Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And the Christmas present goes to

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas everyone!


How’s your Christmas Day going so far? Tummies full of food? Presents galore? Or maybe just a cosy time with close family and friends? However way you are spending your Christmas, I hope it’s filled with lots of love and good cheer.

So as promised, I’ve randomly selected the lucky recipient for the B.U.R.P. Squad Kit giveaway

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And the winner is…

Tan Shu-Yin

Congratulations Shu-Yin! Drop me a line at serenelymade[at]gmail.com with your address/contact details so I can arrange to have the item delivered to you.

Enjoy the rest of the Christmas season and have a great start to the new year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My awesome children’s birthday treat idea

I am always in awe of those mums that prepare awesome treats and yummy food for their children to bring to school on their birthday to share with their classmates… cupcakes, cookies, goodie bags, mini bento packs etc.

Anyway this month, I’ll be making my inaugural appearance on the classroom birthday scene, even if it’s just a small scale one for Nathan’s daycare.

I decided to prepare some goodie bags of treats, but add my own unique twist to it. Instead of just handing out bags of treats, I will mix in a little fun and activity by packaging it into a pass-the-parcel game (make the kids work a little for their treats!)

I snapped some photos of what I did so I could share it with you…

First I packaged up some yummy sweets and goodies into individual goodie bags (very sinful, but I guess it’s alright for an occasional treat).

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Then for an added twist, I prepared three ‘Action Bags’. I made them very simple as the kids at the daycare are all very young…

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  • The first one was a bag of mini bubble blowers with a note saying “Bubble Fun! Please everyone one bottle and keep one for yourself”
  • The second one was a bag of chocolate gold coins with a note saying “You discovered the gold treasure! Please give everyone a gold coin and keep one for yourself”
  • The third one was a bag of Christmas chocolates with a note saying “Yummy chocolate treats! Please give everyone a piece and keep one for yourself”

I wrapped each bag in a layer of wrapping paper, alternating the various ‘Action Bags’ at intervals in the layers.

(At first I thought of adding other action items like “shake hands with the birthday boy” or “with your neighbour a Merry Christmas”… but decided against it since the kids are all very young. I’ll save it for another occasion when Nathan is older).

I think it should be plenty of fun as it is. This would probably be the first pass-the-parcel game for most of these kids.

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I plan to provide all the details of the treats and ‘Action Bags’ to the carer so she can strategically time the music so each child will get at least one turn for a goodie bag.

Hubby was really impressed and said he wished he had a birthday treat like that and that Nathan has a really awesome mummy ^_^

A Christmas present for you

So how’s your final preparations for Christmas going? Done all your Christmas shopping? Wrapped all your Christmas presents?

Well I finally sat myself down over the weekend and got all my presents wrapped (*phew*) so I’m almost all set.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, I have prepared something special to share the Christmas love with YOU. It’s my own small way of spreading a little Christmas cheer this season, no strings attached, no sponsors no list of terms & conditions. Just ‘lil ‘ol me saying “Merry Christmas to you”.

I am giving away this little B.U.R.P. Squad Kit handmade by yours truly.

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It’s a little kit comprising of a burp cloth, two cloth wipes which convert into instant bibs with the aid of a multi-purpose clip also included in the kit. More details about the B.U.R.P Squad Kit here.

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It’s open to anyone in the whole wide world. No matter where you are, whether you are in Timbuktu or The North Pole, I’ll find a way to get this to you. Whether you’d like this for yourself or to give to a friend, it doesn’t matter.

All you need to do is to put your hand up by leaving a comment as a way to say “yes, please!” latest by midnight Christmas Eve, 24th December 2012 (Western Australia Standard Time).

I’ll handpick the lucky recipient randomly and announce it on Christmas Day, 25th December 2012.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Shortbread {Blog Train}

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So with just two weeks left till Christmas, our house is really beginning to look, feel and SMELL like Christmas… with the Christmas tree up, shopping bags of presents lined up, rolls of wrapping paper spread out and yummy smells wafting out from the kitchen.

Every year I try to bake some goodies to share and give out to friends and family. The previous two years, I’ve made Oreo pops and gingerbread men. So this year, what is to be?

Also, this year’s Christmas cooking is extra special because I’m hopping aboard the Festive Fare blogtrain hosted by Jennifer the Dinomama.

After some research and pondering, I finally landed on the perfect recipe – Christmas Shortbread : A yummy and Christmassy goodie but also fairly simple recipe that anyone would not hesitate to try. It’s so simple that it definitely falls under my four ingredient recipes category.

Here’s a little bit of trivia and introduction on the history of shortbread

Shortbread dates back to the 12th century in Scotland and the British Isles. They were originally biscuits that were made from left-over bread dough that was sometimes sweetened and dried out in the oven to form a hard, dry rusk.

Over time the leavening was replaced by butter, making it an expensive luxury treat that was only reserved for special occasions such as Christmas, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve) and weddings.

The large amount of butter is what makes shortbread short: the term ‘short’, when applied to biscuits and pastry, means crumbly, like shortcrust pastry. It is the reason why the fat added to biscuits and pastries is called shortening.

References: Irishcultureandcustoms.com and Wikipedia

I love this particular shortbread recipe as the rice flour gives a soft velvety texture which just melts in your mouth. And the simple recipe allows plenty of room for creativity and variation.

Christmas Shortbread Fingers

Ingredients
250g butter at room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 2/3 cups plain flour
1/2 cup rice flour
[Quantity makes approx 16 fingers]

Step 1: Preheat oven to 160ÂșC. Then line a 26cm x 18 cm baking tin with baking paper.

Step 2: Cream butter and sugar together until pale, light and creamy.

Step 3: Sift flours over butter and sugar mixture. Then using a smooth non-serrated knife, mix flour and butter mixture in a cutting motion until the mixture comes together in small moist clumps.

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Step 4: Tip the dough into the tin and press it out into an even layer. Use a sharp knife to slice the dough into evenly sized rectangular  fingers. Prick lightly with a fork and sprinkle with extra sugar.

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Step 5: Bake for 30 minutes until it turns a light golden colour. Depending on the actual size of your tin, the size and thickness of your dough might vary, so it might be worthwhile to check the oven regularly to make sure it does not become over-baked or burnt.

Step 6: Allow the shortbread to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes before lifting out gently by the edges of the baking paper. Then slice it and store in an airtight container.

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You can vary the recipe by adding some chopped nuts (macadamia nuts add a nice buttery texture) or flavouring such as vanilla, lemon essence or cinnamon. They make great little gifts for the festive season and it’s easy to whip up a big batch for a large group or gathering.

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As the Festive Fare blogtrain chugs along, I’d like to introduce you to the next blogger, Jasmine of Gift Wrapsody who will be sharing her delicious recipe for Coca Cola Ham.

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Jasmine is a mum of two boys who loves making meaningful craft. She is inspired by the people around her to find 101 simple yet special ways to inject fun into their lives. You can find her at her craft blog at Gift Wrapsody.

~~~

Chugging along to Dinomama’s Festive Fare blogtrain

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Enjoy the festive Christmas season everyone!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Christmas Giveaway coming soon

With the onset of Christmas season comes the season of gifts and giving. This is actually something I intended to do in November in line with my birthday celebrations as I did last year.

However due to unexpected challenges I had been facing, a number of things had to be pushed back. But no matter, as Christmas is also an opportune time to do this very special thing… no strings attached, just a my very own way to spread some Christmas love.

A Christmas Giveaway
Featuring none other than a Serenely Made old favourite

The B.U.R.P. Squad Kit

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The term B.U.R.P. is inspired by the term ‘Based Upon Repeat Pattern’… and any parent will know that burps and messes are definitely a repeated pattern by all babies. So it does well to go into battle well armed with a kit like this.

The kit comprises of…
A burp cloth
Two cloth wipes
A multi-purpose clip

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The cloth wipes convert into an instant bib with the aid of the bib clip included in the set. The bib clip itself can be used to convert a multitude of things (e.g. washcloths, tea towels, hankys) into an instant bib and can also double up as a toy clip, pacifier clip, mitten clips, sock clips or teether clip.

I’ll be posting up the details of the giveaway soon to time it in line with Christmas. So stay tuned!

[UPDATE: Details of the giveaway posted here]

Monday, December 03, 2012

The first story

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Family photos hung up in my mother’s childhood home

[Some minor edits and notes added following my mum’s correction on a couple of points]

The earliest ‘true story’ I remember my mother telling me was one about her grandfather (my great-grandfather) in World War II. It is actually not a very happy story, but the reality and rawness of the story is one that that burns into your memory so you never forget it.

My mother grew up in Kampung Sri Gading, near the town of Batu Pahat in Johor, Malaysia. The house she lived in, originally built by my great-grandfather, has housed four generations of families.

The story I remember is actually about my mother’s maternal grandfather…

With the onset of World War II came the Japanese Soldiers. History remembers them as cruel and inhuman persecutors of the local people in Malaya.

They arrived one day at the doorstep of my great-grandfather’s house. I don’t remember what it was they were after. Money. Gold. Information. Women. Submission… It didn’t matter. Whatever they wanted, somehow my great-grandfather could not or would not give it to them.

And so they tortured him.

This is the part of the story I most vividly remember. How they tortured him.

They took my great-grandfather and forced him to drink water. When he could not hold anymore, they forced more down his throat. More and more until his stomach was bulged up like a balloon.

Then they laid him down and stepped on his stomach, forcing him to vomit the water back out again.

They did it again. And again. And again. How many times? I don’t know.

Did they get what they wanted in the end? I don’t know either.

Amazingly my great-grandfather survived to tell the tale. Just one of the many horror stories of war.

I have remembered the story ever since the first time I heard it. And when I read the bald facts of that time in history printed in my school text book. I read between the lines. History is real. About real places and real people and real stories.

 

To take a deeper step into the history pages, you can read my mum’s account of the story

~~~

This is the first instalment of my series on

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Stories of Long Ago

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. It’s been a tough past couple of weeks. Will update more on that another time.

My mother reminiscing over good old says with her sister and her childhood friend

I always enjoy hearing the stories of my parents from their days of long, long ago.

When I was little I remember cuddling down in bed and listening to my mother or father telling stories from their childhood.

Now I find myself prompting them to tell those stories again. Maybe because I realise that one day they will no longer be around to remember.

Unfortunately due to distance, there is limited opportunity for me to sit down next to them to hear those stories.

But I was recently struck with a sudden inspiration. Why not collaborate with my parents to tell those stories right here? Someday I will be telling them to me children, and what better way to keep a record of them in written word.

So every first week of the month, I shall be recounting stories I remember my mother and father telling me of their childhood based on what I remember hearing from my perspective.

In turn, my parents have both agreed to retell the same story from their own first hand perspective on their own blog spaces they have created and link up with each other.

I’m really excited about this project. We’ll be kick starting the series in December with the first story going live next Monday. So stay tuned on this space every first week of each month for this series on…

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~~~

Linking up to Susan’s Motivational Mondays

Monday, November 19, 2012

You have to believe in him

Just sharing a thought on this Monday that came out of a conversation with my friend Pegs on Facebook following this photo post.

Photo Caption: “When the toddler helps with hanging up laundry”

Pegs: Wow! Very enthusiastic!
Me: Yes! *LOL* I hope the enthusiasm to help me keeps up all the way to when he is able to REALLY help
Pegs: He will. You have to believe in him! ;)

Such a simple and significant thought. Believe in our children. No matter how the day went or if things don’t seem to be progressing exactly the way you think they should. I must remember to believe in my little boy. Someday he can and he will!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Water Painting

With just a bucket of water, an old paintbrush and a blank concrete canvas = Water Painting!

Which can occupy a toddler…

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…Or two for a solid thirty minutes or more!

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Some of our creations

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No muss, no fuss. Just leave the sunshine to clear the canvas before starting all over again.

More play ideas

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Linking up to

Monday, November 12, 2012

Prayers for good health & long life

There's nothing like having a grandchild to restore faith to heredity
-Doug Larsen

The Round of Life
With each passing year, there have been increasingly more announcements of engagements, weddings and babies in the circle of people I know. I suppose it’s just the natural season of life we’re all going through at this time. So many happy occasions and celebrations…

The Dark Visitor
But in the midst of all the fanfare, lurks a darker-faced visitor – the grim reaper. Through the years, the happy announcements are also interjected with tearful news of sickness and death, especially of the older generation.

Just this past week alone, very good friends of ours received news of their ailing father’s turn for the worse who is now sitting on his deathbed.

It’s a thought that’s rarely said out loud, and even so only in a whisper. The clock never stops ticking. Time is precious.

Doting Grandparents
Last month we had the privilege of having my parents over to visit,. I found tremendous joy in watching the doting grandparent-grandchild relationship between my parents and my son. Truly there is something wonderful and special in the love between grandparent and grandchild.

Due to distance and language barriers, I myself sadly missed out on the privilege of experiencing the best of what grandparent relationships are all about. Already two of my grandparents have passedaway.

Good Health and Long Life
Hence one of my most fervent prayers is for my own parents good health and long life, so that my children can grow old enough to remember them and love them for always.

Grandparents are a family's greatest treasure, the founders of a loving legacy, The greatest storytellers, the keepers of traditions that linger on in cherished memory. Grandparents are the family's strong foundation. Their very special love sets them apart. Through happiness and sorrow, through their special love and caring, grandparents keep a family close at heart. -Author Unknown

~~~

Linking up to

www.ajugglingmom.com

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Have a lovely weekend

Our photo moment of the week

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Christmas season is in the air… and the Christmas tree is now up in our house. This is the first year Nathan was able to actively participate in the setting up and decoration of the tree. We’re planning to play Christmas music all weekend and also check out a friend’s new restaurant.

Some linky treasures for your weekend

Why children cover their eyes when they hide

Learning how to be a gentleman on date night with mom

How to raise children while disciplining less

A cardboard box Christmas tree

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Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Crusty bread in a pot

I enjoy the smell of bread baking in my home and eating it warm and fresh straight out of the oven. However I don’t always have the time to go through the whole process of mixing and kneading the dough (although it can be therapeutic at times).

But what would you say to a recipe for a crusty French-style loaf which requires no kneading, rolling or thumping on the kitchen counter at all? This recipe is so simple, it will blow your mind away!

I discovered this amazing recipe on Simply So Good and tried it out for myself. I have to say this is the easiest bread recipe I’ve ever made.

Ingredients
3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water

In a large bowl, just mix all the ingredients together. Start with with the dry ingredients first, whisking it all together to ensure it’s all evenly distributed. Then pour in the water and mix everything thoroughly together.

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You will end up with sticky wet dough that looks something like this…

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I know things don’t seem hopeful at this point, but trust me, you are on the right track. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it aside overnight for 12-18 hours. Do NOT refrigerate.

The next morning, your dough will have doubled in size and look something like this…

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Now you’re thinking things are taking a pretty weird turn, but stay with me.

Next, preheat your oven to approximately 230 degrees Celsius. Then take an ordinary covered pot and pop it into the oven to pre-heat for 30 minutes.

Back to the dough, turn out the sticky dough onto a well floured surface and shape it into a round loaf. Then cover it with with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave it aside to rest for 30 minutes while the pot is pre-heating in the oven.

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After 30 minutes, take the pre-heated pot out of the oven then pick up the dough and plop it in. Cover the pot with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Then comes the big reveal…

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Voila! Crusty French-style bread freshly baked from the oven…

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It was yummy just as it is. If you make again, you can experiment with various herbs, spices, cheese, nuts and dried fruits for different variations.

Happy Friday!

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Linking up to…

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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Dettol Power & Pure {product review}

This post is a Product Talk by Nuffnang. I received this product in exchange for a review but my opinions are completely genuine and honest.

Insisting on no harsh chemicals
I don’t really buy a lot of expensive cleaning products. But the one thing I do insist on is to avoid using harsh chemicals. This is especially so because I have a super active and curious toddler who gets into everything… sometimes even picking up stuff from the floor or mystery corners to mouth or taste them.

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Cleaning with water and oxygen
So when I heard about the new Dettol Power & Pure range, I was intrigued to try it out for myself. Especially since it emphasises the fact that it uses an active oxygen formula which breaks down into water and oxygen, leaving no harsh chemical residue, whilst killing all those nasty germs.

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The range comes in two versions in line with the two areas of the house which require the most cleaning: The Bathroom and The Kitchen.

For general maintaining and cleaning, the spray bottles work well and are easy to use. Just spray and wipe down. Easy breezy. They leave a pleasant scent behind and I feel content knowing that the surfaces cleaned are left germ-free without any harsh chemical residue.

The next part is to put these down to the real test of some tough cleaning.

 

The Bathroom Test
In our master ensuite bathroom on the ‘his’ sink, there is one stubborn spot of calcite build-up. No amount of elbow grease seemed to have been able to get rid of it.

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I squirted a couple of sprays and left it for a few minutes before wiping it down. I had to rub it a little to get the really stubborn bits, but miraculously it all came off… here is the ‘after’ shot.

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Verdict for Bathroom Test: 4 out of 5 stars

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The Kitchen Test
On to the kitchen. As everyone familiar with kitchen cleaning knows, one of the toughest spots is the burnt grease spots on the stove top.

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The general grease spots came out fairly easily. The blackened spots required a bit more elbow grease. But eventually the results were pretty satisfactory. There were still a couple of really stubborn black spots, but nothing I can’t live with.

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Verdict for Kitchen Test: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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The Conclusion
In conclusion, this is not one of those super power products that magically melt away grease and grime to nothing. If it did, then I would seriously question the chemical components in it. But it is an effective all-round cleaning product that cuts to the chase in getting rid of grime. And because it’s from Dettol, I can pretty much trust that it will get to the germs effectively.

>> More info on Dettol’s new Power & Pure Range

Monday, November 05, 2012

Why waste this life not loving?

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I recently watched the latest Wong Fu Productions video: The Last. It’s really good. If you haven’t already watched it, you should.

The video takes the viewers through the story of five different aspects of love. Who we love. What we love. When we love. Where we love. Why we love.

The aspect that gripped my heart the most was the one about Why we love

Why I loved was a close friend of mine who passed away. She told me after she was diagnosed that death was not what saddened her the most, but the fact that she never really felt like she had fallen in love. She wouldn’t get to have them emotions, good and bad, of being hurt and of being held. After she passed, those words stuck with me the most, teaching me to see that one of the great gifts we have of being alive is the ability to give and receive and even lose love. There are so many like her, whose lives end before having any of those experiences. What a waste if we don’t strive to love in our lives. She made me understand why. Why waste this life not loving?

This goes not only for finding ‘The One’ but for every other facet of our lives. Friends. Parents. Siblings. Children. We should strive to experience all these different loves. Otherwise what a waste of life it would be. And yes, love can be inconvenient, tiring and even painful at times…

Disagreements. Hurt feelings. Careless words. Broken promises.
Sleepless nights. Sore nipples. Poopy diapers.
Tantrums. Tears. Mistakes. Regret.
Distance. Goodbyes. Yearning. Grief.

However to shut out opportunities to experience a new level of love, endurance, joy and laughter you never knew you had within you… begs the question “Why waste this life not loving”.

~~~

Linking up to

www.ajugglingmom.com

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Have a fantastic weekend

Our photo moment of the week

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So DIY and Gardening season is pretty much in full swing now. Our local Bunnings store has now become almost a weekly stop to pick up various bits for doing up things around the house. Nathan absolutely loves their kiddie size shopping trolleys and extra wide aisles for running up and down.

Some linky treasures for your weekend

Gorgeous gift wrapping ideas

Don’t buy cream of chicken soup anymore

The secret to breaking in new shoes

How not to blow your marriage

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Have a fantastic weekend!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Szechuan & five spice steak slice

If you liked the lemon & thyme steak recipe I shared a few weeks back, I guarantee you are going to love this one even more. Inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe, this is a super easy but super awesome tasting dish that is bound to get you a standing ovation at the dinner table.

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Ingredients
Two good sized steaks
2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorn
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1 teaspoon of salt and pepper
1 thumb-size piece of ginger
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 chilli (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil

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Pound the Szechuan peppercorns with the five spice, salt and pepper with a pestle and mortar. Drizzle some olive oil over the steaks then sprinkle the Szechuan five spice mix over and rub it in.

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Heat a griddle or pan, then cook the steaks for 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how well or rare you like them done. Rest the steaks 5-10 minutes after cooking, then slice them up thinly.

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Grate the ginger, garlic and ginger and sprinkle over the steak slices and toss gently with the meat juices. Squeeze the lime juice over before serving.

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The taste is almost orgasmic. My regular dinner patron was too full after dinner to stand up to give me my standing ovation, but he assured me that it deserved one.

Happy Friday!

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Linking up to…

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