SybDive on Temporary Hiatus: Time to Blow Away the Blues

It was a grim day last week when the official diagnosis that I had bipolar disorder was uttered by my doctor. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone was surprised; I’ve had depression since the age of fifteen. However, because I listened to the well-meaning but erroneous advice of the people around me instead of seeking professional help, I remained in something like an emotional limbo – sound on the outside, torn from limb to limb within. As a result, I will be taking a breather next week (about bloody time; I haven’t had a decent vacation in almost a decade!) and am currently on mood stabilizers to keep me from turning into either a tear-sodden mess or an irate ball of fury.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve been told to keep off cola and – horrors! – coffee. Dear Lord, no, no, no…

Not that I really mind. (Do I look as though I have a choice here?) I can survive on hot chocolate, milk tea, and orange juice.

But for the time being, I’ve been told to kick back and take things easy for a spell. It was a comfort that the doctor told me to keep on baking; she agrees that it’s very therapeutic.

In the meantime, any prayers you can spare for me are sincerely appreciated. I’m tired of being so sad, of hating myself all the time.

It is, my friends, time to face the demons and end this cycle of self-hatred and misery once and for all.

Oh, Caramel!

I agree with new-found friend Mai-mai that one is either a chocolate person or a caramel person. While I am certainly a confirmed / dyed-in-the-wool / entirely rabid chocoholic, I have to admit that the buttery richness of caramel has its definite place in this world.

So, what does one do when there are a few caramels too many in the kitchen?

Well, make caramel sauce, of course! Mine is an easy-peasy one: just melt 1/4 – 1/2 cup of halved caramel candies with 1 330mL pack of all-purpose cream. Stir and cook till nicely thickened. (Keep stirring; you don’t want to end up with scorched sugar at the bottom of your pot; it’s so difficult to clean!)

Use the resulting sauce for homemade ice cream sundaes, as a dip for fresh apples and bananas, or serve it for breakfast atop waffles and pancakes – just be sure to add some chopped pecans whilst you’re at it. 😉

Pasta with a White Mushroom Sauce

I recently discovered that Mr. W – that adorably chinky-eyed ex-consultant of mine who makes my heart go pitter-pat in a mad, mad way – is a pasta junkie. Now, we haven’t seen each other for quite a while now and for all I know he probably hates me. (Go figure…; me and my paranoia, sheesh…) But if a boy wants pasta, then I’d better do my darndest best to impress his tastebuds.

This, is where my recipe for salsa di funghi bianca comes in.

This particular pasta sauce is very simple to make, seeing how it only involves opening a few cans and packets. Indeed, the only real effort here involves chopping the garlic and onion and making the meatballs. (For the latter, I used my usual recipe for homemade sausage patties; very savory!) For all its seeming simplicity, I should state at this point that this is quite a rich and creamy sauce that your own crew of pasta die-hards will certainly gobble up.

Salsa di Funghi Bianca

  • 1 pack spaghetti noodles, prepared according to package instructions
  • 1 batch meatballs made with the abovementioned sausage patty recipe
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms, drained and liquid reserved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bouillon cube
  • 1/4 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • generous dash Italian seasoning
  • 1 330mL carton all-purpose cream

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook till translucent. Add the garlic and cook till lightly browned. Throw in a generous dash of the Italian seasoning and saute till fragrant. Add the mushrooms, frozen mixed vegetables, and bouillon cube; cook until the bouillon cube disintegrates. Add the meatballs, reserved mushroom liquid, and cream of mushroom soup and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream.

Serve with Parmesan cheese over pasta.

Serves 6.

Now, if only I could get Mr. W to try this. Hmm…

New at Biscotteria Margherita: Two Intense Flavors

New at Biscotteria Margherita for those of you who want stronger coffee or orange flavors: here are a couple of treats for you!

On the left is the Machiavelli – a coffee-flavored biscotti with double the caffeine. The coffee-flavored dough is flecked with hazelnut-roast ground coffee and 75% Sao Thome chocolate. The dark, rich flavors are guaranteed to wake up your tastebuds and get you going.

On the right is the Sforza, another take on the Lo Spagnolo orange biscotti. This one has more oranginess because of the candied orange peel bits and the rather fruity overtones of the 72% Papua New Guinea chocolate.

These go for P 30 per slice (minimum order of 12; allow at least 5 days for prep and delivery). To order, text me at 0915-8517362 or email

Oat Flour: Adding a Healthy, Nutty Spin to Foccacia

This particular loaf of bread has a little secret.

It may look like a conventional loaf of bread, save perhaps for the fact that it has a crisp topping of melted cheese spiked with pepper on top. But it’s anything but conventional as it is not made entirely with wheat flour. A third of its composition actually consists of oat flour.

Yes, oat flour.

I’ve long been intrigued by the oat-flecked buns used at Brothers Burger and the oat-topped multigrain loaves sold at La Coeur de France, but the oats in these breads only seem to appear on the surface; on the crust and not in the crumb. So, seeing how we had practically a ton of rolled oats at home, I decided to blitz some of it into flour and add it to my standard-issue recipe for foccacia.

The texture of the resulting loaf is considerably heavier, denser, and chewier than my regular foccacia and the flavor is certainly more savory.

Herbed Oat-and-Cheese Foccacia

  • 300 grams all-purpose flour
  • 200 grams rolled oats
  • 1 sachet (7 grams) fast-acting yeast
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 300mL water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted cashews, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin)
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a food processor or blender, pulse the rolled oats until ground fine. Combine with the flour, salt, yeast, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture; set aside.

Put the water and cooking oil in a heat-proof bowl and microwave on HIGH for a minute and 30 seconds. Pour the resulting mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until well-combined. Knead the dough for about twelve minutes; note that this dough will be quite dense and sticky. Cover with a clean dishtowel and place in a warm, draft-free area; leave to rise for an hour.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down in the middle and knead in the chopped cashews. Grease a standard-sized loaf pan and press the dough evenly into it. Leave to rise an additional ten minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 450 degrees / Gas Mark 7.

Combine the cheddar cheese, pepper, and olive oil to make a sticky paste. Dimple the surface of the loaf with your fingers and evenly spread over the cheese paste. Leave to rise another twenty minutes.

Bake the bread for ten minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 degrees / Gas Mark 5 and bake for 25 minutes more.

Makes 1 loaf.