Only you will love you best.

Will Smith said a very profound thing that got me assessing my whole involuntary lifestyle change. “When Jada and I first got together, we thought we had to merge and become one. Only now I’ve realized that we aren’t supposed to be one. We are two different people with two different path”. This strongly correlates with my upbringing, all the sermons I used to hear at my weekly prayers; “in the end, we leave this world the way we came; alone” hmmm wonder if it applies to twins too.

Anyway, it took a good four decades for me to realise that in the end nothing really matters.

My involuntary lifestyle change began halfway through my mid thirties. I had slowly moved away from being surrounded by people not related to me, towards my family.

Once in my forties it came to an abrupt end. Being unemployed meant I had to put in extra effort for friendship time, or girls time or whatever it is called.

I believed I was doomed because everywhere I looked, every article I read, kept pounding the importance of ladies to stick together. About girl power and how these girlies friendship would be my saving grace when I’m old and alone. How important it is to have an outlet other than the family circle. A sisterhood group.

So I tried striking up new friendship with people like me; with young children, but that didn’t last. See people like me have a lot going on and trying to plan for child free meet up was close to impossible.

Instead of breathing hard into a paper bag at my failure living up to this ideology, I’ve grown accustomed to getting to know me better.

I’m able sit alone in a crowded restaurant. I don’t need a phone or a book to distract me from the fact I’m alone. I just sit and enjoy my time here.

At times, I’m bound to come across young girl, holding an empty seat across her for a friend that’s on her way and later pretending to be disappointed over a phone call because her mate could not join her for lunch. Why? Because this was a better than giving away the fact that she’s eating alone. I was that young girl not too long ago.

With age comes wisdom and liberation not to give shit. When I started caring less about what people thought about me, I began to love being with me more. I became my best company.

I might regret this involuntary lifestyle once my girls won’t need me anymore. But by then I’m pretty sure I’d find lonely ladies just like me to connect with. In the meantime I’ll just go with the flow and learn to love myself more so when I’m ready to allow a stranger in, I’d be able to introduce her to a loveable me.

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Heart of gold.

“Go and rest. Don’t worry about dinner, it will be sorted. Just go” my two little ones instructed.

With no energy left to argue, I walked, slowly with slumped shoulders to my living room. I couldn’t even go to my room because it was out of bound.

Switching channels came automatically as I sat, slouched on my couch, looking like a seasoned coach potato, I played today’s event in my head. Over and over again.

It has been an emotional rollercoaster ride which ended today with a lot of tears. I thought I had kept these emotions private and away from my little ones but I guessed wrong.

My middle child sensed something amiss and immediately came up with a wonderful way of cheering me up. She, the one with the golden heart along with her little sister did so much to cheer me up.

They remade my bed and labeled some random numbers on my bedroom door so that it would resemble a hotel room. They even lit my favourite scented candles in my bedroom and bathroom.

I was even told to just toss my clothes outside my bathroom and to lie down on my bed after my shower.

Then walked in my next spa experience, massage. My youngest walked in and introduced herself as my masseuse. She even learned Thai greetings to give me a proper Thai massage experience.

She leathered me with a lot of cream on my feet and hands. Then she walked all over my back. I didn’t know she was this good. I felt so pampered and refreshed afterwards.

Then my presence was requested downstairs for dinner. I was served soft paratha with scrambled eggs and raita. After dinner I was told to go straight to bed. They cleaned up after dinner.

I can’t believe how lucky I am to have children that are so in tune with the way I feel.

When at bed time, while I cuddled and thanked them for the wonderful evening, they just smiled and were happy to have me back, smiling and joking instead of being sulky and stressed.

I don’t know how they come up with these ideas but it really lit up my day. It gave me hope and reason to listen to my heart, and to stay as close as possible to my children for as long as it takes.

It gave me the affirmation I needed that I was doing okay caring for my children. I may not always serve up the best, but what I give is enough for us to navigate through. Because they care and sometimes surprise me in ways I could have never imagined. Like they did today.

I’m truly blessed to have them.

Always

“Mama, will you always be with us?” asked my five year old in her sleep.

Always…

I’ll be here for you as long as always is by my side.

Always…

I’ll hug you and tickle you to bed for as long as I can.

Always…

I’d kiss you and let you sleep on my extended left arm; your favourite position, for as long as it takes for you to fall asleep.

Always…

I’d get you ready for school the way you like it; whilst still in bed, under the warm cosy blanket and your arms wrapped around my neck.

Always…

I’d spoil you as much as I can but say my piece when I have to.

I promise to do it always as long as always is with us.

How to get your teens to cook

I still remember how difficult it was for my mom to get me to cook a decent meal. I never saw the need because she was always around to cook us a feast. I took her for granted.

After many failed attempts, she figured it was better this way. Getting me into the kitchen meant a lot of headache for her. So she tasked me with the cleaning up after cooking. It was a good arrangement. We were both happy.

But she was smart. She let me think I won the battle but in reality it was her winning the war.

She’d get me to wash up alongside her cooking. While cooking, she used to get me to stir or add in the ingredients and watch over the food while she quickly grabbed something important.

My brain was unconsciously absorbing all this details.

Or at other times she’d get me to translate an English chef. Which meant I had to sit and watch the cooking shows.

Once again my brain was unconsciously absorbing all the details.

It took a long while to unlock what had been stored, unconsciously. But when I did manage to, it was as if I had been cooking for years.

I’m still not as good cook as my mom but I’m able to tell when a dish is coming together. I’ve learned a few important tricks in ensuring I’m able to serve a decent meal.

Over time, my cooking skills grew. It was an easy start because unknowingly, I somehow knew what to do when I cooked something. It almost felt familiar.

So now I’m doing the same with my daughters. Just like me, they despise being told what to do. It has to be their idea for anything to succeed.

Today, my twean decided to make mac and cheese. Something she saw on Instagram.

I’m glad she’s beginning to find joy in cooking. For a start, she’s doing so much better than I was at her age.

Whenever my mom wasn’t around, I’d had to depend on Maggi (instant noodles). It wasn’t a bad choice but everyone knows how unhealthy Maggi can be, if eaten regularly.

I’m glad her cooking vocabulary is much larger than mine and has more words than just Maggi.

To showcase her food vocabulary let’s check out today’s recipe. It was a simple feat.

It’s something young kids can whip up in less than half hour. It may not get 5 stars on taste but sure as hell beats eating instant noodles. And the best part, it can be made in one pot. So less cleaning and washing up.

To make this one-pot Mac and cheese;

Ingredients: serves 4

  • 2 tablespoon of butter
  • 3 tablespoon of plain flour
  • 1 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon each of Cayenne/paprika powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard paste or turmeric powder
  • 2 cups of water
  • Enough elbow pasta for 4 serving
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh/dried parsley

Method

In a deep pan, heat butter and add in the flour. Cook on low heat for a couple of minutes. Then add half the milk and stir with a whisk to remove lumps. Add the rest of the milk and keep stirring the mixture. (She struggled because the flour tends to clump up together and required some elbow grease and prior cooking skills to turn it lump free).

Add in the powders and mustard, and stir to combine. Add water and throw in the uncooked pasta. Over low heat, gently cook the pasta, continuously stirring, for 8-10 minutes.

Once the pasta is cooked, put in the shredded cheese and parsley. Give it a good stir and serve immediately.

Any leftover should be immediately refrigerated. To heat this up, you’ll need to cook over low heat and add some water or milk to loosen the pasta.

Hope you’ll find this as useful as it has been for me. Seriously, this simple plain dish is so much better, nutrients wise, than instant noodles that comes in a packet.

This dish a definitely a hit among young kids. So let your little ones try this and share with us how did it turn out for you.

Happy cooking with the kids.

For more recipes, check out Anyone Can Cook

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Scones

It’s hard to find good scones. I don’t like them if they’re overly crumbly or too dense.

Scones must be buttery, slightly salty and not too sweet, so they’d taste really good when you pair them with some sweet strawberry jam and cream.

Scones are a combination of biscuits and cake. Crumbly yet soft. Crispy yet moist.

After a couple of failed attempts, I think I have finally found a recipe that churns good scones. This original recipe is from Jamie Oliver

Don’t these look luscious? These were made by my tween. Easy to make and taste good too.

Ingredients

  • 150gm mixed fruits and peel.
  • 500gm self rising flour, sifted
  • 150gm cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • Some milk (about 1/2cup)
  • Some orange juice (about 1/4 cup)

Method

Soak the fruits in some orange juice (1/2 hour) to hydrate the fruits.

Start by combining all the dry ingredients. Add the butter and gently crumble the butter into flour. Its ok if you find some pieces of butter. DO NOT to overwork the dough.

Squeeze out the juice from the fruits and throw it into the flour. Slowly add milk to combine the flour. Do not knead the dough. Just press it with both your hands to form into a ball. You’ll find some dry flour, that’s fine. Just leave it. Cover dough with cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes or more. (Mine stayed in the fridge for almost an hour because my kids got sidetracked by some TV series.

Preheat oven to 180’C. Roll out dough into 3cm thickness. Find a round cookie cutter and cut out as many as you can. Arrange these onto a greased baking pan. Brush it with some beaten egg and bake it for 15 minutes or until it doubles in size and turns golden brown. Your house will start smelling like scones. That’s a good cue to remove it from the oven.

Quickly transfer these onto a cake rack and let them cool before putting it in an airtight container.

Best served, slightly toasted and with jam and cream.

For more recipes, check out Anyone Can Cook

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Sausage and spinach pasta

“Fine! Then why don’t you prepare the dinner while I’ll do the laundry?” I gave my first born a choice and was dead sure she wasn’t going to take the offer.

“Ok, just tell me what to do”, her quick response.

“I’m serious. You’re own your own.”

And I was. I really meant it, when I said she’d have to do it on her own.

“Eh…” that’s all she said and rose up to the challenge.

Kids these days! They’re so unpredictable.

So not being able to go back on my words, I gave her a quick run down on what was needed and headed out to line dry my clothes.

She looked like she knew what to do and was doing rather well even whilst slicing and chopping the onions. She had tears rolling down her cheeks but defeat was not a factor today. She just rubbed it off and kept at it.

She knew I was sneakily watching her so she put up a splendid show and just kept at it. Was she trying to evoke my motherly instincts? I can’t say for sure but neither of us were ready to throw in the towel.

After she’d finished prepping, I was already done with my chore. Thinking that she would take this opportunity and hand over the cooking to me, I was pleasantly surprised when she came over to know the next steps.

I was smiling, ear to ear, and joyed she was genuinely interested in preparing dinner.

With very little help from me apart from giving the steps on what to do next and guiding her to gauge when it’s time to put the next ingredients, she managed to make a decent pasta.

It was exciting, watching her commentary on how the ingredients were changing and coming together to look like pasta sauce.

Let’s hope this could get her excited to try out more recipes.

If you’re looking for a simple and easy recipe, why not give this a go with your kids. It takes less than 20 minutes to get this done.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large good quality sausages (try to get the fresh ones from your butcher). Cut it into bite size pieces.
  • A bag of spinach
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped (or a can of tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup water (or more depending how thick you want it to be)
  • 2 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon butter and olive oil.

Spiral pasta would be the best for this dish but we ran out of it and used spaghetti instead. I reckon you can use any pasta just boil it al-dente,

Method

Bring a large pot if water to boil and cook your pasta according to the instructions.

Heat oil and butter in a deep pot, add onions and garlic. Saute it for a couple of minutes. Then throw in the sausages. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the tomatoes. Let these tomatoes sweat a little (you should add salt now to speed up the process), add water and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

Then check consistency. Add more water if dry. If too watery, crank up the heat and let it boil without covering it.

Add tomato puree, Italian herbs and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Give it a good stir and taste it. If too sour, add half teaspoon sugar. That should do the trick in cutting out the sourness from tomatoes.

By now your pasta would have cooked. Don’t throw away the water. Instead, fish out the pasta into the pot and throw the spinach into the pasta water. Let it wilt, remove from water, squeeze out as much water as you can and add this to the pasta.

Season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Give it a good stir and serve with shredded parmigiana cheese or parmesan cheese.

For more recipes, check out Anyone Can Cook

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Paneer lasagna, quick and easy

Here’s a little twist for our paneer lovers, use it in your favourite lasagna.

If you have kids, lasagna has to be something that you would have made or bought to satiate your kids love for this cheesy dish. Seriously, who doesn’t love a good slice of cheesy goodness? (except for those suffering from lactose intolerance)

Let’s dive straight into the recipe and ingredients required to make this.

Ingredients

  • 250gm paneer (crumbled)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 250gm Portobello mushroom, chopped
  • 250gm spinach, blanched and chopped
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • Large jar of pasta sauce*
  • 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 15-20 lasagna sheets
  • 1 TBS dried oregano/parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The prepping:

For my quick and easy version, I’ll suggest you use a jar of store bought pasta sauce. However I do have an option for those who just loathe the idea of store bought pasta sauce. There’s a good and reliable recipe which I’ve shared that would be just right to replace the jar of sauce.

I love to soak my no pre-cook lasagna sheets. This will ensure it doesn’t dry up when baking. So put lasagna sheets in a large bowl and let it soak for 15 minutes in room temperature water.

Start by sauteing onions, garlic and mushrooms. Keep aside to cool. Blanch spinach in boiling water. Squeeze out excess water from spinach and chop it fine.

To crumble the paneer, the easiest option; blitz in food processor, or crumble using hands (you poor souls without food processor, ha!)

The assembling:

  • In a large bowl, mix paneer with sauteed vegetables, spinach and egg. Add yogurt and dried herb to the mix and combine well.
  • Grease a large casserole dish and start by spreading some pasta sauce at the bottom of the dish
  • Layer 5 lasagna sheets on this sauce.
  • Then cover these sheets with vegetables mixture. Be sure to spread it well.
  • Sprinkle some cheese on the vegetables mixture and finish that off by spreading pasta sauce (from jar), making sure all cheese is covered. This is your first layer completed.
  • Repeat this layering form for another couple more times ending with layer of pasta sauce.
  • Finally cover it with a tin foil and bake it in a preheated oven of 175’C for about 40 minutes to an hour.
  • Remove the tin foil for the last 5-10 minutes to achieve a golden melted cheese effect.

The taste test:

My food reviewer ate her piece off the lasagna dish. I’d like to deduce she did so because  it was too good to waste any time transferring it  to a plate and she wouldn’t have to worry sharing it.

For more recipes, check out Anyone Can Cook

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Breakfast made to order

Breakfast has to be the best meal of the day for me. It’s something I must start my day with. Even if it means at 11am.

Today I decided to treat myself by letting someone else make me breakfast.

There’s this little pie & coffee cafe, Deliprompt, that recently opened up in a new and not so busy neighbourhood. It’s quite strategically located a walking distance from the Putra Heights LRT station.

It’s not too close to the LRT, which promises ample parking space for the residents and isn’t that far away from the LRT which allows for travellers to break their journey for a cup of freshly brewed coffee before heading to the office.

Freshly brewed coffee is the reason for my visit. What started off as me just grabbing-on-the-go RM2 freshly brewed coffee, turned into me dinning-in for their cloud on the egg breakfast.

I’ve been quite intrigued to make this cloudy eggy thingy for the longest time, since I saw it on a YouTube video. So I had to try it and see what the fuss was all about that the video had more than a million views.

IMG_20170707_092307

However, what the cafe presented to me wasn’t as cloudy as I thought it to be but the taste wasn’t a let down. It was still soft and fluffy despite not having any depth to it. If there was one thing I could do to fix this dish, it definitely will be to  reduce the salt; but then again, my salt intake is rather small compared to many. So I give them the benefits of the doubt. And another thing, they would do so much better if they were to use a proper bread instead of the mainstream loaf bought from local mini-mart. (You know which loaf I’m referring to)

The coffee was good. It was smooth and aromatic that you won’t need to add any cream or sugar to it. That gets an A 🌟

The cafe itself is quite unique. It has a couple of self made tables. It’s not fancy but it screams up cycling which is absolutely special in it’s own way. If you decide to sit down on one of these tables, make sure you are the type who sees the glass as half full. It’s not sturdy but does it’s job.

IMG_20170707_100356But, it won’t my choice if I dine in with my kids. They’re a bunch of energetic young people who cannot sit still. For that I’d choose the sturdier tables.

This place is open from 8:30 am – 5:30 pm. Serves breakfast all day and all types of speciality coffees at affordable price. Their menu is Western (Italian) and are running, a buy-one-free-one offer at this point of time.

For recipes, check out Anyone Can Cook

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Easy Japanese brown curry

A small gyudon curry house opened up close to my neighbourhood. The food served became the talk of town and every weekend, it would have long queue. This intrigued me. So one fine weekday, I decided to treat my girls to lunch after school.

We picked their popular dish which was chicken curry on Japanese sticky rice and some okras. It was delicious! The chicken was swimming in a mildly sweet thick sauce, which they refer to as curry. My girls loved the curry.

As much as we would love to return for another bowl, it’s simply not worth it because the price you pay for one bowl is two times more than the cost of making it yourself.

So when I saw the ingredients needed for this dish at a Japanese fair, I just had to try it out.
It’s so simple and quick to whip up this brown curry. Less than half hour, my family had a hearty and satisfying meal.

To make this, you’ll need everything you see in the picture below and enough water to submerge all ingredients (about 1 1/2 cups to 2cups). You cannot make it without the curry cubes. There are many variations, pick any, as they all do the job in ensuring a rich and flavourful curry.

Start by roughly chopping up the vegetables. Make it larger than bite size pieces.

Then start with oil in a heavy bottomed deep pan. Heat the oil and add chopped onions. Saute until they’re translucent. Now add in the vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes, slightly browning these vegetables. Add enough water to cover all ingredients in pan, cover and bring it to a boil, over medium heat.

Once vegetables have softened a little, switch off the heat and throw in the curry cubes. Keep stirring until the cubes have completely dissolved and you’re left with a luscious looking brown curry.

Bring back the heat to a low simmer and let the curry simmer for about ten minutes. You will notice the curry will start to thicken.

Serve with freshly cooked short grain Japanese rice, some pickles and steamed okras.

My kids loved it. The next day, they had the leftover with some spaghetti. It didn’t as good as on white rice but it was still good.

Do check out my short video on how to cook this dish on my Instagram and Facebook page.

Update 7/7/17 : I made this once more and tweaked my recipe a little and it turned out better. I added a tablespoon of soya sauce and garam masala (or you can use any curry powder), 1 teaspoon of cumin powder and corriander powder. This gave it a hint of heat which cut through the sweetness of this curry. Kids loved this version better. I also added another potato to it.

For more recipes, check out Anyone Can Cook

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