Friday, January 30, 2015

5 Under-20-Minutes Bento Ideas

The girl has started morning session this year and this means a total overhaul of our schedule and lifestyle. Her mealtimes have changed and I now have to worry about what she eats for breakfast and recess. Recess time didn’t use to be a challenge the past two years because there were only Primary One & Two cohorts in the afternoon session. Now that she’s in the morning session and joining the P3-6 cohorts, recess time can be quite a challenge. This is worsened by the fact that my girl eats super slowly leisurely, so she practically doesn’t have enough time to queue up, buy and eat all within recess time. That resulted in Mama waking up a little earlier every morning to prepare bento/ lunchboxes for her to bring to school so that she can at least cut away the queuing time, and still get to eat something.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I thought and thought for several days, and devised ways where I can prepare a good bento (at least a pleasant-looking one) with all the food that she enjoys eating and do it really fast. I give myself maximum of 20 minutes for the entire preparation and 5 minutes for washing up, before dashing out of the house to catch the school bus. Sleep time is precious, you know? I don’t want to wake up too much earlier just to spend time on the preparation.

Now, what constitutes a good bento, you think? My bentos need to fulfill the following 5 criteria:

1. It must be food that my kid eats (and not only what I want her to eat).

This is obvious. You never know what your kid does with the food at recess time. Does she finish everything or throws certain things away before bringing home the empty containers? It must contain food that she likes to eat on any other normal days to ensure that everything goes into her stomach, just like you planned.

2. It must be food that can be consumed even after 4 hours.

That’s how many hours later she gets to eat anything once she leaves the house. Recess time is at 10am, and the food is prepared around 6am. Her classroom is not air-conditioned, and so I don’t put in stuffs that can potentially turn bad, such as milk or cheese.

3. It must be food that taste alright even when it turns cold.

Not every bento box I own is a thermal one, so sometimes, the food turns cold by the time she eats it at recess time. Again, this is to ensure that she actually finishes the food, and not throw them away. You will notice from the bento ideas I am introducing later that would contain all these kinds of food. For food that I need to really keep warm, I would opt for the thermal pot. Otherwise, normal plastic bento boxes would work.

4. It must be visually appealing.

This does not require you to be extra creative in decorating the food. For goodness’ sake, 6am in the morning is hardly time for anything too fancy. As long as you play with the colours of the food – Make sure there are a few colours so that it looks colorful and nice, that’s good enough. On less-rushed mornings, you can use food cutters or puncher to do up simple decor. When you do not have the luxury of time, cute and colorful food picks can perk up any bento.

5. It must be a balanced diet.

This is not always easy, especially if you have a picky kid at home. I try to always incorporate carbo, proteins, veggies and fruits if I can. But the truth is, as long as the kid finishes her food, I am happy. If I can get all the nutrients in at the same time, that’s a bonus.

So, here are 5 different bento ideas that you can take reference from. They are the 5 bento meals that my kid had this week from Monday to Friday. I probably will repeat them in different combinations next week.

Bento # 1

Boiled fusilli with frozen vegetables thrown in for color
Steamed prawn wantons
Steamed Edamame
Seedless Grapes

This can effectively be done in 10 minutes flat. Just boil a pot of water, throw in a handful of fusilli and the frozen vegetables, add salt & extra virgin olive oil then let it boil for about 7 minutes. In another pot of water, boil the prawn dumplings & edamame.

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Bento # 2

Fried Rice with Eggs
Sausage & Cucumber Skewers

If you have the time and energy in the morning, you can fry the fried rice in the morning (cook your rice the night before though), but if you don’t feel like to it, you can fry the rice the night before and put into fridge to be warmed up only in the morning. That would save you a lot of time. The sausages are easy – Just boil them in a pot of water and then skew them together with cucumbers. Tip: If you want your cucumbers to stay crunchy, cut them into slices/ strips the night before, soak in tap water for 15 minutes, drain off and keep chilled in fridge till the next morning. That’s a tip from my mum!

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In a separate bento box, I put in honey stars, mandarin orange slices and seedless grapes. This is what I call the School Bus Bento – Mainly for the girl to consume when she is taking the school bus home. The journey is long, and she gets hungry before she gets to eat her proper lunch at about 3pm, so this will fill her up temporarily. I know some school buses don’t allow the kids to eat onboard, but my girl’s school bus makes allowances if the food cannot be spilled. So, these are good choices and easy to eat as well.

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Bento # 3

Hawaiian Pizza
Mandarin oranges
Golden Kiwi fruits
Seedless Grapes

I bought frozen pizzas (Sunshine brand) for mornings when I am in a rush. These are easy – Just pop into your airfryer or oven, and they will be done in 5 minutes. Remember to defrost your pizza the night before though. The mandarin orange slices help to clear the smell in the mouth after eating the pizza. =P The kiwi fruits and grapes can be eaten on the bus if she doesn’t have time during recess. The girl loves the pizza very much and kept asking me to make exactly the same thing the next day! =X

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Bento # 4

Fusilli with mushrooms in tomato pasta sauce
Steamed broccoli with prawns
Sausage skewers

Steamed Edamame
Sliced Japanese Cucumbers

Using a mega huge bento box with compartments means that you run the danger of overpacking, and that was exactly what I did. =X Anyway, I prepared the ingredients the night before – cut the broccoli, de-shelled and cleaned the prawns, cut the carrots into alphabets and stars, etc. In the morning, I boiled everything and cooked the fusilli, and we’re good to go. The prawns and broccoli are boiled in salt water, and drizzled with sesame oil when done.

In the School Bus Bento, I put in green grapes, half a mandarin orange and a biscuit.

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Bento # 5

Onigiri with seaweed
Seaweed Chicken
Japanese Cucumbers

This is extremely fast and fuss-free. Just pop the seaweed chicken into the airfryer/oven and get working on the onigiri. I used moulds to help shape the onigiri (rice was cooked the night before), then wrap it with a strip of seaweed. To make it more interesting, I used the puncher to cut out star shapes. Meant to  make Spongebob Squarepants (left) and bear (right), but they unfortunately turned out looking like Ninja Turtles. In another container, I packed some grapes for her as well. It’s not a very filling bento, but the girl stays back for supplementary class on Friday, so she gets to buy her own lunch at 1.30pm. Hopefully, it can last her till then.

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There you go, 5 simple bento ideas that can be done in under 20 minutes! Have fun packing pretty and nutritious bento meals for your kids! =)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

TAO Seafood Asia

Media Invite

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Some time back, we were invited for a private food tasting at TAO Seafood Asia, and we enjoyed the dishes served to us so much that we brought our mums and kids back again a second time. Located along Shenton Way at Asia Square Tower 2, it is not a place I often go to so it was a pleasant surprise to find such a nice restaurant in that vicinity. A major plus point for me personally is how quiet it is during weekends, so it’s perfect for me to bring my kids and have a nice family meal there without feeling the rush and congestion. Of course, the food is great so that’s probably reason enough to go back again and again.

Expect a nice fusion of Oriental and Western when you step into TAO Seafood Asia. I like it that the restaurant is bright and sleek – Makes dining a really comfortable experience.

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There are private dining rooms as well and can be reserved upon request. No minimum spending or pax required, and usually on a first-come-first-serve basis. We had our meal in one of the private dining rooms there when we went the second time with our family. It was cosy and nice. Perfect if my kids want to run around and make noise even!

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Before I even get into the main dishes served by TAO, these two dishes of condiments are mention-worthy:

The achar is made in-house and very fresh, crunchy and appetizing. The husband loved it!

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And this green chili, also made in-house, is da bomb. It’s a thai kind of chili with all kinds of spices thrown into it. Goes well with EVERY.SINGLE.DISH we had. So good that we kept asking for more top-ups throughout our meal. If you love spicy food, you have to try this.

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Photos always tell a food story better, so here are the dishes I tried on my two visits to TAO Seafood Asia:

Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg Sauce

The deep fried eel skin is refried with TAO's special salted egg sauce that holds a slight tinge of spiciness, resulting in a crispy golden finish. I totally and absolutely recommend this. You won’t be able to stop until the last piece is gone.

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Crispy Enoki Mushroom

TAO Seafood Asia's popular Crispy Enoki Mushroom is deep-fried to a crispy and fluffy perfection, giving it a gorgeous shade of golden-brown, complemented with a generous dose of quality white truffle oil for that extra fragrance. Jayne LOVED it.

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TAO Signature Soup with Premium Fish Maw and Crabmeat

The fragrant and thick-in-texture chicken noble brew is paired with premium New Zealand Fish Maw that is rich in collagen. This is extremely tasty, and every mouthful felt luxurious, with a burst of flavors in the mouth.

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"Coral" Beancurd with Seafood and Salmon Roe

Silky soft beancurd, freshly made by the chefs daily, is served with juicy prawn and fresh crab meat in an egg white sauce and topped with delicious salmon roe. Again, this is a luxurious and hearty dish with ingredients so fresh and complement each other perfectly. A dish good for babies and kids, for obvious reasons.

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The beancurd was SOOOO soft and literally melted in my mouth. Yummy.

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Pot Roasted Sea Prawns with Glass Noodles

This unforgettable Thai Teochew favourite is prepared in a metal pot over a specially designed set of open fire stoves.  The sauce and soup base are cooked with the prawns and glass noodles repeatedly till it absorbs every last bit of flavour. A tedious dish that resulted in extremely great flavours and could well be my most favorite dish on the menu.

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Every single strain was completely soaked up in the sauce, as you can see. Love the prawny taste all over!

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Pot Roasted Chicken

This is yet another pot roasted dish with tender chunks of chicken simmered and stewed until every ounce of sauce was absorbed fully. This is a perfect dish to go with steamed rice. Slurp.

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White Pepper Crab

Instead of the common black pepper crabs, this dish made with pure ground white pepper and other spices was such a delight! The crabs are flown in from Sri Lanka daily in limited quantities, so make sure you call and make a reservation for the crab dishes at least a day before you go if you do not want to be disappointed.

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We also tried the Egg White Steamed Crab on the second visit, and it was good as well with original flavors and the natural sweetness of the crabs preserved and enhanced. The kids savored every mouthful!

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The crabs are so fresh and the flesh so firm, that we thoroughly enjoyed both crab dishes.

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You can end your meal with one of the desserts offered on the menu, and my recommendation is the Orh Nee – Yam paste – Very, very smooth and good!

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We had a great family time together on our second visit. :)

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TAO SEAFOOD ASIA
饕聚 – 新亚海鲜

12 Marina View
Asia Square Tower 2 #02-10
Singapore 018961

For Reservations and Enquiries: +65 68449969
Email: taoseafoodasia@gmail.com

Opening Hours (Daily):  
1130 to 1430 / 1800 to 2200 (last order by 2130 )

P/S: We were invited by TAO Seafood Asia for a private food tasting session for purpose of this review. All photographs and opinions belong to The J Babies.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The One Thing She Hates About School

I know it’s unbelievable. Especially when it’s Joey I’m talking about here. Hyperactive, cannot-sit-still and love-to-jump-around Joey.

She hates PE lessons.

I LOVE PE lessons as a kid. I love being out in the open, running and playing ball games. It’s a good break from the monotonous lessons in  the classroom and a time to have some fun with my classmates. Apparently, Joey doesn’t think so and almost dreads every PE lesson she has. Some mornings, she would ask me, “Mummy, can you write a letter to my PE teacher that I cannot go for PE today because my arm hurts?”

Since when did your arm start hurting, babe? No, I will not. Go sweat it out in the sun, run a few rounds and feel healthier I say!

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And another day, she told me that she skipped PE lesson – Told the teacher that she had a tummy ache. And the teacher just let her sit by the side to read her own storybook (Duh???) Even though it might be true, it still felt weird because I was the kind who would have carried on with my favorite PE lesson even IF I had stomachache. So, the crux of the problem seems to be that she dislikes running. Like seriously?! Every time I bring the girls out, I had to shout, ‘Stop running!’ a million times, and now she tells me that she dislikes running??!

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Of course, after a prep talk with Joey, she now no longer skips PE lessons at her own whim and fancy. It’s a subject, just like another other subjects in school and should not be skipped!

School has uncovered interesting facts about my girl. Isn’t that lovely?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Goldilocks & The Three Bears (Mandarin) Ticket Giveaway!

Singapore Repertoire Theatre (SRT)’s The Little Company (TLC) is presenting yet another interesting stage play for the whole family to enjoy!

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The hugely successful Goldilocks and the Three Bears enjoyed sell-out houses with its English production in 2013. Now, TLC is introducing the Mandarin version of this classic story for bilingual children and budding linguists. Many of us are familiar with this tale – It’s all about learning how to respect the privacy of others, and not using people’s things without permission. This is what every kid must learn as they grow up – From being self-centered, they need to learn respect and responsibility.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
11 - 29 March 2015
Prices: Weekdays (Mon – Fri): $25, S$22
Weekends (Sat & Sun): $35, S$32
For season ticket information, please log onto www.sistic.com.sg
VENUE: DBS Arts Centre – Home of SRT
TICKETING: SISTIC at 6348 5555 or www.sistic.com.sg

GIVEAWAY!

I have a total of 6 tickets to be given away to 1 reader this time round. Finally, a giveaway for bigger families of more than 2 kids! :) Otherwise, it’s always a good idea to bring along your friends to catch this interesting play together. :) The tickets are for the play on Saturday 14th Mar, 11am.

Join via Rafflecopter below, and the giveaway ends on 1 Feb 2015 11.55pm.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 23, 2015

Osaka Travel: Minoo Park

If I have to pick my most favorite place in Osaka among all that I’ve been to, I’d choose Minoo Park. Looks like I am still more of a rural girl at heart. I prefer sceneries, trees and grass over high-rise buildings and shopping malls anytime. Minoo Park is such a therapeutic place and I felt so refreshed and rejuvenated being there, even though the trek to the waterfall was tiring!

We had to catch a train to Minoo Park and the train captain was right next to me!

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The skies were beautiful at Minoo Station. It might be an illusion, but the air felt even fresher here! :)

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Minoo Park is famous for its beautiful autumn views, but I love it here in winter too. The trees may be bare, but there is a sad beauty in it all – if you get what I mean. :)

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Near the train station are shops that sell the local specialities in Minoo – Deep fried maple leaves and Roasted Chestnuts. We didn’t buy any to try though because we just finished breakfast.

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Love how ancient Minoo Park looks and feels. It’s like I stepped into another dimension altogether.

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Just a short walk from the main street, you will spot this iconic hotel. I imagine the views must be quite spectacular way up there on the cliff.

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It was cold, but I was thirsty, so I bought my favorite drink in Japan – Calpis Soda. It tastes a little like carbonated yakult and is very yummy. Calpis can be ordered in most restaurants, and can be mixed with soda or alcohol, or drank on its own. Look out for this drink whenever you visit Japan. :)

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The trekking towards the waterfall begun. Not the tough type of trekking though, because there are proper roads to walk on. Along the way, we were just taking in the amazing sights of Nature and enjoying the cold and crisp air. I felt like I was doing a detox for my lungs – Felt so good.

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Along the way, we visited a temple. It was so quiet and peaceful.

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Then we spotted this and I couldn’t miss a chance at a shot. So much feel in this one photo, don’t you think? :)

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Finally, after more than an hour of slow walking, we approached the waterfall.

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It felt like a piece of heaven here, quite frankly.

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I could sit here and admire the waterfall all day. Did you spot the rainbow? =D

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It was really beautiful.

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And I shared the moment with my matcha ice-cream.

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And couldn’t resist a stick of toasted mochi and some french fries. Hehe. Somehow, they all tasted better when eaten in front of a waterfall.

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The trekking back from the waterfall felt like a much shorter one, maybe because we had a goal in mind – L.U.N.C.H. We decided to settle our lunch at Minoo Park before heading back to Central Osaka, and we shared this colorful and awesome plate of beef hamburg and rice. It was such a healthy and yummy with a side of appetizing salad. :)

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I absolutely recommend a visit to Minoo Park when you are in Osaka!

Getting to Minoo Park: From Umeda in central Osaka, take the Hankyu Takarazuka Line from Hankyu Umeda Station to Ishibashi Sation (15 minutes) and transfer to the Hankyu Minoo Line to Minoo Station (5 minutes). The entire one way trip takes about 25 minutes, costs 270 yen and is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.