woman, I got myself a notebook in which I hurriedly jotted down a handful of simple recipes (including that of dal ๐Ÿ˜ ). Among those recipes was this one for Spicy Mushroom Capsicum Fry that I nicked from my mom's handwritten recipe book. 

This recipe just needs a handful of ingredients, looks good, tastes good and can be made within 30 mins. Sounds like a winner right? Believe me it is! It has quite a few spice powders in there so it does pack in a punch. Go easy on the chilli powder if you want to tone it down okay? I used to make this dish very often before but over the years it has appeared considerably lesser on my dinner table mainly because of the husband who prefers gravies to dry side dishes. I think this would be a perfect side dish to serve alongside a simple dal/mild curry and cooling raita with any Indian flatbread or rice dish. That way you get a nicely balanced meal. 

If you are old enough to cook for your mom, you know what you need to do! Give here the day off and put a smile on that kind face that has worked a lifetime to make sure you always have one on yours ๐Ÿ˜Š

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Raw Vegan Food with a Modern Twist: The Living Cafรฉ @ Bukit Timah, Singapore


Before this review, my plans of visiting The Living Cafรฉ (TLC) had been hanging in the balance for the past 3 years ๐Ÿ˜„ Unfailingly, something or the other would come up forcing me to cancel my plans or venues would get changed unexpectedly. On one occasion, I even entered the cafรฉ having scheduled dinner with a friend only to find that it was half an hour away from closing! I had no other option but to head over to another food establishment in the vicinity ๐Ÿ˜ž

So when I had the opportunity to catch up with two old friends over lunch and realized that Bukit Timah was the ideal locality (being sort of equidistant for the three of us), I suggested TLC without a moment's hesitation.

This time, the stars aligned and my plans finally came through! ๐Ÿ™Œ


The brainchild of master nutritionist Dana Heather, TLC embraces raw vegan food and this is what sets it apart from other cafรฉs. Their chefs are continually creating their own versions of raw and raw-fusion to bring a wide scale of variety to the cafรฉ. Although not 100% vegan, most of the dishes are vegetarian and vegan-friendly, with many raw options. Chicken, fish and eggs make an appearance in certain starters and entrees though dairy is entirely avoided. To be more specific, TLC does not use red meat, cow dairy, white sugar, preservatives, additives, artificial colorings and includes gluten-free alternatives on the menu. The cafรฉ takes pride in using specially selected and sourced organic ingredients wherever possible and thoughtfully combines them to achieve optimum flavor for their healthy raw food establishment.

It was a Saturday afternoon and rather late by the time we reached the venue but much to my surprise, the cafรฉ was bursting at the seams at 2pm. There was only one table vacant all the way at the back so we had to make do with that.

The naturalistic decor of TLC reflects the "green" concept of the cafรฉ. Spacious and airy, prominent features of the space include mismatched furniture, earthy colors, indoor plants, chalkboards and a lofty ceiling. 



There are two floors - the lower floor consists of the dining area and the upper floor has a retail store selling premium quality food products, health supplements, essential oils and books amidst other things. 



Something that catches one's eye almost instantly is the glass case with their amazing array of raw desserts. While you are waiting for your orders to arrive, you could keep your peepers peeled on the enticing display!
 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Baker's Corner: Summer Tomato, Olive & Caramelized Onion Focaccia


It's the start of the long weekend! Gotta love those ๐Ÿ’— I have plans to catch up with family, colleagues and a close friend, cook (and stuff myself with!) lots of good food, binge watch season 12 of Grey's Anatomy and/or Sherlock with the husband, get started on a new novel and enjoy plenty of cuddles with my girls. That is more than enough to qualify for a fulfilling weekend for me ๐Ÿ˜Š

Moving on, I have a nifty recipe for you to keep you busy this weekend!

It appears as if focaccia is to Italy what baguette is to France. This oven-baked salty and oily Italian bread is a delight to have on hand. Focaccia takes on different guises with aplomb. It can be served as is, alongside pasta, soups or stews, dunked in an array of dips, to make fabulous sandwiches or even as a pizza base.

Basic focaccia dough requires only five ingredients, flour, water, olive oil, salt and yeast. A simple focaccia dough lends itself to so many variations that once you master the dough, your options are endless. You can use a combination of two or more of the following ingredients (among others) to adorn your focaccia: rosemary, thyme, basil, garlic, olives, cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, bell peppers, parmesan and nuts. Focaccia is the perfect canvas for culinary experimentation but getting carried away with too many ingredients would be overkill in my humble opinion.

Pssst.....let me let you in on a secret. I really don't fancy olives much. It is an ingredient that does not enjoy a place in my fridge at any given point of time and whenever I am at a salad bar or sandwich joint, I pointedly request for olives not to be included in my order. Then why have I included it in this recipe, you ask? Well, I made this focaccia bread to take to a friend's house and while choosing the ingredients to adorn the focaccia with, I cast aside my preferences in favour of something that complements focaccia and is generally liked. So gregarious of me, no? ๐Ÿ˜



Making focaccia at home does not require any fancy schmancy gadgets, uses inexpensive ingredients, is simple to make and turns out unquestionably impressive. For anyone intimidated by the idea of making your own bread, focaccia is a perfect place to start. And did I mention there is no kneading involved? This one delivers on every single level now, doesn't it?!

Your choice of flour depends very much on what kind of focaccia you’re looking for. Using plain flour, or even finer “tipo 00” flour will give you a softer, more tender crumb; while a mixture of strong bread flour and coarse semolina creates a more robust, chewy texture. In this recipe I have used bread flour alone with great results - a delicate crusty exterior with a soft fluffy interior.

A few things to keep in mind - this dough is really wet and that is how it is supposed to be. Once the specified quantity of flour is added, put the bag of flour back into the pantry pronto so you don't get tempted to add any more!

The secret to the best focaccia bread is great tasting olive oil. Since there is quite a bit used, the bread really takes on the flavor. Also, you have to ensure that you create lots of dimples with your finger tips into your dough and then drizzle enough olive oil into those dimples which will then get absorbed while the focaccia bakes creating a flavorful bread with a crisp crust and tender interior.

This bread is delicious eaten on the day it is baked, but it will keep for a few days and you can freshen it up in the oven for a few minutes just before serving.

I know I've rattled on for quite a bit so I will give my fingers some rest now. Besides, I do need to enjoy the long weekend too ๐Ÿ˜Ž

For your next baking project, take on this humble yet delicious focaccia and I guarantee it will be love at first bite!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kids Day Out: Palawan Pirate Ship & Palawan Beach at Sentosa, Singapore

It had been a while since we had taken the kids to Sentosa. The last time was to the S.E.A aquarium and before that to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (both visits which had been a success much to my surprise!). I wanted to take them outdoors for some fun in the sun and Sentosa was the first place that came to mind. 

Palawan Pirate Ship

Did you guys know that the iconic Port of Lost Wonder in Sentosa that had ceased all operations since Dec 27th 2016, has reopened its water play area?  Due to public demand, families can now access its signature water play area – the Pirate Ship which is now goes by the name ‘Palawan Pirate Ship’.

Even better news - it is free for families to enjoy. An attractive water park with a ship, slides, a giant water bucket, water canons and the works that has no admission charge....how can young parents pass up on that! 

We reached the water play area on a Saturday morning just before opening hours in the hope that it wouldn't be terribly crowded and parked the car at the parking lot located at Palawan beach. I spotted a huge KidZania as I walked towards the water play area. KidZania Singapore offers children real-life experiences through many different role-play activities in the kid-sized city. A place I definitely want to take the kids to one day! 

Anyway, coming back to the Palawan Pirate ship, it is a water play area designed for children aged 3-10 years old. An exciting and safe place for the little ones to splash around and have a whale of a good time! There are sheltered rest areas and benches located nearby. Also, paid locker facilities, shower rooms, and nursing rooms are available for use. 

The kids immediately bolted towards the water play area and there was no turning back! I was allowed to take both of them on the water slides and they loved it so much that I was coerced to take them close to 50 times (after which I had to feign a broken back and only then they let up!). They spent a good hour and a half exploring every water feature, running and splashing to their heart's content.

Although the sky was gloomy on that day, we were fortunate that it didn't rain and the weather was quite pleasant.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Recipe of the month: Roasted Beetroot Risotto


I am aware that I slacked off last month with only two blog posts. I got busy (and also a little lazy) so that explains the drop in my usual quota. But with four draft posts currently in my cache, I'm going to make up for it folks! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Having said that, let me present to you the first of the lot which happens to be a cheat post. I have done nothing more than write this short introduction and do a spot of editing which hardly took five minutes so in blogging terms it is akin to zero effort!

I realized a few weeks ago that the last guest post my husband did for my blog was way back in December 2015. Gasp and double gasp!๐Ÿ˜ฎ Not one to sit quietly after such an unacceptable discovery, I told him that in order to make up for the extended absence from my blog (which was purely unintentional by the way) he had to bring his A-game. How thrilled am I that he managed to do just that with this post! 

Handing over to your host for today. Adiรณs ๐Ÿ™‹



Greetings readers! I'm back on this space after a long hiatus.

I have an popular savoury recipe for you today. As most of you are aware, Risotto is a northern Italian rice dish cooked in a broth to a creamy consistency. Most types of risotto contain butter, wine, and onion and the broth can be derived from meat, fish, or vegetables. This delicious rice dish represents the epitome of Italian home cooking and comfort food.

The rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto of onion and butter or olive oil, to coat each grain in a film of fat, called tostatura; white or red wine is added and must be absorbed by the grains. When it has evaporated, then the heat is raised to medium high, and very hot stock is gradually added in small amounts, while the concoction is stirred gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. At that point, the pot is taken off the heat for the mantecatura (the point when diced cold butter is vigorously stirred in), to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier and left to cook with its residual heat.

Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy, but has some resistance or bite (al dente) and separate grains. The traditional texture is fairly fluid, or all'onda ("wavy, or flowing in waves"). It is served on flat dishes and should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. Risotto waits for no one. It is ready fresh off the stove and should be eaten immediately as it continues to cook in its own heat and can become too dry with the grains too soft.

Risotto is more of a technique than a dish. It has a reputation for being fussy and time-consuming and this isn’t without reason. Making risotto requires some experience and once you start the cooking process, it does require a fair bit of attention. Getting that perfect al dente texture of the rice and the right consistency can be tricky. But do all the required prep ahead of time and give it some TLC and it will give you more than your effort's worth on the dinner table. Practice makes perfect with this one!


I have been making risotto at home for a few years now and after several trials and tribulations, I've somewhat gotten the hang of it. I usually make mushroom and peas risotto or butternut squash and sage risotto but for this guest post, I have attempted something different. The recipe you see here is a roasted beetroot risotto which was inspired from a local Italian restaurant. The risotto turned out rich without being heavy, with al dente rice, a vibrant deep pink hue from the oven-roasted beets with a hint of thyme, a dollop of sour cream all adorned with shards of Parmesan and chunks of sweet roasted beets. The verdict was good enough to get it featured here!

The first time I made this dish, I crumbled goat's cheese over the risotto along with a dollop of sour cream. But I later felt that the goat's cheese was too overpowering and salty for the dish. The second time, I used only sour cream and felt it was perfect.

Keep in mind that if you are using store-bought stock, you don't need to add any salt to the risotto. The stock and Parmesan will lend all the salt you need. You may even run the risk of your risotto being salty. In such a situation the sour cream comes in very handy. So do not season without tasting first!

That's all from me for today. Till next time....

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Feet Haven: Ancient Tradition with a Modern Twist

Media Invite
How often do you spot seedy looking foot reflexology parlours located within rundown shophouses or obscure corners of old shopping centres and pass by without a second glance? If you were to ask me, I'd say - quite often. Although I am no stranger to the experience of foot reflexology, I have some serious trust issues and only visit a parlour if it has been recommended by a friend or boasts good reviews.

For the uninitiated, reflexology, also known as "zone therapy", is an alternative therapy involving gentle manipulation or pressing on certain parts of the foot to produce an effect elsewhere in the body. This mixture of healing art and science is based on the premise that an energy channel encompassing 12 vital organs exists from the feet to the top of the head. This technique is said to relieve pain, headaches, anxiety and stress, as well as increase blood circulation and boost energy. Other than enhancing general wellbeing, it is thought to be able to cure colds and other minor ailments.

When I received a kind invitation from the good folks at Feet Haven to receive a 60-min foot massage, I checked out the website and reviews and was pleased with what I came across. And the invite couldn’t have come at a better time. As a full-time working mom of twin toddlers, I am on my toes every waking minute of the day. And that particular week had left me completely knackered. A busy work week, multiple exercise regimens, meeting up with ex-colleagues, a friend’s wedding and taking the kids to a water park and then the beach had resulted in my legs feeling like lead! I was in dire need of some serious R&R.



Founded in April 2011, Feet Haven Reflexology is a boutique Foot Reflex spa offering foot reflexology and body massages to its customers. There are three outlets located in the trendy enclaves of Katong, Upper Bukit Timah and Serangoon Gardens. With its crisp fresh interiors and chilled out vibe, Feet Haven aims to banish the dull, old-fashioned reputation of foot reflexology parlours that typically attract an older clientele. The boutique spa has been generating major buzz especially among the younger crowd comprising mostly of students, young working professionals, bloggers and new parents. Accolades have naturally followed: Feet Haven was awarded the Best Foot Massage by Harper's Bazaar Spa Awards 2013 and named Best Value Simply Her Foot Spa by Simply Her in the same year. It has also been featured in popular publications including 8 Days, Cleo, Mother & Baby, Young Parents and Eastie Brekkie.

Soon after my toddlers went down for their afternoon nap, I made my way to the nearest outlet. Feet Haven’s newest offering at Bukit Timah is tucked away in a quiet little recluse of Jalan Bingka, Bukit Timah, away from the madness of the city.

As I entered the spa, the calming music playing in the background and essential oil scents wafting in the air came together to create an instantly pleasant and soothing environment.




Offering a whole range of services under one roof,  Feet Haven aims to alleviate stress and restore customers’ well-being with their therapeutic services of body treatment and reflexology.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blossom Bliss 2017 at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Rewind to Feb 2011. I was delirious with excitement having meticulously planned a much anticipated holiday to Japan. I was counting the days till our 8-day visit to Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima during the "sakura" or cherry blossom season the following month. The exquisite beauty of the Japan's national flower and scenic vistas draws flocks of tourists to the country and I was among those who had fallen prey to their charming allure. I had listed down all the prime spots for cherry blossom viewing (called hanami) and spent most of my days dreaming about quaint paths and enchanted gardens dotted with the ethereal white and pink flowers. Well, if you are acquainted with the history of that time, you will know that my dreams were washed away in the calamitous tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster that occurred a few days prior to our intended travel. Needless to say, our holiday plans were cancelled immediately and in the face of the tragedy that had struck Japan, all thoughts of sakura temporarily left my mind.

It has been 6 years since but I am determined that I will someday visit Japan to cross off cherry blossom viewing from my bucket list. Cherry trees are grown throughout Japan. They start to blossom in the warm, southern islands of the country, and as the season moves north, they peak in late March and early April. Cherry blossoms are a symbolic flower of the spring, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life. Their life is very short. After their beauty peaks around two weeks, the blossoms start to fall.

Image source: www.nsiderjourneys.com.au




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There is good news for sakura enthusiasts like me. Until I can actually set foot in Japan, I can appreciate the beauty of the blossoms at our very own Gardens by the Bay in Singapore!

March denotes a month of excitement and anticipation, as the wait for blossoms to come into full bloom begins. These beautiful and transient flowers, known for their unpredictable blooming, are back in the Flower Dome with the “Blossom Bliss” (็ฒ‰่‰ฒไน‹ๆ‹) floral display.

Not to be one to miss such an opportunity, on a weekend morning, I set off with my troops and reached the Flower Dome at 9:30am. The tickets were based on a 2 hour timed entry so we felt like it was a good idea to reach there as early as possible to beat the crowd. 



The first thing that struck me as I entered the cooled conservatory was that we hadn't managed to beat the crowd ๐Ÿ˜†  and the second was of course the stunning sakura which were in full bloom for the most part. Yay!

This year, the pretty hues of pink and white are showcased in a Japanese-inspired landscape that features a picturesque tree-lined pathway and traditional rickshaws for the perfect photo opportunity.



Apparently, this year, there are more trees spread out around the conservatory, as well as new varieties that will be on display for the first time. Besides cherry blossoms, peach blossoms are also in bloom.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recipe of the month: Strawberry, Blackberry & Vanilla Overnight Oats

I've become a bit obsessed with overnight oats lately. If you went through my previous post on Chocolate Peanut Butter Raspberry Overnight Oats, you will be aware of it ๐Ÿ˜€

A quick recap - overnight oats are a no-cook method of making oatmeal. Which means, you don't have to cook your oats on the stove with the liquid of choice. All you do is mix rolled oats with liquid and other add-ins in a clean mason jar and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Easy peasy? You bet!

Overnight oats are heaps better than those sugar-loaded cereals or granola bars for a quick breakfast fix. It is way more nutritious, tastes infinitely better, can be customized to suit your preferences and keeps you satiated for long.

Twice a week, I go for afternoon exercise classes conducted by my University and on those two days, a hearty breakfast is an absolute must for me. Can you imagine walking into to a high-intensity Zumba class with a rumbling or worse, empty stomach? On the flip side, going just after a heavy lunch is a terrible idea too! So in such instances especially, a substantial serving of overnight oats becomes my saviour and keeps me going till the end of the class ๐Ÿ˜Š

This Strawberry, Blackberry & Vanilla Overnight Oats  is another one of my favourite combinations. I love the medley of vanilla, cinnamon, banana and fresh berries. And the addition of chia seeds give it such great texture. There are only two ingredients in common between this recipe and my previous one - the rolled oats (obviously!) and banana (coz I love 'em). All the other components vary so this overnight oats does taste completely different. I promise! I have another pumpkin spice overnight oats recipe that is seriously delicious but I'll share that recipe at a later time lest you think I'm eating nothing but oats off late ๐Ÿ˜

As is the case with any breakfast oats recipe, you could switch up the ingredients any which way you want. Almond milk, cashew milk or thin coconut milk would be great substitutions to whole or skimmed dairy milk. Use whatever fresh or frozen berries you like, add in nuts of your choice or sprinkle some granola over it for extra crunch. The sky's the limit really!

Okay that's enough of my yackety-yak for now. Set aside 5-10 mins of your time tonight and in the morning you have a pudding-like porridge that is both delicious and fulfilling!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Restaurant review: iO Italian Osteria, Singapore


It was time for another meet up with my gal pals and that predictably translated into another restaurant review ๐Ÿ˜Š

The one thing I miss terribly from my previous job are my colleagues. Far from being just friends, over the years, they became somewhat like sisters separated at birth! If sharing office space, having lunch together every single day and enjoying coffee breaks was not enough, we would be in each other's company after work frequently too. We would joke, laugh, gossip, share secrets, trade family stories, unload burdens of the mind and generally be there for each other out at every opportunity. As the saying goes, nothing lasts forever and with time, a few graduated, some changed jobs, three of them got married, one may be even relocating but we still make it a point to catch up frequently and remain in each others lives. I can only hope that it stays that way for the years to come. Among these seven girls, some friendships date much longer than the others but when we meet, I am equally delighted to see all of them ๐Ÿ˜

I don't know what connection we girls have to Italian restaurants but most of the time we find ourselves at one. All of us like Italian food and there is something for everyone so it is kind of a no-brainer. So, iO Italian Osteria was our pick this time as one of my friends had been there and was sufficiently impressed to recommend it to the rest of us.

Another reason why I was personally keen on visiting this restaurant was its location. Housed in the mall HillV2, this area holds a special place in my heart because I used to live on the same street. Back then the mall didn't exist and there was a vast expanse of lush greenery in its space. When the mall came up, it did break my nature-loving heart but I also secretly knew that me and my husband would have been regular visitors. On the bright side, the greenery is not all gone.


The restaurant embodies the simple and rustic setting of a traditional Italian tavern. Adorned with a selection of fine antique pieces, beautiful copper and real wood furniture, the interiors grabs your attention instantly. In contrast, the ceiling has quite the industrial look!

The ambience is relaxed and cosy.


The restaurant has an open-concept kitchen so you can get a glimpse of the chefs in action. 





You can find fresh in-house bakery products, breads, pizzas and house pour wines.