Jamie’s Roast Chicken

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My boys love watching Jamie Oliver cooks on TV. That includes their Dad. I think it’s a great consolation to know that he is not the only one who makes it look like a tornado has just touched down in the kitchen every time he cooks. Even a celebrity chef shares the same traits.

I called Jamie the ‘messy’ cook and I think it makes my boys love him even more. How often do you get messy and good at the same time. I think for once, they felt like someone stood up for them, that being messy isn’t always a bad thing. Jamie Oliver, the messy cook who makes everything looks delicious.

They love how he uses his bare hands to crush up herbs, squeeze lemons, massage his meat and plate his food. Unpretentious, messy and fun. I have been watching him on and off on TV for a long time now but it was only not too long ago that I got passed his messy way of preparing food to start appreciating his culinary skills. He really makes cooking and plating looks like messy art, fun and inspirational.

I started following him after seeing him on TV, on how he raided American school canteen to bring healthier lunch to the kids. My boys were attending schools in America then and school lunch made up a big part of school. School hours were long, from 7 plus in the morning till 3 plus in the afternoon. They could pre-order lunch from school or pack their own food. My boys preferred the latter.

The school had a microwave in the canteen and the students were allowed to use it to heat up their lunch. The standard food served in school were fish fingers, chicken nuggets, cold sandwiches or some kind of biscuits, chips or crackers. My boys were known for their hot lunches. They were the Chinese dudes who made the canteen smell good (or bad). Their friends and teachers were always curious about the food they were eating (even more so if they used their chopsticks!), usually some rice with stir fried dishes we had the night before. They must thought my boys were weird to be eating such weird stuff for lunch.

My boys learned about eating REAL food. They learned that anything that comes in a box, tin, bag or bottle were usually not good for them. Food that sits on the supermarket shelves are food that has had something done to it to make it more convenient and ready to eat. Food engineers from the chemical industry are the ‘chefs’ for these food. If you take a closer look at the giant supermarts in the US, there were only a few aisles that sell fresh food or real food!

So I was excited to learned about Jamie’s attempt to reform school lunch programs, to help fight obesity and change eating habits. Such habits start from young and such knowledge needs to be taught to our children.

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So the first recipe I took from Jamie’s website was how to roast a chicken!

Not a great deal huh. But it was a breakthrough for someone whose cooking didn’t go beyond your typical Asian style of braising, stewing, steaming and stir frying. I was always worried that the roasted chicken will turn out either too dry or not cooked. It is so much easier to buy a ready cooked one!

The first time I cooked this was 2 Christmas ago and I have lost count of the number of times I have used this recipes. It is one of our favourite one pot meal these days. On days when I am too lazy to cook, I would season the chicken, throw in some hardy vegetables, dump everything into the oven and set it to Auto. I could bring the kids for a swim or go for a run and dinner will still be ready on time. It’s a life saver.

Here’s the recipe adapted from Jamie’s site.
 

Roast Chicken
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Total Time
2 hr
Total Time
2 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 whole chicken
  2. sea salt
  3. freshly ground black pepper
  4. 4 potatoes
  5. 1 large lemon
  6. 1 whole bulb garlic , broken into cloves
  7. 1 handful fresh thyme
  8. olive oil
  9. 1 handful fresh rosemary sprigs
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 190ÂșC.
  2. Rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cut the potatoes into small chunks, put them into the water with the whole lemon and the garlic cloves, and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Drain and allow to steam dry for 1 minute (this will give you crispier potatoes), then remove the lemon and garlic.
  5. While the lemon is still hot, carefully stab it about 10 times.
  6. Pat the chicken with kitchen paper and rub it all over with olive oil.
  7. Push the garlic cloves, the whole lemon, rosemary and the thyme into the cavity, then put the chicken into a roasting tray and cook in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes.
  8. Remove the chicken to a plate. Toss the potatoes in the tray with the juice and rosemary leaves. Shake the tray around, then make a gap in the centre of the potatoes and put the chicken back in.
  9. Cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are nice and golden. (You can tell the chicken is cooked when the thigh meat pulls easily away from the bone and the juices run clear.)
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
MalMal Our Inspiration http://4malmal.com/

 

 

4

From A First Time PSLE Mom

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PSLE, a national examination that every Singaporean kid needs to take at 12 years old. Whether you are formally schooled or homeschooled, it’s almost certain that you can’t run away from it. 

So my husband and I have agreed to take a more hands off approach when it comes to our kids’ school work. The elder one is pretty much on his own when it comes to his school work. The younger one who is in Primary 1 still needs nagging before he settles down to do his work everyday. These days, he knows that it is his job to ask if he doesn’t understand and if he doesn’t finish his work, he will have to answer to his teachers.

We want them to be accountable for their own schooling and we want them to understand that knowing their school work is their responsibility. There isn’t really any special arrangement to prepare them for tests or examinations, the only work they do on a daily basis is homework brought back from school.  The teachers have put in a lot of effort to prepare them for PSLE. They started supplementary classes since P4 and now in P6, worksheets and past years papers are regular drills. Because of  that, life at home could remain pretty much the same even during this period. The boys spend most of their time doing their own things, mostly school unrelated.

It’s my first time being a PSLE mum and even though we try to keep things at home as usual, I have to admit that the stress is real.  It’s coming from parents, teachers, friends, colleagues and even the social media. I have found that the best way to deal with the stress is, shut them out. But if you can’t, the next best way is, go get a good workout! And yes, I think it is the adults who need to destress because when the adults feel stressed, it would most likely cascade down to the kids!

So why is PSLE so stressful? Why do kids kill themselves over PSLE? 

Our general belief is that PSLE is an important milestone in life and this is reinforced by what we see around us. It gets you into the elite schools. A disproportionate number of scholarship winners and top achievers come from these schools. Anybody who seem to be somebody in Singapore come from these elite schools – ministers, top civil servants, etc. Many of us having not been able to get into these top schools, would want the best opportunities for our children. That, we believe, is probably one of the best and most important things that we can do for our children. We do not want to compete against the law of statistics. Getting to one of the elite schools will probably give your children the best chance to succeed in life.

So the question is whether our children can succeed in life without making it to one of these elite schools? Are they condemned to a life of mediocrity if they don’t? What is the positive correlation between success in life and good PSLE results? Does PSLE results have a positive correlation with success in life?

And we can’t answer these questions without first understanding our underlying assumptions about success in life. What is succeeding in life? Should we define it against a list of material possessions and the monthly pay check? 

We should also re-examine our underlying assumption that what has worked over the last two generations will continue to work in the future. My generation grew up in a rapidly developing Singapore. We were told to study hard, do well in school, go to university, and get a good job. If you landed a job in a MNC, you have got it made. Yet, many of these dreams were shattered when the MNCs relocated to lower cost countries. What do we know about the future of our country? Of our economy, of our children? Should we continue to shape our children into the moulds that worked generations ago?

Empirical evidence also casts doubts about the importance of going to an elite school. There are people who are top in their fields who do not come from these elite schools. There are also many that go to these elite schools that do not do well in life. 

In the larger scheme of things, the PSLE is an exam for getting our children into the secondary school. That’s about it. It does not guarantee happiness or success in life. It may even be totally irrelevant. It is ridiculous to think that our children’s fates are sealed over this 4 day event. Having a child who thinks that life is not worth living over PSLE result is the saddest things in life. Our children deserve more than that and we should let them find their own way in this ever changing world.

 
 

8

My Minimalist Running Shoes

And joy is when the door bell rang and the postman stood at the doorway with a cardboard box packed with your new running shoes! And I was literally jumping up and down with joy like a little girl.

And what’s the big deal about a new pair of running shoes, you may ask.

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I had spent months trying to find a new pair of running shoes to replace my old Merrell but to no avail.

I’ve been running with my Merrell Road Glove 2 for the last 2 years. It’s a pair of minimalist running shoes meant for paved road running and light trail runs or what they call a low profile, zero drop running shoes. Essentially it means that the shoes are designed without a steep slope from the heel to the forefoot unlike most traditional running shoes which come with thick cushioning.

So my husband read about how the traditional shoes, with a significantly raised heel is often the culprit to many common running injuries, such as knee pain. He was convinced that I should give minimalist running shoes a try after trying out his.

I was hesitant at first because I was used to my running shoes with a LOT of cushioning! Up till then, I was told that a good pair of running shoes should provide enough cushioning for support and stability. You need that padded heel to help absorb the shock so as to prevent injury.

Then in recent years, there emerged a group of people who believes that we should all run like the cavemen, barefooted! Because that’s how running was performed throughout human history and even till today, there are people in Africa and Latin America who still runs that way!

So the minimalist running shoe is touted to allow the runners to run in the most natural position without having to compensate too much for how the shoe is trying to dictate the movement of the foot.

I got my first pair of Vibram Fivefingers shoes some years back when it first came out and didn’t like it. Aesthetic wise, it made my thunder calves look even bigger! The soles of my feet hurt when I used them on gravel paths and it was SO DIFFICULT to get all my toes into those holes! The shoes ended up sitting in storage.

Then we got our first pair of Merrell minimalist running shoes. My husband fell in love with his new shoes. I didn’t like mine and I didn’t realize that I had gotten half size too small. My feet felt suffocated in them and for a long time I thought it was because the cut at the midsole didn’t suit me. My elder boy whose feet was growing at a tremendous speed and was in between kids’ and men’s size then ended up taking over my size 6. And since then, there was no turning back for both of them. They were stuck with Merrell shoes.

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So in 2014, we found Merrell’s Road Glove 2 for ladies which came with a bit more cushioning (about 4mm) but still minimalist. It maintains a zero drop, ie the heel height and the forefoot height is the same so there is no slope from the heel to the forefoot, which still makes it a low-profile running shoes. This time round, I bought the right size.

It fit snugly and my feet didn’t feel suffocated. It was super light weight compared to my old running shoes and very flexible (as you can easily bend the shoes).

I LOVE the lime green and hot pink, it was the brightest shoes I’ve ever owned. It has the ‘fast shoes’ look (though I was anything but fast) and most importantly, it doesn’t make me look like I have elephant calves!

Initially I thought I might need some time getting used to, like changing the way I land my foot when I run, but everything went on so well. There weren’t any new shoes woes such as blisters or pains.

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During our last hiking trip in Albany, we didn’t pack any hiking boots but everyone brought our Merrell shoes instead. They were light, easy to dry (because of their mesh surface) and very flexible. We could feel the ground and thus have a good grip on uneven terrain. It was totally different from hiking boots which were stiff, heavy and come with thick soles. We concluded that unless we are hiking on snow and need something waterproof, we don’t need our hiking boots!

It’s been 2 years since I started running in my Merrell and I can’t imagine going back to my old running shoes which are still sitting in storage. For someone who is fickle when it comes to shoes, it’s amazing that I only stick to one pair of running shoes for the last 2 years. My Merrell now sports a few holes and I told myself that I should probably retire them after the Army Half Marathon.

I have been searching around for other brands to replace my Merrell but found nothing suitable. Royal Sporting House have stopped bringing in Merrell’s minimalist running shoes and I was devastated to find out that Merrell has discontinued the Road Glove 2!

Last week, I finally took the plunge and went with the closest I could find on the internet, Merrell’s Pace Glove 3.

It arrived at my doorstep 2 days ago. I was so excited that I brought it to the gym that evening and tried 5 km on the treadmill. It literally fits like a glove but it feels slightly different because the soles has slightly different design as my old Road Glove.

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I have yet to take a good look at myself in these shoes, so I can’t confirm the aesthetic part, especially the part on how well it will go with my calves!

But looks aside, I am very happy with how my feet feel, like they are being swaddled by a loving mother, yet at the same time my toes can splay naturally and don’t feel restricted. 

I shall bring them out soon to try on some rougher terrain and do what these shoes are really meant for!
 
 

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