Wednesday, 29 September 2010

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The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule - one of the lessons I have learned from exceptional Danish Managers.

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Homemade Granola/Hjemmelavet Honning Musli/格兰诺拉麦片[Gé lán nuò lā mài piàn]


Recipe makes about 1 litre (ok, the container is not full. That’s because my Significant Other has eaten some of it already :-)

Picture:
First column: Mixture ready for spreading on baking tray and into the oven

Second column: Top - Colour of the granola after 10 minutes in the oven ready for stirring. Bottom - Golden brown final product after baking (with just one stir in-between)

Third column: Finished product stored in air-tight container (Freshly made & stored on 20 May 2010)
Ingredients:
- Generally 5 parts grains, 1 part seeds, 1 part nuts, ½ part dried fruits, 1 part honey, ¼ part oil

OR

- 5 cups of your preferred grain such as rolled oats, rolled spelt, rolled wheat or rolled barley (I use 4 cups oats and 1 cup spelt flakes)
- 1 cup of your preferred/mixed seeds such as sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup of your preferred/mixed nuts such as almonds, pecans or walnuts, chopped
- ½ cup wheat germ (optional)
- ½ cup flaxseeds (optional)
- ¼ cup brewer’s yeast (optional)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional, I don’t like this in my granola though)
- ½ cup of your preferred dried fruits such as raisins, sultanas, dried dates or dried apricots (optional, I add only a sprinkle of raisins)
- ½ vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- 1 cup clear honey or maple syrup (I would have preferred to use solely maple syrup, as it tastes best, but it is very expensive, so I use a mixture of both)
- ¼ cup oil (i like to use walnut oil, but sunflower oil or canola oil is fine too)

Directions:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2. Mix all of the dry ingredients (except dried fruit) together.

3. Mix honey, oil and vanilla.

4. Drizzle the honey mixture over the granola mixture and mix everything evenly.

5. Spread the mixture on a baking tray with baking paper and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown (if it gets dark, it will taste burnt).

6. Stir every 7-10 minutes to ensure even baking (for my oven, I only need to bake for 10 minutes in total and I only need to stir once in between after 5 minutes for my oven).

7. Break up any large chunks while the granola is still warm on the pans.

8. Allow to cool slightly, add dried fruits and when completely cool, store in an air-tight container or a kilner jar for 2 weeks or longer in the fridge.

Nutritional Value of Brewer’s Yeast:
Brewer's yeast is an ingredient that is used to ferment sugars to alcohol in the brewing of beer. It consists of the ground, dried cells of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a one-celled plant that is a variety of fungus. (However, please do not think that you can drink deer and get the same benefits! It is the yeast used in beer, and not the beer that is beneficial).

Brewer's yeast contains all the essential amino acids , 14 minerals, and 17 vitamins. It is one of the best natural sources of the B-complex vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid , biotin, and folic acid . It is also high in minerals, including chromium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and selenium. Brewer's yeast is also a good source of protein. It contains approximately 16 g of protein per 30 g of powdered yeast. Brewer's yeast is a good source of RNA, an immune-enhancing nucleic acid that may help in the prevention of degenerative diseases and slowing the aging process.

 In addition to being an excellent nutritional supplement, brewer's yeast is often recommended to regulate blood sugar levels, improve the health of the skin, control diarrhea, lower cholesterol, and repel insects.

Brewer's yeast is one of the best sources of the mineral chromium. For adults, 2 tablespoons of brewer's yeast yields about 120 micrograms (mcg) of chromium, an amount equal to the recommended daily allowance. Chromium is an important factor in regulating blood sugar levels. High levels of chromium increase glucose tolerance. Diabetes and hypoglycemia are two conditions in which blood sugar levels are unstable. Brewer's yeast has been reported to help improve symptoms of diabetes and hypoglycemia, and may act to prevent diabetes from developing in persons with a family history of diabetes and in those who have problems with blood sugar metabolism. One Danish study reported that people with hypoglycemia showed an improvement in their symptoms after taking 2 tbsp of brewer's yeast every day for one month.

B-complex vitamins are important for healthy skin and nails. Persons deficient in these vitamins may benefit from taking brewer's yeast as it is rich in B-complex vitamins. A compound derived from brewer's yeast, skin respiratory factor (SRF) reportedly has wound healing properties. SRF has been a component in over-the-counter hemorrhoid remedies for more than four decades. SRF also has been used to treat skin problems. Brewer's yeast has been used in the treatment of contact dermatitis , a condition of the skin characterized by red, itchy, and inflamed skin.

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Additional Information:
I am so excited!!! I am making my own granola!!! I have a feeling that it is going to be easy, and my internet research confirmed it. But I can’t wait to see the final results of my own work, and I gotta try it this evening. I increase the nutritional value with flaxseeds, wheat germ and brewer’s yeast. Adding the brewer’s yeast is totally my own idea and it actually makes the final product even tastier. I love the end result and my Significant Other loves it too! From now on, I will not buy commercial granola anymore :-)

The word granola suggests healthy, but many commercial granolas and granola bars are anything but healthy, as they often contain an overload of sugar and fats, including a particularly harmful type of fat called hydrogenated fats (trans fat), additives and preservatives. Homemade granola bars are natural, made of whole grains, full of nutrients and not too sweet, as you can adjust the sweetness to your taste. It is a healthy alternative to packaged cereals.

I would have preferred to use solely maple syrup, as it tastes best, but it is very expensive, so I use a mixture of honey and maple syrup, but sometimes, just honey.

References:
http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,how_to_make_granola,FF.html
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Struggles of an everyday life

It has been a few EXTREMELY hectic weeks at work and at home... I have so much to do, I started my day with a desperate prayer in the train on the way to work...

Now winding down for the day and looking back, I am glad that I have survived and did my best. This is a prayer of thanks to God for hearing my short desperate prayer in the train this morning.

I thank God for the balls I managed to juggle... the people I managed to serve... the food we managed to put on the table... the apple biscuits that I managed to make for J late into the night...

I thank God for granting me the serenity to accept the balls that I dropped... the people that I could not please... the mess that I have created... the mistakes and mis-steps that I have treaded... the emails that I didn't manage to reply... the homecook food that I failed to make... the travel trip that I didn't manage to book... the faraway loved ones that I failed to keep in touch... the home accounting that I didn't manage to balance...

Above all, I thank God for keeping Daddy, J and me sane. That in itself is an achievement, I must remember :-)

Tomorrow is another new day to try again, and another chance to do my best, regardless of what others say, and no matter how lousy my heart makes me feel... by God's help I put to rest.

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength." - Isaiah 40:29

Sunday, 12 September 2010

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A lesson on love and respect

I am currently on mission with my colleagues in Belarus, and we went out for dinner together. One of my colleagues brought along his wife. We noticed how sweet they were to each other, so one of us asked them what the secret to their marriage is, after being married together for 20 years.

She told us that they are both currently reading this book, and it talks about love and respect. It is important for the husband to love the wife, and the wife to respect the husband. If the husband does not show love to his wife, it would be difficult for the wife to respect the husband.

If the wife does not respect the husband, it would be difficult for the husband to show love to the wife. Thus, it can become a vicious cycle. It is like the chicken and egg, which comes first. One party has to break his/her pride to start to love and respect the other party first, so as to break the vicious cycle. It takes humility to do so. I pondered over what she shared... and thought to myself how true it is. I pondered to myself, and learned another lesson: after 20 years of marriage, they are still working hard to nuture their marriage by reading books. It shows their humility and that they are not taking their marriage for granted. This is very precious lesson too. May God break down any pride in our own marriages that could prevent the love and respect to flow from us.

Incidentally, they are both Christians. I pondered once again to myself. Over a casual conversation during dinner, my colleague's wife has just gently shared God's goodness to their lives to my colleagues. Wherever I go, God seems to have lesson for me to learn.

On the way back to the hotel, they were holding hands... ahhh how sweet, one of my colleague and I who walked behind them noticed.

One of the things about going on business trips is that it brings colleagues closer together. I must say that I am so blessed to have wonderful colleagues. If one day I would to leave working for this 'chocolate factory', the memory of this evening with my colleagues I will come to recall with fondness for years to come. Incidentally, when I was offered this job 5 years ago, I prayed for a good working environment and wonderful colleagues, and it does seem that God has remembered it.

On another note, I have to admit that it is not easy for a working mom to go on a business travel. My Significant Other told me that J cried a lot this evening during bedtime. He believed that J is missing his mom reading bedtime stories to him. It is hard for a 1.5 year old to understand why mommy is away for so long... so this really breaks my heart. I can't wait to hurry back home soon and say goodbye to Belarus!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

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Banana Vanilla Ice-cream Pancake


23.5.2010 - This is the Banana Vanilla Ice-cream Pancake ice-cream I made for my Significant Other today :-)

If you make it without the ice-cream, it actually makes a very healthy and wholesome breakfast :-)

I spread it with hazelnut butter and sliced banana. Then I sprinkled chopped walnuts and topped it with the vanilla ice-cream that I made 2 days ago. Then my Significant Other sprinkled it with cinnamon powder. Everything is homemade except the hazelnut butter spread and cinnamon powder.

You can also sprinkle carob powder on it, if you want a more chocolatie camarel taste. My Significant Other  doesn't like chocolates, and he loves cinnamon. So he sprinkled some cinnamon powder on it.

Did I make any pancake for myself? Yes, but mine is without the ice-cream (healthier), but sprinkled with carob powder.
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Millet Pancake/Hirsepandekage/小米薄煎饼[xiǎo mǐ báo jiān bǐng]


This recipe makes about 7-8 pancakes of 18cm in diameter.

Ingredients:
- 90g or ½ cup millet flour (I like to grind my own)
- 60g or ½ cup wheat flour*
- 240ml or 1 cup low-fat fresh milk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 TBS olive oil
- 1 tsp wheatgerm (optional)
- 1 tsp to 1 TBS brewer's yeast, depending on preference (optional)
- ½ tsp brown sugar (optional)*
- ¼ tsp sea salt (optional)*

* If I am making for J, to make it even healthier, I sometimes use only ¼ wheat flour and ¼ millet flour for the portion here instead and skip the sugar and salt. However, if i am making for guests, i stick to the wheat flour, because it is easier to handle the batter when cooking it on the pan and I keep the sugar and salt.

Directions:
1. Mix all ingredients together but don’t overbeat the batter. Stop stirring once the mixture is moist or the pancakes will be tough (don’t worry about a few lumps)

2. Heat pan until hot (Its temperature is just right when a few drops of cold water dropped on the pan will jump and sizzle. If the pan is not sufficiently hot, the water will lie there and boil. If it is too hot, the water will evaporate instantly).

3. When the pan is hot, add some oil just enough to spread a thin layer on the pan by rubbing it with a piece of kitchen roll when making the first piece of pancake.

4. Turn to medium-low heat (no. 7 on my stove) and pour in a ladle of mixture just enough to spread it to cover the whole circumference of the pan.

5. Cook until the surface of the pancake is filled with bubbles and the underside has turned slightly brown (about 45 secs to 1 min). Raise the edge of the pancake with the wooden spatula to test if it is firm and brown.

6. Flip over and cook the other side for 30 secs more. DO NOT flip again or the pancake will be tough. (Although you may be tempted to do so, don’t use the spatula to press down the pancake or it will be heavy).

Storage:
Cool them completely before freezing. Freeze them in freezer bags between sheets of waxed paper for 3 months. To re-heat, place frozen pancakes single layer on a baking sheet in a 190°C oven for 7-10 mins. or microwave each pancake for 20 secs.

Nutritional Value:
Millet is tasty, with a mildly sweet, nut-like flavor and contains a myriad of beneficial nutrients. It is nearly 15% protein, contains high amounts of fiber, B-complex vitamins including niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, the essential amino acid methionine, lecithin, and some vitamin E. It has the highest protein level of any cereal and is also excellent for potassium, phosphorous, iron and magnesium.

The seeds are also rich in phytochemicals, including Phytic acid, which is believed to lower cholesterol, and Phytate, which is associated with reduced cancer risk.

Millet is gluten-free and is not an acid forming food so is soothing and easy to digest. In fact, it is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available and it is a warming grain so will help to heat the body in cold or rainy seasons and climates.
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Additional Comments:
Daddy and J really enjoyed it when I made it the first time :-) Daddy said he has never seen J ate so eagerly trying to squeeze every bit of the pancake into his mouth. That made mommy very happy of course :-)

References:
Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron

Friday, 3 September 2010

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My heart bleeds...

A letter from World Vision was on my desk today. I opened it. My heart bled, when I read and saw this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWQO7KAh7qg&feature=player_embedded

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Apple Biscuits/Æblekiks/苹果饼干[píng guǒ bǐng gān]


Picture showing J trying to pinch a piece of it.

Ingredients:
- 1 apple (best the sweet types such as Pink Lady)
- 1 cup Graham’s flour
- 1 TBS wheat germ (optional)
- 1 tsp brewer’s yeast (optional)
- 2 TBS walnut oil or just cooking oil

Directions:
1. De-core and blend apple in the blender to puree it together with walnut oil.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together.

3. Mix apply puree and flour mixture to form into a dough.

4. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 portions and roll out 1 portion at a time to about 2-3mm thick using a rolling-pin.

5. Use a pizza-cutter or sharp knife to cut almost all the way through the dough (the baked biscuits will break easily at these score lines).

6. Prick several holes in each biscuit using a fork (these air holes is to help the biscuit to stay flat during baking)

7. Bake in a 175°C pre-heated oven for 12 minutes.

Tips:
It saves time to roll the dough straight onto the baking sheet on a flat counter top. Also the dough does not stick to the baking sheet, compared to the tendency it has to stick to kitchen counter or table top. Cut the baking sheet to the size of the baking tray. Roll the dough on the baking sheet and cut the dough using the pizza knife, then place the whole baking sheet with the rolled-out dough onto the baking tray.

Storage:
Fresh biscuits stored in airtight container for 3-4 weeks at room temperature, 3 months in the fridge or up to 6 months in the freezer.

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Additional Information:
After making oatmeal crackers, millet crackers, cheese crackers, I am now experimenting in making sugar-free crackers. This is very healthy. The sweetness comes from the apple. Most recipes calls for either commercial apple sauce or cooked apple sauce, but I find that using raw apple puree is just as good. So this is a relatively easy recipe, as it does not require any cooking of the apples. Instead of using butter, which is saturated fat, I use nut oil, in this case walnut. I sometimes use macadamia nut oil too. Using nut oil compared to cooking oil gives a nutty fragrance to the biscuits, and makes it tastier.

I tested it on J, and he liked it, which means that using apple is sweet enough. So I don’t need to put in any more sugar. I like it myself too, because it has a very subtle sweetness to it, and I don’t feel so guilty eating it. It is also very nutritious with wheat germ and brewer’s yeast. This will be one of my favourite biscuits for J for many years to come.

We brought along the biscuits on our trip to Paris last week. It has been a great help to serve as an easy snack for J when we are on the move, and he was hungry, and we needed some time to find a place to eat.

Updates 31 May 2015 and 1 June 2015

I made this with J. Daddy FECS love it, J told me (as I was on a girls-night-out with my girlfriend. That made me very happy :-)



Flatten the dough and cover with a layer of baking sheet, before rolling it.












Updates
31 May 2015

31 May 2015 (6Y2M26D) - J decided to use the edible playdough to make biscuits instead. So we added in an apple and made it into apple biscuits :-)




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Homemade Pistachio Ice-cream/Hjemmelavet Pistacieis/开心果冰淇淋[kāi xīn guǒ bīng qí lín]





 



Ingredients:
- 2 cups (480ml) whole fresh milk (3.5% fat)
- 75g homemade pistachio paste (made from 60g unsalted pistachios and 15g almonds)
- 75g chopped unsalted pistachios
- ½ cup maple syrup or 90g brown sugar
- 1 TBS almond butter
- 1 tsp homemade vanilla extract (optional, you can also use commercial ones or leave it out altogether if you are serving children)
- 2 egg yolks
- 75 ml whip cream (38% fat) (optional, replace it with fresh milk if you skip this)

Directions:
1. Grind ½ cup of pistachios and 1/8 cup almonds in a blender until it turned into a paste.

2. Heat milk in a sauce pan, add pistachio paste, then bring to boil and remove from the fire.

3. Stir in 1/4 cup of the maple syrup/45g brown sugar, vanilla extract, almond butter and chopped pistachios and let it sit for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, beat egg yolk and the other ¼ cup maple syrup/45g brown sugar separately.

5. Pour egg yolk mixture into the saucepan, whisk well and heat to 83°C (181°F) to thicken the mixture. Use a thermometer to test the temperature. Do not exceed 83°C (181°F), or else it will curdle!**

6. Pour immediately into a cold bowl and put it in the fridge for 12 hours or as soon as it becomes cold.

7. Pour whipping cream into a bowl and whip with a hand-mixer until it obtains a yogurt like consistency (do this only when you are about to make ice-cream).

8. When the mixture is cold after being in the fridge, mix in whipping cream and churn it in your ice-cream machine for 40-50 minutes.

9. Serve and enjoy!

* Egg yolks improve the texture of ice-cream and give it a richer and smoother taste.

** If the mixture curdles, use a blender to smoothen it.

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Additional Information:
I never like pistachio ice-cream, but pistachio ice-cream is my Significant Other's favourite ice-cream. He just LOVES pistachio ice-cream. I am in the mood for making ice-cream. So instead of making my favourite ice-cream, I decided to make my Significant Other's favourite ice-cream, because that is one demonstration of love – sacrificing oneself for the another. Here the sacrifice is in terms of taste bud (and taste bud is not a small sacrifice – but a big one in a cross-cultural marriage. Many cross-cultural marriages fail, because of challenges and disagreement on things as basic as everyday food). I wanted to surprise him and hand-made the pistachio ice-cream myself :-)

Pistachio ice-cream is also my mother-in-law’s favourite ice-cream. I will serve it to her, the next time she visits us. I asked my Significant Other, how he grew to love pistachio ice-cream. He said that when he was a kid, and was too young to know what to choose for ice-cream, his mother would always choose pistachio ice-cream for him, because she loves pistachio ice-cream. Aaaa… I see, another case example of how taste-bud is shaped from childhood. I wonder whether he likes pistachio ice-cream more for the taste, or more for the memories it evokes. So I asked him, and he answered childhood memories.

Commercial pistachio ice-cream is green in colour, but I don’t like to use artificial colouring. So I keep mine natural, and thus it has a more yellowish green look.

Pistachios are very expensive in Danish supermarket, and they are all salted. Thus, I was so happy when I found the unsalted shelled pistachios at Kabul’s middle-eastern shop in Chinatown, but it is expensive too – 40DKK/9 SGD for 200g. I even found the fresh chopped pistachios in the Kabul shop, although it is very expensive – 40 DKK/9 SGD for 140g. I add the fresh chopped pistachios into the ice-cream, so that whole bits pistachios nut can be tasted. The nuts alone used in this ice-cream cost me 30DKK/7.50 SGD!!! Including the milk and all, it would cost me 50DKK/11 SGD, which is more expensive than commercial pistachio ice-cream. But it is made with all fresh and real ingredients. Commercial ice-cream is cheaper because there aren’t many real pistachios in it but plain artificial flavouring, and it is expensive because I use organic eggs, organic milk and organic whip cream. It is a once-in-a-blue-moon indulgence, thus it should be alright, I reckon.

It has been such great fun and excitement making my own ice-cream, and I get a great sense of satisfaction and fulfillment eating it. But it is still not that healthy – the sugar, egg yolk and the whip cream!!! I use all these, because I make this specially for my Significant Other. If I make it for myself, I will use half the sugar and skip the whip cream, and it will still be ok for my taste bud.

And the verdict from my Significant Other? My ice-cream tasted very good, but didn’t taste much of pistachios. I think it is because my Significant Other is used to the artificial pistachio flavouring, and not used to real pistachios. Another case example of taste-bud shaping of childhood. And me? After tasting the real pistachio ice-cream, I begin to love pistachio ice-cream, but I still don’t like the commercial ones.

I don’t have a cooking thermometer, so I use the thermometer from Weber Grill to measure the temperature. But you don't have to be so precise. I am a very precise person, thus I get great satisfaction taking the trouble to use the thermometer.

References:
http://make-ice-cream.com/pistachiogelatorecipeicecream.aspx


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