Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Blossom Bliss 2017 at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Rewind to Feb 2011. I was delirious with excitement having meticulously planned a much anticipated holiday to Japan. I was counting the days till our 8-day visit to Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima during the "sakura" or cherry blossom season the following month. The exquisite beauty of the Japan's national flower and scenic vistas draws flocks of tourists to the country and I was among those who had fallen prey to their charming allure. I had listed down all the prime spots for cherry blossom viewing (called hanami) and spent most of my days dreaming about quaint paths and enchanted gardens dotted with the ethereal white and pink flowers. Well, if you are acquainted with the history of that time, you will know that my dreams were washed away in the calamitous tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster that occurred a few days prior to our intended travel. Needless to say, our holiday plans were cancelled immediately and in the face of the tragedy that had struck Japan, all thoughts of sakura temporarily left my mind.

It has been 6 years since but I am determined that I will someday visit Japan to cross off cherry blossom viewing from my bucket list. Cherry trees are grown throughout Japan. They start to blossom in the warm, southern islands of the country, and as the season moves north, they peak in late March and early April. Cherry blossoms are a symbolic flower of the spring, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life. Their life is very short. After their beauty peaks around two weeks, the blossoms start to fall.

Image source: www.nsiderjourneys.com.au




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There is good news for sakura enthusiasts like me. Until I can actually set foot in Japan, I can appreciate the beauty of the blossoms at our very own Gardens by the Bay in Singapore!

March denotes a month of excitement and anticipation, as the wait for blossoms to come into full bloom begins. These beautiful and transient flowers, known for their unpredictable blooming, are back in the Flower Dome with the “Blossom Bliss” (粉色之恋) floral display.

Not to be one to miss such an opportunity, on a weekend morning, I set off with my troops and reached the Flower Dome at 9:30am. The tickets were based on a 2 hour timed entry so we felt like it was a good idea to reach there as early as possible to beat the crowd. 



The first thing that struck me as I entered the cooled conservatory was that we hadn't managed to beat the crowd 😆  and the second was of course the stunning sakura which were in full bloom for the most part. Yay!

This year, the pretty hues of pink and white are showcased in a Japanese-inspired landscape that features a picturesque tree-lined pathway and traditional rickshaws for the perfect photo opportunity.



Apparently, this year, there are more trees spread out around the conservatory, as well as new varieties that will be on display for the first time. Besides cherry blossoms, peach blossoms are also in bloom.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recipe of the month: Strawberry, Blackberry & Vanilla Overnight Oats

I've become a bit obsessed with overnight oats lately. If you went through my previous post on Chocolate Peanut Butter Raspberry Overnight Oats, you will be aware of it 😀

A quick recap - overnight oats are a no-cook method of making oatmeal. Which means, you don't have to cook your oats on the stove with the liquid of choice. All you do is mix rolled oats with liquid and other add-ins in a clean mason jar and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Easy peasy? You bet!

Overnight oats are heaps better than those sugar-loaded cereals or granola bars for a quick breakfast fix. It is way more nutritious, tastes infinitely better, can be customized to suit your preferences and keeps you satiated for long.

Twice a week, I go for afternoon exercise classes conducted by my University and on those two days, a hearty breakfast is an absolute must for me. Can you imagine walking into to a high-intensity Zumba class with a rumbling or worse, empty stomach? On the flip side, going just after a heavy lunch is a terrible idea too! So in such instances especially, a substantial serving of overnight oats becomes my saviour and keeps me going till the end of the class 😊

This Strawberry, Blackberry & Vanilla Overnight Oats  is another one of my favourite combinations. I love the medley of vanilla, cinnamon, banana and fresh berries. And the addition of chia seeds give it such great texture. There are only two ingredients in common between this recipe and my previous one - the rolled oats (obviously!) and banana (coz I love 'em). All the other components vary so this overnight oats does taste completely different. I promise! I have another pumpkin spice overnight oats recipe that is seriously delicious but I'll share that recipe at a later time lest you think I'm eating nothing but oats off late 😝

As is the case with any breakfast oats recipe, you could switch up the ingredients any which way you want. Almond milk, cashew milk or thin coconut milk would be great substitutions to whole or skimmed dairy milk. Use whatever fresh or frozen berries you like, add in nuts of your choice or sprinkle some granola over it for extra crunch. The sky's the limit really!

Okay that's enough of my yackety-yak for now. Set aside 5-10 mins of your time tonight and in the morning you have a pudding-like porridge that is both delicious and fulfilling!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Restaurant review: iO Italian Osteria, Singapore


It was time for another meet up with my gal pals and that predictably translated into another restaurant review 😊

The one thing I miss terribly from my previous job are my colleagues. Far from being just friends, over the years, they became somewhat like sisters separated at birth! If sharing office space, having lunch together every single day and enjoying coffee breaks was not enough, we would be in each other's company after work frequently too. We would joke, laugh, gossip, share secrets, trade family stories, unload burdens of the mind and generally be there for each other out at every opportunity. As the saying goes, nothing lasts forever and with time, a few graduated, some changed jobs, three of them got married, one may be even relocating but we still make it a point to catch up frequently and remain in each others lives. I can only hope that it stays that way for the years to come. Among these seven girls, some friendships date much longer than the others but when we meet, I am equally delighted to see all of them 😍

I don't know what connection we girls have to Italian restaurants but most of the time we find ourselves at one. All of us like Italian food and there is something for everyone so it is kind of a no-brainer. So, iO Italian Osteria was our pick this time as one of my friends had been there and was sufficiently impressed to recommend it to the rest of us.

Another reason why I was personally keen on visiting this restaurant was its location. Housed in the mall HillV2, this area holds a special place in my heart because I used to live on the same street. Back then the mall didn't exist and there was a vast expanse of lush greenery in its space. When the mall came up, it did break my nature-loving heart but I also secretly knew that me and my husband would have been regular visitors. On the bright side, the greenery is not all gone.


The restaurant embodies the simple and rustic setting of a traditional Italian tavern. Adorned with a selection of fine antique pieces, beautiful copper and real wood furniture, the interiors grabs your attention instantly. In contrast, the ceiling has quite the industrial look!

The ambience is relaxed and cosy.


The restaurant has an open-concept kitchen so you can get a glimpse of the chefs in action. 





You can find fresh in-house bakery products, breads, pizzas and house pour wines.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine's Day Special: White Chocolate-Yuzu Cheesecake

So, Valentine's Day is tomorrow and I couldn't resist whipping up a sweet something even though I am not a sucker for the sappy Hallmark holiday 😛 It does help when your beloved has a rather strong sweet tooth! 

A few weeks ago, I was at this popular cafe in Singapore, enjoying a brunch date with the husband. Once I was done, I spent a few minutes curiously wandering around the cafe to check out the interesting items on display and it was then that I saw it - inside a gleaming glass shelf, sitting prettily on a platter was a sinful-looking White Chocolate-Yuzu Cheesecake. I stood there gawking at it for a while. I then cursed myself for just having polished off a large serving of Belgian waffles with vanilla ice-cream for despite my enormous an appetite, I couldn't possibly have eaten any more (even if I tried). But it didn't stop me from making a vow right there that I would replicate the same at home. 

So, I didn't have a point of reference with this dessert. I didn't try the cheesecake at the restaurant, nor had I ever tried it before that. The very fact that I found it so alluring was probably because I hadn't come across that combination in a dessert anywhere else. But I thought it was a genius idea - white chocolate with its milky sweetness and yuzu with its aromatic zing, would be a perfect couple together in a rich, creamy cheesecake. 

Talking about yuzu - when I first came to Singapore over 11 years ago, I always noticed cartons of yuzu juice from different brands scattered across the shelves in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. I had no idea what the thing was and therefore, no clue about what it tasted like. But time and a curious palate are great teachers as I soon discovered.

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that looks like a small grapefruit but has the flavour that is a mixture of lemon, grapefruit with hints of mandarin orange. It seems to me to be softer on the palate than lemon. It is refreshing and has an intoxicating subtle fragrance. Once it entered my home, there was no looking back! Over the years, the amount of yuzu juice that has been consumed in my household has been staggering. At any point of time if you open my refrigerator, you will most likely find a carton of yuzu juice. That is how much we like it! I would absolutely love to use the zest from fresh yuzu in my cooking but strange thing, I haven't spotted the fruit anywhere. Maybe I should keep that in mind next time I pass by a Japanese speciality store. 


I did not follow any particular recipe for this cheesecake but rather formulated my own. I modified one of my go-to cheesecake recipes by incorporating white chocolate and yuzu juice and reducing the amount of sugar. The result was amazing! The rich and incredibly creamy cheesecake showcased the flavour of both the white chocolate and yuzu without being cloyingly sweet. My family gave it the thumbs up (my toddlers kept screeching "WANT IT!" after each bite which I took to mean that they liked it!). 

So it isn't too late to make this my dear readers. This dessert is love on a plate! It comes together in a snap too. If you aren't lucky enough to find yuzu juice, you can substitute with lemon juice (but it would taste slightly less awesome). 

Wishing you all a very Happy Valentine's Day!💗 Love certainly makes life worth living doesn't it? Cherish those you love, appreciate them and celebrate their presence in your life. I will be enjoying a family dinner with the three loves of my life at my favourite Italian restaurant. Totally romantic, I know 😜

Till my next post 🙋