Nuts over Butter

I remember one late night, I was curled up on the couch with a blanket and a mug of fennel tea, just chatting with Kevin. It was one of those moments. Totally out of the blue, did not see it coming, but like I’ve said before, one of the best.

Yes, the context was much more complex than I’m giving here, and I may or may not have murdered a half-box of kleenex in the process, but who wouldn’t trade a half-box of kleenex for a healthy dose of catharsis?

That night, I walked away with a mixture of new-found admiration, helplessness, and also sadness towards my brother. It’s always hard when someone you love tells you that he’d rather lay down his own priorities, his own freedoms, and his own happiness if it means giving the people around him what they need. Some hero, I thought. One who apparently lives by the philosophy of self-sacrifice. And then there’s me, not knowing what to say and do, because his decision ultimately takes a toll on me since I would do anything to try and make his life easier. Like if everyone was like Kevin, then it’d be all good.

But here’s the truth walking up, and now spitting in your eye: that’s rubbish – it does not exist. But it doesn’t mean we should all be stingy and favour-hungry and out to hoard as much as possible like chipmunks going through pre-winter crisis. It just means that  we need to come to peace with our choices. There is no set of rules that will help us play the game of life right. Following rules itself fails, ask anyone. Just live. Isn’t that what we’re here for? Living life to the fullest, as they say?

So if you think your life will be most productive the more people you help, you’re probably right. If you think your life is defined by how much you latch onto goods and services, then congratulations you’re as heavy a burden as a 3-foot leech . Or maybe if you over-exert yourself to please people, then end up shrivelled and small and needing everyone else to nurse you, yeah, totally, go for it.

But please, please remember there’s always someone near or far whose smile wait for yours, and whose tears wash clean your wounds.

Every time I think of you,

I give thanks to my God.

I always pray for you,

And I make my requests

with a heart full of joy.

~Philippians 1:3-4


Buttercup Penne with  Caramelized Onions, Spiced Candied Pecans,                                                                                          

Toasted Walnut Oil, and Shaved Grana Padano

Ingredients for the buttercup cream:

1/4 small buttercup, kabocha, or butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces, with seeds

2 cloves garlic, smashed

100 ml coconut cream, heavy cream or half-and-half

175 ml water, divided

To make the buttercup cream, steam the squash with the garlic until the squash is very tender. Transfer to a blender, and add the cream and 100 ml water. Blend until completely smooth, then add the remaining water and blend to incorporate. If your blender is not very strong, then pass this puree through a sieve. Set aside.

Ingredients for the caramelized onions:

1 1/2 cups brown rice penne (or whichever you have on hand)

1 small brown onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (dried will work fine as well)

few splashes of water

50 ml heavy cream or half-and half

To make the buttercup penne, bring a pot of water to the boil. Salt the water, and add the pasta. Cook for 8~9 minutes or as directed on the package for al dente. Drain, but don’t rinse.

Meanwhile, to make the caramelized onions, heat the oil in a saute pan and add the onions. Add a big pinch of salt to help the onions soften. Season with pepper and rosemary, and cook over medium heat, covered, stirring every 2 minutes until the onions begin to smell sweet and and turn into a caramel color.

Add a small splash of water to deglaze if the onions start to stick to the pan. Once the onions are a rich amber color, turn the heat to high, and add the 50 ml cream. Let it boil and once it thickens, dump in the pasta and stir to coat. Add the buttercup cream and stir, check the seasoning, and cook until thick and heated through.

To garnish:

1 tsp toasted walnut oil, divided

6 spiced candied pecans, roughly chopped

Grana Padano, shaved with a vegetable peeler, or coarsely grated pine nuts if vegan

Spoon the buttercup penne onto warmed plates, drizzle with walnut oil, top with chopped pecans and shaved cheese. Finish with some extra black pepper if desired.


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