Jun 27, 2016

Beginner Guide to Chinese Tea Art

Tea is more than just a drink. For the Chinese, it is a living art and culture. There are endless subjects to learning Chinese tea art, namely identifying the tea, brewing, tasting, ceremony, history, presentation, and the list goes on. 

Adapting tea art as part of your hobby and incorporate tea drinking into your daily meal is a positive and healthy approach in your lifestyle. Unlike the Japanese tea ceremony, the Chinese tea is an art that represents your style and it has no formalities. 

For a beginner, these are the bits and pieces of items you need to get your hobby started:

1. Tea leaf
Start your tea collection with green tea leaf. It has the highest consumption in the world due to its flavour that is widely accepted by everyone. For a variety of aroma, go for oolong tea. However, oolong requires a meticulous way of brewing to bring out the best of the tea. Consult your tea supplier for more info.

2. Teapot
Not all teapots are suitable for the different types of tea. Invest in purple clay teapot or glass teapot for a more general option. Gunmetal teapot are usually used for flavoured tea such as jasmine green tea or brown rice tea.

3. Fair cup
The fair cup purpose is to hold the brewed tea. Transport the tea from teapot into the fair cup so that the tea don't over-steep. 

4. Teacup
Porcelain or glass teacup are easier to pair with different types of tea. Alternatively, you can purchase tea set which consists of teapot and tea cup that made from the same clay. The generally accepted teacups are also made from purple clay. 

5. Tea tray (optional)
For a better presentation, you require a tea tray to hold the tea remains and also to display your arrangement. Depending on the tea setting that you like, there are a lot of sizes and styles for you to choose from. 

6. The Six Gentlemens (六君子)
This unique name represents the 6 utensils needed for your tea preparation. It is consists of a spoon (to scoop tea leaf from the canister), a funnel (to facilitate tea pouring), a tweezer (for assistance when the tea cup is too hot to handle), a scrapper (for cleaning), a poker (to poke through tea leaves that stuck on the sprout of the teapot) and a needle (for cleaning).

 7. Tea pet
Lastly, tea pet (decoration) may be added to your tea setting depending on the end results that you want to achieve. The tea pet figurines are usually made of purple clay or porcelain. Alternatively, you can opt for a plant or crystals. 

There is no rules to the tea setting. Due to the popular minimalist approach, a lot of tea follower have adopted the style into their tea art by eliminating some of the tools. 

Jun 26, 2016

Cooking Basic: How to cook with onions

If you are on your first step to becoming a domestic goddess but don't know where to start, fret' not. We have a handful tips for you. To start off, we have the ultimate guide to onions!

Onion is one of the main ingredient to add flavor in your cooking. Once you master the use of it, you have traveled half the journey to be a domestic goddess. Let us put all the jokes aside and get to the point.

1. Yellow onion
The yellow onion is one of the best onion to use. It can be cooked in anyway and with anything you wish. It adds sweetness and crunchy texture into your cooking. Best way to cook: stir fry.

2. Shallots
Shallots are another versatile onion that you can cooked with any dish. It is more flavorful that the yellow onion and brings out the richness of your cooking. Deep fried shallots can be served as garnish on top of your cooking. Best way to cook: fry.

3. White onion
The white onions are the younger sister of the yellow onions. It has lighter taste and less in flavor compared to the yellow onions. It is more often used in stir-fried vegetable dishes and lesser in meat dishes. Best way to cook: stir fry.

4. Garlic
Garlic is another multipurpose type of onion. Compared to all the onions, it has the most pungent taste. It can be eaten by itself and added into cooking. It can also served as garnish when deep fried. Best way to cook: fry.

5. Pearl onion
It has a raw sweetness and often made into pickles or added into salads. Best way to cook: none... eat it raw!

6. Red onion
Probably the zestiest onion of all kinds. It can be eaten raw, often added into salads, burger, sandwiches, etc.. Sometimes you find it on top of your pizza as well. Best way to cook: none... eat it raw!

7. Sweet onions
As the name suggested, it is sweet by itself. Best to be eaten by itself - make it into onion rings, add it in your kebab or make it into sweet onion sauce. Best way to cook: fry, stew and soup.

8. Spring onion
Not to be mistaken with green onion, the spring onion has a little purple on its stick. Spring onions are not meant to be cooked due to the lost of taste. However, its mild flavor makes it good to be used as garnish. Best way to cook: none... eat it raw!

9. Green onion
The green onions are also known as scallion. It can be cooked with anything as herbs. Chop it finely and add into your dish before cooking. Best way to cook: anyway.

10. Cippolinis
Cippolinis come from the family of white onion, thus sharing the same sweet taste. Grilling, roasting and baking will bring the best of taste of cipplinis. It is a better onion to use in stew as well. Best way to cook: roast. 

Jun 15, 2016

Is Coffee Good or Bad for You?

There are studies that show coffee is bad for your health. It causes kidney failure, increase in insulin, and constant reliance may develop diabetes on drinkers. On the other hand, there are also studies that suggest coffee is good for your health. For example, it contains antioxidant which keeps you looking fresh and alert. So, which info is true?

There is no right or wrong on the studies made on coffee. Coffee has different reactions on different individuals. It is your own responsibility to find out on how your body is accepting to coffee. 

If you find negative reactions happening on your body after taking a cup of coffee, you may want to ditch it forever. Some of the symptoms are increase in heart beat, being alert, mild diarrhea, vomiting or feeling dizzy after taking in the caffeine. If any of the symptoms developed, it means your body is having negative reactions. A lot of people relying on coffee every morning to keep them fresh and alert throughout the day. This is also a negative effect. It shows that coffee is increasing your heart beat to keep your internal activity active. If you're one of them, try substitute your morning caffeine to tea or fresh juice. It may not as effective as coffee in keeping you awake, however, it is a healthier option.

However, if you don't find any of the above reactions, you're a natural coffee drinker! It means your body accepts coffee naturally. Also, it shows that your body is absorbing the goodness of coffee without causing any side effects. 

Perform an experiment for a week. If you are an avid coffee drinker, ditch it to see the difference it has to your body. 


Jun 13, 2016

5 guilt-free oat desserts for the health-conscious individual

Eating oats is a great way to start your day! It fills you up and gives you the energy to make the most of your day. But besides that, oats can also be used in a variety of ways – such as adding it to your favourite desserts – which allows you to reap the benefits of oats in creative ways. Bake cookies with oats for a whole grain-rich crunch. Add oats to muffins, or make an apple pie with oats for a delicious finale to your meal. Delve into our top 5 mouth-watering desserts you can prepare under an hour!

Coco and Nana Mini Cakes

You can have your cake and eat it! These mini cakes will have you clamouring for more. Chocolate, after all, is a well-deserved treat after a hard day’s work. With this recipe, you also get all the added benefits that oats bring: fibre, vitamin B1, vitamin B12, iron and magnesium.

What you need
·         1 tsp unsaturated cooking oil to grease the muffin cups
·         1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
·         1 cup Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats
·         ½ cup granulated sugar
·         ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
·         2 tsps baking powder
·         ¼ tsp baking soda
·         2 medium ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
·         ¾ cup low- or non-fat milk
·         4 tbsps unsaturated margarine, melted
·         2 egg whites, lightly beaten
·         1 tsp vanilla essence
·         4 tsps chocolate chips
·         Pre-heat oven to 205°C
·         Lightly grease the bottom of miniature muffin cups with oil and set aside
·         In a large bowl, mix flour, oats, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda
·         In another bowl, blend mashed bananas, milk, margarine, egg whites and vanilla essence with an electric blender
·         Add in the dry ingredients and continue blending until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over-mix
·         Fill the muffin cups almost up to the top
·         Sprinkle half a teaspoon of chocolate chips on each muffin
·         Bake for 10 to 12 minutes
·         If a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the muffins are cooked
·         Let muffins cool for a few minutes. Remove from pan onto a wire rack to cool

Nutty Brittle Cookies

Nuts for nuts? These nutty cookies with a twist are easy to make! With a touch of oats and a layer of chocolate, these crunchy desserts will leave you feeling sated. Peanuts are a source of vitamin B3, vitamin E, folate, fibre and protein, among others – adding to the goodness of oats!

What you need
·         1 tsp unsaturated margarine for greasing the aluminum foil
·         2 cups Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats
·         1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
·         ½ tsp baking powder
·         1 cup unsaturated margarine, chilled, cut into pieces
·         1 cup icing sugar
·         2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
·         1 ½ tbsps. water
·         1 tsp vanilla essence
·         1 cup peanuts, lightly salted, dry roasted, coarsely chopped
·         ½ cup semisweet chocolate pieces
·         Pre-heat oven to 180°C
·         Line two cookie pans with aluminum foil and grease the foil with a little margarine and set aside
·         In a bowl, combine oats, flour and baking powder and mix well
·         Add margarine and beat mixture on low to medium speed with a blender until mixture looks crumbly
·         Add icing sugar, brown sugar, water and vanilla essence
·         Beat again until dough starts to form
·         Slowly add chopped peanuts and mix the dough again
·         Divide the dough into two
·         Place half the dough on one cookie sheet and flatten with light-floured hands into a rectangle
·         Repeat with the other sheet
·         Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly brown, rotating cookie sheets after 12 minutes
·         Sprinkle chocolate pieces over each large hot cookies, let it soften and then spread melted chocolate pieces over each cookie
·         Remove cookies from the sheets, break into pieces and serve

Whole Grain Fruit Bars

On the go? Prepare these fruit bars the night before – easy to make, easier to eat! Contrary to popular belief, dried fruits still holds nutrition, and is a rich source of carbohydrates and is low in fat. Besides being a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

What you need
·         ¾ cup brown sugar
·         1 cup low- or non-fat plain unsweetened yogurt
·         2 egg whites, lightly beaten
·         3 tbsps unsaturated cooking oil
·         3 tbsps low- or non-fat milk
·         2 tsps vanilla essence
·         1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
·         1 tsp baking soda
·         1 tsp cinnamon powder
·         ¾ tsp salt
·         3 cups Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats
·         1 ½ cups dried mixed fruit, raisins or dried cranberries
·         Pre-heat oven to 180°C
·         Grease a 13” x 9” baking pan with oil and set aside
·         In a large bowl, combine sugar, yogurt, eggs, oil milk and vanilla essence and mix well
·         In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon powder and salt and mix well
·         Add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well
·         Still in oats and dried fruits
·         Spread the dough onto the botoom of the prepared baking pan
·         Bake for 30 minutes or until slightly brown
·         Cool completely on a wire rack
·         Cut into bars and store in an air-tight container

Strawberry Shortcakes

No one can resist the pull of strawberry shortcakes. With whole grain wheat and oats, it offers fibre-rich wholesome goodness packed in with the delicious taste of strawberry jam. The shortcakes are truly a treat made for everyone!

What you need
·         ½ cup whole wheat flour
·         ½ cup all-purpose flour
·         1 cup Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats
·         2 tbsps sugar
·         1 tsp baking powder
·         ¼ tsp salt
·         ½ cup unsaturated margarine
·         ½ cup low- or non-fat milk
·         8 tsps strawberry jam
·         Pre-heat oven to 220°C
·         In a bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt
·         Add margarine and milk
·         Mix well until dry ingredients are moist
·         Roll the dough into a boll and knead on a light-floured surface
·         Patt the dough to about half inch thick
·         Using an oval-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into oval-shaped shortcakes
·         Using a smaller oval-shaped cookie cutter, make an indent in the center
·         Place the shortcakes on an ungreased cookie sheet
·         Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until brown
·         Serve shortcakes with strawberry jam

Oats and apple pie

An apple a day keeps the doctor away! Apples are rich in dietary fibre and flavonoids. Combine it with whole wheat and oat goodness and you end up with a pie that’s not just nutritious, but delicious too.

What you need
For the pastry:
·         8 tbsps whole wheat flour
·         8 tbsps Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats, grind to a powder
·         1/8 tsp salt
·         6 tsps unsaturated cooking oil
·         8 tbsps low- or non-fat milk

For the filling:
·         2 tsps unsaturated margarine, melted
·         3 tbsps low- or non-fat milk
·         1 tbsps sugar
·         10 tbsps Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats
·         6 tbsps raisins
·         1 medium apple, diced into 1cm cubes
·         1 tbsp lemon juice
·         2 tbsps honey
·         1 tsp cinnamon sugar
·         1/8 tsp salt

For the pastry:
·         Pre-heat oven to 180°
·         Soft flour, oats and salt into a bowl; rub in oil and milk until mixture resembles breadcrumbs
·         Knead the mixture into a soft, but not sticky dough (Add more wheat flour if dough is sticky; or a little more milk if dough is not soft enough)
·         Place the dough in a covered glass dish and refrigerate for about 1 hour
·         Roll out the pastry to line an 8-inch pie plate
·         Bake for about 30 minutes or until slightly brown

For the filling:
·         In a bowl, mix melted margarine with milk, sugar, oats, raisins, apples, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon sugar and salt and dish out over the pastry base

Orange juice with oats

Oranges are rich in vitamin C and super refreshing. Your body will thank you when you stay healthy, energetic and refreshed with a boost of fiber, vitamin B1, Iron and magnesium from oats.

What you need
·         2 cups of freshly squeezed or 100% orange juice
·         5 tbsps Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats, grind to a powder
·         ½ cup crushed ice cubes
·         Add orange juice, oats and ice cubes into a blender, blend well, and serve

Oats and banana shake

Besides being a good source of potassium, bananas are a good source of fiber. With fiber rich oats and a double fiber benefit, you’ll not only feel full, but fiber is also good for your digestive system.

What you need
·         5 tbsps Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats, grind into a powder
·         2 bananas, peeled and sliced
·         1 tsp vanilla essence
·         2 tsps sugar or low-calorie sweetener
·         2 cups low- or non-fat milk, chilled

·         Add oats, bananas, vanilla essence, sugar or sweetener and milk into a blender, blend well and serve

Rich mango oats shake

Mangoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. They taste great and are easily available at your nearest supermarket. 

What you need
·         5 tbsps Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats, grind into a powder
·         1 large mango, peeled and diced
·         1 cup low- or non-fat milk, chilled
·         1 tsp sugar or low-calorie sweetener
·         ½ cup ice cubes

·         Add oats, mango, milk, sugar or sweetener and ice cubes into a blender, blend well and serve

Rich choco-oats smoothie

Need some pampering? Do it the healthy way - add chocolate, bananas, oats and yogurt into your smoothie. Not only will you satisfy a chocolate craving, but you’ll nourish your body and stay full for longer too.

What you need
·         3 tbsps Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats
·         1 cup low fat unsweetened plain yogurt
·         1 small banana, peeled and sliced
·         ½ tsp cocoa powder
·         ¼ cup ice cubes
·         1 tsp sugar

·         Add oats, yogurt, banana, cocoa powder, ice cubes and sugar into a blender, blend until smooth and serve immediately

Peanut butter smoothie

Looking for something filling, nutritious and delicious? Toss in peanut butter for a protein and fiber boost; and an extra nutty taste and flavor.

What you need
·         5 tbsps Quaker Instant/ Quick Cooking Oats, grind to a powder
·         2 large bananas, peeled and sliced
·         1 tbsp peanut butter
·         1 cup low- or non-fat milk, chilled

·         Add oats, bananas, peanut butter and milk into a blender, blend well and serve