Monday, May 13

if at first you don't succeed...

After about 10 attempts of this granola recipe -- I've lost track of how many batches I've made over the past month -- I have finally got it to my satisfaction. Crunchy. Just slightly chewy. Big clusters that break apart easily. The perfect touch of brownness.

The proportions and taste of the original was perfect, especially since I had omitted cinnamon from the recipe because I'm not a huge fan of it, but I've tweaked it to get clusters without the use of egg white.

Tip: The trick is to press and pack the mixture into the pan and don't touch it till it is fully cooled into a huge slab, which you can then break into whatever size clusters you desire.
Bonus: No tiresome and potentially messy stirring at the halfway point of baking.
Warning: This granola is dangerously addictive. Everyone that I've given it to has asked for more.

3 cups (240g) rolled oats (not instant oats)
1 cup (50g) dessicated coconut
1 cup walnuts (100g), coarsely chopped (I tried pecans in one batch, but walnuts were tastier and cheaper)
1/4 cup (25g) wheat germ (I didn't toast them, as per the recipe, and no harm was done)
2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120ml) maple syrup

Preheat oven to 150 deg C (300 deg F). Line a large tray with baking paper (aluminium foil works too, but the final product will stick slightly to it and FOIL your attempts to get huge chunks).

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Get your hands dirty.

Pour the mixture onto the lined tray and press it down evenly. Use your entire body weight.

Pop into oven for about an hour. Rotate the tray at the halfway point so it browns evenly. Check on it five to 10 minutes before the time is up, in case your oven runs hotter than mine and it burns. When the surface feels dry and not sticky, looks a nice shade of brown and smells totally irresistible, turn off the oven and let it cool inside for a bit. You can also cool the tray on the countertop if you simply cannot wait.

When it is completely cool, break it into chunks and store in an airtight container or fridge. You can also add a cup of dried fruit. Dried cranberries go well, but this granola is pretty good all by itself. It should be able to keep for two weeks, although that has yet to happen. Mine is always gone within days.

Friday, March 22

reading 1, 2, 3

In January, I read one book.

A Spy In The House Of Love, by Anais Nin, made me wanna slap the heroine. Wake up! Stop making excuses for yourself for being a slutty two-timer!

In February, I read two books.

No Easy Day by Mark Owen was about the top-secret mission to get Osama bin Laden. Gripping read, but so little personal details and emotions were revealed -- even the author's name was changed -- that I found it hard to root for the Navy Seals team.

In the same vein, I read Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell, which was about the author's mission in Afghanistan which went horribly wrong. The book title said it all, so there were no surprises there when everyone except the author perished. The narrator was full of annoying macho shit, but the story of how he survived was so amazing that I raced through the final chapters.

In March, I read three books -- see a pattern here? Though I highly doubt I will be able to read 12 books in December.

I read a few chapters -- each being a couple of pages long -- of It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be, by ad guru Paul Arden, in the bookstore before I picked it as a Christmas gift. Naturally, I borrowed it after Christmas. The one take-home I got from it was about presenting your work to bosses/clients in a rough draft form, as opposed to a finished product. This allows them to participate in the process, instead of looking for little things to nitpick at the final stage.

On my twin's excellent recommendation, I read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. About black housekeepers in Mississippi in the 1960s, it had a cast of strong likeable women characters, who took turns to narrate.

But the best book of March was Tiny Beautiful Things, by Chery Strayed. In fact, even though it's early days still, I might just proclaim it the best book of 2013. It's a compilation of advice columns called Dear Sugar, written with so much honesty and heart that I teared up at almost every column, despite being at the hairdresser's, enduring a three-hour perm job.

So. That's six books for 2013 so far. On a side note, George W. Bush read 95 books in 2006, while simultaneously fighting a war in Iraq and holding the title of Leader of the Free World.

And on another tangent, the former president has taken up painting. I must say his self-portraits have a certain refreshing vulnerability and naivete to them.

Thursday, March 7

and i wonder why i have chronic shoulder aches

My twin and I have been wanting to do this blog post for quite a while now -- we are procrastinators of the first degree -- and we have finally got off our asses to do it.

Presenting my version of Urban's Bag Page:
1. Giant tote from Madewell, lipstick scarf from H&M
2. Rabbit-shaped grocery bag
3. Another grocery bag
4. Yet another grocery bag (don't ask me why I need so many)
5. Crumpled receipt (only showing you one of many)
6. Print-out of recipe for green tea muffins I want to make this weekend, red Moleskine notebook, mints and mini colourful markers from Muji
7. Pouch to contain all the items in #6
8. Carrot to contain earbuds
9. iPhone with Doraemon charm
10. Keys with giraffe keychain
11. Wallet with dino print from Asos
12. Card case from Tila March
13. Donut to do my giant bun
14. Brolly from H&M and ziplock for when it's wet
15. Shades from Muji
16. Make-up pouch

Other back-breaking items I sometimes carry (not pictured): lunchbox, yoga clothes, iPad, a particularly un-put-down-able book, slippers or flats, cardigan or scarf.

Tuesday, January 29

pushing my buttons

Was in the mood for soup (when am I not?), and made this with some baby carrots, onions and shrooms I had in the fridge. Quick, easy and so yummy. Was going to add frozen peas at the end but forgot due to the delish smells wafting through the entire flat. (I have an entirely different story about the not-so-yummy wild rocket-basil soup I made last night. I know, what was I thinking? Bleugh!)

1 tbs butter
1 onion, sliced
3 shallots, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
12 baby carrots, thickly sliced
200g button mushrooms, sliced (can also be made with shiitake or portobello, but I like low-class button mushrooms)
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water
Salt and pepper to task

Melt butter in stock pot over medium heat and cook onion, shallots, garlic and carrots until soft, about 10 minutes. Add tarragon and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are browned, about three to five minutes.

Add the chicken stock and water and bring to the boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer for 30 minutes and serve with spring onions (mine all died, so no garnish in the above photo).