Monday, 30 April 2012

My Sinful Moist Chocolate-Walnut Brownies

I call my cooking, "Isang Mabilis." (a Filipino term for Quickie.)
I don't have the patience for long-winding recipes.
My patience is limited to 15 minutes preparation + 15 minutes cooking.
More than that, I have to delegate.  :)

Here's my quick cooking and no-nonsense Chocolate-Walnut Brownies, the moist kind.
I don't like tough and powdery brownies, that breaks into crumbs,  like French Baker's.
I want chewy, gooey and melt in your mouth texture.


3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
3/4 cups chopped walnuts

What I do:

Pre-heat oven 350 F or 175 C for 15mins.
Butter 9x9 square baking pan.
Melt butter & choc chips together.
Combine Dry Ingredients.
Cool the butter & choc chips mixture.
Whisk to the butter/choc chips -- the eggs and vanilla
    (*make sure the butter is cool, otherwise the eggs will cook)
Add-in the dry ingredients; whisk
Fold in the chopped walnuts.  (save some for toppings)
Pour the batter over pan.
20mins. cooking time in the oven, or until toothpick dipped in the center comes out clean.

Warning ~  One Serving is equivalent to 1/2 hour sweating in the treadmill. 

'til next adventure!


Saturday, 28 April 2012

A Day with Feathered Friends

My mother was in-town for a visit and we took her to Jurong Bird Park.   Our place in Singapore is a bit far from the city center.  We are nearer to JB, Malaysia and consequently near the forested areas like the zoo, bird park and nature reserves.  It's only around 30mins from the house to the bird park.

Entrance to the park is 18 SGD for adults and 12 SGD for kids.  Open 830am-630pm daily.

Jurong Bird Park, is currently the World's Largest Bird Park, in terms of number of birds and second, in terms of land area (next only to Germany's Vogelpark Walsrode).   There are 4,600 birds of 380 species, and 29 of which are endangered species.

I wish I have bigger camera lenses :(  These regular ones just couldn't do justice to the wonderful of plumage of our feathered friends.

There are 17 attractions inside the Bird Park (African Aviary, Pelican Cove, Swan Lake, World of Darkness, Dinosaur Descendants....among others)  But we took our time.  I learned my lesson.  Rush your kids and you'll end up with sweaty, miserable, hungry and on-the-verge of meltdown kids & hubby.  So, just enjoy the scenery.  No need to take in everything in one go.

I think I was male bird in my former life. :)) Contrary to popular knowledge, the male birds are the colorful ones, who love to strut their plumage to attract the female species.  Female birds have drab or mono-colors in their feathers. :)

The Bird Discovery Center is an exhibit of the many kinds of eggs, feathers, tails, beaks from different birds all over the world.  My son Ivan, even made me scratch my head when he asked, "How did the egg get inside the mother bird's tummy, Mommy?  and how did it get out?"  :))  Go, Ask you Daddy, Anak.."

There are 3 show you can catch at the bird park.  The Kings of the Skies, all about Eagles, Falcons and Vultures.  Birds and Buddies Show is all about friendly-birds like Hornbills, Toucan, Macaws, Pelicans, Flamingoes) along with their mascot counterparts.  Lunch with the Parrots, showcases the antics of parrots, macaws and cockatoos.

We enjoyed bird feeding at the Lorry Loft.  The little birdies are literally eating out of our hands!  So cute and colorful, wish we can take them home.

The Pelican Cove is lovely and peaceful, even with the noisy fluttering of the huge wings of the birds, There are nice areas to sit, rest and view the huge birds flapping about.

Fun, educational information for the little ones about the birds ~

If you have extra-time, sit back and listen as the trainers chitchat all about Pelicans. But we got bored, since it's all delivered matter-of-factly; not so entertaining.  Maybe because the Pelicans are kinda dumb, I mean, compared with, the smart *ss cockatoos, macaws, and lorries.  :) The Pelicans just stand there, gawking at each other, fluttering their huge wings, waiting for the reward free fishes. :)

At the African aviary, we only took a few pictures, we had to leave right away, since the kids were hungry.  There's a small food kiosk, but serves mostly breads and pastries. The kids wanted more substantial.  We had to go back to the main entrance at the Hawk Cafe where they serve rice and all.

Lunch over, we got underway.  Our next stop was the Penguin Coast, which was  near the entrance. The frozen section, as i call it, is shaped like a pirate ship.   They have 6 species of Penguins.  The kids has fun identifying those species from the movie, Happy Feet.

My little boys played archeologists in the Dino Descendants section.

Rania, my daughter love the fierce eagles, falcons and vultures.  There are so many of them in huge aviaries.  Unfortunately, the cages doesn't allow better view in terms of pictures.

We really haven't scoured the whole bird park.  There's still so much more to discover!  Definitely, we will go back.  We ended the day, as usual, with the favorite past time of most kids here in Singapore ~ Waterplay!!  Never ever forget to pack swimsuits every time you take the kids out!  Otherwise, you are in for expensive, last-minute  swimwear purchase at the gift shops. :)

'till next adventure!


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Ooh La la, Orchids !

If you love Orchids, you will go crazy on this entry.  This is all about Orchids, Orchids, Orchids!

I love flowers but I am not a green thumb.  My only experience is growing those backyard Kutsarita plants for my Home Economics class in Aroroy, Masbate.  Even the tiny decorative plants I got from Ikea, died a natural death, I simply don't know how to care for them.

But I digress....  Orchids!

One Thursday afternoon, my friend dzo and I breezed through the Botanic Gardens, a lush sanctuary situated within the heart of the city.  Nestled within the expanse of the park lies Singapore's National Orchid Garden ~ the Largest Display of Tropical Orchids in the World.

Entrance to the Botanic Gardens is Free, but you need to shell-out 5SGD to get into the Orchid garden.  It's worth it.  This is my 2nd time to the Botanic Garden but my 1st inside the Orchid Garden.  I didn't go the first time, because I was with my little boys who just might pull-out those lovely blooms.

Singapore takes Orchidology (if there's such a thing) very seriously.  If  you ever set foot at Changi Airport,  you will immediately be refreshed by the blooms of  Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore's National Flower.  
It's no ordinary orchid that was designated as such.  The exquite orchid is a hybrid, between the Burmese Vanda teres and the Malayan Vanda hookeriana; a certain local horticulturist Ms. Agnes Joaquim propagated it in her garden in 1893.
It's now widely used in Singapore as part of an overall effort to foster national pride and identity.  You can find it all over ~ in jewelry, coasters, brooches, paperweights, hairclips, photo frames, scarfs, shirts.  At the airport, they even sell fresh Vanda to bring home to your sweethearts.

When I was a kid, my maternal grandmother used to grow orchids in her weekend home in Quezon City.  I remember saving eggshells during the weekdays, and she will bring them to her hanging plants to drip the remaining egg whites.   I only recall seeing two different orchid species, white and purple; and I would ooh, and ahh whenever there's a new bud.

Now,  I am amazed at these wonderful varieties.  They look absolutely smashing. 

When my hub was still courting me,  eyebrows raised at the Magandang Gabi ... Bayan office at ABS-CBN when he sent-in a bouquet of white orchids, instead the usual red roses.  For the uninitiated, they smirk and say, "San Burol?"  Hahahaha.

But for those with discriminating tastes, we know that, Orchids are more expensive and classy than a bunch of common-place red roses.  Besides, they are more memorable!  See?  I can still remember them now...  more than all the rose bouquets sent-over many anniversaries thereafter.

White Orchids similar to the 1st Bouquet given by my then suitor, now husband :)

Inside this enchanting oasis, there are different sections.  The VIP Orchid Garden which houses orchid hybrids after visiting Head of States, dignitaries or  VIPs.   You know you are important visitor if Singapore names an Orchid after you!  Thus,  they have a Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, a Jean Cretein, a Princess Masako....
a unique hybrid presented to & named after the then-Prime Minister of England, Margaret Thatcher

a blossom cultured for the Emir of Kuwait, HRH Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmad

Rare green & purple orchid named after the visiting Prime Minister of Canda,
Jean Cretien
When new hybrids are created, the National Garden invites celebrities.  To commemorate their visit, the new hybrids are named after them.  Thus, we see a Jackie Chan orchid and world renowed tenor, Andrea Bocelli orchids.    (I love this concept!  No need to remember stuffy, Scientific Names for my botany class!)  

 Do you know that Wild Orchids compared to Cultured ones, often have delicate and intricate blooms? I don't really understand the difference till I saw the ones in the Orchidariums (wild orchids) compared to those displayed all over the place (cultured).  

I missed taking photos of other orchids in the Mist Houses, in there, the orchids are kept in garden simulated to a tropical rainforest.  There's a continuous mist, I didn't want to wet my camera.   :)

We chanced upon schoolchildren on a field trip. Aren't their uniforms cute?

The National Orchid Garden claims to have over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrid in its collection.  Can you imagine handcrafting something alive and beautiful?  I can write a literary prose, someone can bake a cake,  cook-up  a gourmet dish, but Horticulturists.... are a different breed altogether.

Definitely as must-visit for those who love flowers ~ whether growing it or like me, just content to stare and smell the beautiful blooms.

Ending this entry with my self-made quote ~

Springtime or Not ~~~ Always be in Bloom!

'til next adventure,