Mother to five, parent in progress and occasional kitchenista cookerella

Category: Frugal Living

Mango Tango Ice Cream

This is my third ice cream recipe post, and one of my personal favorites so far. Mentally drooling as I write this and am three-quarter way close to inching myself to the door of the fridge to raid for some as a supper treat. This is made WITHOUT an ice cream machine.

Mango Tango Ice Cream

Mango Tango Ice Cream

The thing is, mango and cream go so exceedingly well together like “shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom” and that alone, makes this recipe a must-try. The natural sweet goodness of ripe honey mangoes with cream promises to convert and is very achievable (20mins prep), also given that we’re in the midst of mango season. The kids are tossing their Oreos for this, and so are we.

Make it here:

What you need:
2 cups of heavy cream or fresh cream for whipping
1 cup of condensed milk
500 grams of mango puree

1. Put the mango flesh and condensed milk in the food processor and blend. Set aside.

2. In a clean whisking bowl, beat heavy cream until firm peak. Fold 1/2 of the cream to the mango puree. Do the same for the other half. Fold until well combined.

3. Transfer out to a desired container and chill in the freezer until the ice cream is set.

Recipe source:

Check out other ice cream recipes here: Oreo & Coffee

Crafting with Kids

Our Happiness project for the week: the daughter’s bubble-wrap printed green boa constrictor. Of all the animals of the rainforest, this creature fascinated her and we’re just happy that she was happy working at it and stamping the body with paint…and yes, I resisted the temptation to tell her I didn’t like snakes! Here are some things we learnt when crafting: it’s all about the process not the product!

Our Rainforest snake

Things to avoid when crafting:

1. Never force kids to complete a project they simply aren’t interested in – all you will do is alienate them from ever trying craft again. Simply encourage them and reward them when they do finish something.

2. Don’t get too complex
It’s easy to overestimate your own ability (and your child’s) when you see something you like in a picture, but there’s nothing more discouraging than getting part-way through a project and finding you don’t have to skills to complete it. Determine how much you and your child can actually do.

3. Start simple
If you’re learning a craft for the first time, start with something extra-simple to get the feel of the tools, materials, and techniques. Practice the techniques on something that doesn’t count first before actually beginning a project. If the project is relatively easy, your child will gain confidence and quickly want to try something more challenging.

4. Allow enough time and space
You need time to do things right, and that’s true of any activity, no matter how seemingly uncomplicated it is. Give yourself and your child time — to think, to enjoy what you’re doing, to be creative, to experiment, and to enjoy each other.


Chicken Karagge

Chicken Karagge (唐揚げ), is the Japanese version of fried chicken. Pronounced kah-rah-ah-geh, it’s a whole four-syllabic worth of crunch that is guaranteed to pack a very decent crisp and crack in each bite, due primarily to the potato starch that coats the simply marinated chicken in a golden rich batter.

Chicken Karage

Chicken Karage

We fried it the conventional way in a deep pot to minimise oil spurts and it was a very pleasing one dish meal. In addition, we flavored the chicken (breast, coz it’s healthier and more budget-friendly) with a tablespoon of fish sauce to the recipe’s already good soy/ginger/sake marinade. A fuss-free weekend winner!

Chicken Karage

Chicken Karage with Rice and side salad

Tomato Soliloques

Sometimes you really can’t help but scratch your head at what to cook… call it the proverbial Hamlet in the Kitchen playing out his culinary vexation: what to eat and what not to eat, that is the question–which includes you frenetically poring through mentally stored-up recipes from your tired “Mom-mory drive” while struggling with a theatrically-waning willpower to execute them.

Other times however, you just know. It clicks immediately and you’re filled with clarity, vision and gut-sized determination. The ingredients just sing their lines and you know exactly how to cast them in character.

So the story goes that I found myself mid-smack in tomato season with 14-16 tomatoes going for only 60cents at the local grocers. It was a no brainer: it made sense to make my own tomato pasta sauce, instead of hacking it with the usual canned tomatoes or bottled paste. Never mind the little extra work. These tomatoes deserved their own soliloquies and I was determined to take them to stardom.

Stars they were: the natural sweetness in the fresh tomatoes really trumped the sometimes overly sourish store-bought pastes, making the natural tang and sweet complement the savoury and herby chicken and bacon bits like a midsummer night’s dream:)

Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce

What you need:
2 tbsp olive oil
10 medium tomatoes
2 tbsp wine
1 yellow onion chopped
5 garlic cloves chopped
250g chicken breast chopped
100g of bacon (prefried and chopped)
Pinch of Herbs (cayenne pepper, Rosemary, red pepper flakes)
Parmesan Cheese


Tomato Spaghetti

Tomato Spaghetti

Here’s how:
Feeds 6-8
1. Wash 10 medium tomatoes and carve an “x” at the base of the tomato with your knife. Put in pot with water and boil for about 5minutes till skin comes off easily. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

2. Marinade chicken with a little bit of oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper and pinch of herbs for 15minutes.

3. In a saucepan, fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil till aromatic. Add in the bacon to render some oil then the chicken to fry. When almost done,add in a splash of wine to deglaze the pan. While it is simmering, add in your peeled tomatoes and let the heat and with your slotted spoon break it down to a saucy texture. Serve with spaghetti and a generous topping of parmesan cheese.

Budget Friendly Kid’s Play- Sorting Buttons

Sorting buttons

Buttons are a mom’s best friend and so are cool random recyclables for this budget mom 🙂! In this present culture of overabundance where little ones could possibly get whatever they want, whenever they wanted, it’s a challenge not to be swept headlong into buying the next popular gadget, toy, newfangled product on the market.

We very rarely buy toys though we’ve been blessed with many but somehow, its always a little more exciting and so much more personal for me, when we invent and create ways of playing which are customized to our child’s needs, whether it’s for a week or two before he/she puts it away and attention shifts towards a new skill or development—the comforting fact of us facilitating ways of playing with ordinary things we have on hand is that it is so much easier on the wallet and creative to boot. Kids really just enjoy simple things with a punch of imagination!

Hence, it was love at first sight with this electric blue compartment carton box which used to house milk puddings from Paris baguette cafe, now fashionably repurposed as a button sorter for downtime pursuits for my near-3yo. Had earlier made a mental note to head down to Daiso to get some compartment trays but these fit the bill more than perfectly. Stuck the buttons over each compartment with tack and off she went exploring. Never mind if she didn’t “get” the classification at first, but learning is exploring and discovering and that’s the new fun of it! The little one ended up counting and treating the buttons as coins! Must have been her imaginary “bank”, saving up stash for the future!;)

Thinking of new ways to repurpose this box when she’s done! Drop a comment if you have an idea! ?

Turning on the Heat: Bolognaise Fries

There are days that you really feel in the thick of grumpy housewifery: the weather is a murderous 34 degrees, you’re sweaty and sticky, and you’ve handled your morning’s quota of tantrums.

The heat messes with you that much that you just want to salvage the day with a nibble on your familiar stash of chips and guzzle chilled drinks for dinner.

Before you head for it in wanton abandonment, consider this ramped-up version of a bag of chips, befitting of housewife glamory. Fries… bolognaise fries no less: a worthy suitor in pursuit of you and your now topsy-turvey appetite, charming you back on your swinging heels till you’re good to dance again.

Turn on the heat even further with a signature bunch of jalapeños thrown in for good measure. The jalapeños are the star of this dish: it makes hot even hotter! Keep the rest of the sauce (if there are leftovers or make a double batch of this) for a truly good siesta where you can kick back, hang up your feet and relish time with a pasta dinner already pre-prepared. Now, that’s royal.

Bolognaise Fries

2 Tbs olive oil
500g ground beef
salt and pepper, to taste
5 pieces of bacon, sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot grated
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 can tomato paste
3 cans diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
3 tbsp of chilli jam (sub w sweet chili sauce)
3 tbsp Jalapeños (adjust to taste)
bay leaf
1 bag Frozen French Fries
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
sliced green onions for garnish
A dash of sour cream

1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, and cook until meat is browned. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Drain meat and transfer to a large bowl.
Add bacon to the now empty pot and cook until crisp. Transfer to the bowl of meat.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and carrots and cook until onions are clear and soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring for about 1 minute.
To the pot, stir in tomato paste and broth. Cook down for about 5-8 minutes.
Now add the milk, tomatoes and bay leaf,and stir until combined.

4. Return meats to the pot and season with salt and pepper if needed. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring sauce to a simmer. Cook down until the sauce becomes dark and thick – about 1.5 hours. Discard bay leaf and serve over French Fries. Top with cheese, sour cream and sliced green onions.

Inside Out Avocado Teriyaki Chicken Rolls

We’ve been unwittingly living on the “inside out” over the past few weeks as a family. Of course, the thematic title is inspired by none other than Pixar’s newest flick proclaimed by many a reviewer as one of the “finest animations to date”. That, and my coming-of-age 11 year old insisted that she’d “lava” (N.B. those who’ve watched it in theaters, you’d know what I mean) for the family to watch this film of another coming-of-age 11 year old’s emotional turmoil on a large fantastical canvas. And so being mature and feeling adults, we happily obliged.

Crazily though, we haven’t stepped into a cinema for at least two years and we owe it to the blanket of consistent hazy weather to drive us inside rather than outdoors in search of ourselves. Because of the imminent bad weather, we have found ourselves looking out at grey blurry skies and connecting with a bundle of lethally-mixed emotions: Disgust (when reading dodgy ministerial replies from neighbouring country), Sadness (that deforestation and forest burning is accelerating like a speedster bent on scoring roadkill, more Sadness and irony (when we realize we just bought the tissue packs, to wipe our tears, which killed the trees). And perhaps a little Anger (watching the PSI levels like the stock market index and having to snuff our noses behind closed windows and unfashionable masks.)

Lastly, Fear. Fear is staying home, not knowing what to eat and deciding to attempt making inside-out sushi for the first time with small doses of trepidation. Inside-out sushi rolls-a perfect descriptor of my vulnerable state of mind, where the revelatory insides of my emotions are rolled outwards to be bared and stared at. The good news is, that this concoction- grains of sticky rice, backed tight with seaweed and walled in into a neat and immensely satisfying bite of mushy avocado, sweet teriyaki chicken and crunchy cucumber- hits a definitive home run for pure, invigorating Joy with every bite henceforth putting every other emotional sidekick in its proper place. The wise Helen Keller once said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen but are felt from the heart.” This, must be one of those things.

Recommend watching this, next to the movie?:

Family Fun with Fondant!

This is a throwback post to a few months back when we were preparing for the littlest’s two year birthday celebration. I confess I haven’t been up to date with posts but I’ve been in no hurry, really. The bits and pieces of life can be dug up, strung together, relived, savoured as opposed to archived, anytime we choose to enjoy them again and again as we wish, don’t you agree?

Anyway, this post puts a smile on my face as it was truly a family cake for our favourite family member – the baby in the house!

Family Workshop with

Family Workshop with “Fun”dant

All the kids wanted to chip in and we bravely decided on Faith’s Fantastic Fondant Peppa Pig cake. It was our first foray into fondant and Peppa Pig was the “flavour” of the month.

Why did it take so long to be “initiated” into the fondant factory? The truth was none of the kids liked to eat the “too sweet” icing. Even then, the kids unanimously decided that we would not eat the fondant but use it anyway to indulge the likes of their baby sister.

We don’t do fancy birthday parties in our household unlike the common trend these days, but we believe in giving a collective effort, however simple or “unprofessional” as its the memories and process of doing things together that we value- we want to build family memories and gift ourselves with them in the years to come!

Fun with Fondant

Assembling our family cakes with the gifts of our time and efforts

It is also fitting to give the kids some time and space to practice giving gifts of time and service while mummy practices on being hands off and allowing room for creativity and imagination to bloom. Thus, the children went on their way with a simple cake mix, and conceptualised the scene and setting of how the figurines would be placed. They also tried their hand at making “oddballs” of the colourful balls presented before them: experimented on how to mix colours, how to mould shapes and things to look realistic and how to support Peppa’s big head and prevent it from rolling off! Of course, we are thankful for YouTube!

Fun with Fondant

Do you spot a picnic basket and an apple?

Fun with Fondant

A radio and a big beach ball?

The little one also relished dipping her hands into the fondant bowl- I would like to think it was a nice change from playdough! It was also hilarious and heartwarming at the same time seeing the little gifts the kids made, lest their fondant fantasies were “foiled”, there were momentos to fall back on. Handrawn cards, our improvised chopstick banner with coloured twine, Lego Peppa and Paperdoll Peppa!

Fun with Fondant

Can’t go wrong with a Lego Peppa and Paperdoll Peppa. The little one is getting dolled up by eldest sister

Fun with Fondant

Oops, the cake is split, but the bday girl ain’t bothered so we aren’t too!!

Making Birthday Memories

The passing of birthdays are slightly bittersweet in the mummy universe that I inhabit as I realize that yet another year of my little one’s childhood has slipped me by all too quickly.

 I’m well aware how precious these fleeting years are to be cherished and more so, with each passing year as the little ones graduate into lankier frames and grow a head or two taller. 

It has always been my wish to make birthdays memorable, but not in a fancy, over-the top sort of way. Big parties are just not our thing in our family of mostly introverts.; they are fun but tiring logistically and too much hassle. We warm up to quiet, cozy gatherings and it’s really alright if it’s just us in the end.

This is a birthday memoir of the time that E turned five while we were mid-way through a few months of settling in Australia. We wanted her to know that while we were going through all these changes in our lives, that we deeply cherished spending this day celebrating her- and giving her the only constant in our life- our hearts as a family. We wanted something quiet and meaningful.

Pretty decorations that cost $2

Pretty banner for E

Of course we got her a little girl gift. The thing is, apart from the $10 mini pink purple washing machine that we got her, [because it was just TOO cute and she won’t ever find a pink and purple washing machine that makes washing noises ]…I wanted to gift her with something (to me) that would truly matter.

It had to be more than just a toy or a something that would be worn or tossed away and forgotten. So I decided, funny as it sounds, that she would have me and my time–my undivided attention on her special day. I would give her the “gift” of baking her own birthday cake, that included conceptualizing the cake she wanted, choosing the cake mix and decoration tools and basically making it so achievable for her that she would enjoy the whole cake project from start to finish and be involved as much as possible in it. In the process, we would spend time together, she would learn how to plan, pick up some new skills and craft some pretty awesome memories.

Adorable Cupcake case and flag set

Adorable Cupcake case and flag set

Little pretty things

Little pretty things

Strawberry Milkshake Cupcake Mix

Strawberry Milkshake Cupcake Mix

As I thought, she was delighted. She had often looked on longingly at me putting together a bake in a rush, she would help out here and there but never had we taken the whole process from start to finish. Or rather, I didn’t have the time. On her special day, it was going to be different. She would have her input and we would be as unhurried and as creative or as crazy as we wanted. So we trotted to the mall and picked up these buys on a $10 budget: $2 cupcake toppers and holders, $2.90 icing decorations and marshmallows, a $3.90 pink strawberry organic cupcake mix. She played stylist and picked all of the designs, accessories on her own.

The little baking star

The little baking star

Spooning her own batter

Spooning her own batter

Our adventure started, she donned her pretty pink fairy apron and her 5th birthday memories came into being! Look at her here, arranging the marshmallows on the platter and building her cupcake kingdom. She enjoyed mixing the batter, scooping it in, and then rolling on the icing and deciding how to use the pretty accessories.


On hindsight, I really enjoyed the time I spent with her. I really took the time to slow down, to watch her and listen to her give her opinions, to brainstorm together, laugh and chat, to see her gleefully take ownership of each process, to see her experience the value of hard work and also the satisfaction of the finished product. We even made a budget DIY cupcake stand together with stuff in the pantry! There was a lot of joy that day and it filled our hearts with fondness, pink, cream and lots of love.

Happy Cupcakes

Cupcakes on my budget DIY cupcake stand

Cupcakes on my budget DIY cupcake stand

Close up

Happy Birthday Sweetheart

It was one of the best and most memorable birthdays purely because we were unhurried, unscheduled and simply enjoyed each other. This happy photo makes me smile to this day. What would you do in your own way to make birthdays memories in your family?

Mealtime Musings

What are mealtimes like in your household? And how would you describe them?

Here’s what ours look like in our family of growing eaters: rounds of continuous eating & washing starting from when the kids get back: a “high-tea” buffet of sorts of which I am the only exclusive caterer.

3.45pm: [Hungry, (sometimes ravenous) kids come back from school.] The first thing they say is:
Kids: “Hi Mom, what’s for lunch?”
Mom: Didn’t you guys already have lunch?”
Kids: “Well, sort of, but we’re still hungry.
[hungry kids settle in for “lunch” consisting of lunch leftovers. End of Act 1].

Act 2, 5pm:
Kids: “Mum, what’s for dinner?”
Mum: “I don’t know. Anyway, why are you asking? I thought you just ate?
Kids: “Well yeah, we did. But that was an hour ago, and we’re still hungry.”
Mum in utter disbelief: “What?!!”

Act 3: 6pm
Kid 1: “When will dinner be ready? I can smell something yummy…”
Kid 2: “Mum, I just went to the toilet three times, and urm, cleared everything.
Mum: ( No comment but I see where this is heading. That’s subtle, no, that’s a big hint, no…they are telling me to work faster, nooooo….they’re playing on my mind!!!…….)

Act 4: 6.30pm
[After battling out the elements in the kitchen & leveling up at food ninja; chopping at the speed of light, multiple-running stoves, stirring, frying, scouring oily pans, cleaning up spills around kitchen counters, clearing the table, dinner is ready to be served.]
Mum: “Alright, dinner is ready!”
Kids: “YESSSSS!!!( hoots and cheers followed by trampling of feet down the stairs not unlike a herd of galloping cattle).

Act 5: 730pm
Rounds of washing in between, and dinner is almost a done deal. Mum tugs at the trash and it’s a full bag. Yes! Another dinner behind me. But something’s lurking behind, followed by a familiar voice:
Kid: “Mum, can I have an apple?”
Another voice:
“Yup, me too, peeled ok?”
Another: “I don’t want apple. I want grapes.”
Baby(strapped to baby chair): “I want walk!!!” Followed by squeals of protests (which mean, “right now!”)

All in a day’s work at mum’s All-day Diner. Tell me I’m not alone.

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