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*
160g water

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

* I use large sized egg that weighs at least 80g with shell.

** 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.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

I wrote here how I started looking for tea seed powder to replace chemical dishwashing detergent and ended up loving it even more in my bathroom here as my shampoo and facial scrub.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

When mixed with water, it can produce just the right amount of bubbles to look like a detergent.  In fact, it degreases effectively without that slippery feel of commercial soaps that requires lots of water to rinse clean.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

I have since found the perfect container to upcycle into a handy shaker bottle that dispense just the right amount of powder for dishwashing.  The raisin tub I was using previously is dispensing baking soda now.

One of my main concern when switching to tea seed powder is its short shelf life.  It is best to use up within three months after the bag is opened, according to the packaging instructions.  Going by how little is required to wash my hair and the dishes, I need to have more uses for it to use up 1 kg packet every 3 months.

Here are some uses I have found so far :

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Makeup Brush Cleaner. Since tea seed powder has anti-bacterial properties, I started using it to replace diluted liquid castile soap to clean my makeup brushes.  I simply mix 1 heap teaspoon of powder with water in a small glass and run the makeup brush back and forth in the glass to release the makeup, grease etc.  Rinse the brush and repeat to ensure that it is completely clean of makeup.  Wrap the brush with a clean cotton towel and squeeze to dry the bristles slightly.  Hang brush with hair facing downwards to air dry.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Fruit and vegetable cleaner.  I got this idea when I saw commercially produced fruit and vegetable cleaner made with tea seed powder.  I have only used it on fruit and vegetables with peels like apples, grapes (still attached to stalks,) zucchini, carrots, etc. I soak them in tea seed powder and water solution for 10 minutes before rinsing clean.  Tea seed powder is not edible, so it is important to rinse the fruit and vegetables clean after soaking.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Cooking oil plastic bottle cleaner.  If you have tried washing plastic containers stained with oily food, you will know how difficult it is to degrease them for recycling.  The oil somehow finds a way to cling really well onto the plastic surface and I often find myself running it with soapy water at least 3 to 4 times before getting them squeaky clean for recycling.  Imagine the amount of water required to wash and rinse the cooking oil bottle.  I end up discarding these plastic bottles instead of recycling them.

Not anymore.  I mix tea seed powder with a small amount of water to form a thick paste and rub it all over the bottle. I cut open the container to washing the inner wall.  Then I add more water to rinse and degrease at the same time.  The above photo shows how much water I used in total to degrease the bottle, less than 300ml, not bad for such an oily plastic container.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Pastry brush cleaner.  Again, tea seed powder shows its powerful degreasing properties with just one wash and one rinse.  I simply run the powder all over the greasy silicone bristles and add some water to form a thick paste, rub clean the silicone bristles and rinse.  Squeaky clean once again.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Pesticide for plants.  I found this use stated here, here, here, so far only use once and the plants are still surviving.

Simple Pleasures

just a gather of some random shots of things that caught my eye, made my day, or meaningful enough to make me press the shutter, but just don’t seem to fit in anywhere or significant as a post.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// basil is probably the only plant I always harvest from my parapet garden.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// sterilizing, at 100 degrees celcius. Because it’s not plastic.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// school uniform: the most hardworking piece of apparel, rendered unwearable and unmendable, thank goodness she’s graduating.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// washing an empty oil bottle using the least amount of water.  My trick : teaseed powder.

Simple Pleasures // Mono + Co

// trash level report: low.  Keep trying.

Nov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities – Eco Edition

Nov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities - Eco Edition // Mono + Co

Spent the first week of the year end school holidays in the malls and can’t wait to do something different?  How about activities with an Eco/Nature-theme?  I have compiled a list in a chronological order to share.

In case there is only time for just one Eco-event, taking part in a beach clean-up as a family is highly recommended.  Nowadays, we barely give a second thought every time we drink from plastic bottled water, clean hard to reach corners with Q-tips, pack take-away meals in styrofoam /plastic boxes or pick up a straw for our drink.  But these habits have generated most of the common trash we collected when my family joined Trash Hero Singapore in one of their monthly sessions to clean up a quiet part of the beach at East Coast Park.

Armed with a pair of gloves (a must, never pick up trash with bare hands, and tell the kids to always inform an adult when they find broken glass, fish hooks, syringes, needles, or any sharp objects) and a plastic bag, the instruction from the organizer was simple: pick up as much trash as possible in 2 hours.  After 10 minutes, I found myself squatting at the same spot sorting out items that shouldn’t belong there: cigarette butts, tiny plastic sticks from Q-tips (but my kids think that these are lollipop sticks, guess they look the same after the candy and cotton buds are gone,) candy wrappers, straws of different colors and sizes, and most annoying of all, styrofoam bits that have disintegrated into impossibly tiny pieces over time.  The task of picking out these bits looked impossible and I told myself I will bring along a sieve/colander next time to separate these styrofoam pieces from the fine sand.  I moved on to picking up larger trash items like plastic bottles, drink cans, used wet wipes, snack packaging, fish nets, and plastic bags.  Others found toothbrushes and plastic combs.

Nov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities - Eco Edition // Mono + CoNov/Dec 2017 School Holiday Activities - Eco Edition // Mono + Co
Photo credit : Trash Hero Singapore

By the end of the session, 80kg of rubbish were collected, mostly plastic.  The single most important takeaway from this beach clean up: avoid the use of disposable plastic.  Trash Hero Singapore will be conducting another beach clean up session on 26 November (Sunday) at Sembawang Beach Park.  Check out the details here.

Can’t wait to start a greener way to spend the rest of the school holiday? Let’s start from this Saturday :

Nov 25 (Sat)

//Charismatic Primates of Malaysia – Living in Harmony with Nature and Wildlife
A second Jane Goodall Institute Singapore Lecture Series with primate experts from Malaysia.  Registration is required.

// Chek Jawa Boardwalk
Free guided nature walk at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin.  The one held later on 16th Dec has been fully booked.
When/ Where: 9.30am / Chek Jawa Information Kiosk, Pulau Ubin
Registation here.

// Bukit Brown – An Introductory Walk
Free guided walk.  Another afternoon walk is available on 26th.
When/ Where: 9am/ Bukit Brown Cemetery
Register here.

// Singapore Really Really Free Market
Set up a free booth with family or friends, share pre-loved items, enjoy some time without spending any money.
When/Where: 3pm-7pm/ Blk 137 Bedok Reservoir Road S470137

Nov 26 (Sun)

// Trash Hero Beach Clean Up
When/ Where: 8am/ Sembawang Park Beach

// Repair Kopitiam
Have broken down items at home?  Say no to a throw away society, send them for repair and learn the how-to at the same time as volunteers share their repair knowledge and skills.
When/ Where: 10am – 2pm/ 2 locations ->Blk 897A Tampines St 81,Singapore,521897AND Block 423, Jurong West Ave 1,Singapore,640423

// Bukit Brown – An Introductory Walk
Free guided walk.
When/ Where: 4pm – 6.30pm/ Bukit Brown Cemetery
Register here

Dec 1 (Fri)

// Night Critter Watch at Rainforest Boardwalk
Guided walk. $13 per participant. Free for 6 years old and below. Registration required.
When/Where: 6.30pm-8.30pm/ Singapore Botanic Gardens

Dec 2 (Sat)

++ The UP Market ++
UP refers to upcycling, my favorite way to reuse glass bottles, plastic containers and old bamboo toothbrushes.
Join this upcycling-themed market “that aims to build a community of upcyclers to share upcycling ideas, products and to promote upcycling and other sustainable lifestyles.”

// Kranji Countryside Farmers’ Market
Support local produce and locally made products at this fair held over 2 days.  While there, make some some time cover part of the Heritage Trail as well.
When/ Where: (Dec 2)12pm – 8pm/ (Dec 3)10am – 4pm/ D’Kranji Farm Resort

Dec 9 (Sat)

// Ecolife at Coney Island
Free guided walk. Registration required.
When/Where: 9am-11am/ Coney Island West Entrance

// Ecolife at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
Free guided walk. Registration required.
When/ Where: 9am-11am/ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park Promenade

// Photography Talk by Mr Isak Pretorius
The speaker is a BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s Bird Behaviour Category (2013) and will be sharing his passion for photography and nature during the free session.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 12.00pm/ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

// A walk with your neighbours: The macaques of MacRitchie
Guided walk led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.  Free, registration required.
When/ Where: 5pm – 6.30pm / MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Dec 10 (Sun)

//Tzu Chi Recycling Day
Every 2nd Sunday of the month, Tzu Chi set up recycling points around the island to receive recyclables.  Don’t just stop at dropping off your recyclables, try your hands at sort out them out and learn more about environmental conservation and the need to cut down on waste.
When/ Where: 9am – 12pm/ Various locations

//Forest Walk: Tengah Forest
Explore what’s still left untouched by the ongoing Tengah’s “Forest Town” development, set to be Singapore’s largest smart sustainable smart town with a car-free town center.
When: 8am

//Family Yoga In The Park
Children are welcome. Free.
When/ Where: 8am – 9am/ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Tecoma Green

//Healthy Living with Navayugum
Free workshop to learn more about living a healthier lifestyle through a guided spice tour, healthy recipes, followed by a relaxing yoga session in the serene Fort Canning Park.  Registration required.
When/ Where: 10am – 12pm / Fort Canning Park

Dec 16 (Sat)

//What’s in my sky?
Learn to identify many amazing birds of different species that passes through or make Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve their home in this free guided walk.  Registration required.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 11am/ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

//A walk with your neighbours: The macaques of Lower Peirce
Guided walk led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.  Free, registration required.
When/ Where: 5pm – 6.30pm

//Marine Mangroves cum Coastal Cleanup at Ubin
Another coastal clean up activity, this time to “remove abandoned drift nets and marine debris that chokes up Ubin’s coastline.”
Registration required.
When/ Where: 3pm – 6pm / Meet at Changi Point Ferry Terminal.

Dec 19 (Tues)

// Zero Waste Living with Bea Johnson
Hear from Bea Johnson, one of the earliest zero waste lifestyle adopter, on how she and her family stick to the 5R’s: “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, and only in that order” and inspire the rest of the world to “live simply and take a stance against needless waste.”
When/ Where: 7pm – 9.30pm/The Metro @ thebridge, Ascent, #01-07, 2 Science Park Drive

Dec 23 (Sat)

//Learning Forest Tour, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Free tour of The Learning Forest that is located in the new Tyersall-Gallop Core of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Registration for the tour starts 15 minutes before session starts at Visitor Services, Tyersall Gate.
When/ Where: 9am – 10am / The Learning Forest, Singapore Botanical Gardens

//Heritage Tour, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Free guided tour. Highlights of the tour include the Bandstand, sculptures in the Gardens, the Heritage Trees, the Main Gate, the Saraca Stream Walk.
Registration for the tour starts 15 minutes for session starts at Visitor Services Desk, Tanglin Gate.
When/Where: 9am – 10am

//Race Against Time – Science behind a Botanic Garden Tour
This 45-minute tour suitable for participants 9 years old and above introduces the research facilities at the Singapore Botanic Gardens such as the Library of Botany & Horticulture, Orchid & Micro-propagation laboratory and the Herbarium.
Registration for the tour starts 15 minutes for session starts at Visitor Services Desk, Tanglin Gate.

// What’s in my mangrove?
Free guided tour that lets you learn about the mangrove trees and plants of the forest at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
Registration required.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 11am/ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve,

//A walk with your neighbours: The macaques of Bukit Timah
Guided walk led by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.  Free, registration required.
When/ Where: 5pm-6.30pm/ Bt Timah Nature Reserve

// What’s in my water?
Free guided tour that lets you learn about the creatures and plants that lives in and around the water edges of Sungei Buloh.
Registration required.
When/ Where: 9.30am – 11am