The best gifts at Christmas (and the whole year through)

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Kids these days are a very fortunate lot. They are almost never in want for anything as their parents try to provide them with the best they possibly can, be it in presents or presence, and our generation now have different parenting styles than our ancestors from a few decades ago. We give our kids due respect, treat them like little adults, and allow them to sate their curiosity by engaging them in conversations. Gone are the days when children are ‘seen but not heard’, these days – their opinions matter, and they are instead taught to be adaptable to situations instead of being made to feel that their words only carry weight when they are older.

As parents, very often we have to be the ‘bad guys’ amongst the grandparents who are always ready and willing to give in to the kids’ whims and fancy by saying ‘No’ to requests and disciplining them. It is much much easier to simply give in, but we must always remember that grandparents and relatives are not responsible as to how our kids turn out in the future. It is not their duty to educate and steer them in the right direction, because that’s what us parents are responsible for. It is up to us to teach them right and wrong, to deal with life, and to shape their characters.

With the changing face of society, it is only natural that there are also bad things which come along with the good. The Entitlement Mentality, for one – whereby kids grow up thinking that they are ‘entitled’ to what they want, when they want it. Just because their friend has a certain toy or latest gadget, many take it as a given that they should also have one. Doting grandparents and relatives in this instance do not help matters, especially since with the decrease in the number of children produced per family, there are fewer (and thus, more precious) descendants to dote upon.

Christmas time is the season for gifting. Caden has enough toys to open his own toy store, and although we curb our random gifting to him, he has a lot of grandaunts, granduncles, grandparents, Aunts and Uncles to help him add on to his collection. The (very sly) boy also knows how to make it easy for them to give him a gift or two when they see him, simply by turning on the charms and being overly dramatic in his ‘present acceptance’ antics.

Although I have bought him a present for Christmas, I have made up my mind to give him a few other gifts which no amount of money can ever buy, but will carry more weight than its weight in gold.

This is my List of the Best Gifts I can ever ‘afford’ to give my son this Christmas, and for many more Christmases to come.

1. Acceptance 

"Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.” – Joan Ryan

I love Caden the way he is. With all his characteristics, traits, and wonderful and (sometimes) weird ways. Nothing will ever change how I love him, not even when he has differing views or chooses his own path next time. 

2. Attention 

He will always have my undivided attention. There is nothing that cannot wait when my child needs me, and there's nothing that I won't do to make sure that he knows I will always be there to listen to him, even if he were singing his ABCs for the umpteenth time, off key. After all, attention (even negative ones) is a survival need, and not simply done to control or manipulate someone.
 
3. Creativity 

In whatever he chooses to do, I will allow him room to expand his creativity. I am not about to tell him that pigs should be pink if he decides that they should be purple (perhaps after pinching their snouts?). I will not ask him to colour in an outline of a picture if he would rather draw a distorted Queen (read: Mummy) instead. Creativity in children is spontaneous - I believe that it somehow becomes stifled as we grow older and start to unknowingly, adhere to society's norms.
 
4. Discipline 

Education is not the key to success. Discipline is. Without discipline, even the best forms of educational tools and avenues will not yield results. I will discipline him as and when is necessary, because knowing him the way I do, he needs to constantly be steered in the right direction. It is my gift to him, because even though he may 'hate' me or dislike certain disciplinary measures I impose on him, eventually he will appreciate the tough love. Chances are that would be when he has his own kids to discipline!
 
5. Encouragement 

As kids try, fail, try again, fail again, and then finally succeed, they develop ideas about their own capabilities. For me, it is important to always encourage him because he needs to know and understand his strengths and weaknesses as well as develop a healthy self esteem in order to be better prepared to handle conflicts.

It's never about being the best. Rather, it's how much effort is made to achieve the results. It's ok to fail, because it is only through failure that we learn how to avoid making mistakes in order to succeed.
 
6. Faithfulness and Loyalty

Loyalty is dedication to people, or specific things. I feel a need to educate Caden on these because he should be aware and understand how Faithfulness and Loyalty can have positive or negative influences in life. It is important that he knows the difference between being morally upright or simply having blind faith, because there will be numerous instances when this will feature in social interactions.

7. Happiness 

The best Gift I can ever give him is my own happiness, before ensuring that he is happy. Only when I am happy can I yield a positive influence on my child. Children are very sensitive souls. They are able to 'sense' emotions acutely, and often get affected by how the adults around them feel. When I'm happy, I am a better person because it is my sunshine which leads the way.
 
8. Home 

A Happy Home. A sanctuary from the craziness of the world, safe in the company of loved ones. No matter how old he is, our home is always his - the way that he will always be my son.


9. Honesty 

He will learn to lie to his parents (he's already starting to, albeit innocently now) because we are realistic parents and we were our parents' kids before we had our own. It's important to teach him about the values of honesty, and never make him afraid to tell us the truth. Then there's that thing to teach about when to be honest and when to withhold the truth...

Seriously, this parenting business is hard work!

10. Hugs and more hugs 

I can never stress the importance of giving hugs enough. When was the last time you held your child close to your body for a few moments so that he (and you) feel love without a verbal affirmation? Hugged him so that he feels acceptance, affection and warmth?

It's so much easier to express anger than love. It's way too easy to yell at our kids when they've done something wrong than to show them how much we love them. Hug them as often as you can, and make time to hug. It's a simple thing which can mean so much.

... and among all these, the greatest Gift of all - is:

My earliest memories of childhood aren't about the gifts which I received. They are not about if I had a bigger or better toy than a friend in school. I remember my Mum scolding me for lying. I remember her welcoming me home without any questions asked when things didn't work out between my then boyfriend and I. She made me angry with her for not allowing me to stay out all night at 16 (because that’s wrong on so many levels). Then again, she did not utter an ‘I told you so’ when she was proven right repeatedly.

I remember how I always turn to her whenever I needed to find out things. When I needed problems solved, and when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. I still do, and sometimes all I need is just to sit there with her. Words are often unnecessary - and whatever it was which was troubling me seem to magically disappear. Perhaps it's about feeling that I've come 'home', every time.

These are the best gifts to give my son this Christmas. They are neither dependent on social norms nor our financial abilities. They are gifts which have been passed down from my ancestors, and will be passed down for generations to come. These 'gifts' we give are the least that we could do, for Caden is our greatest gift in life.



DISCLAIMER: This sponsored post is part of a series of conversations between Lifebuoy and MummyMOO. Lifebuoy is committed to helping and providing a billion people all over the world with a healthier life.

While I was compensated for this post, all thoughts expressed here are completely my beliefs.

Seasons Feastings made easy with The Philips Airfryer!

Friday, 13 December 2013

A month ago, I was invited to the launch of the new Philips Avance XL Airfryer. Admittedly, I came to the event a skeptic, because I grew up in a family of foodies, and the ubiquitous wok along with a huge jerry can of cooking oil were the deemed necessities in a working kitchen. During the event, we were shown how the Airfryer can dish out healthier options for the family, while at the same time allowing us to whip up a meal in a fraction of the usual time needed. It sounded too good to be true, and I was sufficiently intrigued.

So happy to attend a KITCHEN EQUIPMENT launch! I never thought I'd see this day...

(left to right) Adeline (The Accidental Mom Blogger), Me, Diana (The Domestic Goddess Wannabe - you should totally check out her blog!), Rachel (Catch Forty Winks)Adora (The Gingerbread Mum) and Jennifer (DinoMama) 

Back home, I gingerly tested out the machine with a simple dish of breaded zucchini, almost expecting to be confronted with limp slices of soggy zucchini when I pull out the easy slide drawer of the Airfryer. It's not very often in life that I was proven wrong (my husband will agree because he knows the secret to a happy marriage is just to go with what the wife says) but this was one of them.

Ok - Philips, I'm sorry I doubted your product. Ever since that night when I held and ate the crispy, crunchy breaded zucchini without greasy fingers and oily lips, I am convinced of all the great things that the Philips Airfryer is touted to be. Perhaps the only misleading thing about the product specifics is its name. An Airfryer should only be able to fry with air, right?

Wrong.

It fries (darn well!). And bakes, and grills, and gratinates. Very much like an oven, only better, and faster. Come on - a roast in half an hour? I kid you not. More on that later.

First, I want to show you this. A Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffin. Fresh out of the Airfryer.



It was moist and good. So good that I got upset because I only made enough for 4 cups to fit the Airfryer!

Not convinced yet?

In the spirit of the season, I'm going to share with you a recipe made using festive ingredients. There is just something about cranberries which make me always think of Christmas, and its tart yet sweet flavour is a perfect complement to savoury stuffings for white or red meats. I've also included an air baked cheesy rice recipe for the kids, so that the little ones are able to enjoy a Christmas dinner along with the adults.

Pork Loin with Cranberry, Walnut and Apple stuffing


You would need pork loin, cleaned and trimmed, 2 small apples (or 1 large one), walnuts, dried cranberries, dried thyme and breadcrumbs.



Chop the walnuts, cranberries and apples up. You can either do this manually, or cheat by using a food processor. Of course, I took the fast way out!



In a large bowl, combine these with the breadcrumbs, melted butter and thyme. Sprinkle a little salt to taste. Set aside.



To prepare pork loin for stuffing, you would need to butterfly it. Butterflying 'opens' up a cut of meat and makes it flatter so that you will be able to roll it together with the stuffing, much like a Swiss roll.

Using a sharp knife, cut along the long side of the loin, closer to the base. Cut into the loin, stopping just slightly before the other end of the meat. Follow through the middle of the left, thicker part of the loin, slice through so that the meat is flat out instead of the original chunk. The butterflied pork loin should now be of an (almost) even thickness throughout.



Using a meat mallet, pound the meat to flatten it. Season with cracked black pepper and salt.



Spread the stuffing on the meat, leaving a section near the edge clean so that the roll can be 'sealed' without the risk of stuffing spillout.



Roll carefully inwards, and secure using some twine or kitchen string. Brush a little olive oil on the roll (completely optional) and roast in Airfryer at 180 deg C for 15 minutes. Increase the temp to 200 deg C, and roast for a further 15 minutes.



While the meat is roasting, make a meal for the kids!

Stir chicken stock, heavy cream and cornstarch liquid over low heat. Whisk mixture constantly, taking care not to let it burn. Once mixture thickens, remove from heat and set aside.



Sauté mixed vegetables in some butter, and add in sliced ham. Add in rice, and fry on high heat, breaking up all rice lumps in the process.



Fill ramekins 3/4 full with buttered rice and pour the chicken stock mix over it. Add a generous topping of shredded cheese.



Meanwhile, the beeps from the Airfryer tells me that the loin roll is ready.



Being the lazy person that I am, without even bothering to clean the Airfryer, I put the cheesy rice in to bake for 15 - 20 min (depending on how brown you'd like the cheese) at 160 deg C.

While that was cooking, I prepared some caramelised onion and red wine sauce for the roll, along with some Caesar Salad (with dressing out of a bottle!)

So the kids will have Cheesy Baked Rice...






While the adults have this!



There you have it. Air is the new Oil, after all!

N.B: They make perfect Christmas gifts for the missus, too.


***

Pork Loin with Cranberry, Walnut and Apple stuffing

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes
Serves 2 - 4

Ingredients
  • 500 g pork loin roast
  • 2 apples, peeled and cubed
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted
  • ⅔ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tbs dried thyme
  • Salt and cracked black pepper

1. In a large bowl, make the stuffing by mixing the apples, walnuts, cranberries, bread crumbs, melted butter and thyme. Set aside.

2. Butterfly pork loin, and using a meat mallet, pound the loin, so that it's flat and thin.

3. Spread the stuffing across the butterflied pork loin, leaving about ½ inch edge on all sides. Roll pork loin and secure using kitchen string. Brush a little bit of olive oil prior to baking.

4. Season with salt and cracked black pepper.

Caramelised Onion and Red Wine Sauce
  • ½ cup butter 
  • 1 large onion, sliced.
  • ½ tsp sugar 
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock 
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary 
Melt half of the butter in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the butter before the onions are added in. Once melted, add sugar and onions. Saute till brown for about 20 minutes. Add red wine and stock to the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and continue till the mix reduces to half and thickens. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the rosemary. Stir in the remaining butter.

Easy Cheesy Baked Rice

Adapted from The Little Teochew

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp corn flour, mixed with water
  • 2 cups cooked day old rice
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • Sliced ham
  • 3 tbs butter
  • Shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese
1. Stir chicken stock, heavy cream and cornstarch liquid over low heat. Whisk mixture constantly, taking care not to let it burn. Once mixture thickens, remove from heat and set aside.

2. Sauté mixed vegetables in some butter, and add in sliced ham. Add in the rice, and fry on high heat, breaking up all rice lumps in the process.

3. Fill ramekins 3/4 full with buttered rice and pour the chicken stock mix over it. Add a generous topping of shredded cheese.

4. Bake in Airfryer at 160 deg C for 15 minutes.

***

Now YOU too can 'Cook with Air' today!

Quote [MUMMYMOO] to get these deals!
  • Viva Digital Airfryer at $399 (Usual price: $459) with a FREE $50 SHOPPING VOUCHER
  • Avance XL Airfryer at $479 (Usual price: $539) with a FREE $50 SHOPPING VOUCHER
This promotion is valid from 1st December 2013 till 31st January 2014, only at the PHILIPS EXPERIENCE SHOWROOM

Limited to 1 Airfryer per person. I/C must be produced.

PHILIPS EXPERIENCE SHOWROOM

Address: 620A Lorong 1 Toa Payoh Building TP4 Level 1 Singapore 319762
Tel: 6882 5800

Opening hours
Monday to Friday: 9.00 am – 7.00 pm
Saturday: 9.00 am – 1.00 pm.
Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.

The Viva Digital Airfryer and Avance XL Airfryer are also available at regular prices in leading electronics stores, department stores and supermarkets island-wide.

***

DISCLAIMER: This review post is part of a series of sponsored conversations between PHILIPS Singapore and MummyMoo.

I have been compensated for this review, and a Philips Avance XL Airfryer has been given to me so that I will be able to present a first hand user experience. All cooking skills, content and opinions are, however, my own. I was truly impressed, though. I kid you not.

Suspicious Minds

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Do not say,"it is morning,"
and dismiss it with a name of yesterday.
See it for the first time -
as a newborn child that has no name.

~ Rabindranath Tagore


My friends ever so often call me foolish. They say I'm too trusting for my own good - and that's usually why I end up getting more hurt than I should be most of the time, when people disappoint me.

Perhaps, in a way, that's true, but I am never trusting to a point where I can be looked upon as gullible, and naivete certainly does not become me. I will choose to trust whom I feel I should, but whether I choose to let them believe that I take their words as the gospel truth every single time - that's really entirely up to me.

Too many people base their judgements on how they perceive me to be. Without really knowing me, understanding me, or even bothering seeing who I really am, as a person. Most of them think I'm a snob just because I don't go around smiling to everyone or anyone who happens to walk my way. They are quick to brand me snobbish, arrogant and 'full-of-herself' just because I never look down when I walk. I like to see where I'm going. I'm a clumsy oaf, and bruise easily. Do they even bother to think of that remote possibility?

Is it easier to see a person's negative traits rather than to have to deal with positive characteristics? Could it be that encountering a person who seems the total opposite of the people we usually come across in life, that unnerving? Almost like - 'she's too good to be true, let's unravel her and call her bluff.'

Have we become so jaded, so sceptical, so much so that we tend to always look at the world from behind our UV-protected shades? Aren't we even concerned that in doing so, we will miss the vibrant hues that make up the colours of our life? Whether the world is bathed in a multitude of colours, or simply cloaked in a drab, dark shade of gray; could it be that it's no longer important to us?

Pretty scary, if one really thinks about it. Especially if we have to look over our shoulders at every turn. Perhaps life would be so much simpler if we just took things as they are and people for whom they appear to be. We should just learn how to handle life better. Laugh things off instead of getting irritated over the smallest things. 

Or just not have expectations, because when you don't, there's nothing or no one to disappoint us.

Sometimes simplicity makes the world a much more tolerable place. When there are too many rules, too many devious plotting and scheming (brought about by idle intelligence) - people tend to forget who they actually are. Many walk around with a mask that they hardly take off, save for when they are alone, and even then, they have worn that mask too long that it has become almost part of them.

We chase after shadows because we are afraid of hurting.
We view everything through narrowed eyes because we are afraid that others would exploit what they through them.
We wonder about true intent when someone seems too nice.
We are jaded,
We are cynical, somewhat...

But that's life, and it's part of survival.




<div align="center"><a href="http://www.mummymoo.com/search/label/Tuesday%27s%20Thoughts" title="MummyMOO" target="_blank"><img src="http://i50.tinypic.com/30be6mq.png" alt="MummyMOO" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Christmas with Thomas & Friends at City Square Mall!

The Mookid is currently in his ChooChoo craze, and many, many weekends are spent on simply taking trains to nowhere. Of course, steam trains which actually go 'Choo Choo' instead of 'Ting Tong!' are preferred, but he's happy taking the MRT for the time being (thank goodness!)

Like a lot of kids his age, he counts Thomas & Friends as one of his favourite series, and although he isn't one to be particular about transient things (he doesn't care for tee shirts, crockery or bags emblazoned with certain characters) he loves watching Thomas on TV or DVD. 

When we were kindly invited by City Square Mall for their Christmas with Thomas & Friends spectacular, I asked the kid if he would like to see a 'real' Thomas the train. It was a mistake asking him last Monday as I have had to field off "Are we going see Thomas today??" questions the entire week!

So we went to see Thomas over the weekend. I love how the boy was on his best behaviour the entire day because he knew he was going to get up close and personal with Thomas after dinner!

The atrium at City Square Mall started filling up an hour before the show was due to start, so please make sure that the kids have sufficient entertainment, snacks or drinks if you want to get a good view. We were fortunate to have front row seats, although it was pretty embarrassing to have to tell the boy to hush up amidst his incessant yells of 'Thommmmmasss!!! Where are youuuuuhoooooooo?' 

The show opened with Rusty and Dusty, the station sweepers, engaging the audience with some questions and getting resounding answers from the kids. I was surprised that Caden also knew the answers! Talk about influence - I have always chosen to take supervised media exposure positively, and this has made me even more convinced. He listened, learnt, and responded. Nothing bad about that! ;)


Rusty and Dusty were amazing. They brought the house down with their singing, dancing and antics, while to me, Thomas took a back track - although the kids will beg to differ. I was pretty a disappointed that only Thomas was in attendance, without Percy, James, Emily or other trains.


Nevertheless, the kids were entertained, singing along and participating. Many were on their feet, including Caden. Nobody cared that it was hot and stuffy due to the massive crowd present, parents were enjoying the atmosphere, and the kids were simply having a fabulous time!


Then this happened.


And shrieks, yells and happy shouts ensued. I was almost trampled on by the boy in his excitement, after which he helped me 'clean' off 'snow' from my hair and shoulders with gusto. I suspect he just wanted more feel of the snow, but I'm not complaining!


The show closed with happy kids clapping their hearts out (you have to be there to experience the electrifying atmosphere) and then we went onstage to get up close and personal with Thomas, much to the boy's delight!


He couldn't stop talking about it for a long time afterward, and has been telling whoever cares to listen that he had met Thomas. I guess to an almost 3 year old, meeting a steam engine is a pretty cool experience. 

Bring the kids down to experience a Christmas Wonderland at City Square Mall, starting with the Thomas & Friends show. They won't be disappointed!


1. Christmas with Thomas & Friends Live Show and Meet & Greet Session

Date: till 15 December (daily except Mondays)
Time: Tue - Fri: 2pm, 7pm
Sat & Sun: 1pm, 4pm, 7pm
Venue: Level 1 Atrium

Meet & Greet session with a minimum spending of $50* (50 passes will be given out 45 minutes prior to
each show).

2. Christmas Carnival in the Park 

Time: 1pm - 9pm
Venue: L1 City Green (outdoor park)

Hop onto the beautiful carousel and many other rides, or try your hand at the game booths for exciting prizes to be won.

3. Festive Light Show and Snowy Playtime

Time: 8pm & 9pm
Venue: L1 City Green (outdoor park)

Watch the festive light show with its kaleidoscope of colours while the kids frolic in the snow.

4. Gifts To Make The Season More Merry 

Spend $200* and redeem a Thomas & Friends mini cushion and Christmas Carnival coupon for a ride or game. UOB Debit/Credit Cardmembers need only spend $180* to qualify. Limited to only one redemption
per shopper per day, regardless of total amount spent.

5. Win Back What You Spend 

Spend $50* and stand a chance to participate in the Weekly and Grand Lucky Draws! Each weekly winner will be rewarded with shopping vouchers up to the amount spent on his/her receipt, capped to a maximum of $500. There are 30 prizes in the grand draw including a weekend staycation at Orchard Hotel Singapore as well as shopping and dining vouchers! Limited to a maximum of 20 chances per shopper per day, regardless
of total amount spent.

6. ‘Snap & Win’ Facebook Contest 

Stand a chance to win up to $150 worth of Cedele vouchers when you snap a photo of your family at City Square Mall this Christmas! To participate, follow these easy steps:

1) Take a photo of your family with City Square Mall’s Christmas decorations
2) Post the photo on City Square Mall’s Facebook page
3) Tag yourself and your family members in the photo

Entries will be judged by the number of ‘likes’ garnered and City Square Mall’s management.
For full contest details, please check here.

7. Free Weekday Parking

Free weekday lunchtime parking for the first 1 ½ hours between 12-2pm (except public holidays). In addition, redeem a $3 parking coupon with a minimum spend of $60 on weekdays.

8. Salvation Army Charity Collection 

Date: Fridays to Sundays from 15 November to 29 December
Time: 1pm - 9pm
Venue: B1 Fountain Square

Instead of discarding them, drop off your pre-loved clothing, gifts, wrappers, trimmings and any other Christmas decorations at City Square Mall this Christmas! In collaboration with the Salvation Army, the first 2,000 shoppers to donate 3kg worth of clothes each day will receive an exclusive eco-umbrella. Items collected will be donated to the disadvantaged & needy.

9. Singapore Wind Symphony 

Date: Weekends from 30 November to 22 December
Time: 6pm & 8pm
Venue: L3 Bridge

Get into the spirit of the season with beautiful yuletide tunes!

10. Caroling by Church of St. Bernadette 

Date: 14 & 21 December
Time: 3.15pm
Venue: L1 Atrium

Sing along with your whole family to your favourite carols!

*Terms and conditions apply.

For more details on the activities and promotions, visit www.citysquaremall.com.sg or visit City Square Mall’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/citysquaremall.


Fairy Vanilla Cupcakes

Friday, 6 December 2013

Like a lot of things, the simpler a cake seems, the more difficult it is to get right. Don't take me wrongly - a lot of people may think that baking is purely a science. If you follow a recipe to the letter, you will be able to bake anything and everything!

While it is true that precise measurements are necessary, a lot of other factors determine the quality of the end product. Oven temperature, ingredients quality and technique are just some of the factors which will influence the success of a baked product.

I have tweaked a single recipe over and over again just to find a 'perfect' mix, but perhaps it's only because I am very hard on myself. I am not content to just bake a mediocre product just so I can proclaim 'I can bake!' when in fact, the only thing that's cake-like about my cake is that it looks like one, (and that's where it ends).

I only recently started baking, and one of the first few recipes I tried was a vanilla cupcake. The first attempt was a disaster (think mini volcanoes with molten lava) and we all know that erupting craters on a cupcake is a total no-no. The second time the cupcakes 'sank' and left a crack all round the edge of the cases. They tasted fine, and I suppose the crack can be 'covered' by a mountain of frosting and nobody will know - but *I* would, and that matters a lot. It nearly put me off baking, but curiosity got the better of me because I did not believe that I cannot do what many, many people have succeeded doing!

So I experimented with a lot few recipes, tweaked a lot of stuff, made the long suffering husband drive down to 24 hour supermarkets in the middle of the night to buy baking stuff which I 'suddenly' needed, and baked batches and batches of vanilla cupcakes just to get the right texture and taste.

Perseverance definitely pays off. This recipe is for keeps.


FAIRY VANILLA CUPCAKES

loosely adapted from Baking a Moment
Yields: 12 cupcakes

  • 96 gr cake flour
  • 96 gr all-purpose flour
  • 125 gr caster sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 125 g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • 180 ml vanilla milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Fairy sprinkles

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
from Glorious Treats

  • 70 gr unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 110 gr / 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 250 gr icing sugar
  • 1 tbs heavy whipping cream

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 150 deg C | 300 deg F | Gas Mark 2. Line muffin tin with paper cases and set aside. Cut cold butter into cubes.


2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients till well combined. Add in the butter cubes and mix well, till you get a mixture that somehow resembles grated parmesan cheese. Don't worry if it doesn't look convincing at this point, because I almost gave up, too! It looks wrong, doesn't it?



3. Add the eggs, one by one, and mix till well combined. 

I cheated (as usual!) and used vanilla milk instead of combining vanilla paste AND milk, and sometimes my laziness does pay off! Pour half of the vanilla milk into the batter, and beat on medium speed. Once well incorporated, add the remaining milk and beat till batter becomes smooth and creamy.




4. FOLD in sprinkles, or go without if you're making this for stuffy adults! Do NOT overmix!

5. Fill paper cases 2/3 full and bake at 150 deg C for 35 - 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean. 

You can bake at a higher temperature for a shorter time, but it all depends entirely on your oven's inner temperature. Baking at 170 - 180 deg C will usually cause my cupcakes to dome up and crack, like a muffin. Which is great IF I'm baking muffins, yes?


6. While waiting for the cupcakes to cool completely, make the frosting.

Cream butter till soft and almost pale. Add cream cheese and blend for about 30 seconds. With the mixer on low, add vanilla extract and icing sugar slowly, till combined. Increase to medium speed and beat till fluffy.

Add the heavy cream. If frosting is too thin, add more icing sugar. If too thick, add more cream. I used a Wilton 1M tip to frost.

Here it is - a fluffy, buttery Fairy Vanilla Cupcake. I promise you - you won't stop at one. You've been warned :)






Philips Avance XL Airfryer: Bigger, Better and Faster!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

I have to admit that I love fried stuff, and my idea of comfort food is a plate of golden deep-fried calamari rings dipped in mustard-mayo sauce. Not exactly the healthiest of dishes, but there's nothing that a bit of crunch couldn't fix. Lately, however, I have realised that deep-fried foods tend to make me queasy and leave my stomach uncomfortably bloated. I have been told that it is due to a lower metabolism as we age, coupled with the fact that the body's system isn't as 'efficient' in breaking down oil and fats when we are older. I, of course, refuse to believe that (yes - the age part!!) but it's really becoming increasingly difficult to stay in the self denial mode.

When Philips first introduced the Viva Airfryer in April 2011, I was admittedly sceptical. Frying stuff without oil just doesn't seem 'believable' to me. Where would the crunch and crispness come from? Would there be any flavour without the usage of oil? As its name suggests, it's like conjuring up a plate of fried stuff out of thin air!

The Airfryer really got me intrigued. I wanted to get one, but I was fearful that it will end up a white elephant in the kitchen because the resulting food items will not sit too well with the family. After all, we know that healthy alternatives very rarely measure up to the real deal. Meanwhile, friends who have the Airfryer have nothing but good things to say about it, save for a few die-hard 'fast food fries' lovers.

Then they've gone and made the Airfryer bigger. And better.

The Mookid is not a huge fan of fried stuff, and neither does he like fried snacks much. His only weakness is french fries, so I thought that if I could serve him up a plate of fries with the benefit of up to 80% less oil, it will be a great alternative to the usual oil soaked limp ones that are served in many fast food places (depending on your luck, and crowd).

So!... Let me introduce you to my new kitchen helper: The Philips Avance XL Airfryer.



It's darn difficult to take a pic of the fryer without a reflection of myself on the surface, can?!

With a 50% increase in capacity and 30% faster cooking time as compared to the Viva, the Avance Airfryer makes cooking for the entire family a breeze. The improved model also boasts a 1.2 kg cooking capacity (up from 800g) which fits more, enabling you to feed a family of 5 easily and saving you a lot of time! As a working Mum, I know how challenging it is to whip up a simple meal after a day at work and battling peak hour madness to get home. Anything which helps me cut a lot of preparation and cooking time is a winner in my books.

The new improved Avance model also fits an 18 cm oven-proof dish within its nifty basket, and this makes baking and gratinating so convenient. You can even air-roast a whole chicken inside!

The Rapid Air Technology within the Philips Airfryer allows you to fry, bake, grill, gratinate and roast snacks and meals with up to 80% less fat than a conventional deep fryer unit. The grill element within the Philips Airfryer heats up air within the unit, where the starfish design helps propel the heat, guaranteeing a fast and even cooking session, The Rapid Air Technology allows one to fry food without the use of oil, and hence, reducing the smell of oil in the kitchen.

'Starfish' sounds more whimsical than calling it rotor blades or turbine, I suppose.
Even though the unit is pretty heavy at 7kg, it has a non slip base which ensures that accidents are prevented. It also has a 'Smart Preset Button' feature which allows you to save the settings used for a favourite dish, so that the next time round you make the dish, there is no need to manually set the temperature and time! Furthermore, its removable non stick coated drawer and food basket are not only easy to clean, it is also dishwasher safe.

Using the Airfryer kinda makes me feel like Sabrina in Bewitched, except that maybe the twitch of the nose is replaced by a tap on the digital touchscreen. The control allows you to increase or decrease temperatures to the degree, and this is especially useful when baking at specific temperatures.

I've always dreamt of doing the touch button thing to make (people) disappear. Or teleport. Or time travel! I suppose this is the closest I can get to it.
The unit needs no assembly at all. I LIKE! The food basket and non stick 'drawer' fits nicely into place without having to look for grooves or clasps, and easily glides in and out of the main fryer unit. There is no danger of tugging the drawer out and accidentally pulling the entire thing out either - it stops at a maximum distance. You would need to lift it up and off the unit to separate it.

Slide in, slide out.

Wire basket big enough to put a spring chicken inside. Or a rack of lamb. Or half a slab of ribs.
There's also no need to worry about extra wide counter space to accommodate the fryer. I like how it floats!

STOP looking for my reflection on the airfryer!!
Ok... now that the technicalities are done - Let's get down to business. It's time to see if the Airfryer is all that it claims to be!

I'll start with a simple dish (and because I totally forgot to buy chicken!!) and I'd be lying if I wasn't half expecting the Airfryer to cough up a failed attempt at breaded zucchini. Zucchini is (all that I had which could go with breadcrumbs in the fridge) notoriously difficult to deep fry so that it is crispy on the outside and still crunchy soft on the inside... even with a litre of oil, sometimes the resulting product is limp, soggy and oil laden.

Here goes nothing.

ZUCCHINI DORATE | Breaded Zucchini

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min with the Philips Avance XL Airfryer
Serves: 12 slices

Ingredients

  • 1 nos Zucchini (the fatter, the better)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 300 gr of breadcrumbs
  • 100 gr parmesan cheese
  • 50 gr dried Italian herbs (you can use those premixed ones in a bottle, I won't tell!)

Method

1. Start by cutting zucchini into 1cm thick slices.

This reminds me of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Don't ask why.
2. To get rid of the sap, rub each piece against the end knob, which you aren't going to use anyway.

Yes, I need a manicure. Now concentrate on the said zucchini!!
3. Dry each piece with a kitchen towel thoroughly. Don't skip this step... it makes a difference!

Pat dry. Do not squeeze the living juices out of the zucchini!
4. Mix breadcrumbs with dried Italian herbs (Marjoram, Basil, Red Bell Peppers, Rosemary, Oregano, Parsley, Thyme) or just use this. I cheated and used this instead!

I won't tell if you don't!
5. Mix freshly grated parmesan cheese into breadcrumb mix. Only use freshly grated - none of those powdered stuff, please! If you can't find fresh cheese, just use a little salt instead. It's much better than using powdered cheese.


6. Dip the zucchini slices in the egg mixture, and coat it evenly with the breadcrumbs.

Not very even, but it was almost 2am!
7. Place it in the Airfryer basket, and slide the drawer in.

I was actually quite excited at this point. Come on, Airy Fairy! Do your magic!
8. Set temperature to 180 deg C, and fry for 15 minutes.


I was rather surprised at how it turned out. Crisp and crunchy coating on a juicy zucchini. And I didn't have to wipe my hands as I arranged the slices onto a plate. No oily dribble down my chin, too!

I'm just about convinced. I'm going to try out a few more items over the next few weeks. For now, I'm rather impressed. Could Air be the new oil, after all?

***

Now YOU too can 'Cook with Air' today! 

Quote [MUMMYMOO] and buy the Viva Digital Airfryer at $399 (Usual price: $459), FREE $50 SHOPPING VOUCHER and Avance XL Airfryer at $479 (Usual price: $539), FREE $50 SHOPPING VOUCHER only at the PHILIPS EXPERIENCE SHOWROOM.* 

*This promotion is valid from 1st December 2013 till 31st January 2014.
Limited to 1 Airfryer per person. I/C must be produced.

PHILIPS EXPERIENCE SHOWROOM

Address: 620A Lorong 1 Toa Payoh Building TP4 Level 1 Singapore 319762
Tel: 6882 5800

Opening hours
Monday to Friday: 9.00 am – 7.00 pm 
Saturday: 9.00 am – 1.00 pm. 
Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.

The Viva Digital Airfryer and Avance XL Airfryer are also available at regular prices in leading electronics stores, department stores and supermarkets island-wide.
DISCLAIMER: This review post is part of a series of sponsored conversations between PHILIPS Singapore and MummyMoo.

I have been compensated for this review, and a Philips Avance XL Airfryer has been given to me so that I will be able to present a first hand user experience. All cooking skills, content and opinions are, however, my own.
 

Powered by Motherhood