Category Archives: Home Page

SHITAKE MUSHROOM WRAP

wrap4

shitake mushroom wrap

In my recent two post, I shared my homemade pesto as well as shitake mushroom, beansprouts and spinach filling recipes. Today, I’d like to show you how to prepare the shitake mushroom wrap with the pesto base. I usually add avocado slices or sweet potato slices or even pumpkin  cubes. I usually peel and slice the sweet potato and then cook the slices in the microwave for 4 minutes. For the pumpkin cubes, I buy raw cubes from Woolies and then cook them in the microwave in small batches. 

First, slather pesto on wrap. I love Mission Garlic Wrap because of its garlic after-taste. You can use whichever wrap you prefer. There are a variety to choose from. 

Then, I’d add the shitake mushroom, beansprout and spinach filling over the pesto. After which, I will add avocades, or sweet potatoes or pumpkin cubes. Some times, to add variety, I’d add tofu slices or cubes.  

vegetable wrap wrap 2

Tuck in the wrap on the sides and then fold one side upwards to form a parcel. Cut the parcel into half and voila! Wrap the two halves in foil and enjoy it for lunch. 

mushroom wrap

Paperback Vs Hardback VS Kindle: Which Would You Choose?

book2

book3

 

Have you been faced with the dilemma of choosing between paperback and hardback when deciding to buy for yourself or as a gift? I’m an avid book reader who can’t find enough time to read. I try to devour words on paper or kindle during my commute to work and on weekends. I have about 15 minutes of train wait and a 40 minute commute every weekday morning to enjoy this moment of bliss. This is when I take time to read. On Friday after teaching, I’d look forward to going to a cafe just to snatch at least half an hour of reading time while sipping hot mocha. That is my moment of peace and that space is sacred. It is a luxury. 

book1

At times I feel I live for moments to be with my characters and the setting and get involved in the plot. If I were to read non-fiction which I regularly alternate between fiction, I am totally absorbed in the words, ideas and new pieces of information that I hang on to in a way that I can ponder throughout the day. I usually share my readings on Instagram – emmiethyst. I share my love for books, crystals, nature, interesting places, architecture, food and other things of interest. I’m not a narcissist, so you won’t find photos of me there. 

Anyway, to get back to the topic, I was recently confronted with choosing between hardback and paperback. I had a long list of books I wanted to purchase but eventually decided on 3 books: two hardbacks and one paperback. Here’s why:

1) I buy paperback fiction written by my favourite authors

I stick to this rule of buying paperback fiction only written by my favourite writers. I adore fiction by Daphne Du Murier, Ernest Hemingway, Maeve Binchy,  Jhumpa Lahiri, Paulo Coelho, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Laura Esquivel and Isabel Allende. Rule of thumb for me is to buy paperback from these authors so I can keep them for sentimental value after reading them. I can read these books again and again when I feel so inclined in the future. 

2) I buy fiction by other authors on kindle

I buy fiction on kindle by authors other than my favourite ones listed above. This is because books on kindle are cheaper, at an average of AU$10 a copy. They are also read just once and buying them digitally means they don’t collect dust and save storage space. They are also convenient to carry around.  

3) I buy non-fiction paperback in general

I have always bought non-fiction books on paperback. At times I buy them on kindle if there are newly arrived and too expensive. I find that it’s worth buying paperback non-fiction as these are the books I constantly refer to when I need to find inspiration or a new idea or a relevant quote in my writing. 

4) I buy non-fiction hardcover if I really want them quick and get a bargain

Of late, I’ve bought newly published hardcover non-fiction books as they are reasonably priced and the difference in cost is slight when compared to the kindle version. Why didn’t I wait for the paperback ones to be published? Apparently, I can’t wait to own them and when I can get a good discount, I will jump on the opportunity. 

These are hardback books  I recently purchased:

Silence in the age of noise

silence in the age of noise

 

The gist of this book is to find pockets of silence and destress during a commute or walking through nature. It talks about learning to listen and reflect.  

 Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Ikigai

This book is about how having a strong sense of ikigai—the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect—means that each day is infused with meaning. It’s the reason we get up in the morning. It’s also the reason many Japanese never really retire. I guess I’m curious to find out. 

I am looking out for the novel ‘Go, Went, Gone’ by Genny Erpenbeck that tells the tale of Richard, a retired classics professor who lives in Berlin. His wife has died, and he lives a routine existence until one day he spies some African refugees staging a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz. Curiosity turns to compassion and an inner transformation, as he visits their shelter, interviews them, and becomes embroiled in their harrowing fates. This book is available on hardcover now, so I’m waiting for the paperback version or mayl get it on kindle since it is a fiction. 

Another book I’m looking out for in paperback is ‘Dear World’ by Bana Alabed. It’s written by a seven year-old Syrian girl, with the help of her mother, who describes the horrors of war. 

So many books, so little time. Yes, I want to devour as many books and since I have little time to spare, I will take precious pockets of time to indulge in books. Paperback, hardcover or kindle, the choice is personal. What are your thoughts on this? 

GARDEN VISITS IN THE HIGHLANDS

rose bush

tulips Moidart

 

So I spent the long weekend in Bowral, in the Southern Highlands. There are two beautiful gardens worth visiting there, Moidart Garden and Milton Garden. These gardens are within close proximity to my accommodation at the Biota. 

Moidart Garden 

Moidart Garden is very English, tucked away in the folds of the highland which is part of the Great Dividing Range that spans from NSW to Queensland. The name Moidart is actually a district on the west coast of Scotland. It was built by Mr James Burns in the early 1930s.  

The garden features mature deciduous trees which provide a stunning display of autumn colours. Specimens include giant sequoia, red oaks, golden elms, chestnuts, london plane trees, copper beech, dogwood, tulip trees and cypress.

close up tulips moidart

I fell in love with the setting in front of the huge house. Graceful white tulips have been planted in neat rows in front of the residence which look like a country manor.  

sunken rose garden

Sunken Rose Garden

To the east of the house, surrounded by manicured hedges, is the famous sunken rose garden. Here a formal layout of beds bordered by box hedges, a central flowering crabapple and gravel paths provide a setting for a magnificent display of classic roses from spring through to autumn.

bluebell walk

 

 

rosebush 2

The Terraces

I enjoyed walking past blue bells on either sides of the garden. The place is very tranquil and I never tire looking at the flowers around me. There are also rose bushes that add vibrant colour to the surroundings amidst the blue bells.  

milton park

Milton Park 

Milton Park started off as a property for breeding fine cattle. It was purchased by Anthony Hordern in 1910. In 1960, Milton Park was bought by King Ranch Pty Ltd. This company was responsible for the import of Santa Gertrudis Cattle to Australia in 1952. Cattle breeders from all over Australia converge at this annual sale of top quality stock at Milton Park annually. 

The property has been converted to a hotel in 1984. The place has been refurbished and the garden has been restored to its former glory.  

tulips Milton

 

tulips 2 Milton

Strolling in the garden feels like what the landed gentry in England must have enjoyed doing in the 19th century. Sans parasols and calico dresses, the stroll was leisurely and everything I saw was a feast to the eyes. There was bound to be something of wonder in little pockets of the garden that is full of character. 

milton gate

The blue bell wood was like a whimsical place tucked in the far corners of the earth. It lay in the shadows of huge trees and a fallen log or two added some character to the place, replicating the scenery at the woods. 

milton trees

The rainbow lawn was dotted with colorful tulips. It was a welcome sight and punctuate the monotony of greenery with colour. 

milton property

We could have spent hours in the garden as the tranquility and beauty were therapeutic. By the end of the walk, we felt refreshed and calm. We were ready to venture to our next destination. 

New Age Tips 

Have you ever wondered why gardening is so therapeutic for many? Just being amidst greenery is an antidote for the soul. Doing mindless work like planting, weeding and watering takes your mind off your worries. Harvesting your fruit or herbs or vegetables gives you that unexplainable satisfaction. 

If you live in a unit or apartment and are fortunate enough to have  a balcony, consider starting a vertical garden. It is not only practical and utilises the amount of space you’ve got, but is also cathartic. 

If you live in a house with a garden, consider planning a layout for a small garden. Before long, you’d be into it and find deep satisfaction in growing your own plants. 

If you have neither a balcony or or space for a garden or garden visits to the highlands are not on the cards, try scoping out gardens or parks in your area and take walks every now and then. You will find that such a simple activity does wonders to your body, mind and soul. 

WOOLWORTH’S SLICED BANANA BREAD – A REVIEW

Five Banana Bread Slices

Five Banana Bread Slices

 

I have tried several off-the-shelf banana bread and nearly all of them don’t meet the standards with regards to taste and quality. Most are either too bland, rubbery or overly-laden with sugar for my liking.However, I strongly feel that there is one commercially made banana bread out there that deserves a recommendation. That’s Woolworth’s Five Banana Bread Slices. Each banana slice is packed separately and is ideal for your child’s lunch box or for a family picnic. 

Five Banana Bread Slices

First of all, let’s look at Woolworth’s Five Banana Bread Slices calorie count. It has 329 calories in all. With only 3g of saturated fat as opposed to 4g of poly-saturated fat and 7g of mono-saturated fat and boosting zero trans fats, these banana bread slices make healthy snacks. On the flip side, the sodium content is a tad too high for banana bread at 287 mg a piece. The good thing is, each slice has little sugar (29g) and this makes each bite mild yet tasty without being overly sugar-laden. 

Five Banana Bread Slices

Each banana slice is moist and tasty. Since banana puree is used instead of essence, the taste of banana is sufficiently prominent in each bite. The bread has that melt in the mouth feeling as its is soft in texture. 

Woolworth’s Five Banana Bread Slices is also sold for $1.60 a slice. However, purchasing a whole pack is more economical at $6.25. There are times when the price is discounted in selected stores and a time when this product becomes unavailable. At the time of writing, Woolworths is offering the pack at $4.98 online

Five Banana Bread Slices make good office and school lunch snacks for both kids and adults to kick start the afternoon. 

Disclaimer: I do not receive any commission to write a review on this product. The content and opinions featured in this post are entirely my own, based on my personal experience using the above-mentioned product. 

SUSHEZI SUSHI MAKER – A REVIEW

sushi maker

Sushezi sushi set

Making sushi used to be a chore and a very messy affair. Gone are days when the sushi mat had been a vital item in the sushi making kit. For in those days, without the mat, sushi making was regarded impossible. Nowadays, new inventions have made food preparation much less of a chore. Preparing sushi has never been more convenient in the kitchen. 

The Sushezi sushi maker makes it possible for sushi to be prepared even by less nimble hands. It comprises 3 items: the sushi roller (a cylindrical plastic that can be split into halves for the rice and filling to be compartmentalised), a cutting template and a knife.   

Sushezi sushi set 2

Pros 

The Sushezi sushi maker is fool-proof. The sushi roll comes out of the roller onto the Nori seaweed effortlessly. The roll emerges out of the tube nicely, forming tight, well-shaped cylindrical rolls. 

Figuring out how to use this roller is not rocket science. Learning how to use this device is as easy as ABC.

The kit comes with a cutting template which helps me slice the sushi rolls evenly, without any mess. Fortunately, there is no squished sushi slices so far. 

The kit is dishwasher safe. This makes cleaning easy and fuss-free.  

Cons

The instructions on the quantity of rice to be used should not be taken at face value. This needs to be trialed and perfected, depending on how many rolls you expect to prepare. 

If you’ve not used this kit for some time, you’d want to spend a few minutes on figuring how to use the kit. Initially, the use of the plunger rod to compress the sushi rice can be a bit tricky. With practice, using the plunger rod gradually becomes second nature.  

On the whole, I feel that the Sushezi sushi maker is one of the best innovative kitchen gadgets found in the market. Preparing sushi has never been so convenient. Out of a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give the Sushezi sushi maker an 8. 

Pricing for this product varies online as well as in local department stores.  

Stay tuned for sushi preparation tricks and recipes in my upcoming posts. 

Disclaimer: I do not receive any commission to write a review on this product. The content and opinions featured in this post are entirely my own, based on my personal experience using the above-mentioned product. 

DE-CLUTTER YOUR HOME WITH INNOVATIVE STORAGE IDEAS

storage boxes

One of the most challenging tasks for homeowners and even those who are renting is de-cluttering their space. De-cluttering is very important in making your home look more presentable, and this is essential especially when you have a small space. In this article, some innovative storage ideas that will help you in de-cluttering your home, will be shared.

trunks

Photo credit: http://1.bp.blogspot.com

3-trunks

Photo credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com

     1. Trunks and boxes

Trunks and boxes with lids are effective storage places. You can use trunks and boxes with lids as a storage for things when you are in the process of de-cluttering your home. Aside from serving as a storage place, trunks that are flat-topped and boxes that look stylish can also function as a coffee table. If you are going to use them as coffee tables, it is advisable that you store things that are not frequently used because it can cause inconvenience. Aside from that, if you have children at home, you might want to store potentially harmful items inside trunks that can be locked.

beds with drawers

Photo credit: http://vasportzone.net/wp-content

 

     2.    Beds with drawers

Beds with drawers at the base. Purchasing beds that have drawers at the base may be a good idea to prevent your room from looking cluttered. You can store blankets and pillows inside those drawers when not in use, instead of having them all cluttered in your room. If your bed does not have a drawer, but has a space underneath it, you can also place storage boxes below to save some space.

wall shelves

Photo credit: http://www.stylepark.com/

wall-mount-shelving-units1

Photo credit: http://minimalistdesignhomes.com/

 

     3.  Wall hung shelves

Use wall hung shelves. Wall hung shelves can be used as storage places for small items. If you have small children at home, this can prevent them from reaching items that may harm them. Aside from that, wall hung shelves are also perfect if you have a small space because it does not take any of the floor space.

Storage-Baskets

 

Photo credit: http://4.bp.blogspot.com

basket storage

Photo credit: http://trashcansunlimited.com

 

        4. Bins and baskets

Bins and baskets are useful for storage of just about anything. If you want to de-clutter your home from craft items, old stuff, personal accessories, etc., bins and baskets may come in handy. After you have stored your things in them, you can place the bins and baskets on top of the cupboard or in one corner of the room.

shoe boxes

 

Photo credit: http://youwantmetobuythat.files.wordpress.com

        5. Shoe boxes

Recycle shoe boxes and use them for storage. You can store cosmetic and hair products, accessories, gloves, ties, scarves, etc. inside old shoe boxes and then place them on top of your wardrobe. You can cover these old boxes with gift wrappers or colorful pieces of paper. Moreover, you can also exercise your artistic talent and paint on it. Be creative and use your imagination to make these old shoe boxes look more presentable and unique.

 

draw string bag

Photo credit: http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com

 

 

draw string colour bag

Photo credit: https://f40114a9c15329ce7554-5e3e33cf9abc3c848e3c4bf6f22ec80e.ssl.cf4.rackcdn.com

          6. Draw string bags

Draw string bags that you are no longer using can be used to store children’s toys.If you have children at home, you can use draw string bags as a storage place for their toys. These can come in colorful designs, and you and your kids can also decorate them yourselves. You can hang these draw string bags in coat racks or hooks placed behind doors.

 

The storage ideas mentioned in this article can be used in any part of the house. It all depends on which one appeals most to you and which of these complements the other elements of the room.

7 SECRETS TO HAPPINESS

woman happiness

Photo credit: http://examinedexistence.com

 

Happiness is a state of mind. It is connected to contentment and gratitude. Giving also promotes that good feeling as we proffer good words, good deeds and think good thoughts. In today’s world, people get embroiled in the rat race, work hours on end frantically and seek temporary solace in retail therapy only to get sucked in the rat race again when the weekend is over. That’s meaningless, I hear you say. That’s the reason why people uproot, change jobs, get out of their comfort zones in search of a better lifestyle in order to achieve happiness. Let’s look at how we can achieve that state of happiness.

 

1. Practise feelings of gratitude

To be grateful for the things you have and to express gratitude for the simplest things, will result in feeling of contentment. To be contented is to be happy. To focus on what we have and feel grateful for them is to count our blessings. Unfortunately, many focus on what they do not have and negative feelings of envy, hatred and frustration follow, leading to unhappiness and discontent.

 

2. Be kind

It pays to be kind through actions and words. This quality has a two way magical benefit. By being kind, you feel empowered and happier while at the same time making others happy by brightening their day. A smile is always a sure and simple way of radiating friendliness and transmit feelings of kindness.

 

3.  Live simply

We all have heard of the phrase ‘Less is more’ and ‘Declutter your living space’. By living simply and possessing only the things you need and not want will make you a much happier person as you live with less clutter and have less choices to make on a daily basis.

 

 

4.  Be engaged in enriching activities

All of us need to de-stress from the rigours of daily life and demands at work. Find an avenue to chill out and zone out from work and family demands. Engage yourself in enriching, creative or spiritual activities like meditation, exercise, dairy writing, reading, scrap booking, dance, painting or music.  Such activities will take your mind away from stress and allows you to express your thoughts and feelings freely and explore your creative side.

 

5. Connect with inspiring people

People around you can either pass negative or positive vibes.  Don’t let negative people affect you or those who seek your attention on a regular basis drain you. Instead enjoy the company of people who are positive, supportive and encouraging. Such company is comforting as you feel energised by positive energy and motivated by consistent support.

 

6.  Write down your thoughts

Keep a diary, conventional or online, so that you can express your thoughts and feelings and manifest your dreams and hopes. The law of attraction emphasises the habit of writing down your hopes and envisioning them through written words. By doing so, your mind is focused on what is being penned while may compel you to take action to realise your hope one step at a time. By having your hopes to focus on and taking an approach to make them happen, you actually feel much happier.

 

7.  Spend time in nature

Nature is healing. No one can deny the cathartic effects of nature. Take a walk by the beach or along a nature trail or in the park and your mind will feel much more at ease. The greenery that is spread before your eyes, the colourful blooms dot the monotony of the green foliage and the musical cacophony made by the birds overhead will take your mind away from the stress and unnecessary noise around you. Be at peace in the midst of nature as you envelope yourself in that magical moment as you communicate with the soothing sounds of nature.

 

There you are. If you ever are bombarded with negativity, follow the above steps to find solace and contentment in your strive to find happiness.

TASTY CROQUE MADAME WITH A TWIST

croc madamme2

 

croc madamme

I was inspired by Rachel Khoo’s muffin Croque Madame from the cooking program entitled ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’. In a particular cooking series of the mentioned title, Rachel creatively used muffin molds to prepare her Croque Madame. I bought a loaf of white bread on Monday and left it untouched till this morning when I finally decided to brace myself for this new breakfast meal. The truth is that I greased the muffin molds in an attempt to follow Rachel’s style. However, the stale bread broke into pieces. There you go…rule number 1 – do not ever use stale bread for this recipe. I then had to resort to the conventional way of preparing Croque Madame, that is, by using slices of bread.

So muffin style Croque Madames cast aside, I went ahead to prepare my special croques with a twist. This means using mash potatoes in the Croques and adding cayenne pepper to the Bechamel Sauce. Ok, I know you can’t wait to try. So be prepared for the mess in the kitchen and here it is:

Ingredients

Bechamel Sauce

1/4 cup plain flour

2 tbsp. butter

3/4 cup milk

1/4 Gruyere cheese, grated

dash of cayenne pepper

salt

ground pepper

Croque Madame

8 slices of white bread

50g of butter for greasing and lightly slathering on bread slices

4 eggs

pepper

Gruyere cheese

Mashed Potatoes

3 potatoes, mashed

1/3 milk

pepper to taste

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Method

Bechamel Sauce

1. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a pan over medium heat.

2. Pour in flour and stir.

3. Add milk a little at a time while stirring until the mixture thickens.

4. Add Gruyere cheese and mix.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste and a dash of cayenne pepper.

6. Put pan aside once mixture’s consistency is similar to that of tomato sauce.

Mash Potatoes

1. Peel potatoes and cook them in the microwave for about 6 mins or until cooked and soft.

2. Drain excess water and mash potatoes with a masher.

3. Add milk, Dijon mustard and pepper.

4. Mix thoroughly.

Croque Madame

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees C.

2. Grease tray with melted butter.

3. Flatter 4 slices of bread with a rolling pin.

4. Lightly butter the slices of bread on both sides.

5. For each Croque Madame, spread Bechamel Sauce on one slice of bread.

6. Spread mash potatoes on top of the sauce.

7. Make a little depression in the middle of the bread slice to keep the egg in.

8. Crack an egg and slide it in the depression.

9. Sprinkle Gruyere cheese.

10. Add a dash of pepper.

11. Bake the Croque Madame in the over for 20 mins.

12. Enjoy.

croc madamme2

Rule number 2…You’d need to bake the croques for an extra 5 mins by lowering the temperature of the oven to 180 degrees C after 20 mins to ensure that the eggs are well done and that the toast doesn’t burn. Serve the Croques with coffee and enjoy! The combination of savoury Bechamel Sauce and mashed potatoes tantalises the taste buds, making your morning worth it just by trying this recipe with a twist.

Yes, it’s decadent and what an indulgence with all that butter, egg and potatoes. One has to pamper oneself sometimes…

FUSION VEGETARIAN PASTA

fusion pasta spirals

fusion macaroni

Fusion Pasta

Pasta is a versatile dish that is simple enough to cook. With a little creativity, I’ve transform the pasta into a different dish, one with an Asian influence for that added savoury zest. In this recipe, we will need soy sauce, sweet soy or kicap manis and some tomato sauce. You can add any ingredient in this dish be it chicken pieces, mushrooms or prawns. Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Ingredients

1 cup pasta (penne or macaroni)

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 medium onion, sliced

100g mushrooms, sliced

1/2 red capsicum, sliced

spring onions, chopped

1 tbsp. cooking oil

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. sweet sauce or kicap manis

1/2 tbsp. tomato sauce

a dash of pepper

a dash of chilli flakes (optional)

coriander for garnishing

Method

1. Cook pasta till al dente, drain it and leave aside.

2. Heat oil in a pan and cook onions till transparent.

3. Add garlic and cook till aroma is released.

4. Add capsicum and mushrooms and cook for a minute.

5. Add cooked pasta to the vegetables and stir well.

6. Sprinkle a dash of better for taste.

7. Add soy sauce, sweet sauce and tomato sauce and ensure that the sauces blend in with the pasta and vegetables.

8. Add spring onions and chilli flakes.

9. Serve with sprigs of coriander

I refrain from adding extra salt as the soy sauce contains sufficient sodium to enhance the taste of the dish. Add extra sweet sauce if you like the dish to taste sweeter. And of course, the tomato sauce gives the dish that tangy touch to tickle the taste buds. This is a perfect simple dish to serve on those busy weekdays. Just prepare the ingredients in advance and throw them in the wok when you come home from work. Enjoy!

WHAT TO EXPECT ON CONTEMPORARY FLAVOUR IN 2014

balloons

Contemporary Flavour has added 2 new exciting and informative categories on the site: ‘Home Improvement and Decor’ and ‘How to be Healthy and Happy’.  

colour

The former category touches on how to improve your living space through design, space organisation, the use of colour and the introduction of suitable accessories. The latter includes tips on how to live a healthier and happier life through better diet, a positive mindset and inculcating feelings of gratitude.

Also, look out for both tried and tested healthy and indulgent recipes, product reviews as well as fashion trends and tips in 2014. It’s going to be a colourful 2014.   

Happy reading!