Simple Pleasures

// unlimited supply of sweet basil at home, it’s that simple.

// found a random encouragement note in a library book.  I am not alone.

// removing labels from jars and containers without leaving any adhesive residue behind should be this easy to encourage reusing and recycling.  Refilling these emptied detergent bottles with DIY citrus infused vinegar cleaner.

// mom couldn’t resist buying a box of unbelievably-cheap-but-expiring-really-really-soon Betty Crocker pancake mix from the discount store but needed help to finish.  That’s how I ended up having pancakes AND waffles for breakfast.

// gave my favourite good morning towel a make-over using natural food dye: turmeric, a shade that I really love after using it for my DIY beeswax food wrap.

// using food dye means I can use my cooking pot for the project.

// because every drop counts.  Transferring cooking oil to a repurposed glass bottle.

New Pantry Item: Homemade Kimchi Juice

Homemade Liquid Kimchi // Mono + Co

Maangchi’s napa cabbage kimchi remains a must-have homemade staple, either as a convenient side dish for its many health benefits or as an ingredient for a quick one-pot mushroom tofu stew.

Homemade Liquid Kimchi // Mono + Co

Lately, I have also been getting excited about kimchi juice, a by-product of kimchi.  The last recipe recap post was put up two years ago.  Since then I have tweaked the recipe slightly, here’s a list of what has changed since then, and what has not, and how I yield somewhat more of the umami powerhouse sauce like this from my kimchi-making process.  I have served it as a dipping sauce for pot stickers, a very yummy idea!

++ Sticking to one head of cabbage ++

Homemade Liquid Kimchi // Mono + Co

Kimchi is super easy to make at home.  But I don’t want to go overboard and prepare more than what my fridge space allows or how much my family can reasonably finish before it turns too sour for our liking.  This means sticking to one head of cabbage for my family of four.  An overly long period of fermentation while procrastinating to finish up the batch doesn’t guarantee better kimchi.


++ Sticking to same brining method ++

Homemade Liquid Kimchi // Mono + Co

For the brining process, I am still using the same Daiso-bought oblong sieve basin that is the perfect size for one head of cabbage.  After rubbing coarse sea salt into each leaf and add enough water to cover the cabbage, I will use place a cast iron pot on top to press and keep the leaves fully submerged in the brine for at least 2 hours.  The cabbage is ready when you can bend the hardy part without breaking it.


++ Switching to Brown Sugar ++Homemade Liquid Kimchi // Mono + Co

This has nothing to do with making tastier kimchi, neither did I switch for health reasons.  I have been using brown sugar at home because this is the only type of sugar sold in bulk sans packaging at the grocery store.  Nowadays, I believe that reducing sugar intake is a better health tip than say, replacing white refined sugar gram for gram with expensive raw/organic/unrefined ones.  The colour of the porridge might turn out different at first, but after adding hot pepper flakes, the end result still looks fiery-red-delicious.


++ Switching to Immersion Blender ++Homemade Liquid Kimchi // Mono + Co

The handy and space-saving immersion blender is a godsend for my small kitchen when I need a simple tool to blend milkshake and puree cream soup.  No need to lug its chunkier cousin, the countertop food processor, out from the kitchen cabinet anymore.  The portable blender also works very well in this kimchi recipe to mix the sweet rice porridge with roughly chopped garlic and onion, and grated ginger.

Homemade Liquid Kimchi // Mono + Co

After one minute of blending, all the ingredients turned into a smooth mixture.  The best part of using an immersion blender: easy to wash.  Cleaning up after cooking is always a meh task for me.


++ Switching to a less garlicky version ++Homemade Liquid Kimchi // Mono + Co

The original recipe calls for 24 cloves of garlic along with spring onions and chives.  Now, I add just one bulb of garlic, 3 stalks of spring onions, and removing chives altogether from my homemade kimchi.  I have also been adding lesser hot pepper flakes, 3 heaped tablespoons instead of 2 cups stated in the original recipe.  As the kimchi paste-porridge is no longer as spicy as before, I will use up the entire batch for one head of cabbage. It may look excessive at first to be using so much kimchi paste on one head of cabbage, but I am trying to yield something yummy and nutritious as the kimchi goes through the fermentation process: kimchi juice!


++ Switching to Harvest More Kimchi Juice ++Homemade Liquid Kimchi // Mono + Co

During its initial fermentation, the cabbage will release more water and turn the kimchi paste into a runny liquid.  From time to time, I will press to pack the leaves down using the back of a spatula, to mix the kimchi juice well.

After a day of maturing at room temperature, the kimchi is ready to be served.  By now, I will transfer the well-ripened kimchi to glass jars and placed inside the fridge to slow down the fermentation process.  The level of kimchi juice will continue to rise as the fermentation process continues for the next few days.  By day three, the level of kimchi juice yield will be enough to keep all the leaves full submerged.  At the end of the month, when all the cabbage kimchi has been consumed, I will be left with a jar of yummy kimchi juice which makes a handy condiment for making soup, stir-fries and more, with a touch of that kimchi’s signature tangy, spicy flavour.

Here’s a recap of the recipe that will yield a thicker kimchi juice/sauce for use as a cooking condiment.

Need more delicious reasons to make kimchi?

// this scrambled egg

// this grilled cheese sandwich

// this tofu mandu

// this udon

// this pancake

Yum.


SIMPLE VEGAN KIMCHI

adapted from here

napa cabbage, 1 head
coarse sea salt

Porridge for kimchi sauce
2 cups water
2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Seasoning
1 bulb garlic
2 teaspoons grated ginger
3 heaped tablespoons hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 stalks scallions, chopped

To make kimchi with whole leaf intact, make a cross slit at the base of the cabbage, and tear the cabbage apart with hands from the core, you will have 4 portions of cabbage complete with green leaves and white stem.  If the head of cabbage is really huge, I will divide it into 6 sections.

Rub coarse sea salt in between the leaves, paying more attention at the thicker white stem portion.  Leave the cabbage in a shallow basin/pot, add water to cover leaves.

Optional: place a heavy cast iron pot on the vegetables to squeeze out the liquid in the cabbage.  Leave this aside for 2 hours, turning the cabbage over once or twice in between.

In the meantime, prepare the kimchi sauce.  In a saucepan, add water and glutinous rice flour to form a uniform mixture.  Bring to boil while stirring the whole time.  Do not leave the mixture to bring to boil over the stove on its own.  Once the mixture starts to boil and thicken, add brown sugar and simmer for 1 minute.  Turn off heat and let porridge cool completely.

To make kimchi sauce, blend roughly chopped garlic and grated ginger with cooled porridge using an immersion blender.  Add hot pepper flakes, soy sauce and stir well.  Add chopped scallions next and mix well.

When the cabbage is ready, rinse the leaves 3 times to thoroughly to remove salt.  Drain well.

Scoop some kimchi sauce with a clean tablespoon and drop it on the cabbage, spread the sauce evenly and generously on each leaf with clean hands and place it in a clean pot/container.  Repeat with the rest.  Pour and spread any balance kimchi sauce on top of the cabbage evenly.

Cover the container and leave it on the kitchen counter to ferment at room temperature, preferably overnight.  Next morning, you will check for air bubbles, which is a sign of fermentation taking place.  Press to pack the cabbage down to let the air bubbles escape and also for the kimchi juice to cover the leaves.  If you can reach the bottom of the container with a spoon, scoop the liquid from the bottom to transfer them to the top of the kimchi.  Taste test if the fermented flavour is to your liking, you can store the kimchi in the fridge where fermentation will slow down.

Of Muffins and Kitchen Compost

Of Muffins and Kitchen Compost // Mono + Co

I am lousy with plants but I somehow manage to keep my pots of sweet basil and Indian borage alive. There are two reasons why I try hard to keep plants along my corridor.  One, I get packing-free herbs without paying.  Two, I add trash to large pots of used potting soil.  Trash like eggshell, coffee grounds, tea leaves, and baking cups.

Of Muffins and Kitchen Compost // Mono + Co

I buy compostable baking cups and bury the used ones in a big pot of soil that I keep aside as my own lazy version of composting project.  That’s just one way of reusing trash from my kitchen.  I don’t have great gardening skills to tell you I am producing quality compost, but at least I am regularly harvesting basil leaves for my Aglio Olio recipes.

Regrettably, my non-compostable trash level piles high with plastic packaging from ingredients such as sugar, wholemeal flour, salt, milk and butter.

Although I send all plastic and cardboard waste for recycling, I really can’t be sure whether they will get that new lease of life as recycled products.  I have observed how the content in recycling bins are often mixed with contaminants and non-recyclable materials. Sometimes, bags from overfull recycling bins are transferred to general trash bins, undermining all the “rinse clean and dry” efforts of many household recyclers.

In case I have not repeated myself enough over the years, I believe reducing what I consume is going to make the most positive impact on the environment.  Forget recycling, because it only makes unnecessary trash generation less guilty.

I am sharing this whole wheat muffin recipe because it’s a keeper.  My daughter baked it for the family.

By the way, if you know how I can get zero waste butter, drop me a note will you?  I can easily cut down on cakes or substitute butter in recipes with oil.  But skipping butter on toast is a whole different level, especially for a bread lover like me.

Of Muffins and Kitchen Compost // Mono + Co


WHOLE WHEAT MUFFINS

adapted from here

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar**
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2 cups wholemeal flour

** original recipe called for 1/2 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup brown sugar

001. In a mixer bowl, add softened butter, sugar, and baking soda with cream at medium speed .

002. Add beaten egg and vanilla to the mixture and beat till light and fluffy.

003. Add milk, mix well.

004. Remove bowl from mixer and add wholemeal flour.  Using a spatula, stir to mix the batter until all ingredients are just combined, or no spots of flour is visible.

005.  Line muffin tray with baking cups.  Fill cups 2/3 full with muffin batter and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 200C.

Post-CNY Stuff : Five More Get Upcycled

First five here, this post shares mostly what I do with empty CNY goodie containers.

++006 P.E.T Containers, Large ++

// for infusing cheap artificial vinegar with orange peels to make great smelling all-purpose cleaner.  Compared to the dispensing spout from original vinegar bottle, the large larger mouth makes it easy to drop citrus peels into the container.  Right bottle with vinegar that has gone through just one day of rest with peels.


++ 007 P.E.T Containers, Small ++

// three of these fit the depth nicely in my pantry drawer where I keep the dry goods.

// bonus: they weigh 50 grams each without its red lid, useful for bulk grocery shopping where stall holders can do mental calculations faster without taring their weighing scales.


++ 008 Ferrero Roche Clear Box ++

// it’s too pretty, too functional to be thrown into the recycling bin,  I am sure there are areas at home or office that could do with one or two frill-less clear box like this.  If you’re crafty, you might like these ideas:  this herb planter, and this trinket box, this mini greenhouse, and this tiny aquarium.


++ 009 Tin Box No.1 ++

// Another airtight container great for buying/storing biscuits and crackers bought from the bulk snack shops at wet markets.  No: bulk shops are not limited to upscale shopping centres, and  yes: wet market in the heartlands carry many items in bulk sans packaging.  All we need to do is bring our own bags/containers and ask nicely for no plastic bags.


++ 010 Tin Box No. 2 ++

tin box recycling

//  I have no plans yet for this beautiful gift box that came with yummy pineapple tart.  When there is a creative block, I will turn to short-term hoarding as a solution.  A week of displaying this on the wall and if there are still no ideas, recycle it.  It’s progressing as you can see, the magnetic buttons were added to spur more ideas.

Post-CNY Stuff

Five upcycling ideas.

++ 001 Hamper Basket ++

// adding a very nice touch to my bike.


++ 002 Cookie Tins ++

// looking pretty AND the perfect airtight containers for ground coffee and tea dust.


++ 003 (Another) Hamper Basket ++

// as hamper packaging gets exquisite, so do my upcycled storage boxes.


++ 004 Mandarin orange gift box ++

// for storing knick-knacks.


++ 005 (yup, one more) Hamper Basket ++

// as an iron holder.

Pancake Waffles

Pancake Waffles // Mono + Co

As it turns out, my fluffy pancake recipe is perfect for making fluffy waffles as well.

When prepared fresh, it’s cripsy on the outside, the kind you serve with ice-cream.

After it has cooled down, it turns into a tender and fluffy texture that is perfect to be eaten alone, or with spread like Nutella or just simple drizzle of honey.

Pancake Waffles // Mono + Co

Add this recipe to my 152 Waffle Days thread.


Fluffy Pancakes Recipe

1 cup plain flour 
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons (28g) raw sugar 
1 egg
 1 cup (240ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon rice bran oil


In a mixing bowl, add plain flour, baking powder, salt, raw sugar.  Combine well with a small hand whisk.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in beaten egg, milk, and vanilla extract, whisk to mix.

Add oil and whisk to mix until the batter becomes smooth and no longer lumpy.  Add more milk if the batter is too thick.

Cook waffles as per waffle maker instructions. I use setting no.4

Tea Seed Powder, Again

I am a guest author this week at Secondguru, one of my favorite local eco-lifestyle website for green and sustainable living ideas.  Pop by and read me wax lyrical about the amazing tea seed powder.

I mentioned that I am always looking for more ways to use tea seed powder, sometimes also known as Camelia seed powder.  The multi-use eco-cleaning product that I originally sourced from Taiwan to replace commercial dish detergent (no more dry hands from daily dishwashing chore!) has since become a must-have item around my house.

This is one of those days when the sun is bright and laundry dry so fast that I start looking around the house for more things to wash, with tea seed powder of course.

And this is how I hang my makeup brushes to dry, clutched along my window grilles with stainless steel laundry pegs.

If you have not discover this wonderful natural cleaning product, it is pretty worth a try considering it’s really affordable at SGD4.90/kg.  I have shared more tips on teaseed powder uses and where to buy on Secondsguru!

Fluffy Pancakes

Fluffy Pancakes // Mono + Co

I make pretty pancakes the slow way.  Egg white separated and whisk to soft peaks.  Pan over low heat, all to achieve that lovely smooth brown surface, albeit a longer cooking time.

Fluffy Pancakes // Mono + Co

While the recipe I have been using remained more or less the same over the years, some tweaks were made on several occasions when I ran out of an ingredient, or when I have excess ingredients to clear.  Like how I use Hong Kong flour for today’s version.  Hong Kong flour is used for making fluffy steamed buns, so fluffy pancakes should be achievable too!  I mixed 50:50 ratio of Hong Kong flour and plain white flour.  But if you don’t have Hong Kong flour at home, simply stick to plain flour or cake flour.  The pancakes will still turn out fluffy.

The other item I have altered since last year is the use of milk powder instead of fresh milk.  To cut down on plastic bottle/paper carton waste from fresh milk consumption, I started using milk powder instead for bread/waffles/pancake recipes.  Sometimes, I would even skip milk as an ingredient altogether in bread recipes and use plain water.  No one has complained.

Fluffy Pancakes // Mono + Co

I have also picked up other cooking habits, like covering the pan with a pot lid during cooking.  The pancakes somehow cooked faster in the trapped steam, or so I think.

Fluffy Pancakes // Mono + Co

When done properly, the pancake is ready when the top side of the pancake has no wet and uncooked spots,

Fluffy Pancakes // Mono + Co

while the pan side has cooked to a beautiful golden brown shade.

Fluffy Pancakes // Mono + Co


Fluffy Pancakes Recipe

1/2 cup hong kong flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (28g) raw sugar
2 tablespoons milk powder
1 egg, yolk and white separated
1 cup (240ml) water
28g butter, melted 
more butter, for greasing pan

In a mixing bowl, add Hong Kong flour, plain flour, baking powder, salt, raw sugar and milk powder and combine well with a small hand whisk.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in water and egg yolk, whisk to mix.

Drizzle in melted butter and whisk to mix until the batter becomes smooth and no longer lumpy.  Set batter aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg white to soft peak.  Gently fold the egg white into the pancake batter.

To cook, warm up a pan on low fire, not too hot.  Remove the pan from the stove and brush the smallest amount of butter on the pan to prevent pancake from sticking.  Pour some batter onto the pan and return the pan to the stovetop.  Cover and let the pancake cook over low heat.  Bubbles will start to appear on the top side of the pancake.  Continue to let it cook in the covered pan, until there are no wet or uncooked spots on the top side of the pancake.

Remove cover and lift a corner of the pancake slightly to check, the bottom should turned golden brown by now.  If it is too brown or has charred, this means that the fire is too hot, reduce the heat further when cooking the next pancake.  Transfer the pancake to a serving plate and cover with a clean towel to keep the pancake from drying out.  Fluffy, moist and warm ones are preferred on the breafast table.

Remove the pan from the fire to bring the temperature down slightly.  Brush butter and repeat to cook the remaining batter.

Serve immediately with syrup or favorite toppings.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018

Today is the second day of Chinese New Year.  I can already forsee that there will hardly be much decoration waste to discard when the celebration is over.  We are happily reusing most of the decorative items from previous years and I use a lot of tassels like these to inject a Chinese new year feel into almost anything around the house.  Everything gets stowed away rather than being thrown away, and since they are not that elaborated, they don’t take up much space in the store room either.  As long as I can practice self-control when it comes to pretty wicker hamper baskets!

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : vase, tassel, mini wooden peg with bird motif, grey jute string, patterned origami paper.
// new : baby’s breath in pink, to be dried and added to my dry flower collection.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : hamper basket, artificial peach blossom from hamper deco, tassel, red packets
// new : mandarin oranges.  When all the exchanges are done after the new year visits, the fruits will be eaten, the peels to be soaked in white vinegar to make an citrus infused all-purpose cleaner.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : a pair of door couplets and 3 “福” wall decorative images, since I refrain from buying zodiac specific ones.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : red packets from last year turned into lanterns this year, and tassels.

Zero Waste Decor for Chinese New Year 2018 // Mono + Co

// reused : umeshu glass bottle-turned-vase for a bouquet of artificial flowers, also pre-loved.