Related Posts with Thumbnails

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Success! Lacto-Fermented Leeks and Yellow Peppers

A Lovely Jar of Lacto-Fermented Leeks and Yellow Peppers

Probiotics has made such a big difference in our health that I just had to master fermenting. Fermenting is different from pickling. In pickling, you immerse foods in vinegar. In fermenting, you are supposed to use only salt and water. The salt (supposedly) retards the growth of bad bacteria, until the lacto-bacillus (naturally found on the surface of vegetables) starts to grow and produce lactic acid.  Click HERE for more on lactobacillus.

I cheat.

Starter Culture, Salt, Filtered/Mineral Water
I use a starter culture, salt and water. Being super kiasu, I decided that mere salt to retard the growth of bad bacteria was not safe enough. It appears that bad bacteria cannot survive in an acid medium. The starter culture is acidic. The starter culture is also full of lactobacillus (i.e., the good bacteria) and these apparently (somehow) crowd out the bad bacteria. I guess it is germ warfare in a bottle? Since I eat that stuff, I wanted to make very sure that the good germs win!

Use filtered/mineral water. Tap water has chlorine/chloramines and the good bacteria will die, leaving the door wide open for yeasts and fungus (which can be toxic).

I really am a novice at this fermenting business. There is really a lot to learn. For example, different strains of lactobacillus grow at different temperatures, so if you want a particular taste or texture then you have to adjust the temperature. I don't. I just plonk the jar on the countertop and whatever temperature the weather is at, will be the temperature it cultures at.

This is my starter culture. It is the leftover whey from making kefir cream cheese. I also use the already fermented liquid from the previous pot of ferment to start a new pot of ferment.

Little Green Porcelain Dish Weighs Down The Vegetables

Use Up All The Starter Culture and Top Up With Salt Solution
I fill the jar with cut vegetables. I pour in the whey till it reaches halfway up the sides (at least). Then, I fill up the rest with filtered/mineral salt water. If I have more whey, then I fill it up high up the sides. Sometimes, I have enough whey to fill up the whole jar and if so, I skip the salt solution altogether. I add salt directly to the whey instead.

It is hard to estimate how much filtered/mineral salt water and whey are required because it depends on how packed the jar is. Vegetables like sweet baby corn and garlic cloves do not pack well. There is a lot of space in between. This requires more liquid. So I measure out 2 teaspoons of salt to 250ml of filtered/mineral water and use it to fill up the jar after all my whey has gone in. Whatever filtered/mineral salt water is not used, I just throw.

It is important to submerge every single shred of vegetable. If any bit of vegetable pokes out, kahm yeast develops and you have to throw the whole jar away. Some people just scrape off the yeast and eat the ferment anyway. I don't. Yeast surely leaves spores in the ferment. I am so not eating yeast spores. They might grow in me!

I use a little green porcelain dish to push the floaty vegetables into the water. 

!!!!Use Lead-Free Porcelain!!!!
I bought these small green dishes from Daiso and made sure that they were made in Japan. I don't trust the porcelain that comes from PRC. Some of those have lead in their glaze. The acidic medium will leach the lead out into the ferment and one might die of lead poisoning.

Fido Jars Are Placed In A Vacuum Dome Away From Direct Sunlight

Fill Up the Jar As Much As Is Practical To Ensure As Small An Air pocket As Possible
The beneficial bacteria like an anaerobic environment (i.e., one where there is as little oxygen as possible). The bad stuff (whatever they are) like oxygen. Hence, I fill up the Fido jars rather full (but not too full) so that there is very little air left inside the jar. Fermentation produces carbon dioxide which pushes out whatever oxygen is inside the jar. Many of my Fido jars are not really air tight so I depend on the carbon dioxide produced to push out the oxygen. 

I also keep the jars inside a vacuum dome. It is a plastic dome with a mechanism that sucks air out from inside the dome. The vacuum function is automatic. Whenever it detects too much gas inside the dome, it will begin to expel gas.

!!!!Burp The Truly Air Tight Jars!!!!
I have 1 or 2 Fido jars which really are air tight. I make sure I burp those jars to release gas. Else, the glass jar might explode and cause injury. I have seen photos of such injuries. They are quite horrific - deep cuts along forearms and blood everywhere. If a glass shard should fly into one's eyes, then one could go blind for a jar of ferment.

Non air tight Fido jars do not require burping. Air does not get in, but the gas does escape. You can just leave the jars alone. Never burp a jar until 3 days have passed. This allows enough carbon dioxide to build up to push out the oxygen.

How Long To Ferment For?
It depends on the vegetable. When vegetables are cut up small, more surface area is exposed to the bacteria. They ferment faster. Chopped up cabbage, cucumbers, leeks and peppers need 7 days. When vegetables are in large chunks, like cloves of garlic or chunks of baby corn, then they need 28 days.

Botulin is a deadly bacteria (even a little bit can kill you) that also grows in anaerobic conditions. However, it cannot survive in an acidic medium. Some websites will tell you to pour a layer of olive oil on top of the water. This cuts off air exchange between the under water and the above water. Do NOT do this. Botulin can grow in the olive oil because it is not acidic.

!!!!Sterilise EVERYTHING!!!!
Make sure that the vegetables are clean. Make sure that they did not come into contact with manure or other dirt. Make sure your jars are properly boiled in hot water. Every spoon and fork that you use in the process needs to be sterilised.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Rail Engineers are NOT Street Smart Enough?

The Straits Times Misrepresented Minister Khaw's Blogpost
I was upset when I saw how badly The Straits Times (see HERE) misrepresented Khaw Boon Wan's latest blogpost HERE with the headline - Singapore Rail System needs more street smart engineers. The Straits Times headline makes it seem as if Khaw Boon Wan were insulting all the rail engineers.

I do hope all the hardworking rail engineers will not take offence at the Minister's blogpost because if you REALLY take the time to read it properly, it is clear that the Minister is NOT saying that our rail engineers are stupid.

No More Under the Carpet Stuff Just To Make Government Look Good
Engineering is a bit like housework. If you sweep things under the carpet enough, rats will come. If you try to ignore crucial aspects of engineering responsibility, problems will come. Whether ill-advised by his subordinates or whether it was his own bent of mind, Lui Tuck Yew's administration did all of 3 things...

(1) He pushed responsibility to External Consultants (evident in how Consultants were brought in whenever issues arose...) 

(2) He pushed responsibility to operators (evident in how SMRT has been publicly reviled for everything that goes wrong with the rail system).

(3) He pushed responsibility to Codes of Practice (evident in how press releases always mentioned that the system adhered to Codes of Practice... and yet... and yet... still broke down)

Hence, I was MOST impressed to read Khaw Boon Wan's latest blogpost HERE. In a single blogpost, Khaw Boon Wan flipped upwards 3 carpets to expose engineering responsibilities that have been largely ignored thus far...
(1) Carpet #1: External consultants 
(2) Carpet #2: Operator maintenance 
(3) Carpet #3: Codes of practice 

It Is Our System. We Need To Know It Better Than External Consultants.
What are the engineering responsibilities thus far ignored, then? It is this... “Have you ever tried using third party consultants supplemented by independent street smart, sharp-eyed operating engineers who have years of experience on the job?

This means that over and beyond the engineers who now pull all nighters doing maintenance, we need engineers tasked to think about the especial quirks of OUR system... and who will spend time watching/learning/troubleshooting/worrying about how OUR system hangs together as a WHOLE... simply because it is OURS and thus, it is like no other in the world. Someone needs to look into the practicalities of WHOLE system design and the way the entire system interfaces with the local context (local usage, local weather, local terrain and local work processes).

You know, there is child psychology and then there is YOUR child. Whilst many general principles of child psychology can apply to your child, it is still a parent's responsibility to understand and think about how your own child is special/different.

That is why, even though Little Boy had teachers in school to teach him... even though he had online mentors in the online programme to mentor him, he was MY Little Boy and I spent hours thinking of him, thinking about him, worrying for him. He was a child like any other, but he was also MY child like no other... and I am proud to say that I, more than anyone else, know how he ticks.

A Minister In The Mould Of Lee Kuan Yew
One can almost cry in relief because here is a Minister who has chosen to truly make our rail system his own son. One can almost cry in relief because here is a Minister who is not afraid of infection/death from an infected entity. He flips up the 3 carpets and reaches out to his ailing son despite the taint. One can almost cry in relief because here is a Minister who is really in it to improve our lives, NOT just a career politician (afraid to offend and forced to defend) but one in the mould of Lee Kuan Yew (who speaks and acts with conviction).

Even more impressively, Khaw Boon Wan does not steal another's credit. Khaw Boon Wan's personal courage and intellectual honesty shine through in his decision to give his adviser's words a public airing, without plagiarism. The larger part of the blogpost are the words of Tan Gee Paw.

"Who is Tan Gee Paw?" I wondered.

It turns out that Tan Gee Paw is the Master Architect of Singapore's water supply. Our water supply is older than our rail system. Has anyone yet experienced disruptions in water supply? Has anyone yet experienced anything but clean and drinkable water from your taps?

Not only was Khaw Boon Wan able to attract a top class adviser to him, he was not afraid of the truth this top class adviser wrote to him in bald and hard hitting terms.

Wah! Singapore got hope leh!?

Now, hopefully, the Minister in charge of MOE's primary schools will also look under the carpets over there a bit, see past the complexities and capture the fundamentals of what good teaching should be because seriously, whilst our educational system is world class at testing, its teaching methods (imposed by large class sizes) are as old as Ford Motors. Not I say one horrrr... international experts note our strength in testing but they politely say NOTHING about our teaching methods.

What is Wrong With Roping In Shopkeepers?
The internet is abuzz with people who laugh at Khaw for requesting the involvement of shopkeepers. I think one should never underestimate the brilliance of stupid ideas.

Sweetheart From a Previous Life

If I have ever doubted the old saying that "Daughters are Fathers' sweethearts from a previous life," recent events convince me otherwise.

The Husband is no pushover.

I have seen him face down crises calmly and stand his ground respectfully in the face of men who might push him to make decisions that he knew would lead to fatalities or less serious (but still very serious) consequences.

The Daughter Driving
Yet, when he woke up one Tuesday morning to the knowledge that The Daughter had left house at 6 am, and driven herself to university, he became a nervous wreck. He was so nervous that he came back to bed, rubbed his face miserably in his pillow and moaned, "She is driving all by herself. Oh...  nooooooo... she is driving by herself in the dark." I swear he was making sounds like a manly puppy in pain.

"Why don't you ever tell her how worried you are?" said I.

He responded with yet more manly puppy sounds.

The Daughter's Old Age
Next, I dropped in on a friend's elderly parents. The said friend is based in Texas and his octogenarian parents live in Bukit Batok. One was wheelchair/bed bound. The other could only shuffle his feet forwards 10cm at a time. One was barely lucid. The other was lucid enough but much given to the reminiscences of youth. I was quite sad after the visit to see how the years had ravaged these 2 people who must once have been young, vibrant and imbued with the power and potential of youth. I came home and shared with The Husband my thoughts about how sad it is to grow old without family nearby.

The Husband's first thought was NOT for himself and his old age. He straightaway gave me clipped instructions to talk to The Daughter. "It is important for her to marry and have children, or she may end up like that," said he. I took a sideways glance at him. He wore a worried frown.

"Why don't you tell her yourself?" said I.

"No, you tell her. That is what Mommies do," said he, sounding like I was trying to shirk my maternal duties.

A Pair of Jeans
Coming out of a wedding, I dragged The Husband on a quick tour of the shops. We passed by a window with a mannequin in faded jeans. The jeans had raggedy tears all over.

The Husband: Look! What a nice pair of jeans?

Me: I am too fat to wear those.

The Husband: My daughter might like them.

Me: Would you like me to buy them for her?

The Husband: Do you think she would like them?

Me *eyes rolling*: I don't know! Why don't you ask her yourself?

The Husband: Never mind.

Body Odour
The Husband again asked me to be a Human Email Device. This time, I was to propose to The Daughter to undergo surgery to remove sweat glands in the armpits. His point was that if ladies smelled as bad as The Daughter sometimes did, she would attract no boys... ergo, no husband... ergo, no kids.... ergo, The Daughter will die a lonely old woman, the prospect of which will lead to even more manly puppy sounds if it ever came true.

Me: I don't think she smells bad.

The Husband: Sometimes, she does. Just go and suggest it to her, won't you?

So, I did that. I was getting rather fed up with being the Human Email Device so I told The Daughter to go up to her Dad and let him know why she sometimes smells bad when they hang out together. You see, there never is time to bathe when they are out together doing manual labour at the JB house.

The Daughter rushed downstairs after their chat, complaining, "Mom! It was sooooooo awkward! I was telling him about my B.O. and all he did was grunt and stare at his computer screen. That is the last time I am going to have a chat like that with him! YOU tell him next time!"

Thursday, October 22, 2015

We Have A New Pet

Meet Cecil the Grizzly Bear!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Adapting The Classroom TO The Children

To date, I have not met a child that dislikes' Dr. Pet's classes. Parents have their complaints about me. Some do not like me. It used to hurt and stress me but I have now come to accept the inevitable. I cannot please everyone. The best I can do is to make it easy for the unhappy parent to withdraw his/her child.

The children... oh, the children are different. Every child comes to class willingly. Quite a few (especially the little ones, are even obviously sad when class ends). 

"Why does time pass so fast here? Is it time to go home already?" said one little P3, looking somewhat upset.  Every single child fears above all else, to be told to leave my classes and go to another centre with a more traditional format with worksheets, tables, chairs and a teacher at the front of the class. 

We have worksheets, but we have no tables, nor chairs and the Teacher sits at the back of the class. The children's backs face the Teacher.

See here that the little ones wear their name tags on the back of their shirts. They are NOT to look at the Teacher. They learn only when they solve the puzzles we give them. They learn only when they interact with their friends to work as a team. Our children are allowed to lie on the backs to work. Some sprawl on their bellies. This has always been a rather weird feature of our classes but the children love it.

Then I found out that a school in Finland does exactly the same thing. See the screenshot on the right from an article HERE.

It states that "children are allowed to sit where and in whatever position they want, and discussion between them in class is even encouraged." Similarly, in our classes, a quiet classroom is a bad one. We do not want the children to sit still and be quiet. Children's brains stay awake when their bodies get to move, and when they get to talk. Our children MUST discuss and figure things out. We guide them (by saying that they are off track, close or on track) but they do all the thinking for themselves.

Children in traditional classrooms with the Teacher in the front of the class telling and explaining, grow the areas of the brain involved in (1) Remember, (2) Understand and (3) Apply. These are the LOWER Order Thinking Skills.  Children given puzzles to solve, grow the areas of the brain involved in (4) Analysis, (5) Evaluation/Synthesis, (6) Conclusion/Creation. These are the HIGHER Order Thinking skills.

It is hard for me to understand how MOE Teachers can teach Higher Order Thinking skills by  standing at the front of the class to explain. Surely when someone explains, all the student needs to do is Remember, Understand and Apply? How then would the Teacher be able to stimulate the student's brain to Analyse, Synthesise and Conclude/Create?

But well, the MOE Teacher has classes of 40 to deal with. There is no way he/she can allow lessons where kids interact, where they get sit where they want and how they want. It would be chaotic. For goodness sakes, give our Teachers small classes of 15 to 20 to teach.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Gluten Free Lemon Tart/Slice

I started out making Lemon Tart but I forgot to build up the tart walls. Then, I discovered that without tart walls, the thingy is called a Lemon Slice. So there we have it - a big round lemon slice. I next discovered that I take very ugly photos. They used to look nice to me but after The Daughter took these 2 photos, I realised that every other photo uploaded onto this blog prior are ugly.

Never mind, this shall be an ugly photo blog then, with a few nice photos thrown in.

Ingredients for Base
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup rice flour
150g of butter

Ingredients for Lemon Curd
4 eggs
200ml of whipping cream
35g of melted butter
5 tablespoons of icing sugar
2 large lemons
Grated lemon rind from 2 large lemons

Steps for Base
(1) Sift icing sugar, cornstarch and rice flour together.
(2) Cube the butter.
(3) Throw butter and flour mixture into the mixer.
(4) Fit in the paddle attachment.
(5) Let run till the mixture resembles coarse sand.
(6) Add 3 tablespoons of milk.
(7) Take out the dough and press into the base of the pan.
(8) Refrigerate 1 hour.
(9) Bake at 150Celsius for 30 minutes.

Steps for Curd
(1) Grate the lemon rind.
(2) Beat melted butter, icing sugar and whipping cream together into a smooth yellow cream.
(3) Add 1 egg at a time and beat till smooth.
(4) Place mixture in a bowl over a saucepan of GENTLY boiling water.
(5) Stir briskly until the mixture thickens.

Steps to Assemble
(1) When the tart base is cooked, pour thickened curd onto the base.
(2) Bake at 120Celsius for 25 minutes.
(3) Refrigerate and serve very cold.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

In Love With Khaw Boon Wan

Khaw Boon Wan's groupie...

I am in LOVE with Khaw Boon Wan! In luuuuuuuuurve!

Improving public transport is a continuous journey. With each milestone, big or small, I hope these blog posts will constitute a moving story of blood, sweat and tears, dedication and determination, and of ultimate success, as our city achieves its full potential where people move about with ease, on two feet, on bicycles, in buses and trains, and occasionally in cars. It will be a moving story of the many dedicated Singaporeans who work in the trenches to make our city great, so that all can live a happy life. We may fail occasionally, but we shall learn from it and emerge stronger. Please cheer us on, like we cheered our athletes during the SEA Games. Your strong support makes a crucial difference.

If my term turns out to be a thankless job, the loss is personal. But if we succeed collectively in transforming the city, the benefits will go to millions of Singaporeans. 

 Excerpt from Khaw Boon Wan's blogpost HERE.

Intellectual Honesty
Firstly, the man has intellectual honesty. He does not do his job pretending that the government never made mistakes! He actually admits that the government CAN fail. It shows that he can face failure without flinching and move aggressively to LEARN from it. With a Minister like Khaw, problems get solved!!

You cannot solve a problem if you don't admit it is there (because the government you are part of, created it and you are too embarrassed to admit it). Admit it. Face it. Resolve it. Be the hero we need.

Khaw's intellectual honesty deserves respect, no?

In any case, he had better surface and comms all the areas to work on now because once the initial months are over, anything that he has not surfaced now will be seen his fault (even though it may not be). That was what happened to Lui Tuck Yew.

Personal Courage
Secondly, the man has personal courage. Get this... "If my term turns out to be a thankless job" translates into, "If I fail...". He says that if he fails (and somehow, I don't think he will) it will be a personal loss, and that is OK with him because if he succeeds, millions will benefit.

Khaw's personal courage deserves respect, no?

Is he the hero we need?

He Can Write!
Thirdly, that man can write. His words meld into a medley of meaning, images, colours and emotion. His words draw you in and keep you wanting to read more. I can get drunk on his words, man!! Hmmm... what must it have been like when this fellow was writing love letters to his wife!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How To Make Your Child Stupid

It is unnatural to expect children to sit for hours at a desk to complete worksheets. This is the reality faced by many children. Some of them start as young as 3 years old.

This is the best way to stupidify a child. 

The brain is a self-adjusting mechanism. It is quite capable of autonomic, automatic, half-conscious action. An excess of worksheet drills puts children's brains into a half-conscious state. They will complete the worksheet but they are learning nothing because they aren't really conscious nor thinking anymore.

Then, the parents give them EVEN MORE worksheets, which exacerbates the problem. These uninformed and overzealous parents stupidify their own kids. By the time they join me in Primary 3, these kids have formed the habit of half-consciousness whenever a worksheet appears. They complete work with half a brain (or even perhaps a quarter). They do their worksheets on autopilot. Their work is of extremely poor quality.

As a result, they learn very slowly. These kids can go 12 weeks doing weekly HW and learn nothing at all. I feel for these children. They could learn 3 times more whilst doing 3 times less work. Instead, they are just little sweatshop workers churning out worksheets dutifully and they still learn close to nothing after 12 weeks.

Here are instructions on how to stupidify your child...

(1) Just buy any assessment book without evaluating its quality... the thicker the book, the more exercises, the better.

(2) Schedule the worksheets to be completed at set times everyday (preferably in twice 3 hour stretches from 2pm to 5pm and then from 6pm to 9pm). You can rotate the different subjects for some variety.

(3) Ignore sloppy work.

(4) Prize completion of worksheets above all else.

(5) Never check work for work quality.

(6) Do not allow your child to exercise (nor run around playing catching) because cardio activity has been shown to improve focus, concentration, learning efficiency and retention. You don't want that. See screenshots below from The Smithsonian Magazine.

Screenshots taken from HERE. You really should click on this link and read the full Smithsonian article. There are 5 other neuroscientific ways you may wish to avoid if you wish to stupidify your children.

(7) If worksheets are poorly done, do not scold the child because the child has already worked hard at COMPLETING the worksheets. He/she tried his/her best already. Worksheet completion is of primary importance. Work quality ensures more learning per piece of work done. You definitely don't want that.

(8) Never get the child to explain things to you, because when the child explains, the child has to think. You must do all the explaining. This way, your child will not need to think.

(9) Leave your child to do all worksheets independently, without encouragement nor companionship. As long as the child has completed work, you should be satisfied.

(10) On Sundays, plan worksheets from 9am to noon and then from 2pm to 5pm. In the evenings the children can play computer games which will flood their brains with so much dopamine that it will destroy their ability to focus on anything like a worksheet or even an educational documentary.

(11) Never force a tired child to skip work because doing work while tired is a sign of a good work ethic.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Lamb Shoulder Roast

This is an easy dish for people with no time. It takes 15 minutes to prepare and 3 hours to cook in the oven. When it is in the oven, you can just ignore it and do other stuff.

Cut onions, tomatoes, carrots and a marrow into largish pieces. Throw in 2 handfuls of herbes de Provence. Add 1.5 litres of water. Bring everything to a rolling boil in a Le Creuset cast iron dutch oven. You can use Staub too. Same difference.

Wok fry a 1.5kg lamb shoulder till very brown like so. Dunk it into the boiling water inside the Le Creuset cast iron dutch oven. Cover with the Le Creuset cast iron lid and pop it into the oven at 180 Deg C for 3 hours. Check after 2 hours and top up water if required.

Transfer into a shallow roasting dish. Arrange the vegetables all around. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. The lamb shoulder is a very moist cut with a lot of collagen. After 3 hours of part steam and part roast, it is both crispy and moist inside. You cannot slice this roast. You use 2 forks to pull it apart.

This is what a Le Creuset 5 quart dutch oven looks like.

Poached Eggs (TheEasyWay)

Poached eggs are hard to make the old style way. I think only Julia Child can make them well the traditional way. I don't need to make them the traditional way, what with all the modern kitchen appliances and techniques available. Gee... if you have a washing machine and detergent at home, why go to the river with your wooden stick?

So! I now make poached eggs in cups. Less water is needed and the eggs do not fall apart in the water.

Put a wee bit of water in 2 cups. Break your egg in there.

Microwave on Medium for 1.5 minutes.... depending on how hard you want your poached egg. Anyway, everyone's microwave is different so you will just have to find your own timing!

Done! With nice runny insides too!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

BrillKids Forum Book Review

I was thrilled to discover that a North American parenting forum is holding a book discussion on Dr. Pet's book. You can find the discussion HERE.

If you cannot access, you can see a few screen shots below.