Monday, 29 April 2013

Princess Cake

Ying Yue loves to be on the YouTube searching for baking videos. In school we just learn about filling up worksheets, which is just training us for exam smartness.

Learning to cook and bake is like learning to read. Start with the letters first, string them together to form words.

We learn to measure, read recipes, smell taste and learn lot about using the oven, egg beater. Ideas work best if it comes from kids. There is a grain of truth about intrinsic motivation. Ying Yue is always excited by her own ideas.

I brought her to Tangs to get some quality bakeware. There were lots of interesting new things there, but she set her heart on this pretty doll from Wilton.

That's what you get from the box and the picture shows the cake mould. We were so excited about it.

Since Yin Yue wanted a strawberry cake, we found this mix at NTUC finest.


We need more work on the icing, or fondant will try this again! She learnt a lot about beating the eggs, sifting flour, adding water. Concept about how long it would take for this cake to be made, 1 hour. Then she worked on inverting the mould, lifting the cake out of the mould.

So excited about her progress. There was plenty of interaction and she learn best with hands on activity. This is an important life skill I am imparting to her. I also learnt so much from this little cook school for kids. When I think of interesting recipe to try, I'm also learning with her.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Ducky Hotcake

"I want another ducky pancake!" "A teddy bear pancake!" "Quack! Quack!"
Remember the Korean series "Da Chang Jin"? Chang Jin brought water everyday to her mentor, and she doesn't know why her mentor doesn't want the water? She keep on trying different types of water, like spring water, warm water, cold water but that doesn't seem to work? One day, she finally got the idea that her mentor had a sore throat and she figured out what type of water should be given to the mentor. Again its the concern and how she made the mentor feel that actually works. The cooking competition was not just a display of skill, but rather why the judge would like the food.
Food are gifts to my children. Novelty works for kids. Listening to their feedback and tweaking and tailoring their preferences really work.
After being baffled my children not taking well to eggs, or vomiting out the food. I found that oil that we adults fry our eggs with are not really work for little toddlers. I had the idea that butter makes everything taste better. This myth is debunked by my kids who request no butter taste.
Little gourmet food appeal to kids, when it is well presented and tailored to their palate and taste. Just like chefs who need to test the market and respond to the market, we need to be nimble, open to communication.
Its the authentic Japanese taste that appeals to kids.
I remember breakfast parties in the hostel for housemates where we made French crepes, we came dressed in pajamas. A pajamas party! I honed my cooking skills and love for entertaining at home from the friends I made. No prizes for guessing that the house parties are opportunities for showcasing our unique culture. Imagine I progressed from making instant noodles everyday for myself to hosting house parties. The Japanese demonstrating how to make the Fried Ebi that we eat in Japanese restaurants. French making chocolate mousse, country style apple pie. Singaporean making Fried Kway Tiao with spaghetti. Chinese from Taiwan and China making Jiao Zhi. Wow, the competition can be stiff. I was once sent out of the kitchen because I cannot compete with the Taiwanese and Chinese. No worries, I learnt with other housemates and started to contribute. I cannot forget the friends who taught me stuffed pepper with rice, Kazakhstan style. Each friend brought out the best in me. I progressed to reading recipe, sourcing unique ingredients. Till this day, my husband has no idea why I must spend 2 hours in the kitchen when boiling everything together is acceptable to him. 
 Another idea for the next post.
Japanese pancake mix. This is the top Japanese brand only available at Isetan.
Add eggs and water/milk.
Each pack comes in 4 packets, which can make  about 6 hotcakes, just nice for 2 kids.
Good non-stick pan
Silicon Duck Shaped tool
 I love Japanese instructions, I'm sure they have kidsin mind when they made the instructions. This is uniquely Japanese culture. The point of using a mix, is that they have tested the recipe well, and if the instructions are followed exactly, the fluffy hotcake, is achievable.
Still not OK and need more help? How about a video from Morinago site, in Japanese if course, but the video really shows how easy it is to make it.
Love the demo by this sweet Japanese girl, English speaking to have a better idea of what to do.
Ying Yue, love video demonstrations, her love for baking comes from youtube. I have requests for baking sessions for what she saw from youtube. Another idea for  the next post.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Little Duck Sunny Side Up

A bright and cheery way for kids to wake up to a breakfast surprise! Children love novelty. Just by changing the shape of an egg into a little ducky, like the rubber ducky they play with, we can transform a plain egg to something with an interesting story.



Silicon duck outline
Non stick frying pan

Also a little hands on activity is something that will make the kids eager to get out of bed.

Ying Yue is a budding little chef always game for some hands on activity. Nutella bread with some fruit topping, is an age appropriate activity.

With just one sample creation, the imagination of a grouchy child will to be ignited, the child will jump out of bed,  get changed and start the day making a nutritious breakfast for herself! Something to entice children to eat a healthy breakfast, with vitamin C and B, fibre, protein and carbohydrates to kick start your day!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Sweet Potato Tang Yuan

Glutinous Rice Flour
Pandan Leaves
Sweet Potatoes
Red Bean Paste

My daughter loves making these lovely natural food. There is something about enjoying and eating something you've made for yourself that is very rewarding. The old adage about enjoying the fruits of your labor is very true for kids.

At Dong Zhi, a Chinese Festival, my mother used to get glutinous rice flour from the market and all the children will enjoy the process of rolling your own dough and boiling them. Its a fun activity and we used to make special shapes and we can identify the ones we made. There are many ways of making Tang Yuen, the supermarket sells ready made ones. But nothing beats the yummy texture of handmade Tang Yuan, and the satisfaction of mastering new techniques, new ideas.

I have found that my kids absolutely love colors. To dye the glutinous rice flour, the easy way out is to use food coloring, which are available in supermarkets. However, after watching the very popular drama series in Singapore, called Little Nyonya, I became interested in Nyonya food. The traditional  Nyonyas do not use dyes in their kuehs, they extract natural colors from vegetables or flowers.

So to make this brilliantly colored Tang Yuan, we used purple and orange sweet potatoes. The best sweet potatoes come from Japan, Okinawa. The color is absolutely bright and nothing beats the soft velvety texture of these beauties. Bake this by itself and try it! Its natural sweetness and goodness simply speaks for itself!

After steaming it, skin on, simply mash it up with a fork and add glutinous rice flour like so:

After that we used ready made red bean paste and roll them into round balls.
Wrapping the red bean with the sweet potato dough is an art itself. My daughter and I laugh at ourselves for creating bigger and bigger ones, just to cover the red bean without the skin breaking. Experimentation with the texture of the dough is an interesting process. My daughter has a feel of the dough. And now she advises me whether the dough is too soft or needs more glutinous rice flour.
A variation of it is to use the mashed up natural sweet potato as a substitute for the red bean paste.
Using Pandan leaves to boil the syrup with the Tang Yuan is the last step. Although Pandan essence can be found easily in many supermarkets, nothing beats the real thing. Once the little colorful balls are floating, they are cooked. The fragrance of the Pandan leaves is the secret to the making of many desserts.
My daughter ate as many as 15 of those she made. Usually she is not a big eater. It goes to show that for picker eaters, participation in making of the food itself is a good tactic for whetting children's appetites!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

TeddyBear Pancakes



Teddy Bear Pancakes are fun to make! The kids love the cuddly little bears there are so many ideas on how to make cute food that kids would be amused to eat. Have you been to Disneyland and try out the Mickey Mouse shaped food? See this website for an example.

Aren't we all so excited to see this pretty and interesting food? I have tried to make a Mickey Mouse pancake without any special tools, just by creating 3 circles of pancake joined together. Now that's really difficult to achieve and repeat.

Here's the fun and yet easy stuff that my six year old love to make!

I love using the premixes as the children get to read the instructions, measure out what they need and it comes out just right. Also this is easily available in Cold Storage. Kids get to follow instructions and understand words written in the instructions. The kids learn to judge when the pancakes are done and OK to flip to the other side to brown it. Also it gives them some sense of independence that they can judge how thick they want the batter to be.



Here's the secret to make the teddy bears. Very good silicon Teddy Bear shaped outlines. The creativity of the designers of the kitchen tools really makes the this an easy task that a 6 year old can manage.

Some fun memories for kids to think of fondly when they grow up, of the happy days they bonded as a family. I remember how patient my mother was and how fun it was to make Tang Yuen when we were kids. Another idea for the next post!