Saturday, August 16, 2008

First Housewarming Menu

Shortcake & hubby had the first housewarming dinner with the family! This was the perfect opportunity for Shortcake to show some mettle and make my parents proud of me! We had so much fun planning the menu and shopping for stuff.

So what's on the menu?
  1. Starters: Smoked salmon parcels, blue cheese and walnuts.
  2. Mains: Oven-baked dory with herbs and lemon served with olio angel hair
  3. Desserts: Carrot & walnut cupcakes with cream cheese icing
A little bit more about the gastronomical drama this evening for the culinary-inclined ....

Smoked salmon parcels
I was surfing the net for a simple starter that required little or no cooking at all, these salmon parcels were inspired by Nigella Lawson's 'Salmon Wraps' off her website. My twist was the use of cream cheese, rocket leaves (love rocket!) and lettuce as the filling instead. We served the parcels on a bed of lettuce and added a little blue cheese and walnuts on the side for kicks.

The super-easy-to-make salmon parcels with rocket leaves and cream cheese.

Oven-baked dory
The dory was a no-brainer, really simple to make. Just buy frozen dory off any good supermarket, Cold Storage has a good variety. Thaw and dry the fish, marinate with salt, pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, a variety of herbs and leave it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. When the guest are just about to arrive, lay the fish on foil on a baking pan, add fresh thyme, zucchini and carrots and bake for about 30 mins or until they all look pretty cooked.

The fish combo in the oven ....

I served the fish with the actual baking pan; so much less washing up to do and it keeps warmer longer. Added some sliced lemons for drama too.

Olio angel hair

The pasta was a really easy classic recipe I got off an Italian cook book. All you need are garlic (loads), olive oil, chopped fresh parsley, chili flakes and herbs. I use "Ground Chili" flakes and "Italian Herbs", both from Masterfood. The latter saves me headache on which herbs are for what and you can store them like forever. Sauté everything in olive oil until fragrant, then, stir in cooked angel hair and fold them in until they are nice and even. My only regret; I was too conservative, should have made MORE and daddy suggested to add real dried red Chilies for color and texture. I will definitely try that next time.

Angel hair olio in progress ....

How to serve the angel hair ... plain or with leftover salad leaves and cherry tomatoes. If you have meat eaters in the midst, sprinkle liberal quantities of bacon flakes!

I love cupcakes ... not just eating them and looking at them, but I've always dreamed of making them! These carrot cupcakes especially was something I've been dying to make ever since I tried the same at D'Lish at Mid Valley. Fortunately I found the recipe from Nigella Lawson's How to be Domestic Goddess. The recipe was easy to follow despite not being ultra-specific, i.e. she does not tell you how long or how fast you need to mix certain stuff so it's gut feel and your own estimations. The cupcakes turned out to be absolutely superb. I totally forgot to get the cinnamon which I totally regret as that would have spiced it up but it was still super yummilicious in the end. My dad and sister in law loved it so so much they each took one home for breakfast! I was so super honored! Thanks to Nigella!!! :)

Carrot cupcakes fresh from the oven, about to be iced .....

My first batch of cupckaes!!! Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing and walnuts. Sadly, I screwed up the icing a bit, it was too 'watered down' :( *bummers* ... And I would love it if I had marzipan to make little carrots to decorate the icing.

The dinner looked like this ....

The FIRST housewarming dinner!

Overall, we a very healthy feast of baked fish and loads of greens. I'm typically a meat person and would prefer spicy green curry beef anytime but I knew daddy would like the light & easy fish; and I was right. They enjoyed the light dinner and still had room for cupcakes and coffee! Which was so wonderful. And I really outdid myself with cooking and baking all at one go, I never imagined I can do this .... *beaming with pride* ... hehehe :P

It was really wonderful having the parents over for dinner. I miss mum terribly after we moved to the new love-nest. Hubby was wonderful; just showing them around and washing up and cleaning the kitchen after all the fiasco, what on earth would I do without him? Well, overall, we had a lovely time and I can't wait to do it again, next round, I'll be attempting Thai. Sawadeeka :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shortcake's Lair

After months and months of labor ... the physical, mental and emotional kind, we have finally settled into our little lovenest at a cosy yet busy section of Northern Petaling Jaya . I had a brief entry on the renovation progress here, but sadly I failed to follow up on the subsequent work-in-progress, but nevertheless, I've got loads of pics taken throughout. So, I decided go with a "before & after" angle here, to demonstrate the transformation of the bare empty house into this cute little place we call our own.

Before & After: The Living Area

This is the living room view from the entrance. The units in this part of the condo does not have a balcony but an enclosed area called a "lanai". We decided to build a book-bench so we can sit and stare out at the view.... see view below:

The Enviable View: Curve & Cineleisure

The Living Area: all that's missing now would be a super furry rug and a matching coffee table. Oh, and of cos, some nice decorative paintings and photos of the Shortcake clan.

The kitchen is always the most difficult part. Apparently the biggest chunk of all residential renovations goes into the kitchen, makes you wonder if everyone actually spends that much time there! We chose black, which was not advisable, according to the designer-contractor who probably hadn't experienced his clients asking for a black kitchen! Yup, it took us a WHILE to convince him we want it black. So paint it black dude. We had the creamy white top, gray tiles and bling bling mosaic to add a touch of contrast to the black. We removed the door which leads into the kitchen and added a black frame instead. The door leading into the wet kitchen was painted black to match the cabinets and bling bling mosaic.

Before & After: Kitchen

Before & After: Kitchen

Next, let's look at the dining area, getting this area done was not easy, we had the table custom-made to match the solid black wood finish of all the built-in units. There are no solid-black tables anywhere... in most places we went to, teak was the 'in' thing, followed by the other extreme of the clear glass and stainless steel variety *yawn* So we had a nice custom made solid timber black table (which no one can lift!) but then we did not have chairs for almost a month! Later, we found these gorgeous black suede cushion chairs with stainless steel legs at IKEA, the place we least expect to find them! We wanted the Ghost Chairs for an avant-garde effect but they cost a bomb and probably not as comfy as they are pretty, and the cheaper polycarbonate alternatives (from EZQT) just won't do for hours of sitting.

Before & After: Dining

This pic below is the wet kitchen, which was essentially an open-balcony for laundry etc. We closed it up and had windows and a ventilator installed. We built a concrete structure to house a laundry sink and a double burner hob for "serious" cooking.

Before & After: Wet Kitchen aka Laundry Area

Finally, let's stroll a little deeper into the dark secret abode of the Goth Queen ... the highlight here is the dream wallpaper, the built-in solid black bed frame, the built-in dresser (designed by yours truly) and concealed floodlights from above the bed frame. We split the room using an artificial wall (partition) to create a 'walk-in' closet some-sort. I'm very glad for this, it helps block out the morning glare if you want to sleep in till noon!

Before & After: Shortcake's Snooze Palace & Dream Dresser
(see Shortcake and Ashley getting cosy and cuddly under the covers!)

Shortcake and hubby are super blessed and thankful for all the help and support from our families and God above for this wonderful place. We couldn't have done it otherwise. Coming up next, what will Shortcake do now that she has her own little place to share with dear hubby ...? ;)