Thursday, September 29, 2011

U.F.O.---A Simple After School Snack


My little boy loves peanut butter.  Unfortunately, his school has a “no nuts allowed" policy since there are some other classmates who are allergic to nuts.  What is a little boy going to do without his peanut butter jelly sandwich at school?  Well, he can indulge all he wants after school with these apple slices, topped with peanut butter and cranberries. Open-mouthed smile

Seriously, these are all his favorite ingredients, all in one bite/slice. Smile I was skeptical before I tried this combination. But boy, this could be Mommy’s after school favorite as well. The sweet and tangy green apple slices are crunchy; it goes so well with the smooth and nutty peanut butter. The dried cranberries on top add another layer of sweetness, tartness, and a different texture. I’m truly surprised by how well they go together. To keep the apple slices from turning brown, I toss them into some lemon juice right after slicing them. Best of all, this after school treat is ready in no time! So perfect for Fall when the apples are abundant.  Try these with sweet and juicy Fuji apples too, I guaranteed you’re going to love it.


Last but not least, I’m submitting this to Kitchen PLAYThe US Apple Association is sponsoring a giveaway at Kitchen PLAY. Simply recreate any one recipe from this month’s Progressive Party, post about the experience on your blog and provide a link to your post on Kitchen PLAY to enter. All qualifying bloggers in each course will be entered to win $100 (6 prizes total). The deadline is September 30, 2011. Please review the complete contest rules before entering. Thanks Deanna from The Mommy Bowl for this fun snack idea! Good luck!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Winner Announcement of the Tom Bihn Shopping Bag Giveaway

Thank you everyone who participated in the Tom Bihn Shopping Bag Giveaway.  Special thank you to Tom Bihn for sponsoring this giveaway.

Tom Bihn Shopping Bag and Clear Organizer Pouches

The winner selected by is….Irene who said…

“Wow! Your review was sooooo detailed, now i want the bag to fit my ipad and laptop. Liked the Facebook Page.”

An email will be sent to Irene to notify her of the winning.  If you haven’t entered The Cookiepedia cook book Giveaway, there’s still time to do so.  To enter, please click here to go to the original Giveaway post.  Thank you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Japanese Apple Salad


Nothing says Fall better than a basket full of apples of any kind.  My favorite type has always been Fuji apples.  They are crisp, juicy and sweet.  I’m indifferent toward starchy food, I guess.  Another favorite fruit of mine in the Fall are pomegranates.  They are sweet, tart and juicy.  I love the way they pop in my mouth.  I say, they’re even better than eating popping candies. Not to mention, they are good for you too.


I’ve been enjoying this salad for many years. Usually, I toss in some cooked shrimps and blenched green beans when I’m serving them as dinner.  But as a light brunch or a meal in between, this is just as delicious and satisfying.  In this recipe, I used the Japanese Mayonnaise and some curry powder.  I found that the Japanese Mayo is more flavorful and creamier than the regular ones; Which fits this recipe much better, especially one without too many ingredients.  The pistachios add a nice crunch and the pomegranate are just fun to eat as they pop in my mouth. 


Join I Wash… You Dry and Southern Fairytale for the California Avocado Cinco de Mayo Recipe Fiesta, sponsored by the California Avocado Commission.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Pinwheels Cookies, The Cookiepedia Review and a Giveaway


My Mom was staying with me when my hubby was out of town for a few days last week.  It was one of the relaxing afternoons, with no plans of going out but just hung out in the kitchen.  We wanted to bake something together, then relax and enjoy the afternoon at the backyard with a cup of tea.  So, we were flipping through The Cookiepedia, searching for something fun to make. 


It didn’t take long for us to decide and we had a winner.  There were many classic and fun cookie recipes in this book, but the pinwheels really caught my eyes (pun intended).  These pinwheels looks whimsical and I know my little boy would enjoy them as much as we did when he returned from school.


“Full of delightful hand-drawn illustrations and mouth-watering full-color photographs, The Cookiepedia, by Stacy Adimando, features delicious recipes and inventive variations for all the cookies everyone loves, from Amaretti, Butter Balls, and Chocolate Spritz to Gingersnaps, Rugelach, and Snickerdoodles, as well as dozens of other favorites—more than 50 in all.”  


There were many things I love about this book.  I summarized them into ten main points:

1) Hard cover—I intended to use this recipe book over and over again and the durability is important to me.  I don’t know about you, but I had some other cookbooks that I used so often that the cover is coming off.

2) The spiral binding—This let the middle pages of the book stay opened easily, without having to press hard and winkle the pages.  Imagine your recipe book stay nicely opened on the book holder (if you have one of those fancy thingy) or on your counter top, making it easier to read.


3) Mouth-watering full-color photographs—Don’t you want to know how the end-products supposed to look like?  That’s how the Pinwheels caught my eyes!  Winking smile Don’t people always say a picture is worth a thousand words?

4) Easy to follow instructions—Very important in any recipes book. 


5) Tips—Tips in this book are very helpful.  Some gave me the “ah-ha” moments.

6) Variations—These are all classic cookie recipes that we all familiar with, in The Cookiepedia.  It’s fun to try the original, but then it adds a little more excitement with the variations added. 


7) Note space area next to the recipe—I love writing my own notes on recipes.  Weather it is the variation I made on a recipe, or an idea for a tweak I wanted to try next time; the note space to me is a thoughtful gift from the author to the end users.

8) Personal experience—On each recipe, Adimando added a little background of the the recipe.  Some are her own childhood memories, some are the experiences she had with that recipes, some are just facts about the cookies.  I love reading those little stories and memories.  The stories made it more personal than just a recipe book.


9) Varieties—From Italian Biscutts, Chocolate sandwich cookies, to fig bars and Molasses Spice Cookies, the variety is broad and for sure you’ll find something you like.

10) I love and adore cookies, period.  I mean, who doesn’t?  Do I need a better reason to love this book?  Winking smile

This Giveaway is now closed.  Winner will be announced shortly.  

Rules for the Giveaway:

With the courtesy of Quirk Books and Stacy, one lucky reader (with an U.S. mailing address only) will have a chance to win a copy of The Cookiepedia.  Must be a public follower/member through Google Friends Connect to participate.  (See the right hand side bar under “Follower” with the button “Join this site”).  You have until September 30th, 12 midnight PST to enter this giveaway.  Winner will be announced and contacted via email shortly after the giveaway is closed.

Mandatory Entry: 

Simply leave a comment and tell me what your favorite cookie is.  Or you can describe if you like your cookies buttery, crunchy, or chewy?  Or how much you love cookies!  Let's have a cookie talk, shall we?

Additional Entries: (you can do any or all of the following, just leave a separate comments for each entry)

1) “Like”’s Facebook page.  Here’s the link. 
2) Share this giveaway with your friends on Facebook.  Please include the link to this post when you share.
3) Follow on Twitter.  Here’s the link.
4) Tweet about this giveaway.  Please include my Twitter handle @utry_it and the link to this post in your tweet.
5) Subscribe to my blog via email.  You’ll receive an email to verify the subscription.  
6) Subscribe via RSS feed.

Good luck everyone!

These Pinwheel cookies are whimsical and perfect for gift-giving for the holiday season.   I'm entering this to the Holiday Recipe Swap.  Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Beanilla.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of The Cookiepedia free of charge for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated in any other way.  All opinions are 100% my own and always will be.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mini Brioche

Mini Brioche

This is my very first time making brioche.  Boy oh boy, it could be another serious and dangerous addiction, right after the Meringue cookies and Almond Cookie Crisps!   Seems like I have quite a few addictions on food/cookies.  What can I say, I'm just a girl who really enjoys eating.  But tell me how can I resist these little cuties?  They are smooth, soft, silky, egg-y and buttery.  So perfect especially when they're still warm from the oven.  So perfect for fall; so perfect whenever I need a small bite to keep me going on a busy day.

Mini Brioche

Although the egg wash on top cracked a little bit, they are still perfect to me, perfectly imperfect.   If you know why they're cracked and have the solution to solve the "problem", please kindly leave a comment to let me know.  I'm planning to make these mini brioche again and again.  

Mini Brioche

With a bit of butter and fruit preserve, this is a simple yet scrumptious breakfast.  I re-heated them in the microwave the next day and they tasted just as wonderful.  If you haven't try making bread at home, this could be an easy recipe to get started.  I promise, you're going to love the result.

Mini Brioche

Before you go, come join #DairyBreakfastClub recipe party at TidyMom along with The California Milk Advisory Board and 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tom Bihn’s Western Flyer Review - With Free Giveaway!

As my blogging get more frequent and taking care of my kids get more demanding, I have noticed that I have a need to carry my laptop around town more often, just so that I can work on my recipes or blog posts as I travel.  Unfortunately, the only decent laptop bag at home is the one that is currently being used by my husband.  Therefore, I have been on a mission to look for a good laptop bag for my travel.
Today, I want to share with you my review on this very well made Western Flyer bag from Tom Bihn.  I am certain that a few of you may not have heard of Tom Bihn prior to this post.  So please allow me a short paragraph to give you a quick introduction.

Tom Bihn, the person, is the CEO of Tom Bihn, the bag company/manufacturer.  Tom has been designing bags for over 20 years, and he designs ALL the bags that he sells from his factory/retail store in Seattle, Washington.  Noticed that I used the word ‘factory’?  That’s right!  All of Tom’s bags are manufactured right here in the United States, at his Seattle Factory.  I have read that you can easily see Tom, himself, walking around the factory all the time, chatting with the sewing crew, to ensure quality standards.

Let’s get back to our bag-of-the-moment, the Western Flyer.  I have been using this bag for almost 4 weeks now, and I must say, the love of this bag just grew on me.  I admit that I was not that impressed by this bag after the first few days of using it.  But the more I put into this bag, the more I like it!  The Western Flyer seemed to have the ability to soak in everything that I try to put inside, without any sign of ‘stress’ (or stretched) on the outside.  How many times have you seen (mostly at the airport that) someone carrying an ‘overloaded’ bag that the owner simply tried to stuff too many things inside?  You can tell because the bag/pockets are all stretched out to the limit; but not for this bag.  With a capacity of 1600 cubic inches (or 26 liters for my Readers in Asia), this bag carries everything that your arm can lift!  See the Coke Bottles picture below?  The bottle in the middle is the 1 Liter bottle.  This bag can hold 26 of those... just to give you an idea.


There are 2 primary configurations available for the Western Flyer.  Rolling Luggage vs. the Backpack Straps.  I opted for the Rolling Luggage Handle so that I can slide the rear opening through the handle of a rolling luggage when needed.  The picture below is a shot that I took while waiting to check-in to a hotel.  

Western Flyer through luggage Handle
When you’re not sliding the bag through the handle, you can unzip the bottom and turn the same feature into a large outside pocket.

Otherwise, the Backpack Straps option would allow you to convert this bag to a Backpack (style), as seen from this picture below, copied from Tom’s official website.


Once I have un-boxed the impressively designed shipping/packaging box (I like the box so much that I am keeping the box for future use!), the first thing that told me that this company’s bags are not 'all just looks,' is the zipper!  I’ve read all about the zipper on their web-site on how all the external zippers on this bag is ‘weather-proof.’  I did not put too much thought into the zipper thinking that a zipper is a zipper, and how the last thing I would worry about on the bag is the outside zippers.  However, not only these zippers look very water proof, they are also very smooth to glide open and close. 

Western Flyer Zipper

After playing with zippers, I started to navigate the various compartments inside the bag.  To keep things simple, the bags are divided into 2 primary sections.  Front and Rear.  And both sections are lined with bright yellow fabric.  At this point, what caught my eyes are two things; the ‘clips’ on the Back compartment, and the Divider on the Front compartment. 

Western Flyer Dividers

The Divider in the Front compartment is very straight forward.  It allows you to unzip the Divider in the middle to convert the Front Compartment from being Left/Right Sectional to a single wide section to accommodate wide/large items such as a folder or even a second laptop.

Western Flyer Diciders 1

Contrary, the Rear compartment is not ‘sectional’ like the Front, but what you will see are two ‘Annex Clips.’  They allow you to clip on the infamous ‘Brain Cell.’  

Annex Clips
While most of you may be familiar with the concept of a laptop sleeves such as these, the ‘Brain Cell’ takes the laptop protection concept a step further, and integrate its Brain Cell into most of Tom Bihn’s bags.  Not only the Brain Cell is heavily padded, once it is hooked onto the ‘Annex Clips’, it suspends the Brain Cell slightly above the bottom of the bag.  Hence, an extra protection against impact is created by a space/gap between the bottom of the bag and the bottom of the ‘Brain Cell.’ For those who find the Brain Cell to be costly, I would like to remind you that you are NOT just getting a typical laptop sleeve.  In fact, you can use the Brain Cell as-is on its own, as it provides you with two ‘D-rings’ on the side, so that you can attach your own carrying strap and use it as a simple laptop carrier.  Now, try this with your typical laptop sleeves and see if you can do the same!

Brain Cell 
Since I have already touched on the topic of this Western Flyer’s zipper of choice, I would also like to go into a little bit of specifications of this bag.  The outside of this bag is made out of ‘1050 Ballistic Nylon.’  Ballistic what?  Exactly!  Here’s highlight in simpler terms.
  • It is originally developed for bullet proof vest
  • One of the toughest fabric on earth
  • It is very difficult to dye (Hence the limited colors)
  • Most manufacturers have stopped using 1050 Ballistic due to its almost-doubled costs over other ‘more common’ materials.

As for the inside fabrics, I was a little skeptical after the first few days of use, that the fabrics that  the ‘Annex Clips’ were sewed onto, would hold up to the weight of the Brain Cell and my laptop.  So I asked Tom Bihn’s team to provide some more information on this uniquely texturerized fabric that is in use inside of this bag.  It turns out that the fabrics that lined the inside of this bag is something called ‘Dyneema/Nylon Ripstop’ material.  And upon further research on the Internet...I have learned that:
  • The lines that formed the square pattern is called the Dyneema threads
  • Each Dyneema thread is 15 times as strong as steal per weight
  • An additional X patten of Nylon overweave improves abrasion and tear resistance, making it essentially tear-proof
  • This fabric, on average, costs 3 times more than the typical nylon fabric as found in the inside of other bags
  • And the bright yellow color of choice inside my Western Flyer makes searching for items in low-lighting situation easy!
Dyneema-Nylond Ripstop material

There are many accessories available to compliment this Western Flyer.  First and foremost, the Absolute Shoulder Strap.  In my opinion, other than the Brain Cell, this item is a must have for the Western Flyer, or any bag that you own that would allow you to replace the carrying strap.  I don’t know how did the Tom Bihn team did it, but this carrying strap made my fully loaded Western Flyer feeling like it is half the weight it was supposed to be.  This carrying strap is so comfortable that I would even take it with me to use on other bags.  Yes, it is this comfortable on your shoulder!


Up next is the Horizontal Freudian Slip.  On one side of the Slip, are compartments and pockets that allow you to store things ranging from cell phone, pens, business cards, and more.  On the other side of the Slip, are divided sections that allow you to store files and papers.  Logically, I put all the stationary on one side of the Slip, and my most often used files and paper on the other side of the Slip.  One day when I had to do some work at a local Starbucks, I noticed that I only had to pull my laptop and this Slip out, head into Starbucks to find a seat, and I’m ready to work.  I didn’t even have to drag my entire bag into the coffee shop with me. 

Tom Bihn Accesories

I also put to use on a few other accessories such as the Clear Organizer Pouch for my highlighters, a smaller one for my medication or better yet, cosmetics!
 Tom Bihn Accesories 3

There is a padded pouch for storing scratch-sensitive items such as a cell-phone or an iPod.  
 Tom Bihn Accesories 4

I also used the Snake Charmer to store all my cables that go in and out of my laptop.  

And for those who have an iPad or eReader, there is also a Cork Organizer Pouch that is made out of real cork!  

All these accessories can fit inside the Western Flyer without any issue.  More importantly, none of these accessories, including the Brain Cell and Shoulder Strap, is exclusive to the Western Flyer.  You can put these accessories to other bags of your choice.  Want to throw the Brain Cell inside a suit case?  Go for it! 

With that said, the point that I am trying to get across is that, the Western Flyer along with its accessories may come to be on the expensive side.  However, all of the accessories can be cross-utilized individually, or can be applied towards other (Tom Bihn’s or not) bags of your choice.  As for the Western Flyer itself, what you are paying for is truly an exceptionally sourced, designed and manufactured product.  It is a bag that is very versatile, sturdy and durable, and most importantly, comfortable to use and to touch.  Also, do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a bag that is made in America these days?  Knowing that this bag is built in America, by American, with careful quality control under the supervision of the owner himself, makes me really proud to be carrying this bag around town, and around different countries.

I know I will be using this bag for a very long time.  Maybe, after a year or so of ‘abuse,’ I will post another update on the condition of this bag, to sort of ‘testify’ my faith on the quality of this bag.  P.S. For my Readers who are interested in Camera Equipment Bag, I have been informed that Tom *is* working on a (or more?) camera insert.  I will post an update as soon as I hear from Tom’s team.

This giveaway is now closed.  Winner will be announced shortly.

Here comes the giveaway details.  Tom Bihn’s team has agreed to giveaway one 'The Shopping Bag' and one 'Clear Organizer Pouches' (Up to $49 value), to one lucky Reader of my blog.  Now, remember I talked about the super-strong Dyneema fabric that lined the inside of my Western Flyer bag?  This Shopping Bag is made entirely out of the same material!  It means that you can shop till your shoulder drops, because this bag simply won’t tear apart! 
Tom Bihn Shopping Bag and Clear Organizer Pouches

To participate, you must first ‘Like’ Tom Bihn’s Facebook Page at, then leave a comment on this post to tell me that you have ‘Liked’ the Tom Bihn’s Facebook Page, and I’ll pick a random winner using Please make sure to leave your email address within your comment so I can contact you in case you won.  And thanks to the Tom Bihn Team, they have agreed to open this giveaway to my Reader WORLDWIDE! And yes, you can pick your color of choice if you be nice!  The deadline to enter this giveaway is September 26th, 2011 by PST mid-night.  

For extra chances to win, simply do any or all of the following.  Just leave a separate comment for each additional entry.

1. Follow on Gooogle Friends Connect. (on the right hand side bar)
2. "Like"'s Facebook Page, click here.
3. Follow uTry_it on Twitter, click here.
4. Subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed. (on right hand side bar)

5. Tweet about this giveaway.  Please include my Twitter handle @utry_it and the link to this post in your tweet.
6. Share this giveaway with your friends on Facebook.  Please include the link to this post when you share.

Good luck everyone!

Disclaimer: I received a Tom Bihn Western Flyer bag, the Brain Cell, and the accessory bags shown on this post free of charge for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated in any other way to write this post. All opinions are 100% my own, and always will be.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Snow Skin Mooncake 冰皮月餅—Happy Mid-Autumn Festival中秋節快樂


If you remember my post from last year about Mid-Autumn Festival(中秋節), you probably remember I had some traditional Mooncakes (as shown in the image below) to celebrate the occasion.  I love that picture because, as you can see, the natural oil from the salty egg yolks dripping down the Mooncakes.  For those who are not familiar with Mid-Autumn Festival, you can also refer back to that post for more history on the tradition and culture about this festival.

Moon Cakes

This year, instead of buying the Mooncakes from retail outlets, I made my own.  Not the traditional kind of Mooncakes though, but the more trendy type, Snow Skin Moon Cakes (冰皮月餅).  Some people call them Ice Skin Mooncakes which is exactly how it translates to, in Chinese.  It’s my very first attempt in making Mooncakes of any kind, period.  I really like how they turned out. 


I made 3 different flavored dough from 1 batch.  The white ones were original, slightly flavored with coconut milk; the green ones were flavored with Matcha (Japanese Green Tea) powder; and the red ones were flavored with Pomegranate juice (from fruit in my In-Law’s garden). I used 2 different kinds of fillings, black sesame and Japanese Azuki Bean Paste (sweetened red bean paste).


Each one is unique in the flavor combination.  I really love the pomegranate juice one.  The pom added a little tangy flavor and a vibrant red color.  Filling wise, I always love black sesame over red bean paste, that’s just my personal preference.     


In case if you’re wondering what it said on the Mooncake, the two Chinese characters mean “Mid-Autumn” (中秋).  I got the Mooncake mold from my previous trip back to Hong Kong back in May.  Since it wasn’t any time close to the Mid-Autumn Festival, I was told this was the only Mooncake mold available from the baking supply store I visited.  I was happy that they had this one in stock and I got an extra mold for my dear friend who lives in the States as well. 


I wish you all a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, 中秋節快樂 and 人月兩團圓.  As this is the time to gather with the family and loved ones to enjoy the beautiful full moon and each other’s company. 


After a simple Mid-Autumn Festival dinner, we hung out at the back yard and enjoyed some tea and Mooncakes. I captured the gorgeous full moon as shown below.  Hope you and your family had a great time as well.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Profiteroles with Strawberry Ice Cream


I can’t believe summer is coming to an end (or already ended) when the temperature still hits triple digits in my corner of the town.  As much as I love autumn/fall, I’m hanging on to the very last bit of the summer and enjoying different kinds of frozen treats.  Ice cream certainly is on the top of my list, and these little profiteroles (cream puffs) are the perfect vessels! 

These profiteroles are airy, light and fluffy.  After they are baked, they puffed up quite a bit and created a nice cavity in the middle for your fillings.  These are versatile as you can fill them with any flavor of ice cream, pastry cream, or fresh cream with fruit.  Dust with powdered sugar, cocoa powder or drizzle with chocolate sauce, your imagination is the limit.


I especially love these for its versatility because the choice of the favorite ice cream flavor never settled to just one or two in my household.  With the option to fill these puffs with whatever you fancy for, it’s definitely making desserts more fun.


As always, the best part after a photo shoot… is the taste test, or, I call it quality control.  A pillow-y puff with refreshing ice cream just made a hot afternoon more pleasant.  Thank you for stopping by and I wish you a wonderful day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Winner Announcement of the Birthday Giveaway

Silpat Non-Stick SiliconMadagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder

Thank you everyone who participated in the Birthday Giveaway.  I’m thankful and appreciate for all your supports, suggestions and comments as always.  The winner selected by Random.Org for this giveaway is….Lisa from Sweet As Sugar Cookies who said:

I always love seeing desserts. Of course, I also have a place in my heart for yummy Asian food.” 

Lisa will receive a Silpat Baking Mat and a bottle of Pure Vanilla Powder. 

Thanks again for your participation.  Stay tuned for another giveaway coming up real soon.  Have a wonderful week, my friends.