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.

On Free Gifts

Not all free gifts with purchases are created equal; there are those that are stowed away in the cupboard for months and end up taking up space.

Then there are those that keep appearing on the kitchen counter every other day.  Here are 8 free items that I’ll absolutely use over and over again:

++ oo1 lasagna ceramic dish ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// for baking brownies,

On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// and honey granola.

++ 002 stainless steel spoon ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// bundled free with condiment, fits nicely in my zero-waste takeaway lunchbox.

++ 003 porcelain spoon ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

//  originally for jams, now for scooping everything delicious.

++004 cotton dish towel ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// workhorse in the kitchen, extra brownie points for the hanging loop.

++005 mug ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// that have been around for a long long time.

++ 006 4pc cutlery ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// because I never own a branded one before, not that the logo matters. The point is it’s free AND useful.

++ 007 plastic container ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + CoOn Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// the handle on the cover made it a handy snack carrier, minus the need for plastic bags.

++ 008 tote bag ++
On Free Gifts // Mono + Co

// simply useful, for avoiding plastic bags.

Are you equally choosy about accepting the free gifts into your house?
Have you ever ended up NOT buying something because the bundled gift was not desirable?

Almost Free Chap Chye

Almost Free Chap Chye // Mono + Co

Got a huge bag of dried items like black fungus, mushrooms, glass noodles,  black moss, lily bulb, and fried bean stick after a praying ritual. They were all packed in little sachets, so I sorted them into my glass containers, by type.  Clear plastic bags all go to the recycling bin as I have absolutely no use for them, plus there are too many of them.

Almost Free Chap Chye // Mono + Co

I used up everything except black moss to make a vegetarian chap chye.  Black moss is endangered, so the ones for the praying ritual could be mocked ones made with gelatin/starch.  They look too black to be the real thing.

Almost Free Chap Chye // Mono + Co

I mentioned “almost free” because I bought cabbage and carrot to cook the dish.  Garlic and condiments like vegetarian oyster sauce and sesame oil are not free either.

Almost Free Chap Chye // Mono + Co

Here’s how I usually cook my Chap Chye:

001. Soak all dry ingredients: mushrooms, black fungus, lily bulbs, glass noodles and fried bean stick.  After they have softened, rinse thoroughly to remove dirt.

002. In a heated wok, add cooking oil and minced garlic, fry until fragrant. 

003. Add mushrooms, black fungus, and lily bulbs.  Stir to fry.

004. Add carrot slices, chopped cabbage and fried bean stick.

005. Add vegetarian oyster sauce and enough hot water to cook all the ingredients, and bring to boil.

006.  Transfer to a pot and cover to simmer for 15 minutes.  Add more water to cover the ingredients, if necessary.

007.  Remove cover and add glass noodles, dash of white pepper and sesame oil.  Let it boil for another 5 minutes before serving.

I realised that I am starting to cook like my mom, no detailed ingredient list : a bit of this, a bit of that.  If you like this ingredient add more, or omit if you don’t.

If you need a chap chye recipe with exact ingredient list, check out this and this.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

I collect these used candles in blue, yellow, and red from parties as they are a waste to throw away after just 1-2 minutes of use.

Since most DIY candle tutorials online like this and this are all about simply melting the wax followed by adding colour or scent to the end product, I thought I could do the same with the discards I gathered.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

This tutorial that melts the wax directly inside mason jars hits the right note with me: messy wax residues in pots and utensils are a pain to clean up.  I separated the candles from their wicks, placed them in a glass jar and proceeded to melt them in a water bath.

The colours from the candles combined to produce a purple shade end product, to which I added lavender essential oil as a scent to match its appearance.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

After trying out the method with a portion of the candles that led to a successful light-up session, I am ready to use up all my stash to fill the jar.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

I also reused a wick from one of the candles.  Once I have too many used candles, now I have too many wicks.

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

Hopefully, this little one will bring some cosy feel to my home.  I am extremely late on this Danish Hygge concept since I have only very recently read the 2 little books of “Hygge” and “Lykke”, back to back, by The Happiness Research Institute.  I can’t be more inspired to add elements of fun/warmth/togetherness/cosiness/happiness to my everyday life!

Green Monday : Reusing Used Candles

Homemade Min Chiang Kueh 面煎粿

Homemade Min Chiang Kueh 面煎粿 // Mono + Co

Perhaps also due to the acute shortage of labour, I have noticed quite a handful of hawker stalls switched disposable wares to save on the dishwashing chores.  Quite a few min chiang kueh (MCK) sellers have also switched to serving their yummy snacks on styrofoam plates, even for dine-in customers.  A stall at Upper Cross Street still serves theirs on reusuable plates, so I will always have one piece when I pass by, dine-in of course.

I like my min chiang kueh filled with ground peanuts the traditional way, and not with sticky peanut butter.  Yes, it can be quite messy and impossible to eat without the peanut bits falling off from the pancake, but as long as I catch these crumbs on the plate, I can easily gather them into a pile and sweep into my mouth, wasting no edibles.

I have started making my own at home after discovering an easy recipe that has no lye.  I also used raw sugar and skipped sesame seeds.

Homemade Min Chiang Kueh 面煎粿 // Mono + Co

I used my 16cm skillet to cook the MCK (recipe yields three pieces), on very low heat and covered.

Homemade Min Chiang Kueh 面煎粿 // Mono + Co

The edges were cripsy, interior fluffy, just like the recipe source has suggested.

Homemade Min Chiang Kueh 面煎粿 // Mono + Co

My kids commented that the homemade MCK smells and tastes authentic.  Another local snack recipe gem found!

Min Chiang Kueh 面煎粿

adapted from here

130g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoon raw sugar
1 large egg, 80g with shell
160g water

filling *
50g roasted ground peanuts**
25g raw sugar

* I didn’t really follow the recipe closely for the filling, I watch the MCK sellers sprinkle sugar first than ground peanut, so I follow this method of preparing the filling instead, by feel.

** I prefer coarse ones with more crunch, some commericial MCK comes filled the fine version of the ground peanuts, those you sprinkle muah chee with.  Coarse or fine, up to indiviual preference.

In a bowl, mix the 4 dry ingredients  together.  Then add egg and water, and stir to mix well into a smooth batter with a whisk.  Set this aside undisturbed for at least 30 minutes.

Heat up 16 inch skillet over medium heat, when the skillet gets too hot to touch, turn the heat down to low and grease cooking surface thinly with a pastry brush.   Pour 1/3 of the batter into the skillet, and swirl the batter around to coat the edge of the pan with a thin layer of batter, this will become the crispy yummy edge of the MCK.  Cover and let it cook for 3-4 minutes over a very low heat.

Lift the cover.  The batter should look almost cooked with no obvious wet batter spots.  Sprinkle sugar evenly, followed by ground peanuts, cover and continue to cook further, for 2 minutes.

After 2 minutes, lift the cover, fold the MCK into half and transfer to serving plate. Cut and serve immediately.

Simple Pleasures

over new year’s eve & new year’s day

// reusing this holder with a new calendar.

// and the metal tearing guide component from the new calendar becomes a binder for unused sheets from kids’ school exercise books.

// washed and ironed these square tenugui for wrapping lunch boxes or packing finger food takeaways without disposables etc.

// rinsed and air-dried tiny honey jars that came with our tea order, too wasteful to be recyled or discarded.  Think lipbalm containers.

// scent of the month : lime.  Infused white vinegar with leftover lime peels to make a safer all-purpose cleaner.

// 2.5 cups of rolled-oats-turned-honey-granola fit a reused 680ml pasta bottle nicely.

// stowing away this handmade Xmas wreath away with recycled log cake toppers and hamper ornaments.  Green CNY decorating ideas up soon.