Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day

I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day!  I quickly put together a pretty standard dinner risotto but gave it that extra festive touch by making little heart-shaped pie crust and filling them with the risotto as a lovely little surprise.  Boy were these a big hit.  My youngest decided to hoard all the extras and not give any of us more than one.  She relented eventually, but it was quite amusing to see her surrounded by hearts when everyone else only had a single one.  Recipes I used were this for the crust and an adaption of this for the risotto.  All I did differently with the risotto was use pancetta and add peas in lieu of the prosciutto.  Delicious and fun!

Bakery Blues

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One of my main sorrows in leaving the city is the lack of a good sit-down bakery to enjoy delicious baked goods for breakfast (I’m not talking about cupcakes).  Ever since our first daughter was born, we made a ritual of going out to breakfast on the week-ends.  I would bring my daughter to one of the various coffee/ bakery shops around us and we would enjoy some quality mommy-daughter time.  It was always such a pleasant way to begin the week-end.  In moving to the suburbs, I had a hard time finding the perfect breakfast spot that had the ambiance and the the quality of baked goods.  One of our favorite places to frequent in Brooklyn was a wonderful little bakery called Blue Sky Bakery.  They make the most delicious muffins.  All of them are fresh-made daily and incorporate seasonal ingredients, such as fresh pumpkin or apple in the fall, peaches in the summer, and so on.  On any given day, they have at least 10 varieties to choose from.  My daughter loved to eat all of the fruit out of my muffins and we thoroughly enjoyed the varieties offered each day.

I wondered if I could find the recipe for these muffins, as the shop only had two base recipes, one bran and one non-bran, with different fruit mixtures for variety.  I was in luck and thank you Google for helping me find it!  These are seriously the best bran muffins I have had and I was so excited to find the recipe out there.  I found out that it was published in a cookbook “Table of Contents“.  You can use any combination of fruit in these muffins and they are always amazing.  I made these as my two year old sat on the kitchen counter watching me create these wonders and when they were done, she dug in, eating all the fruit out of the center, just like her sister used to do.  It’s like they’re related!  You should try these muffins out.  Not too sweet, very easy and fast, extremely delicious!

Blue Sky Bakery Bran Muffin (makes 2 dozen)

  • 2 and 2/3 c buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 c vegetable oil
  • 3 c. wheat bran
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cup fruit (I used raspberries and peaches)

Preheat oven to 425 and coat muffin tin with butter or cooking spray.

Mix buttermilk, eggs and oil in a medium bowl.

In seperate bowl combine wheat bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar and salt.

Pour wet mixture into dry one and mix until just combined.

Place about 2 tbsp of batter in each muffin tin (the batter will expand to fill about 1/2 the cup).  Place a generous layer of fruit  (about 2 heaping teaspoons) into each cup.  Measure 2 tsp of the sugar in a small bowl, taking pinches with your fingers, sprinkle the sugar over the fruit.  Divide remaining batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Place remaining 2 tspn of sugar into bowl and pinch and sprinkle the sugar over the top!

Bake for 5 minutes.  Rotate muffin tins front to bake to ensure even cooking and bake for another 11-13 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it.  Do NOT overbake.

Cook on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from tin.

 

Happy New Year 2017!

We were fortunate enough to have my parents visiting for the New Year, which allowed me to be a little more ambitious for our New Year’s dinner.  I have been wanting to teach the girls how to make dumplings.  I still have fond memories as a child of all of us seated at the kitchen table making dumplings, talking and joking while making delicious food. These are the kinds of small traditions I want to pass on to my children, but it is a lot of work for just one person to prepare all of the ingredients and follow through, because, inevitably, children’s attention spans are short. With my mom in town, this eliminated a lot of these concerns as we have been working together for so long that it’s almost like second nature when we are together and making food.

We ended up making three different dumplings: shui jiao and guo tie (same style, just cooked differently), wontons and shumei. Can I just say, TASTY!!!!  To save time we bought the store-bought dumpling wrappers but made the filling from scratch. Making it fun for the kids, we had on child per adult and I had my daughters separate the he dumpling skins, spoon the filling, and put water around the perimeter of the hehe he skins for sealing.  My mom, husband and I wrapped the dumplings.  When they get older they can get more interactive, learning how to wrap the different types of dumplings.

Dumpling filling (for 5 packs of small, round dumpling skins):

2 lb ground pork

1 lb diced shrimp

2 lb chopped chives

4 stalks scallions, diced

4 slices Ginger, diced

2 T cooking wine

1 tsp white pepper

2 tsp salt

2 T cornstarch

4 T soy sauce

4 T sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Wrap away!

Happy New Year to all!

The Second is 2!

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So it’s happened.  My baby turned two.  When did this happen?  I can hardly believe that time has flown so quickly!  I don’t know if it’s because I’m so tired these days or if life is just too full of things to do, but having to even consider planning a birthday party for my daughter seemed beyond me at this point.  Planning playdates for two children seems to so difficult and this seems to be one of my shortcoming as a parent.  I look for the easy playdate where friends have more than one kid so that all the children can keep each other occupied.  Is that terrible of me?  Don’t lie, I’m sure I’m not the only one!

I am glad to say that my second daughter is quite gregarious and will run around to almost everyone after she has acclimated and flirt outrageously with them.  For this I am very grateful that she finds her happiness instead of having to have someone define it for her.

Well, I may not have planned a big party for her, but I did get my act together enough to make her cupcakes to bring to school as well as have a small gathering with family to celebrate.  For her cupcakes, I opted to make a lemon cupcake with a lemon buttercream frosting.  I have made these before for my first daughter’s first birthday, noted here.  However, instead of mini-cupcakes, I opted for large ones.  The recipe will make about 16 large cupcakes.  I used the buttercream frosting here and added half a lemon with half a lemon’s zest.  It turned out quite nice, if I do say so myself!  I also opted to use a pre-made candy flower by Wilton’s, which I got from Michael’s.

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When my eldest daughter learned that I was going to be making cupcakes she insisted on helping.  It was quite hilarious how she helped me with the icing.  For every cupcake iced and flower she placed, she would then help herself to a small taste of icing.  And with each taste, she would exclaim “I love helping you make cupcakes mommy!  Mmmm!!!”  What a comedian!  Although, I must say, she was surprisingly exact in measuring the perfect amount of batter needed for cupcakes.  I may have to employ her services in the future.  Haha!

Anyways, the cupcakes were quite delicious and my youngest daughter was quite enthusiastic about the blowing out of the candles.  She actually blew the candle out too quickly the first time, requiring us to re-light them before we finished singing happy birthday.  And, she was singing happy birthday to herself for about 3 weeks straight. What a great age this is, toddlers are like little comedians!  Happy birthday my wonderful, funny, intelligent and daring girl!

Happy First Birthday!

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Last weekend marked the first birthday of my youngest daughter.  I can’t believe how quickly time flies! I can hardly remember what happened during this whirlwind of a year.  It is true that as you get older,  time seems to speed on by even faster than before. There are so many things that I wished would move more slowly so that my ability to really enjoy the moment and memorize each precious memory is forever stamped in my mind.  Nothing can ever compare to these precious moments.

We kept the party strictly to family,  which is quickly already becoming a bigger affair as everyone’s families are growing larger!  I made the same cupcakes that I had made for my eldest daughter’s first birthday,  only I omitted the lemon from the cake batter and the icing for just plain vanilla cupcakes.  I think she really liked them, she gobbled them right up!

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Things always seem much more rushed for the second child so I was only able to make a quick backdrop for decorating for the party.  Nonetheless,  it was a festive and happy time and my daughter got lots of gifts. For the backdrop, I ended up taping the remainder of a plastic pink tablecloth to the wall. Then I ran chevron streamers from top to bottom in stripes. I lined the top with crepe paper tassles and heart balloons, then I affixed my trusty birthday banner on top for the finishing touch.

Happy birthday my dear little baby.  Please don’t grow up too quickly!

Baby, it’s a new year!

I can’t believe that January is almost over! I was looking through my blog and I noticed that the quantity of my posts seems to have diminished a little. I apologize for that, everyone! Thanks for your patience!

I can explain, really.  I have been a little preoccupied lately as I am pregnant with #2!  People aren’t kidding when they say that every pregnancy is different!  I don’t know if it’s getting older, or having a child already, or what, but I have been so exhausted with this pregnancy.  I literally could barely keep my eyes awake to get home from work, shovel some semblance of a meal into my mouth, and then go narcoleptic on my husband and daughter by passing out on whatever horizontal surface was closest.  That coupled with the terrible bout of morning sickness (really, I don’t know why people specify morning.  It lasts ALL DAY LONG…) made things very challenging for the past couple of months.  I’m hoping now that I’m in the middle of my second trimester that things will begin to improve!

We did find out that we’re having a girl!  My eldest daughter is very excited to be an older sister!  We’ve been trying to prepare her for the shock of no longer being an only child by talking with her frequently about “baby” and how she will be so helpful and such a great example for baby.  Of course, my daughter immediately decided that the baby is “her” baby and will never fail to give her baby a hug before she gives me a hug.  Ironic, but sweet seeing as how it could go the other way!

Needless to say, all this passing out left and right hasn’t really given me much opportunity to craft anything.  Even if I did find the energy to pick up some knitting needles or a crochet hook, I’d probably pass out on top of it and end up skewering myself involuntarily.  I think I’ll leave the major crafting to when I have a little more control of my ability to stay awake. Until then though, happy crafting!

Life as a (Recipe) Book – Part 2

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There were many ideas and thoughts that went into this recipe book.  Really, when you get right down to it, this has become a document of our family history.  As I read the stories and anecdotes and see the photos included of not just food, but our family, I find myself reminiscing over living overseas and travelling extensively all over the world and what a wonderful childhood my parents made for my brothers and me.

IMG_6364While I love all aspects of the book, I think my favorite part are the appendices.  One of them is dedicated solely to ingredients.  I am second generation Taiwanese and I cannot read the writing, so when I go to Chinese grocery stores, I recognize ingredients, but I can’t read the labels to see if they are the correct types of ingredients (is it spicy?  Does it have garlic flavoring?  etc. etc.)  As for my brothers, I don’t know if they ever paid attention to the ritualistic grocery shopping and the time my mom took to pore over each packaged and canned good.  So, we devised a section to take care of just that.  We have one appendix section dedicated solely to a photo dictionary of all of the packaged, canned and bottled goods that my mom uses in her cooking, followed by a short description of it’s use, flavor, or other pertinent information.  I have already used this section extensively.  Then we have a photo section for all of the various vegetables, meats, and fish found in the Chinese grocery stores and how you can prepare them. I must say I am much more well-versed in the various foods now that I was before.

IMG_6365The other awesome appendix is based on preparation.  Have you ever wondered how to wrap that bun?  How do they get all that rice into the bamboo leaves with the meat perfectly in the middle?  How do you clean a whole squid?  How do you cut up a chicken and re-assemble it on a plate to look whole again?  Well, we have a section with a photo tutorial on all of these questions and more!

For our wonderful family masterpiece, I ended up using an online publishing company called blurb.com.  I found this site through one of my graphic designer friends.  While there were a couple sites to choose from, this one seemed to suit my purposes the best.  Since I started this so long ago, the only option was to use the blurb proprietary software.  Since it was still fairly new, there weren’t many options on customizing layouts, but since I took my sweet time, I was able to upgrade the software 3-4 times, where they built in template customization and other cool tools.  Now they even have an interface with Adobe InDesign where you can import an InDesign file into their program instead of using their software, making customization literally endless.  They have also improved their printing options, offering many varieties of papers to print on as well for the inside face of the book.

Our family recipe book clocked in at a whopping 310 pages.  No wonder it took 10 years!  While I am so relieved that this is done, I…. no… I’m just relieved that this is done!  If you have any interest at all in purchasing a copy, I have included the link below, where you can preview the first 15 pages of the book.  I hope you enjoy!

http://blur.by/1exy1AT