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Thanks, C.
That explains my absence in the past couple of months. 

But it was also because there was so much to share I couldn't decide where to start. I mean, JL and I made so many lists to prepare for our immigration paperwork, to offload quite a number of household appliances and furniture, to get to know New York better so we could zoom in to our preferred neighbourhood, to setup banking services there, to single out immediate essentials for the suitcases, near-immediate items for airfreight while leaving the rest for container sea shipment, all these to facilitate our move from 3,600 square feet of spaciousness to 1,200 square feet of Manhattan "massiveness". 

 
 
I don't trade shares. In fact I did very badly in Financial Mathematics back in uni when my classmates were already dabbling in the stock market, which was why they took up that module. That said, I think I have some very desirable qualities to be a good trader: intuition, discipline, patience, and decisiveness. 

Some of you would have seen photos of the cherry tree at JL's parents' house. When it is in full harvesting season, paying for cherries becomes a joke. I would anytime prefer pulling out a long chair under the tree and just keep popping those cherries like crazy. As if to satisfy a year's worth of craving. 

So the first time I came across a one-kilo tray of cherries going for RM 120, I had to ask the husband to witness the price-tag. And the first thing I will do when we go back to France again is to hug that tree in the garden. Yet at the same time, I think about cherry clafoutis constantly here in Kuala Lumpur. No amount of blueberry, mango or even pineapple clafoutis could sooth that yearning. 

 
 
I must be slightly over-enthusiastic to blog three times this week but since I'm waiting for a block of butter to soften, and that I've made something simple earlier on, why not? My schoolmates J and C came over for lunch today. Yes, schoolmates. But like what C had said, we were just schoolmates not so long ago. As the girls came from the office, they brought some savoury pastries - chicken and tuna puffs - shared over mushroom soup and lemon cake. 

When friends come over, I always worry about not having enough food. So for supplementaries - purely optional - I got some baguette slices lightly toasted to either go along with the soup, or for some tomatoes as topping. The Italians (and now nearly the rest of the world) call it bruschetta. 

 
 
Some days you just want to rebel against carbohydrates. After all, it's a never-ending unrequited love affair. Rice, pastas, potatoes - you love them but what do they do to you in return? What kind of love is that? 

Whenever I feel this way, I just run back to the open arms of proteins. You see, proteins give good love. They devote themselves fully to you, and shower you with little treats like crunch, fat, tenderness, not to mention the vitamins and nutrients to make you feel on top of the world. Most of all, they keep you lean.

So here's a 15-minute meal tribute to proteins. With all my love.

 
 
I was looking through some of the recent posts here when I realized the amounts of cream and cheese that must have gone through our bodies in the past few weeks. And these were just the ones consumed at home. How about the ones we have on our Friday dinner treats at the same old place!

Downward dogs or not, we ought to lighten up our meals. As in, no cream, no cheese, less oil, less fat.

 
 
I don't normally blog during the weekend but it is so hazy in Kuala Lumpur we are grounded. Self-imposed. Not that anyone is complaining since there are places worse than ours, and I feel sorry for the people who have to remain outdoors just to earn their keep. Like the drivers of trucks containing exhibition booth structures that wait all day at the holding area along Jalan Stonor - which is really a plot of open land that doubles as a carpark whenever possible - to enter the loading bay at the convention center. 

And I wonder if the family that sets up their weekday breakfast stall by the roadside near Exxon-Mobil building would be there tomorrow. Will they be wearing masks during those three hours or so? I really hope it would rain even for half an hour just so everyone could take a breather from this hazy atmosphere. 

 
 
One of our favourite pastimes is to (don't judge please!) go to Times bookstore at Pavilion or Bangsar Shopping Center, pick a few magazines or books, head to the in-house café, order coffee and spend an hour there reading. The café has seen a change of hands and it is now run by Espressolab. Don't ask us how they rate, though, because we always ask for two piccolos and a complimentary bottle of water. But based on those and their warm hospitality, an afternoon there can be very pleasant when it is quiet. And that we go there regularly says enough.

A recent weekday afternoon there, I sat through Leon Family & Friends cover to cover. It was tempting to bring the book home with me but I am already having a hard time keeping up with those on my shelves. The book is beautifully decorated with old photos, styled shots of appealing ideas for the home kitchen, and hand-drawn illustrations. Nearly every recipe from the eclectic collection has a story behind it. I also love that it is designed in a typically retro colour scheme. However, one needs to exercise restrain now and then so the book may have to wait.

 
 
This is one of our all-time favourites at home. If you haven't been cooking for a while, you may want to get yourself warmed up with this because it is a very forgiving dish. It cannot go wrong and easily feeds four starving adults as a single-dish meal. All you need is bow-tie pasta, a thick slice of ham, one or two zucchinis depending on the size, a small tub of cream and some mozzarella.

As with most of my French (home-)cooking repertoire, I learned it from JL's mother. The only difference is the choice of pasta. She uses mini ravioli stuffed with cheese that would be so cute for kids, but unfortunately, I have yet to see it here in Kuala Lumpur. Thus the next best thing: bow-tie pasta, or farfalle (butterflies in Italian) as it is also called. 

 
 
Made chicken pot pie two Sundays ago. In our last two or three visits to Ben's, I noticed JL had been ordering chicken pot pie. When asked if it was really that good, he simply said that he wanted some pastry crust. 

I think I understand what he meant. It's nice to have warm pastry crust covering a bowl of savoury, creamy chicken with chunky vegetables. As long as the vegetables are not cooked to death, I can see myself enjoying it too, despite feeling barely lukewarm for chicken pot pie.

My assignment: read up chicken pot pie recipes by the usual suspects, then see if I could come up with my own version. Not too fatty and more importantly not time-consuming. Flipping back and forth between cookbooks and websites, I compared, in particular, the roux, combination of ingredients, sequence, choice of pastry and the oven settings. 

 
 
Growing up in a small town where the "town center" is basically a grid of five vertical streets with six streets cutting across, I remember when Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its doors here. Prior to that, we had at best, Chicken Delight, a lesser known franchise for fried chicken. And no, McDonald's was at least ten years away from setting up shop because the building it occupied had yet to even exist.

Back in the early eighties, all our birthday celebrations were dinner prepared by my mother, depending on whose birthday it was, with all the birthday kid's favourite dishes. The week before our birthdays, my mother would ask for our wish-list, not for presents, but what we'd like to have for our birthday dinner. Can you imagine what happens when you have six children? My mum sure has a wide repertoire of dishes off her fingertips!

But for my birthday that year, my parents decided to take all of us out for dinner. Where else but the Kentucky Fried Chicken in town. So it was really BIG DEAL for me - I think I was turning eight. So off we went - wide-eyed and all - getting excited at the slightest details. It was nothing like the KFC we know today for back then, disposable wares were considered luxurious. So we still had our chicken, coleslaw and whipped potato all served in plastic plates and bowls, with stainless steel cutlery.

The fried chicken was so-so. My mum could easily make the same with a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken powder. It was the coleslaw and whipped potato that caught my attention. How could someone make vegetables so creamy and delicious? Vegetable dishes at home had always been stir-fried or cooked in curry gravy. I'd never knew that vegetables can be so creamy yet non-spicy. And that bowl of potato covered in brown sauce, why can't they use larger scoops?