Taste of Home: Jardinière de légumes

Our dining table is always a hangout for a bowl of greens as we enjoy this healthy dose of vegetables in our everyday meal. In spite of the countless health benefits we can get from eating salads, we love it simply because we can always go creative with the way we eat it.

Jardinière de légumes

One of our favorite salad dishes is “Jardinière de légumes”. In English, it means “vegetables from the garden” but personally, I prefer the French name – it sounds fancy, sweet and sophisticated. lol.Image result for wink emoji

This salad is easy to make – I just toss whatever fresh and organic vegetables I could find at the Green O’Farm greengrocer then drizzle it with homemade lemon yogurt mustard mayo sauce, one of our favorite salad dressings. Jardinière de legumes is bursting with nutritious ingredients, and full of delicious flavors and textures.

Jardinière de légumes

Voilà! This simple, budget, vibrant salad in minutes with lettuce, peppers, avocado, green apples, cucumbers and shallots truly makes a perfect dinner! What could be easier?

Ingredients:

Jardinière de légumes

  • lettuce
  • 1 small avocado, cube
  • 1 small green apple, cube
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 big size shallots (red onion), cut lengthwise
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and cube
  • Kampot black pepper, freshly crashed, to taste
  • salt, to taste

Lemon yogurt mustard mayo sauce

  • lemon juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kampot red pepper, freshly crashed, to taste
  • salt, to taste

Lemon yogurt mustard mayo sauce

How to prepare:

  1. In a small bowl, toss together the lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, plain yogurt, olive oil, pepper and salt. Mix until well combined. Chill until serving.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together all the vegetables.
  3. Serve, share and enjoy.

 

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Taste of Home: Moist chocolate cake

It really has been a long while since I baked a cake. Up until now, I wasn’t motivated to bake cakes since my husband and son don’t like sweet or sugar and cakes. But what is life without cakes?

Nevertheless, each time I read Rhonda’s (my blogger-friend) blog post on cakes, I feel like I want to give baking another shot again. So, I tried to narrow down the culprit first before I started baking – what is it about the cake that they do not like – the sweetness, the cake itself,…?

Moist chocolate cake

One day, I just mix the ingredients up until I found the mixture that appeases them. Indeed different strokes for different folks.

This time, I baked chocolate cake. In my recipe I only used 1 rice cooker cup of sugar. I used soft butter and cream cheese, and good quality coco powder – it really makes the difference. The cake is super easy to put together. It is light, moist, and just sweet enough with a delicious chocolate taste.

Moist chocolate cake

We had it at tea time and I was over the moon that they loved it – my son had 3 slices of cake and my husband had a big slice. I’m bowled over because I can bake cakes now for family parties. This cake recipe is truly a keeper!

Ingredients:

Chocolate cake

  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 cup of refined white sugar
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 fresh eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hot water

Chocolate Buttercream cheese frosting:

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • ½ cups of softened butter
  • 1 ½ cups coco powder.
  • some milk
  • 1 tablespoon of refined white sugar

Moist chocolate cake

 

How to make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Prepare the cake pan – butter the cake pan including all the sides and edges. Sprinkle some cocoa powder on it and shake the pan off to spread the cocoa powder. Top out the excess.
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients – flour, white sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until well combined. Set aside.
  4. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl before adding it into the mixture in order to prevent adding a bad egg to your ingredients. Better to throw out an egg than have your whole recipe/ruined what you are preparing.
  5. Combine all the melted butter, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix until well combined.
  7. Slowly pour in the hot water. Mix and make sure everything is thoroughly combined.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (without a moist crumbs).
  9. Remove cake from the oven and allow it to cool.

How to make frosting:

  1. Put the cream cheese and softened butter in a mixing bowl. Whip until it becomes fluffy.
  2. Add in coco powder. Mix well.
  3. Add a couple of tablespoons of milk. Mix. Keep adding milk until you get the desired consistency. The amount of milk you add would really vary. Just eyeball it and trust yourself.
  4. Add in sugar. Mix until everything is well combined and smooth.

Putting together:

  • Spread frosting evenly onto the cake.
  • Serve and enjoy!

 

Cambodia: Sightseeing Tour in Mondulkiri

The morning had arrived for the start of another countryside adventure in Mondulkiri, an eastern province and most pristine province in Cambodia. It is known as the “Wild East of the country” with its high hills, deep valleys, wild jungles, amazing waterfalls, off-roading and elephant’s adventure.

Amazing Mondulkiri

Dreamy

After enjoying a leisurely tasty breakfast, we hopped into our tuktuk to begin our whole day sightseeing tour. Our first stop was at the Bunong (Pnong) Village – the Bunong people is the largest aboriginal Cambodian ethnic group, who are believed to have been living in Mondulkiri area for about 2,000 years. Once there, we learned their culture, custom, tradition and way of life. I have learned that Bunong people have a strong link with their environment and they follow animism – they believe that everything (animals, plants, hills, mountains, stones, jars, etc) has a spirit.

Behind me is a house of the Bunong people where 7 families live.

Wooden jars made by Bunong people

We drove further for about 45 minutes to visit Bou Sra Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Mondulkiri. It is surrounded by beautiful, dense tropical forests, rich with diverse wildlife. It has 3 layers: The first layer is 12 meters high and 15 meters wide. The second layer is 20 meters high and 20 meters wide, and the third stage couldn’t be reached because it is surrounded by dense thicket. We spent about 20 minutes wandering around the 1st layer of waterfall. Standing nearby for the photograph, we could feel the fresh spray coming from the water crashing down. While meandering around, we spotted a kaleidoscope of charming butterflies swopping by. However, at that time the bridge leading to the 2nd layer of the waterfall was broken, hence we weren’t able to see it. Then, we hiked up to the mountain to see the main source of the waterfall then we descended back to our tuktuk. It seems that it’s the grandest waterfall we’ve seen throughout the area.

The first layer of Bou Sra Waterfall.

The second layer of Bou Sra Waterfall.

From the top of Bou Sra Waterfall

From the top of Bou Sra Waterfall

Beautiful butterflies around the waterfall area

The forest surrounding the waterfall.

The Eco-park surrounding the waterfall

Overlooking the main source of the waterfall

Next, we went to the “Sea Forest”. We reached the area at around 11.10 and spent about 30 minutes there. We enjoyed the splendid view and fresh air. We saw many hills and more hills carpeted with green as far as our eyes could see. I like the place, it’s wonderful and it’s good for the soul!

The “Sea Forest”

pristine and peaceful

Life is beautiful!

From there, our guide drove us to the coffee plantation, one of the places we were looking forward to visit in this trip since we both love coffee, like Angkor coffee which is locally produced. Before roaming around, we had coffee and coca-cola for Pete while resting for a while as it was noon-time. The plantation is huge, though and it seems it is adapting polyculture or mixed cropping as different crops such as coffee, avocado, durian, rambutan, etc. were growing in the same field. We tried a fresh coffee bean – it tasted good and juicy.

Coffee plant

Have you seen a Durian tree before?

It was already 1.30pm, then we proceeded to the “Sunset Hill” and Phnom Doh Krokom Pagoda. This place is popular for its great sunsets and for its incredible view of the town and the surrounding hills covered with thick trees. The atmosphere was nice and we surely enjoyed the views!

at The “Sunset Hill”

at The “Sunset Hill”

Before heading back to our hotel, we stopped in a shop near a gas station for some quick shopping. It was around 3PM and we were famished so we quickly grabbed some potatoes and shrimp crisps. We got back to our hotel just before a mighty tropical storm hit the town, so lucky!

Reading our favorite book on a chilly rainy night, was a perfect end to a great day in Mondulkiri.

 

 

Cambodia: Great time in Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

For this year’s summer break, we decided not to travel outside the country but to explore the Northern provinces in Cambodia – Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri, for two reasons:

  • First, this year (2018) marks our 10th year here in Cambodia and we hadn’t been there yet.
  • Second, between Disneyland and jungle trekking, hubby and son were more excited about the latter option.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

We stayed in Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel for a couple of days, located in Banlung amidst tropical greenery. It’s about 20 minutes (depending on the condition of the roads) by a 4×4 off-road vehicle from the city centre. It might be a little far from the city, but that is what makes this place so special – in the middle of the beautiful wild nature, very calm environment and friendly and helpful staff, for a relaxed holiday.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

We went there last week (still low season; rainy season); luckily, we’ve got the entire resort just all for ourselves. It was very nice and very quiet.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The way to the hotel was quite difficult but it could be said to be an adventure. During the rainy season (May to November), sometimes the roads are not passable as it’s very slippery and very muddy. During the dry season (December to April) the road is no problem.

The way to the paradise

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

During our stay, we were given a room with a pool and mountain-view. Our room was cozy and clean. What I liked the most with our room was the balcony, because of the serene view it offered of the surrounding mountains combined with the sounds of the not-so-far-away jungle.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

This paradise resort is close to the major attractions of the town such as lake, waterfalls, gem-mining (zircon gemstone), and local village. It also offers reasonable prices for the tour to these places.

Yeak Loam Lake, a volcanic crater lake

Waterfalls in Ratanakiri

Waterfalls in Ratanakiri

Every day, after I woke in the morning, I walked around the vicinity and saw all the beauty around. It’s very refreshing! After the family awoke, we had breakfast in the restaurant then we swam in the pool with a view. Later, we started whatever activity we wanted to do for that day.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The staff was nice and polite. They helped us with our tours and were always caring. The owner was amazing – friendly and positive. She arranged everything for us – the things we needed and the things we wanted. They ensured that we were happy throughout our stay. They definitely did all their best to help us and made us feel comfortable and at home. I think that’s one thing what made the atmosphere of this place so welcoming and lovely.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The food was delicious and I think it has the best cuisine in Ratanakiri Province. They serve both local and western foods. Tea and coffee was free all day!

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The setting is real paradise – with breathtaking view and positive atmosphere around. After a couple of days, we felt at home; and we were quite sad to leave and wished we could have stayed longer. Throughout our stay, everything we wanted in a holiday was there. Indeed, it was a perfect peaceful getaway.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • Upon arrival, the hotel offers free pick up from the bus station to the hotel. If you wish to go to the city center, it offers transfer for $3 (one way) since it is quite far away from the town.
  • There was no hot water as it’s not connected to the power supply system, but we managed it.
  • The internet was very slow – or worse – but that didn’t matter at all to us, for who can ask for a good hotel in the jungle, in the mountains, in a far-away-province in Cambodia and then expect perfect wifi?
  • There are organic pepper and Zircon stones available (for sale with a reasonable price) in the hotel. If you wish to get some souvenirs.

Cambodia: 4×4 off-road adventure in Ratanakiri

Before we set off on our trip in Ratanakiri, we didn’t really plan for off-road rides. However, while we were there, we thought that off-roading was such a great way to tour especially in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri as it really takes you to those hidden beautiful spots, and since we have this attitude of “hell yeah, let’s go!” so, off we went.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

So, after our off-road adventure in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy trails, I thought, I would share our beautiful experience and some of the things I learnt.

Our off-road ride was actually both an awesome and a scary adventure, especially when our car

  • was tilted 30 degrees and still running through muddy roads,
  • was moving sideways,
  • was swaying while gliding through the mud,
  • was a few centimeters away from big deep holes,
  • when our car got stuck in the mud.

It was indeed a bit of an adventure and a great four wheel drive!

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

We went past plantations after plantations. We drove past hills and more hills. We went through the jungle. We visited different waterfalls and some far-flung villages.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

On the first day of our off-road rides, we didn’t get stuck. On the second day, after the heavy rains, we got stuck in the mud, but our driver was able to unstuck our car from mud after about 20 minutes. Then, we rested somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It was quite frustrating but at the same time fun.

Off-roading. Relaxing in the middle of nowhere after we got stuck in the mud.

The second time we got stuck, it took so long for our driver to unstuck our car and the brake was broken, so we had to walk and took the car at the bottom of the hill.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Three things I’ve learnt about this trip are:

  • Thoroughly check the car before going off-roading.
  • Drive slowly and carefully to avoid skidding on a muddy road.
  • Stay calm and focused. Don’t panic especially when you get stuck in the mud.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

We love spending some time off the beaten tracks. We loved the adventure, and we loved the breathtaking scenery. Undeniably, it was the best and the most amazing off-roading experience we’ve ever had.

 

Cambodia: Discovering Street Art in Boeung Kak in Phnom Penh

Boeung Kak Lake, also known as Lakeside in Phnom Penh, was a backpacker’s haven. We went there once in July 2010, spent a couple of minutes – chillin’ in one of the bars in front of the lake while enjoying the lake breeze. At that time we hadn’t heard about the street art there until very recently.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Since our son loves visual art, we decided to explore Street 93 in Boeung Kak so that he could see and experience how street art looks like.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

The Street 93 in Boeung Kak is a small, colorful alley. As we walked through it, we saw murals and paintings on the walls. A lot of the street art were in front of people’s home – some were even hiding behind the parked tuktuk or clothesline. I heard that some locals and tourists alike come and paint there to bring life back into the area.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Once there, I noticed that Boeung Kak Lake’s vibe was different when compared in 2010 – it’s quite calmer and quieter now. After the lake was completely drained and filled in, some homes have been cleared out and hordes of gypsy travelers are no longer there. Likewise, while wandering around the area, we spotted small children playing in the streets, some locals cooking their food, etc.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

It was nice to see the street art, although it rained while we were there. I enjoyed the street art but not the place – it’s still kind of dodgy.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

I realized that street art is interesting, creative, unlimited, vibrant, eye-catching and diverse. I think the murals and the paintings in the street remind people to feel alive and make them happy. It also inspires, motivates, allows people think, and makes peoples’ ordinary day a lot more interesting.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • How to get there: Take Monivong Blvd. Turn left when you reach the traffic light near Phnom Penh Hotel. Keep going until you reach the mosque. Then turn left as soon as you see the bright murals on the walls it means you’re on the right street.
  • It’s free. There is no entrance fee to walk through the art district.

Myanmar: Twilight walk and sunset at Kandawgyi Lake in Yangon

Yangon is a hustling and gorgeously messy city. So, one afternoon we wanted to escape the chaos after exploring the city, and we headed to Kandawgyi Lake for a wee bit of peace and quiet.

Kandawgyi Lake

Kandawgyi Lake

Schwedagon Paya

I’ve learned that Kandawgyi Lake (also known as Great Royal Lake) is an artificial lake, built by the British as a reservoir to supply the city with clean water. It is one of the two major lakes in Yangon and it’s the one nearest to the city center.

sunset at Kandawgyi Lake

sunset at Kandawgyi Lake

sunset at Kandawgyi Lake

We watched the glowing sun vanished into the thin air and we ambled along the lakefront and around the park while savoring the tranquility of the place. The place is most attractive at sunset and provides some pretty sweet views. At twilight, the Karaweik Hall looked stunning and from a distance it looked like a huge golden barge floating in the middle of the lake, shimmering in the sun and when it was reflected in its calm waters.

sunset at Kandawgyi Lake

sunset at Kandawgyi Lake

sunset at Kandawgyi Lake

sunset at Kandawgyi Lake

After strolling leisurely, we dined out in one of the local restaurants while enjoying the chilly breeze and the serene setting.

Kandawgyi Lake

strolling at the lakeside of Kandawgyi Lake

Chicken BBQ Burmese style

Kandawgyi Lake

Undoubtedly, we had a gorgeous afternoon there. The lake and the park are both beautiful and peaceful, and certainly an oasis in the middle of the congested, intense city.

Kandawgyi Lake

Kandawgyi Lake

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • It is open daily until 10PM.
  • Entrance fee is 2,000 Kyat ($0.50).
  • There are several open air restaurants around the park.