A TBR Crate

During my Summer Break, I am spending time organising my home. While shopping with a friend of mine at IKEA yesterday, I came across a small wooden crate that would be perfect for me to keep the books I plan to read for the month in a neat space. I grabbed it enthusiastically, even though I noticed that I had to build it myself.

Earlier this afternoon as I prepared to build the crate, I hoped it would not be too complicated. IKEA instructions are not always as easy as one would hope.

I pieced the crate together like a puzzle and referred to the instructions to determine which size screws to begin the construction.

Screwing the pieces together were not easy as not all of the holes had been pre-drilled. I found myself having to use my body weight to ensure that the screw would sink into the wood.

I managed to complete putting the box together on my own. For a moment, I thought I would have to wait for my husband’s help and strength to screw the pieces together as I had some difficulty sinking the crew into the wood. Determination and perseverance, however, ensured that I succeeded.

My TBR is now neatly placed in the crate next to my bed. Seeing the box when I enter the room makes me smile. What makes me smile even more is that I managed to build it on my own without any help. 🙂

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)

A Kitchen Experiment

For a while now I have been wanting to eat the pie of my childhood and early adulthood. I desire biting into the browned flakiness of the meal and enjoying its savoury contents. On Tuesday, I decided to try and bake a replica. I grabbed some ready-made puff pastry, a muffin pan, and the leftover stew we had had for dinner the previous evening.

My mini pies were a lot smaller than what I had bought in South Africa, but they tasted just as good. My family loved them and I will definitely make them again with varied ingredients. I would say that my experiment was a success! Definitely something to smile about! 😀

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)

Books and Biscuits

I am back at work this week and therefore have less time to read. Oh how I wish I could sit quietly for a couple of hours and enjoy the last section of the Crazy Rich Asian trilogy!

My current read © Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

When I come home, I am able to put my feet up for about half an hour and read with a warm cup of tea. This week I have been taking out the last of the cookies that my friend baked and gifted me for Christmas.

A Book and Biscuits. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

My friend has been trying out new recipes and adapting them to find that spot where a cookie is not too sweet. I love her new shortbread recipe with just a hint of sweetness. I find the shop bought cookies are excessively sweet and the sugar taste overwhelms the other flavours in the biscuit. Her recipe for white chocolate, cranberry and amaretto shortbread looks so easy to make. (It is even easier if I get her to bake me some more 🙂 )

My friend has recently started her YouTube channel Under 300 Calories. Head on over and see if there are any of her recipes take your fancy. And while you do that, I will continue reading the third novel in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan, Rich People Problems.

What are you currently reading?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

Chocolate Bark

My husband shopped for and made the dinner that we had to celebrate Chinese New Year. I do not mind making our family meals for occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, and Easter. However, I always insist he cooks at the start of the lunar calendar as he stir fries vegetables so much better than I do.

As always when my husband cooks celebration dinners, I think of the sweet treat we will have with our tea after the meal. On Saturday afternoon when I moved into the kitchen, I realised that I had not bought more milk to make my intended dessert. So I fell back on a family favourite knowing that I had enough ingredients i. The cupboard: Chocolate Bark.

I gathered all the ingredients together: semi-sweet baking chocolate, sliced almonds, walnuts, and cranberries. I prepared my pots to melt the chocolate: I insert a stainless steel bowl into one of my smaller pots that has boiling water in it. I prefer melting my chocolate this way to using the microwave as it ensures that I will not burn the chocolate. Once the chocolate is all melted, I add the nuts and cranberries. Once the ingredients have been covered in the melted chocolate, I spread the mixture into a baking tray lined with baking paper. The chocolate hardens in the fridge and, once it has been broken into pieces and placed on a plate, is ready to be enjoyed.

This sweet treat is simple to make and is always enjoyed by my family. The few remaining pieces never last long in the fridge.

Do you make your own chocolate bark?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This post is linked to the WordPress weekly photo challenge. The prompt this week is Sweet.)

Recipe: Red Lentils

One of my favourite meals is the red lentils dish that my grandmother used to make. As I cook the meal, I think of her and of the times I used to eat lentil dinners with her. I think of the moments we spent in the kitchen together as I watched her prepare dinners. Those were good times and I am happy to have those memories to hold close to my heart.

The last time I posted pictures of my favourite soups, a few bloggers requested my lentil recipe. Las Thursday it was cold again with the temperatures dropping below zero and I took the opportunity to cook lentils and to take pictures of the process. This post is for you Jo, Yvette and Madhu.

The first step to making this meal is to wash the red lentils thoroughly. I wash them in warm water until the rinsing water is clear. To feed a family of four, I rinse a large cup of lentils – you would have to use less if you are cooking for two people. Put the lentils in water on a hot plate to cook and, once the water has boiled, reduce the heat to medium. The lentils do need to be watched as you may need to add water from time to time. I like my lentils to be thick and creamy – if you prefer to make a thin soup, all you need to do is add more water.

While the lentils are cooking, I prepare the garlic, onion and tomato to cook the sauce that is typically Mauritian. Often when I cook lentils, I create a fish side dish so I chop enough of these ingredients for the lentils as well as the fish. Once chopped, I saute the garlic and onions, adding the tomato when the onions are ready.

When the lentils are cooked and look creamy, I add the tomato mixture. I then add salt to taste as well as dried thyme. Once the lentils are ready, I add some canned sardines to the leftover tomato mixture (I do not add salt to the fish as it tends to be salty enough for me and my family). Once the fish is done, I cook up a vegetable: broccoli, kale, chard, or whatever green vegetable I have in the fridge. When I cook my lentils thick, I eat it with rice – this I do not do when I make the lentils into a soup.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015
Lentils with fish and vegetables as a side © Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

This is what our dinner plate looked like last Thursday. Delicious! And I was lucky enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day 🙂

Do you enjoy eating lentils?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015


Baking Banana Bread

Last week my husband hit the jackpot and came home with some overripe bananas that he had found in the supermarket. Normally I freeze these to use in the morning smoothies that I make. Seeing as it is the school vacation, I decided to make a loaf of one of my family’s favourite: banana bread. The recipe comes from the first cookbook I ever bought: Cooking The South African Way by Magdaleen van Wyk.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014
Banana Bread. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

The ingredients for this recipe are simple: 240g cake flour, 125 g butter, 1 cup sugar (I use 1/3 cup), 4 ripe bananas (I use 5), 2 eggs,1/2/ tsp salt, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 65ml water. Baring the bananas, these things can always be found in my cupboard. The recipe is easy to make and one I used to use often when I did not have a hand-held mixer. I cream the butter and sugar with a fork, then stir in the mashed bananas. Before adding the sifted flour and salt, I beat in the eggs one at a time. The bicarb is dissolved in the water and then added to the mixture before the baking powder. After 45 minutes in an oven heated at 180C/350F, the cake smells heavenly while cooling on the rack.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014
A slice of banana bread. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

The loaf of banana bread did not last long – for two nights we had a slice with our tea. I enjoyed mine with a bit of butter on it. Yum! A rare treat that my girls want me to repeat soon. 🙂

Do you enjoy eating banana bread?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

Baked Salmon with Basil and Parsley

I recently tried, for the first time, to prepare salmon. Reading up on the omegas, I had learned that this pink-fleshed fish is perfect to eat when you want to increase the number of omega 3s in your diet. I searched for a recipe that would not require any frying as I wanted to avoid trans fats as well as more omega 6s in my meal. Deciding on baked fish, I marinated it in virgin pressed olive oil mixed with garlic, basil, parsley, salt and pepper, and lemon juice. The herbs allowed me to use less salt, and add a wonderful flavour to the dish. I enjoy using fresh herbs but, if they are unavailable, the dried ones work just as well. When making this dish, I have used both fresh and dried herbs. And either way, the fish tastes delicious.


Baked Salmon with Basil and Parsley. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

4 wild salmon fillets (the wild fillets are better as they have more omega 3s than the ones from fish factories)

2 cloves of garlic,crushed

Virgin pressed olive oil (I used about 6 tablespoons)

A large handful fresh chopped basil (you can also use about 1 tablespoon dried basil)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper (I used a little less as my children do not enjoy pepper)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley (or a teaspoon dried parsley)


1. In a medium glass bowl mix the crushed garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, parsley and basil. Lay the salmon fillets out in a baking dish and cover with the mixture. Let the fish marinade in the oil for about an hour in the fridge, turning occasionally.

2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (375 degrees F).

3. Place the salmon in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

I served the baked salmon with corn as it was season, some roasted vegetables, and a large salad. Leftovers? I enjoy these the next day for my lunch: I break the fish up into bite-sized pieces and add it to my salad. Yummy!

Do you eat salmon? How do you prepare it?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Strawberry Spring Smoothie

Ingredients for a Strawberry Spring Smoothie. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Spring is in the air, and luscious, red strawberries abound in the supermarket. I enjoy the succulent taste of these ripened red berries.

My daughters and I savour a delicious drink I make filled with the taste of Spring. It is so good, they always ask for more! And I am always eager to give them more of this antioxident beverage.

As my recipe for this drink is non-dairy, it is perfect for those who are lactose intolerant. It is also suitable for those who follow a vegan diet as no animal products are used.

In a blender I add the following:

  • 2 ripened and peeled bananas. The skin should be yellow, not tinged with green. When spotted with brown, you know they are sweet.
  • 2 or 3 ripened barlett  pears. The pears should be a golden-yellow. If they are not ripened, they are not as sweet. (If I do not have barlett pears, I use a bunch of green grapes – tastes just as delicious).
  • 15 strawberries. Trim the green tops off them and pop them in whole. Sometimes I freeze the strawberries thus helping to create a cool thirst quencher.
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil. This is for omega-3s. I use the organic, virgin pressed oil.
  • A handful of almond nuts – perfect for calcium.
  • A large glass of filtered water (about 375ml). If you prefer your juice to be thick, add less water.

Ready to drink. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Once I have all the ingredients in, I blend until all fruit has been liquidised. I pour into glasses, pop in a straw for the children, and we enjoy our snack. I often blend these fruits to create a post-workout drink in the morning; as well as make some for my husband as a breakfast drink.

Do you enjoy eating strawberries? What is your favourite post-workout drink/smoothie?

Sunday Post: Recipe

Each week Jakesprinters suggests a theme for creative inspiration. You can post your response to the theme on your blog anytime before the following Sunday when the next theme is announced. Your response can be either a photo, a video, music or a piece of writing. Remember to post your link in the comments section of the weekly challenge.

This week’s prompt is: Recipe

How often do you page through recipe books and magazines looking at photos of food and the attached recipes? Or browsed on the internet looking for cooking inspiration? (I have now added looking at food blogs to the mix!) You look at the deliciously presented food and think:”That looks yummy! I really should try making it.” But you never get round to making that dish in your own kitchen.

An example recipe, printed from the Wikibooks ...
A recipe found on the internet. Image via Wikipedia

Why do we not often try out the recipes that are printed month after month in the magazines we read? At times my first obstacle is the list of ingredients. If I do not already have the ingredients lining the shelves of my cupboard, the chances of me making a spectacular dish is slim. Unless I make an effort, my grocery shopping will not include an ingredient I may not use again. And if the recipe holds too many milk products, or too much meat, it is flipped over and forgotten.

The second reason for me not trying out a recipe is the group of eaters for whom I am cooking. My children are still at that fussy age where they hesitate to try something new – especially my youngest. My husband, too, has particular dislikes. So many recipes that I would have tried, and probably enjoyed, before my household expanded remain untested. Before I was educated in the ways of my family’s eating habits, I would try these recipes and hear “I don’t like this” – and eat the leftovers over the next couple of days.

The third reason is that the recipe at times looks just to complicated; and would require space in which to make it. I currently work in a tiny kitchen that has hardly any table top space. Making well-loved recipes at times is difficult and I cannot summon up the interest to follow a set of instructions that would require me to have more space than I currently have access to.

There are times, however, when I do break down and try a recipe that I have snipped out of the paper, or torn out of a magazine. I break down through sheer boredom with our current menu. Once the dish is made (which never looks like the photo accompanying the recipe), I waited with bated breath while the mouths at our dinner table sample the food. And if it is given the thumbs up, then I know I can add the dish to my repertoire of meals.

Do you try out new recipes frequently? What are your favourite?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Bok Choy with Shiitake Mushrooms

Fresh Bok Choy and Dried Shiitake Mushrooms. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

My family and I enjoy the taste of Shiitake mushrooms married with Bok Choy. Boy Choy, a vegetable originally from China, is a mild tasting vegetable with crunchy stems. A good source of calium, low in sodium and high in vitamins A and C, Bok Choy makes for a nutritional meal. When shopping for this vegetable, avoid buying Bok Choy that has deformed stalks or brown spots on the stems. This shows that the growing conditions for the plant was poor. If you notice that the plant has yellow leaves, know that the Bok Choy is old.

Shiitake mushrooms are dried mushrooms that have been exported from East Asia. Native to China and Japan, this aromatic mushroom is considered a delicacy in many East Asian dishes. During the Ming dynasty in China they were used, not only as a food, but also for medicinal purposes as a remedy for: upper respiratory diseases, poor blood circulation, liver trouble, exhaustion and weakness, and to boost qi (life energy). Rich in flavour, the Shitake mushroom has many nutritional properties and is an excellent source of selenium, iron, dietary fibre and vitamin C.

Ingredients for Recipe:

Bok Choy (the amount depends on how many people you are cooking for); shiitake mushrooms; soy sauce; cooking wine and canola oil for frying.


When cooking with Shiitake mushrooms, you need to rehydrate them before using. What I do is place a handful in a bowl (depending on how much Bok Choy I am cooking), pour some boiled water over them, and cover. After an hour they will be soft enough to use. Experience has shown me that the longer these dried mushrooms are soaked, the more flavourful they are.

Soak the Bok Choy in some water. Wash each leaf carefully to ensure all the sand has been washed off. Chop, separating the leaves from the stem. I chop the stems and leaves into bite size pieces, ready for easy eating with chopsticks.

Separate the stems from the hoods of the shiitake mushrooms. Discard the stems as they are too hard to eat. Chop the hoods of the mushrooms into strips.

Stir-fried Bok Choy with Shiitake Mushrooms. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

You are now ready to stir fry. Pour some oil into your wok. Once the oil is heated, stir in the mushrooms. Mmm, the aroma is tantalising! Add stems of the Bok Choy, soy sauce, and a tablespoon of cooking wine into the wok. Add the water in which you soaked the mushrooms, discarding the last bit with the sediment from the mushrooms. Stir your vegetables, cooking for a short period of time so that the stems remain crispy. Add the leaves and toss until cooked. Pour into a serving plate.

Quick and easy! The stir fried Bok Choy with Shiitake mushrooms is now ready to eat with rice. Delicious!

Have you tried eating either Bok Choy or Shiitake mushrooms? Do you enjoy stir fried cooking?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012