Friday, December 27, 2013

Beef and Spinach Lasagna


I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas celebration with family and friends and in a few days it will be the end of 2013. I hope year 2014 will be a better year for us. We won’t be doing much for the New Year as Diana won’t be home. I miss that girl. I wish she live nearer to us :( It will be a low key affair for us except I am looking forward to indulge myself with some Caviar that I ordered online.

I will be flying back to Malaysia in January and looking forward to spend some time with my family and I too hope to meet up with my blogging friends when I am home. Enough of my ranting and let’s get on to this awesome pasta.

I made this with Diana when she was home. I am not a big fan of lasagnas that are loaded with too much meat or cheese so I decided to add some spinach to it. It has a good balance of cheese, meat and veggie in it. I cheated a bit and used a good quality store bought marinara sauce as a base. You can always use homemade one if you have it.

 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Panettone (Italian Christmas Bread)


This bread is a must in our household during Christmas season. I will usually buy them but I did attempt making them once a few years ago. I followed the recipe from a book but it turns out as hard as a rock and never try baking them again until this year. This time I used the recipe from the internet. I found there are so many of them out there but most of them requires a lot of work and days of proofing. Those who knew me will know I will not attempt recipes like that as I don’t have the patience for it. So I end up using the recipe from Laura in the Kitchen which is a very straight forward method just like making regular bread but it does require longer proofing time than regular bread.


This recipe makes beautiful, soft, supple dough that is much like a brioche. This bread is a true show-stopper. It’s stunning, and the flavor lives up to its looks. The bread is soft and sweet, and just loaded with flavor thanks to the vanilla extract,dried fruits, orange and lemon zest.

How to plan a Christmas dinner party

It’s that time of year when you go into planning overdrive. What with presents, decorations and meals to prepare for the big day, Christmas can feel overwhelming to even the most experienced of homemakers. If you have family or friends coming for Christmas dinner, this only adds to the pressure. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can avoid the stresses that usually come with festive meal-planning and remain a calm, collected and cool hostess! Here’s how:

Atmosphere
First things first, declutter. Remove all unnecessary items and furniture from your living or dining area, leaving only a large table in the centre. Make sure you source extra chairs from friends and neighbours before the event. Around the room, add traditional touches like paper lanterns, poinsettia plants and sprigs of holly.

Entertainment
Board games are a Christmas staple, so make sure you have included one in your kids stockings this year, or buy one ready for the day! But you don’t always need pre-prepared entertainment ideas: Christmas is a time for gathering with loved ones you don’t get to spend time with for most of the year, so have your older relatives tell stories or reminisce about Christmases past. This is your perfect opportunity to forget the distractions of modern life and enjoy each other’s company.

Menu
You may want to stick to a traditional theme in terms of what meats and sides to serve, but your menu should also reflect you. Choose your favourite dishes, and don’t be afraid to add your own unique twist. So if you’re more of a minted lamb fan, don’t feel you’re required to stick with turkey. And while sage and onion stuffing is always a classic, you could go for sausage and cranberry instead. If you have more of a seafood pallet, seared tuna steaks or monkfish can work well as a flavorsome alternative. Always check for food allergies a couple of weeks ahead, as well as vegetarian or vegan preferences. Dessert-wise, it’s best to go for something you can prepare the day before and if you’re making a traditional plum pudding, allow for soaking ingredients and a long cooking time.
Treat yourself to Christmas dinner out
If the stresses and strains of party-planning just don’t feel worth it this year, you could always arrange a family treat and go for a Christmas dinner out. Dine in a local restaurant (preferably within walking distance so everyone can enjoy the wine!), book into a hotel in New York for the weekend or sail around the Caribbean on a cruise ship with your party hat on this year! Of course, if your budget doesn’t allow for a festive break, you could always devise a menu for the Thomson Cruise Kitchen competition and give yourself the chance to win a cruise as a late Christmas present. And if you’re lucky, the next dinner party you attend might be rustled up by a top chef, on board a stunning ocean liner…

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ma’amoul Cookies with Pistachio and Walnut Filling


Is time for Christmas baking again and Sam at Oh Nuts sent me some nuts for my baking this year. They came just in time for me to bake some Ma’amoul cookies for AFF – West Asia Month event. Ma’amoul is small shortbread pastries filled with nuts, dates or dried fruits. They are very popular in the Gulf countries especially on religions festival. The Muslims eat them at night during Ramadan, the Christians eat them during Easter and the Jewish communities eat them on Rosh Hashanah or Hanukkah. They may be in the shape of balls or domed usually decorated by hand or be made in special wooden molds. Since I don’t have any of the molds I just shape them using my tart mold.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Roasted Maple and Bacon Butternut Squash


One of my favorite things for autumn and winter is the abundance of squash in the market. Two of my favorite kinds are the kabocha and butternut. They are naturally sweet, low in calories and full of vitamin A and C. I usually like to roast them up and serve it as side dishes. I prepared this particular side dish to take it to a Thanksgiving get together at a friend house. It was so well received by everyone even by the non squash fan and I thought I should put the recipe here as I will be making it again soon. I simply tossed it with olive oil, salted and pepper and when it is nearly done roasting I add some maple syrup, cinnamon and cayenne pepper to it. It gives this dish a sweet, salty and slightly spicy flavor.
 
 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Citrus Chiffon Cake


I will never get tired of baking or eating chiffon cake. There’s something extremely satisfying about baking this cake especially when you watch it rise to a beautiful height. This cake is light, fluffy, moist and with delicate citrus flavor. I will normally eat it plain but you can always frost it with icing.

Ingredients:

(A)
1 3/4 cups Flour
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp baking powder