Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate Cake by Dave Lieberman

Happy Labor Day everyone! It's another long weekend and I'm spending it with much gusto. Short breaks such as this, is an opportunity to be had. It's actually a welcome respite from the usual busy weekdays. I had so much time to kill today that I thought of consuming it well in the kitchen. Hence, as usual, I rummaged through some cookbooks and my wandering eyes led me to Dave Lieberman's Dave's Dinners. As I perused his cookbook,  his Chocolate Cake recipe instantly caught my curiousity. He named it his Best Chocolate Cake Ever. Need he say more? Of course, that's more than enough reason to give it a whip. So here's how my take on his recipe turned out.

Overall, indeed it's chocolatey. However, I was expecting for a more decadent cake. It's moist but I was looking for something more. Maybe because I used a low fat yogurt instead of a full-fat one. Other than that, I still enjoyed a scrumptious nibble out of this cake.

What you need:

3 large eggs
1 cup full fat yogurt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup hot water

1 cup heavy cream
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (I used Hershey's)

How to make:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and yogurt. Beat in the melted butter and vanilla. Gradually beat in the sugar until fully incorporated.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder baking soda, and salt until homogenous.
4. Mix the dry ingredients into the previously prepared batter in two steps alternating with the hot water and end with the dry ingredients.
5. Divide the batter between two 9-inch non stick round cake pans. Bake for 25 mins, until set. Allow to cool completely.
6. Make the ganache. Bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan and remove from heat. Add the chocolate chips and whisk until dissolved into the cream and the mixture is creamy and thick. Allow to cool.
7. Put one layer of the cake onto a serving plate and pour half of the ganache on top of it. Cover with the other layer of cake and pour the remaining ganache on top. Smoothen the surface. Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour for it to set. Using a fork, make a swirl on top of the ganache before serving for an added appeal.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kiwi Strawberry Pavlova

For the longest time, I've been planning to make a pavlova cake at home. But for some reasons, I can't seem to find a convincing recipe to work on. After much research and browsing, I've settled down on a Gale Gand's recipe. I was just actually looking for a good recipe for the meringue base as I have already planned my toppings. The original recipe calls for red wine vinegar but I substituted it with balsamic vinegar instead. There are a lot of variations available for this New Zealand and Australia's favorite dessert. However, the meringue base is key that's why it can't be compromised. Initially, it may seemed to be a bit tricky to make. But as soon as you get the hang of it, it's very easy to do.

What you need:
1/2 cup egg whites, at room temperature (from 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 kiwi fruits, peeled and halved
12 strawberries, trimmed & halved

How to make:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in bowl until foamy. Add the granulated sugar, cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla. Continue whipping until it becomes stiff, smooth and glossy (about 8 mins).
3. Spoon the egg whites into an 8-inch non stick round baking pan. Smoothen the top and bake in the oven for 10 mins.
4. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees F and bake until the meringue has puffed up and cracked on the top and the surface is lightly browned (about 45 mins).
5. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open, let the pavlova cool in the oven at least 30 mins to room temperature.
6. Whip the cream and brown sugar together until stiff. Spoon it in the center of the cooled pavlova and spread out to within 1/2-inch of the edge. Arrange the slices of kiwi and strawberries on top.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, our Dear Riley!

Has it already been 7 years? How time flies unbelievably fast! Our dear Riley is celebrating his 7th birthday today. We brought him to Hongkong Disneyland a few weeks ago for an advance birthday celebration. This weekend, we’re bringing him to his favorite spots in Singapore – Universal Studios and the Singapore Zoo for an extended birthday treat.

I can still recall vividly how we labored through a difficult process of having him in this world. From a very delicate pregnancy which included incidences of spotting and complete bed rest; to being a full term baby hence, we have to wait longer than usual for his delivery; to undergoing a caesarian operation because he came out to be a big baby at 3.49 kg; we experienced it all! I even had to sacrifice my MBA degree because physically, it’s just not possible to carry loads of stress at the same time. Seven years after, it was definitely worth it. Seeing him grows day by day and the joy that he brings to us ceaselessly makes me realize that I actually didn’t lose anything at all. In fact, he’s a gift whom any parent would want.

Thank you Riley for being such a blessing to us! We were more than blessed to have you as a child. You never fail to amaze us with your inquisitive mind, your wonderful work of art and your gift of persistence. We appreciate all that there is with you and we will be here to support you all the way. If there’s but one wish that I could make, may you continue to be the adorable little boy that mommy used to carry. Don’t grow too fast. Several years down the road, you’ll choose your own path to take. But no matter which way it is and no matter what, mommy will be here for you always. Happy Birthday my dear! We love you!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shopping in Hongkong

Hongkong is indeed a shopping paradise. It will definitely top the list of the shopping meccas in asia. I can easily claim it as my favorite go to place when it comes to shopping. It literally has everything. From the simplest and most sublime to the most classy and luxurious of all things, name it and they have it. In terms of trends and innovations in fashion, they were never too late. What's even amazing is that, anywhere you go in the island there's always something to look forward to that's related to shopping. Since our hotel is located in Kowloon area, the likes of Nathan Road, Mongkok and Canton Road were our shopping haven during our visit. But I'm sure there are so much more than these famous ones. If you have the luxury of time, it'll be worth exploring the different parts of the territory.

Ladies Market in Mongkok.. Lots of bric a bracs being sold here. Just don't forget to haggle big time when you intend to buy. 

The popular Milan Station (that sells mostly second hand designer leather goods) didn't escape my wandering eyes and neither was I able to resist to have a peek of what's inside. Unfortunately, I found the price still quite expensive. You'd rather buy brand new ones. Although there are a few new ones (unused) being sold, the designs are quite limited. 

This is Canton Road where designer labels such as Gucci, Prada, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Marc Jacobs and what have you are located. Prices in Hongkong are relatively cheaper compared in Singapore. I checked the Mulberry store in Harbour City and the price of Mulberry Bayswater is almost SGD200 cheaper. They give 10% discount to tourists. 

We also visited the City Gate Outlets in Tung Chung. The selection of international brands housed inside the mall is extensive enough. That's where I found real good deals on Coach items. The discount ranges from 30% - 50%. In other brands, the choices are a bit limited. 
All in all, the shopping mileage in Hongkong is limitless. So make sure to allot a significant amount of time for your shopping needs. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ocean Park, Hongkong

Prior to the arrival of Disneyland, Ocean Park is considered the most premier theme park in Hongkong. In terms of location, it boasts of a more panoramic view and ambiance. It's divided into two sections, the Summit and the Waterfront. The Summit features the exhilarating rides and attractions. It's located on higher altitude and you have two options to reach it, either through a cable car ride or an ocean express train ride. We took the cable car on our way to the top and the ocean express on the way back to the ground where the Waterfront is. Both experience are a must.
In the Waterfront area, you'll find the most popular attractions in the park like the Grand Aquarium, Giant Panda Adventure, Hongkong Jockey Club Sichuan Treasures and others.

These are the stunning views from the cable car on the way to the Summit. 

Hongkong is really beautiful..

I love Hongkong!

We watched the dolphin show at the Ocean Theatre. Unfortunately, I was not completely impressed by it. I even found it too boring. The dolphin show at the Ocean Adventure in Subic Bay, Philippines is in so many ways better.

The giant panda. He's eating when we arrived.

A nice view from the Waterfront Plaza.

Sky Fair. We wanted to try this but the queue was too long.

A glimpse of the marine world inside the Grand Aquarium. This was another let down for me. Manila Ocean Park and Sentosa Under Water World in Singapore are both better in terms of size and contents of aquarium.

We can't help but notice that most of the live shows are not foreigner friendly. They were shown in Chinese so we couldn't understand it at all.

Overall, a day would be enough to cover this theme park. There are a lot of activities to choose from and there's something for all ages. Although there were some attractions that didn't wow me, it still is a must see place when you're in Hongkong.

Ocean Park, Hongkong

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Corner Cafe, Hongkong Disneyland

Finding a place to dine at Hongkong Disneyland is not a problem at all. There are a lot of restaurants / food stations in all the 5 main attractions. We tried Corner Cafe at the Main street for dinner. The restaurant offers western cuisine and it looks to be popular since oftentimes there's queue outside the restaurant. The ambiance is victorian style and the food choices from the menu are mostly american. The service is very cordial and relatively fast.

Here's the kids meal served on cute Mickey plates. Even the veggies and fruits were shaped into Mickey's face. So cute!

I opted for a roasted chicken and it was nice. It's tender and succulent. We still wanted to try some desserts but we're already too tired and somehow filled, so we just decided to head straight to the hotel. When we come back on december, we'll definitely try the other foods on offer at Corner Cafe.

Corner Cafe
Main Stree, USA
Hongkong Disneyland 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Magical Moments at Hongkong Disneyland

It's touted as the happiest place on earth and for the second time around Disneyland proved it to me again. This is simply the place where you wanna be and the memories you'll have are definitely meant for a lifetime. I've been to Tokyo Disneyland Resort a long time ago. This is my and my family's first time at Hongkong Disneyland. But I just realized, regardless of which particular resort you visit, you're on for the same level of  happiness and excitement. The moment you see childhood mementos of anything Disney, you'll be outrightly transported to a whole lot of fun.
We stayed for almost 2 days at the park and believe it or not, we were still unable to cover everything. On Day 1, we were lucky to have a photo opportunity with Mickey and Minnie in a breeze since the queue was surprisingly not too long. Of course any visit to Disneyland won't be complete without having a photo with these well-loved characters, isn't it?

Then we managed to catch the 4pm parade of Flights of Fantasy at the main street. We found a very good location, so we had nice photo shots to keep as souvenirs. Although Flights of Fantasy is enjoyable to watch in its own right, I can't help but liked more Tokyo Disneyland's Electrical Parade. The later was more exciting to watch and the showcase of lights in every float is just amazing. I hope they make a Hongkong version of it as well.

While watching the parade, I just can't help but seemed to notice that most of the performers were Filipino. Hurray for Filipino talents!

One of the highlights of the visit to the park that must not be missed is the Fireworks Display at night near the Sleeping Beauty Castle. The fireworks were a joy to watch.

The theme park is actually divided into 5 main attractions namely Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland and the newest addition Toystoryland. If you cannot cover all rides and shows, I would suggest to prioritize only the must see and must try.

In Tomorrowland, Autopia and Astroblaster are the good ones.

 The Festival of the Lion King Show is definitely a must see!

As it's the only river encounter ride, the Jungle River Cruise at Adventureland is also a must try.

For small kids, they will surely enjoy the boat ride for an imaginative journey around the world while singing to the tune of "It's a Small World" in different languages. The attraction is located in one of the castles in Fantasyland.

I had some dejavu of the movie Toystory as we entered Toystoryland. I felt like Andy's friend being welcomed to his home. The 3 rides featured in this attraction are also exciting. Especially if you're a sucker for some adrenaline rush, the roller coaster ride is the way to go.

Time passed by ridiculously too fast while staying at the park that it felt like we only had a serving of the whole pie of HK Disneyland. Nonetheless, the memories that we had will still be remembered forever. On another light, at least we have a reason to come back. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

New Curry La Mian by PRIMA

If you're a frequent shopper at any leading supermarkets around the island, you've probably have seen some new noodle products gracing the supermarket aisles. If you're observant enough, Prima's New Curry La Mian would have definitely caught your attention as it did for me. After the successful launch of Laksa La Mian, another kin of its kind had arrived in the market in the form of aromatic Curry Flavor. Simply true to its claim, the room was filled with creamy, curry aroma the moment the curry paste and curry premix hit the pot with hot water. As it continues to simmer, a promise of gourmet indulgence is evident from the steaming instant noodles. In fact, it was a hint of gourmet goodness.

With the presence of inumerable types of instant noodles in the market, to come up with an innovative one is more than challenging. However, it seemed like Prima managed to brave through this task by introducing a really nice noodle concept as the La Mian. It clearly positioned its unique selling point with good noodle quality and close to authentic asian flavors.

A pack of noodles consist of an instant air-dried noodles, curry paste and curry mix.

The cooking instructions is easy to follow and the cooking time of 7 minutes is still convenient enough.

Apart from good taste, the noodles also features some healthy claims.

Overall, I find the Curry La Mian rich and creamy in taste. It has an enjoyable thick mouthfeel, a tad spicy with just the right saltiness and umami note. The noodles is smooth, chewy and a little sticky to the bite. If you prefer this type of texture for a noodles, a bowl of this will be an absolute enjoyment. On the whole, I think this product doesn't disappoint. Considering that it can be easily prepared anytime, it can be a good alternative when that craving for Curry strikes and you want it fast.