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.

Zero Waste Failures

Not all my waste-free-upcycling-craft-attempts are smooth sailing.  As much as I hope to transform every discard into something useful or wish that I can make everything that I need from scratch, sometimes, they just don’t turn out the way I thought, or like they say: Pinterest fail.

Here are a few to share:

++ DIY Shower Pouf ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: nylon mesh packaging bags for garlic, free from vegetable stalls. jute string, from Daiso.
// how it failed: the material was too rough as a shower pouf, the tough nylon makes them better off as produce bags. turned out that nylon is a recyclable material, so off they go into the blue recycling bin,

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

++ DIY green fabric dye++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: wilting pandan leaves that were unsold by end of day, free from stallholder
// how it failed: the fabric did not absorb the color with the boil and soak method, my fabric used to squeeze pandan juice ended up many shades darker (photo below right).

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

++ DIY five stones ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// material: used empty silk pyramid tea bags, dried green bean as filling
// how it failed: the fabric just couldn’t hold the stitches, started falling apart after the 4th game.  better zero waste luck sticking to loose tea leaves.

++ DIY liquid laundry detergent ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: labour brand bar soap
// how it failed: the liquid soap turned into blobs of fats instead of a running liquid detergent

++ DIY cocoa eyeliner ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: cocoa powder and coconut oil
// how it failed: not sure why, but mixture turned clumpy after a few days and became too difficult to apply evenly.

++ DIY Reusable facial cleansing pads ++

Zero Waste Failures // Mono + Co

// inspired by this
// material: cotton fabric from an old blouse
// why it failed: the material was too rough for wiping makeup off my face.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤]

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

I am not a fan of stocking up, not even dried ingredients that can keep well for months.  When I need the Eight Treasures herbal soup ingredients, I still prefer to visit the traditional medicinal halls to get the ingredients when it’s time to prepare it.  I usually don’t give a second thought about getting my herbs wrapped with their traditional pink wrapping paper, as long as it is not plastic.  But since I had a tenugui with me on this particular day, I thought why not use it instead.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

I passed the tenugui to the boss and asked for my “Eight Treasures” (八珍) to be packed without using his paper wrapper, his customers in the shop started to chuckle.
“Boss,  from now on must provide hankerchieves as free gift with your herbs!” they jokingly commented.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

Anyway, I don’t know how, but the tenugui seemed to open up a conversation with the usually reserved boss.  As he started chatting while stacking my herbs super neatly on the tenugui, he also gave me few tips to prepare the soup:
// always rinse the herbs briefly to remove dirt,
// place the herbs and water in a pot, and bring to boil together,
// turn down heat, always reduce to simmer for better result, for this soup about 1.5 – 2 hours,
// for additional nutrition, add 1 fresh chicken egg to cook with the soup, must rinse the shell under running water to clean
// sieve the herbs, drink the soup and consume the egg, that has absorbed the “essence” from the herbs,
// to the seived herbs, add just enough water to cover them, and cook for second time to yield a slightly diluted version, in order not to waste it.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

I was apprehensive about leaving the shell to cook in the soup so I added de-shelled hardboiled egg on my first try.

Then I read this post where the author cooked the egg first, then add to the cooking soup with shell intact but cracked.

Eight Treasures Herbal Soup [八珍汤] // Mono + Co

I tried with the cracked eggshell method on my second try and served it with mee sua.

Feeling more adventurous, I found this post where the author rinsed the shell, soaked in brine for 15 minutes, before proceeding to cook it in the soup.

Let me update this post when I cook this soup again.