Sunday, May 29, 2011

Very Berry White Chocolate Muffins—Using Thrive Products—And a Giveaway!

Very Berry White Chocolate Muffins

When Misty from Shelf Reliance asked me to give the Thrive products a try, I was a bit skeptical about the concept/approach.  However, after reading her blog "Your Own Home Store," and Shelf Reliance's website, I became convinced that the concept behind the Thrive products is sound and I decided to give it a try.

The concept is rather simple.  1) Flash Freeze the food/fruit.  2) Vaporize.  3) Package and Store.

The primary benefit of applying this methodology to food items is an Extended shelf life.  And as I read Misty’s story, while holding this concept in mind, I was so touched by Misty's story and it’s a reality check for all of us, especially with today’s economy (click here to read her full story).  I’m happy that I had the opportunity to try these awesome products.

Thrive Foods offers many variety/types of products, including grains, veggies, fruits, dairy, meat and beans.  Can you imagine using freeze dried ground beef and powder sour cream in your recipes?  I was fascinated by the wide ranch of products they offered.  Don’t worry, I’ll show you a few recipes on how to incorporate Thrive products into an everyday recipes, both savory and sweet.

Thrive Products

I love how easy it was to open the packages on the canned products.  There’s a plastic lid to reclose the can so the unused portion stayed nice and fresh.  The picture below was the freeze dried Strawberry Yogurt Bites.  My kids love eating them as snacks.  These yogurt bits are also wonderful to eat with cereals.  Another way to enjoy them is to reconstitute them by adding water.  (All instructions were printed on the packages and were very easy to follow.) 

Thrive Products

Products in pouches were re-sealable.  I loved the freeze dried fruit.  It was very versatile and easy to use.  In my Very Berry White Chocolate Muffins, I added the freeze dried raspberries in the batter as the way they were (without reconstitute).  Also, I added some crushed freeze dried strawberries in the batter to create the beautiful pink color naturally.  Not only do the muffins turned out beautifully, the freeze dried fruit added a wonderful berry flavor as well.  The freeze dried fruit in the muffins tasted just like fresh berries, if not better.  The freeze dry process really concentrated the flavors of the ingredients and the aroma popped once you open the packages.

Thrive Products

Have you ever ran out of fresh eggs in the fridge while you need a few to whip up some goodies in a recipe?  That happened to me more than once!  It’s frustrating because it’s not always convenience for me to drive down to the store with the kids, especially when that happened in the middle of the night.  Yeah, my nick name is “midnight baker”!  LOL…Anyway, no more knocking on your neighbor’s door to borrow an egg!  Keep a package of the Thrive Whole Egg Powder in your pantry and you’ll always have the eggs you needed!  That’s truly awesome, don’t you agree? 

Thrive Products

These Very Berry White Chocolate Muffins turned out soft, fluffy and moist!  I loved the bursting of berry flavors from each bite.  The tartness from the berries balanced well with the sweetness from the white chocolate.  You’ve got to try this wonderful recipe.  On my next post, I’ll share with you a savory recipe using other Thrive products.  And maybe a bonus sweet recipe after that.  For now, here’s your chance to win some Thrive products and make a batch of these berries goodness in your own kitchen.  Misty was very generous and offered one of the lucky readers up to $50 in Thrive products (retail price). 

This Giveaway is now Closed.

Rules for the giveaway:
This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (or with a valid U.S. shipping address).  Deadline to enter is June 8th by midnight PST.   

Mandatory entry:
Visit Shelf Reliance’s site, leave a comment and tell me which Thrive product you would like to try the most.

Extra entries: do all or any of the following (please leave a separate comment for each additional entry).

1) Visit Misty’s blog and subscribe to her blog by email or reader, leave a comment to tell me that you did
2) Like’s Facebook page (Here’s the link)
3) Subscribe to’s blog as a Follower on Google Friend Connect (see right hand side bar)
4) Share this giveaway with your Facebook friends
5) Share this giveaway on Twitter

 Very Berry White Chocolate Muffins

One lucky winner will be selected using  Winner will be announced shortly after the deadline of the giveaway.

Good Luck!

A Friendly Reminder from Misty: I notice some of you shown interest in purchasing Thrive products.  Please make sure you place the order through Misty's site here ( and you'll save 5%-45% off retail price, courtesy of Misty.  Isn't it cool?  If you go straight to you will end up paying full retail price.  Thank you for the great tip and savings, Misty!

*Disclaimer: I received the free samples for the purpose of this review and I am not compensated in any way to write this post.  All comments and opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hong Kong, Macau and Australia Trip—Part 3 And a Giveaway

 Mong Kwok-Hong Kong

Many of you already knew Hong Kong is my home country.  Therefore, we didn’t really go to any site-seeing locations in Hong Kong.  Mainly, we spent our time with friends and family, and planned some fun activities for the kids.  Plus, visiting different places to enjoy food that we grew up with and missed dearly.  Such as authentic Dim Sum at Chinese restaurants; freshest seafood feast, which in some restaurants, you can pick out your choices of live seafood from the tanks right outside the restaurant and the chef prepared your selections right away; street food as shown in the picture below, this particular vender offered fish balls, beef balls, fish cakes, sausages, octopus, stuffed veggies, and mini egg waffles, etc.

Street Food-Hong Kong

My favorite of all time?  This soft-serve ice cream cones from this Mobile Softee (see picture below).  This brand/truck for soft-serve ice cream has been in business for ages.  I think my very first consumption of this Softee was possibly in my mommy’s tummy!  LOL

Soft Serve--Hong Kong

There’s more I wanted to share with you about the adventure we had in Hong Kong.  But, I’ll save those on another post because there were quite many pictures and details.  For now, let’s do the giveaway!  For those of you familiar with my blog, you probably know I had the logo with the Paper Wrapped Cakes pictures since the day this blog was born.  Here’s the recipe.  Quite a few of you inquired about where to purchase these molds.  Unfortunately, they only sell them in Kong Kong.  So, I thought of all of you while I was there.  So here we go, the giveaway includes….

Hong Kong Trip Giveaway

A)  10 Paper Wrapped Cakes Cake Molds (aluminum)
B)  20 Paper Cups that fitted perfectly with these molds
C)  2 Pairs of Wooden Chopsticks with Cloth Covers
D)  Some of my favorite candies from Hong Kong (Coke Cola flavor mentos—tempting? Frutips—black currant fruit drops, mango flavor hard candies with fructose filling)
Sorry, table cloth not included!  :P

Rules for the giveaway:

This giveaway is open to anyone, anywhere.  Deadline to enter is June 12th by Mid-night PST.  Must be a follower to enter.  To enter, simply leave a comment to tell me if you dare to try the street food if you ever travel to Hong Kong.

Extra chance to win: you can do all or any of the following (please leave a separate comment for each additional entry):

1) Like on Facebook  (Here’s the link)
2) Sign up and confirm email subscription on my blog (See right hand side bar that said “SUBSCRIBE TO”)
3) Share this giveaway with your Facebook friends
4)  Share this giveaway on Twitter

Winner will be announced shortly after the deadline of the giveaway. Good luck!

This post is shared with:
Foodie Friday
Full Plate Thursday
Sweets for Saturday

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Paiza Mansions of The Plaza Hotel, Macau - Part 2 of Hong Kong, Macau and Australia Trip

After a few short days of stay in Australia, we headed back to Hong Kong and stayed a few days before we went to Macau.  After the 15 hours flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, and 9 hours flight from Hong Kong to Australia (and back), I truly appreciate the close proximity between Macau and Hong Kong (just an hour of ferry ride.).  It was a Portuguese colony, and both the first and last European colony in China.  Did you know that Macau is also known as Oriental Las Vegas? 

The Paiza Mansions of The Plaza, Macau

During our stay in Macau, we had the luxury to stay at The Paiza Mansions of The Plaza, Macau.  Many thanks to my brother-in-law for hooking us up! Within the mansion, there were two master bedrooms, a karaoke room, a massage room, a kitchen, a coffee bar, a living room and a dining area.  I really like the Contemporary interior designs of our room.  As soon as I walked into the bathroom, I felt in love with the huge bath tub and the Modern Rain showerhead instantly!  I can easily get used to the Bvlgari amenities too.

The Paiza Mansions of The Plaza, Macau

To fully enjoy the mansion, we called in room service the next day for brunch so we can relax and spend more time in the suite.
 The Paiza Mansions of The Plaza, Macau

Just some simple Dim Sum and they were wonderful.
 Siu Mai Siu Mai (Chinese dumpling)

BBQ Pork Buns  Cha Siu Bao (BBQ Pork Buns)

 Har Gow  Har Gow (Shrimp dumpling)

The video below is a virtual tour of the mansion.  My husband took the liberty to film this video.  Some shots might be too up close and caused the out of focus.  (Warning: If you already had a few drinks, you might feel a little dizzy watching it!)  Please enjoy!

In the afternoon, we went to some sight seeing locations before heading to our buffet dinner.   There were street food venders all over the place.  This particular one sells all kinds of meat balls and fish balls, very typical street food/snacks in Hong Kong and Macau.

Street Food in Macau

The meat balls were all on skewers for easy handling.  No containers needed and they are fun to eat. 

Street Food in Macau 
Another vender was selling all kinds of drinks, ranging from herbal tea, fruit juice, coffee, and bubble tea drinks(pearl milk tea).

Street Food in Macau

The picture below shown another vender selling Portuguese Egg Tarts.  If you remember my Mini Egg Tart Post, these were just another variety of egg tarts.  These Portuguese egg tarts were evolved from "pastel de nata", a traditional Portuguese custard pastry that consists of custard in a crème brûlée-like consistency caramelized in a puff pastry case.  They were a must try pastry in Macau. 

Portuguese Egg Tarts

Farewell Macau, but not for long.  We definitely will be back some day.

Ruins Of St. Paul's Ruins of St. Paul’s (大三巴牌坊)

In the next post, I will reveal our Hong Kong adventure, plus a Giveaway.  Stay tuned and don’t miss out on that.  For now, I need a sweet dream…hopefully, I’ll revisit the Paiza Mansion again in my dreams!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hong Kong, Macau, and Australia Trip--Part 1

It’s the first time my husband and I travelled internationally with the kids.  Yes, and we decided to go all the way to the other side of the globe.  One Country, and Two Special Administrative Regions (of China) all in one trip: Hone Kong, Australia, and Macau.  Friends and relatives called us crazy, brave, and crazy.  Did I say crazy?  It was an unforgettable trip, filled with fun, love, food, exhaustion, jet lag, new experiences and wonderful memories!  I need some time to take them all in! 

First, we arrived in Hong Kong after a 15 hours flight.  During the flight, I have my 1 and a half year old sitting and sleeping on my lap most of the time.  I thought I was going to lose my legs!  LOL  Then, we flew to Australia after 1 day.  Another 9 hours flight while we were still having jet lag!  See how much fun we’re having already?  Anyhow, we arrived safe and sound, and blood is still flowing to my legs!

The main purpose to visit Australia was to visit my Grandmother, my Aunts and Uncles.  Finally, the kids got to meet their Great Grandma, Grand Aunts and Grand Uncles for the very first time!  Although our stay was rather short, we had the most amazing time together.  We shared, we talked, we laughed; it was wonderful and heart warming.  It was nice to see my cousin after all these years too.  Now, she’s all grown up and a mother of two as well.  Boy, time flies!

I just want to take this opportunity to thank my Aunt and Uncle again for their hospitality.  Thank you for preparing everything for our stay and letting us make a mess at your house (I swear it was my husband, not the kids)!  We had the most wonderful time there. 

The picture above was taken at my Aunt’s backyard.  A beautiful Chayote that she planted.  I think it’s time to harvest!  

View Sonic-Australia
Picture above is an 80+ year old parrot, aka my Uncle’s girlfriend.  My husband gave her the nick name “ViewSonic”!  Like all women, she talks a lot!  Isn’t she beautiful? 

When we were in Australia, we visited the Easter Show in the Olympic Stadium.  The Easter Show comprises of an agricultural show, an amusement park and a fair that showcased livestock and produce.  This comprehensive fair has many competitions including arts and crafts, photography and cookery, as well as tests of strength and skill such as wood chopping. The Show also has shopping, restaurants, commercial stands and exhibits, a horticultural display, and a national accredited conformation dog show and cat show. 

Bakery Booth-Australia Easter Show

Pictures above and below are food venders exhibits.  Many of them were giving out samples too.  :P  Yum…   

Dessert Booth-Australia Easter Show

Agriculture Display-Australia Easter Show
The pictures above and below are the agricultural displays from different districts.  These displays are made out of fresh produces!  Aren’t they amazing?  I was so amazed at the craftsmanship and artistic talents of those who created these masterpieces. 

Agriculture Display-Australia Easter Show

We sampled some wine, cheese, bread, and desserts.  Then, we headed to the seafood vender and ordered a dozen of oysters and called that lunch.  

Oyster and Seafood Booth-Australia Easter Show

The Easter Show was huge and we didn’t even have enough time to visit all the exhibits.  It was a wonderful experience.

Australia is a beautiful country and we wished we could spend more time exploring Sydney and the surrounding cities.  Well, maybe next time... in the near future.  Goodbye Australia!  We’ll miss you.

Opera House and Sydney Bridge Panorama Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge
(Click on the picture for a larger view)

Up next I will post our experiences in Macau, stay tuned.  Thank you for stopping by today and hope to see you again soon.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Espresso Cookies

Espresso Cookies

As some of you might know, I’ve just returned from my visit to Hong Kong, Macau, and Australia.  Yes, 3 countries in a short period of time, with 2 young kids.  You can imagine how crazy things can get.  Fortunately, it’s better than what I expected.  Phew….While we are still trying to over come the jet leg, these espresso cookies come to the rescue.  They are easy enough to prepare on a busy day (the day after I unpacked 6 suitcases and in between 10 loads of laundries).  I needed these cookies to keep me going!

Espresso Cookies

These espresso cookies are espresso-e, chocolaty and buttery.  The texture is soft and crumbly, like shortbreads.  If you are a coffee/espresso lover, you’ll definitely love these cookies.  Best of all, they’re super easy to make and my kids also helped out in rolling out the dough.  Just one warning, be careful not to finish the dough before baking!  As it’s an eggless recipe, feel free to taste the dough for quality control! hehehe  ;) 

Let me keep this post sweet and short.  I’ll post some pictures on my next post about the trip.  Stay tuned.

Espresso Cookies

Friday, May 6, 2011

Winners of the two leaves and a bud Tea Samplers Giveaway

Thank you everyone for participating in the two leaves and a bud Tea Samplers Giveaway. 

Complete Tea Sampler

Here’s the announcement you’ve all been waiting for and the winners are:

Chels who said...”I am following two leave and a bud on Fb, Entry 2”

2) Gale who said..."I'd love to try the Alpine Berry, though the Pomi-berry and Orange Sencha sound good too!
ecarian at yahoo dot com”

Chels and Gale will each receive a box of the two leaves and a bud Complete Sachet Sampler as shown in the picture above. 

Thank you again for all of your supports and stay tuned for the next giveaway in the near future.  Have a wonderful weekend.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spinach, Brie and Prosciutto Tart with Pecan Crust

Spinach-Brie and Prosciutto Tart with Pecan Crust

Every once in a while, I love to enjoy a Sunday Brunch Buffet with my family.  The Golf Club House where my hubby and I tied the knot (years ago) offers a fabulous Live Jazz Sunday Champagne Bruch.  The quality of the food is great and the price is reasonable.  It’s only a few blocks away from where we live now.  The problem is, I tend to eat a lot more than I should at the buffet!  Don’t you want to try a little bit of everything they offer?  Well, even with a small bite of every dish, it’s still over my calories intake limits, especially with a few glasses of mimosas!  Yeah, although mimosa is in liquid form, it’s not calorie free (like how I wish).  What’s the solution?  Dine at home of course.     

Spinach-Brie and Prosciutto Tart with Pecan Crust

So, what’s for brunch this weekend?  Spinach, Brie and Prosciutto Tart with Pecan Crust!  It’s really easy to prepare and you can pre-bake the crust the day before so you can still sleep-in on the day you want to make the tart.  Plus, you get to relax and dine in at home.  No need to get up early, dress up, fix your hair and get the kids ready…etc.  You can enjoy a lovely brunch in your robe and slippers!  Ha! I bet the buffet can’t beat that!   ;)  Not to mention, it’s way cheaper than dining out. 

Spinach-Brie and Prosciutto Tart with Pecan Crust

Are you sold on this idea yet?  I hope you are because I’m really happy that I did.  This Spinach-Brie and Prosciutto Tart with Pecan Crust was amazing.  As I was taking pictures soon after the tart came out of the oven, I couldn’t help but noticed the wonderful aromas from it.  The texture of the pecan crust was crumbly with a nice crunch from the edges.  The flavor of the crust was buttery and nutty with a hint of sweetness.  The shallots was mild in onion flavor and complimented well with other ingredients without over powdering other flavors.  The custard was velvety and the salty prosciutto on top added a nice crunch.  The creamy brie on top melted beautifully and added a sophisticated cheese flavor.  I would definitely make this again, and again.             

Spinach-Brie and Prosciutto Tart with Pecan Crust