Domestic Life in the time of Coronavirus: Sprouting Seeds, Mason Jars & Food Prep, and Not Exactly Bullet Journalling & Productivity

This blog has been a little quiet since the circuit breaker in Singapore began I’m a person with too many jobs at the moment. I’ve been (full-time) teaching all my classes (say hello to 3-4 hour practicals via Zoom!?!) and taking a part-time Specialist Diploma (just because it is circuit breaker hasn’t meant the essay deadlines were delayed!), whilst also full-time taking care of the baby human Bean (childcare centres all closed and grandparents advised not to travel over for childcare!!), which has left me with nearly no time to do any of the normal debbiethings I would usually get up to.

Maybe to build a little momentum and to get the ball rolling on this dusty old blog again, here’s a little documentation about some of domestic/productivity-related debbiethings I DID do during circuit breaker in the stolen moments….

1. Sprouting Seeds: Growing Mung Bean Sprouts at home

It seems everyone’s newest urban growing craze during Singapore’s lockdown circuit breaker is Mung Bean Sprouts and yes… even I too have been growing them. I’ve grown some sub-par sprouts or weird looking sprouts in the past – we forget how used we are to seeing the commercial “taugeh” sprouts being all pasty white and yellow, and somehow by allowing the sprouts to turn green by giving them some sunlight also changes how they grow and how they taste. Growing some fast sprouts for consumption is different from growing bean plants, and websites online all anedoctally point to a few things you can do to improve the quality of your sprouts:

  1. Grow them in total darkness (Under a truly opaque cloth. A hankerchief will not suffice to keep the light out. I used an dark coloured pillowcase folded over twice and draped it over the beans.)
  2. Change their water at least twice a day.
  3. Avoid disturbing the beans too much (Somehow they grow better when they get to really establish their roots)

Now its not absolutely necessary, but I also got this microgreen tray which has these micropores which is supposed to enable a more even distribution of the microgreen seeds (although the mung bean itself is bigger), and which has two half trays which makes it easier to remove and change the water, and allows for planting two different seeds at the same time with different sowing time. (I’m just waiting to get some more microgreen seeds from local farms to see if there’s a microgreen that we will enjoy eating, so later in the year I’ll report back on the microgreens…)

Presoak the beans overnight in a bowl, covered by a cloth. Here I measured out 1/4 cup of mung beans. On hindsight… I probably needed half of that. These aren’t any fancy mung beans, just the cheap Redmart brand for everyday cooking.

After soaking overnight and skimming off the obvious split beans, the remaining beans were scattered over the tray and water poured in until it touched the mat. 1/4 cup of soaked mung beans fit almost exactly into the two trays.


The beans then were rinsed twice a day and left to grow under cover of darkness until they looked about ready to harvest on Day 5.

Here the human Bean inspects the Beans.

The roots are clean so we ate them roots and all. I only rinsed it several times in order to remove the green bean husks which are a little less palatable, texturally, but not entirely inedible.

Finally the cleaned sprouts are ready to go in any dish you want. This made enough for about 3-4 meals of sprouts, so next time I’ll grow fewer beans at one go as its nicer to eat the sprouts fresh.

The sprouts were blanched in boiling water for 1 min and then thrown into a big metal bowl of ice water to stop them from overcooking. Then they can be used in any recipe. I loosely used Maangchi’s Sukjunamul Muchim recipe to make a sprout dish to go with a big pot of Doenjang jjigae, which was also loosely thrown together with bits and bobs around the house.


2. Mason Jars: How I make Overnight oats and prep common ingredients ahead of time

I became slightly obsessed with mason jars after trying to find a replacement lid for a regular jam jar that I had around the house and so I wondered about what constituted a standard jam jar lid size. I measured the exterior dimensions of the jar I had and it was 70mm – turns out that this is the size of a “regular” mason jar. And there’s another common size that I find myself drawn to even more – the wide mouth. Looks like a drinking glass, but is microwaveable and oven safe? SIGN ME UP! Making overnight oats was the solution to my morning routine; I find that I can no longer skip breakfast without becoming faint and HANGRY, but often I don’t have enough time to prepare food for myself when I have to run a 8am or 9am class AND also feed the Bean AND change her nappies AND check work email. So… Jars! JARS! JARS! George seems to think I’ve reached new instagrammable heights of food-prep-hipsterdom with my functional food prep so here are some pictures that he ended up making me take.

These are 1-pint jars (476ml) and just the right size for a portion of food (they are also the right size to pour a nice cold drink into!). I got 12 jars online for about S$48 and I also got a stack of both regular and wide mouth plastic lids for about S$5. The Ball jars themselves are definitely oven safe and microwave safe as they were meant for preserving jams, so if you buy random jars online check to make sure they are suitable for such reheating use. (If you dig a little deeper online you’ll find a whole lot of alternative mason jar lids which work as fermenters, sprouters, graters, juicers, etc…)

The overnight oats recipe that I made up to my preference and have been using for some time now is this:

Debbie’s Breakfast

1/2 cup oats
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
1 tsp moringa leaf powder
1 tbsp dried cranberries
1 tbsp dried mulberries
2 dried apricots, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk a squirt of honey

When I am eating it, I throw in about a 1/4 cup more of milk and sometimes I throw in some frozen mango pieces, or frozen berries at the last minute, but I try not to leave the fruit in for too long (ie: i don’t add it in at prep time) because they can get a little weird and funky in there, like how fruit tastes when it has been allowed to sit in a wet plate for too long. Its like a dessert, and I didn’t think I’d be eating this so often since I have a savoury tooth and not a sweet tooth at all (I have eaten savoury breakfasts for most of my life), but I was hoping that oats would aid my milk production (since the Bean is still breastfed) and turns out that overnight oats SAVES TIME!


I also use the jars for advance meal prep at the moment. I like to make a big batch of caramelised onions at the start of the work week (2 jars worth, or a 2kg bag) and then stuff them into the fridge so that during the week whenever I make a quick meal or pasta I can just throw a handful of onions in and it immediately makes it feel even more like a meal.

Debbie’s 15min Lunch



Ingredients
80g of vermicelli pasta
some bacon
4 cloves garlic
handful of baby spinach
smoked paprika
caramelised onions
caramelised red peppers or any other cooked vegetable in the house
and some leftover chilli flakes from when George last bought PIZZA

Steps

  1. Boil of a pot of water with 1 heaped teaspoon of salt
  2. Fry the bacon in some oil at very low heat to render the fat
  3. Slice the garlic thinly and add to the oil. Heat should be so low such that only small bubbles appear on the edge of the sliced garlic.
  4. Add paprika and chilli flakes to the oil.
  5. Cook the pasta according to the timing on packet, in my case it is 6 minutes. Set the timer for 5 min.
  6. Add in the onions and any vegetables to the oil. Wilt the spinach in the pan.
  7. A minute before the pasta is done, transfer the pasta and a big splash of pasta water into the pan.
  8. Allow for everything to cook down until the pasta water and everything is absorbed back into the pasta (usually 1-2 min more)

Lunch in 15 minutes!

 


3. Not Exactly Bullet Journalling: Improving my To Do List format

Longtime readers of this blog (who on earth is my audience? haha. hello friends???) will know that I am not so secretly big on GTD/PRODUCTIVITY. Sometimes George thinks I like doing work because it must be that I ascribe some kind of moral value to hardworking (a la protestant work ethic) but honestly I like working because… I enjoy it! I enjoy keeping busy and fiddling with things and doing stuff. I enjoy toiling away at things. (Oh. Maybe that is where Beano is getting her inexplicable drive to EXERCISE NONSTOP).


During my maternity leave I had a phase in which I read all about bullet journaling. I also became aware that there’s a huge cottage industy of people and instagrammers banging on about their #bujo designs although none of them look particularly productive to me, and if its not productive I don’t really need it. My notebook is like a cup I can empty my brain out into so I don’t have to hold all that stuff inside my brain where it gets all crowded. I don’t really need my notebook to be neat, but I liked being able to physically cross off items on a list and review what I managed to complete at the end of the day (a sort of pat-yourself-on-the-back if you managed to do most of what you planned. Previously, I would write items in a list and then cross them out, which made them quite unreadable. I ain’t got time to document everything in a bullet journal, but I have incorporated the format of the checkbox into my everyday To-do list format. I now draw a square and cross out only within the square when the task is done. I also draw an arrow to indicate if the task is carried over to the next page.
Whether or not you believe in willpower being a finite or infinite resource, I do find that removing obstacles to my morning also helps get things going every morning (especially when I have to rush to feed baby, myself, and start my 8/9am class):

  • Getting hydrated in the morning – Before I go to bed I set out empty mugs with my tea and spoon, so I only need to add hot water the next morning. Often one needs to muster the will to do this small thing for oneself…
  • Pre-measured baby feeds – Before I go to bed, I measure out all of the bits that will go into Bean’s first feed of the next day. I’ve still been using all the travel containers to premeasure the oatmeal and formula for mixing into oatmeal feeds. It saves a bit of time when I’m rushing and multitasking.
  • Drafting emails on Google Keep – this is my scratch pad where I draft out bits of emails. It is quickly available on all my computers and devices so I can paste completed emails in quickly at the start of the workday. I don’t send work emails after work hours because I think its important to observe the working day (and it is well-known that people will mainly check their email in the morning and so if you want a quick reply, you’ll want your email to come in right on top of their inbox for about 10am)…

In the next post, I swear I will finally complete my series on House Renovations in time for the 1 year anniversary of having moved into this flat!