Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Homemade Strawberry Jelly (新鮮草莓果凍)


I’m so happy that the strawberry season last for quite a few months here in sunny California.  Right around now, it’s probably the peak of the season.  There are just so many different recipes featuring these lovely, sweet, and juicy jewels, that I still wanted to create and share with you.  From the comments of the Strawberry and Lime Sparkle post not long ago, I noticed that the strawberry season had not started for those who live in different parts of the world.  I cried a little because of that, just for you.  Well, I hope as the temperature continue to rise up, the strawberries are also ready at the market stands waiting for you to take them home.  Today, I’ve created another treat for you, Strawberry Jelly (新鮮草莓果凍), featuring strawberries. 

I guess you all know how much I love Jelly/Jell-o from the Jasmine Tea Jelly 茉莉花茶果凍 recipe post.  Yes, making my own “flavored” jelly is pretty fun.  Besides I can play with different flavors, I also know exactly what goes in the recipe, and into our tummies, eventually.  Most importantly, I can also leave out ingredients that I don’t like to have in my food, such as artificial flavors and colorings.  When you can get the real flavor from the real thing, why would you want something artificial, right?    


This Strawberry Jelly recipe only has 5 ingredients.  Set the chill time aside, you can prepare this treat in about 15 minutes.  As I believe, sometimes, less is more.  Since, there are only a few ingredients here, make sure you use the best quality of ingredients that you can get your hands on.  The strawberries really shine through in this recipe, and they should be.  This strawberry jelly is sweet, tart and really refreshing.  The chilled and bouncy jelly will cool you down instantly in this warm weather.  You can add a dollop of freshly whipped cream and a spring of mint to garnish, or enjoy it as is.  As always, I can’t quite decided which one I love more.  Guess I’ll have to do more “testing” to find out.  Winking smile 

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try.  What other seasonal fruit or vegetables that you can’t wait to cook more?  For me, there are quite a few such as mangos, cherries, zucchini, rhubarb, and asparagus.  How about you?  I would love to hear from you.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Picture Magnets—Sentimental Homemade Gifts


As much as I claim that I am totally NOT a crafty person, I really enjoy, and love, to receive hand made gifts from others, especially from my Kids.  Quite often, I get drawings from my Kids when I pick them up from school.  They would tell me they missed me at school so they drew me a picture as a gift.  Aw….isn't that sweet?  That alone would be their tickets to get out of the time-out chair.  hahaha….

So, what are Picture Magnets?  As you can see from the picture above, they are magnets that you can put on your fridge, your offices, or anywhere with a metal surface, with the precious pictures of your family, your pets, or your loved ones.  Isn't that lovely?  That is probably so, if you haven’t seen them enough in person.

With that said, these are especially great homemade gifts for the Grandparents!  My Kids and I made these for the Grandmothers as part of the Mother’s day gifts.  I didn't post this sooner as I didn't want to ruin the surprise.  But hey, Father’s day is just around the corner, you can totally make these for the special Daddies or Grandpas in your lives. 


With the technology these days, everything is digital.  I found myself don't print out photos as often as I used to be.  Isn't it the case for you too?  So, these Picture Magnets are wonderful crafts that give you the perfect excuse/reason to print out those gorgeous photos that you took.   So, the picture files don't have to store deep inside the "D:" or "H:" drive of your computer.  hahaha....

Plus, I made these gorgeous Picture Magnets out of the advertising magnets (see picture above) that came inside the the pile of "junk mails" from time to time.  They used to be “junk”, now, I look forward to receiving these magnets in the mail!  These Picture Magnets are super easy to make and you only need a few things as listed below. 

1) Advertising Magnets
2) Pictures of your choice, preferably something that you (or the recipient) want to look at all the time
3) Glue stick
4) A pair of Scissors
5) Ribbons (optional)
6) Double-sided tape (optional, only needed if you want to add ribbons)

Tools Needed

Check out how we made these Picture Magnets. First, pick out a picture and a magnet.  Match the magnet on top of the picture to make sure the magnet is big enough to cover the portion of the picture that you want to keep.


At this point, you can use a pencil to trace around the edges of the magnet so it’s easier for you to see where to cut.  I’m a bit lazy and just hold the picture and magnet together and cut around the edges of the magnet. 


I do this quite often so I usually don’t use a pencil. 


If you want to add a ribbon, this is the time to do so.  Simply cut a small amount of double-sided tape and place it on the back side of the ribbon.  Remove the protective paper to reveal the adhesive tape. 


Place the ribbon on the picture where you want it to be.  I love putting the ribbon on one corner at an angle as shown in the picture below.  Then fold the “extra” ribbon to the back of the picture.


Next, have your child laborer (if you have one) apply some glue on the front side of the advertising magnet.


Oh, how lucky am I?  I have 2 child laborers.


Last step, stick the picture on top of the advertising magnet and that’s it.


Not long ago, we went to Palm Spring for a short trip and this is one of the family picture that I love a lot (see picture below).  The background was so nice I didn't want to cut out the picture.  But none of the advertising magnet was big enough to cover the entire picture.


So, this is what I did.  Instead of one magnet, attach two on the back, and spread them apart towards the edge of the photo (see picture below).  This will provide sufficient supports to hold the picture on the metal surface without falling.  I realized different magnets might have different strength of adhesiveness.  So, using two small ones for a 4 by 6 photo works out great in preventing the picture from sliding down from the door of your fridge! 


I hope you like today’s tutorial and gift idea.  Would it be something that you prefer to receive as a gift?  Or can you think of someone special to give these Picture Magnets to?  I would love to hear from you. 


Note: If you don’t receive any advertising magnet in the mail like I do (Congratulations! You probably receive way less junk mails than I do), you can always purchase the magnetic sheets online.  It’ll probably be easier because one side of the sheet is already adhesive.  Click here for the link to see the product.

It's the Memorial Weekend here in the States.  Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  I just want to take this opportunity to say "Thank You" to everyone in the U.S. Armed Forces (Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard).  Anyone whose served in the past, currently serving the country, or planning do so in the future, I salute to you all for your scarifies and services.  Wish you a wonderful and safe Memorial Weekend.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Egg Whites Sweet Crab Omelets and Smoky Caprese Salad


I used to like eggs that are sunny-side up only, until I met my Husband.  He’s more of a scrambled eggs and omelet guy.  So, cooking eggs differently was a “challenge” to me in the beginning.  You might think otherwise because I love to cook so much; how is it possible that those cute little eggs be a challenge to me, isn't it?  Well, it did happen, especially with omelets.  Until one day, my Husband showed me the proper way to cook an omelet, the fears went away.  Oh…by the way, Hotel and Restaurant Management was my Husband’s undergrad major.  He was the one who received the “proper” training in the kitchen.  I’m more of a self taught, “mix and try”, “trial and error”, “that taste yucky and let’s try it differently”, and “let’s see what happen if I add this to the mix” kind of cook.  See how much fun I’m having in the kitchen?


Anyway, I’ll shared my tips in making the perfect omelet with you in just a moment.  This particular recipe is an Egg Whites, Sweet Crab and Spinach Omelets.  But you can also use whole eggs instead of just egg whites.  Besides the tips I got from my hubby years ago, I got extra helps today in the kitchen.
These are some EGGcellent tools to have around for sure.


I’ve got these new tools from OXO.   Let me show you how each of them help me out today.  They were so easy to use and saved me lots of time in the kitchen.  First up is the 3-in-1 Egg Separator.  Just hook the Egg Separator onto the side of a bowl, crack an egg in it and you have a perfectly separated egg!  Save those egg yolks for this Classic Crème Brûlée or these ice cream recipes.


Up next is the Egg Beater.  It perfectly aerated egg whites and my omelet came out light and fluffy.  I added a dash of milk and a pinch of sea salt in my egg white before beating.  It was so easy to use and my kids took turn in the kitchen and helped me beat up the egg whites.


Only 10 to 15 seconds later, the egg whites were ready.  The two stainless steel beaters can be removed for individual cleaning with just a push of a button (and they are dishwasher safe).  Don't you love that?


Tip #1 in making a perfect omelet:  Get the fillings ready before cooking the eggs/egg whites. 
I sauteed a couple handfuls of spinach along with a clove of minced garlic, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.  Next item for filling was sweet crab meat, they were already out of the shells so I didn't have to do any prep works.  Then I chopped some chives and set them aside as well.  If you’re adding other fillings that requires cooking, such as mushroom, bell peppers, etc., this is the time to get them prepped as well.


Tip #2 in making a perfect omelet: Use a non-stick pan.
Tip #3 in making a perfect omelet: Use low heat.  You want to make sure to cook the egg whites low and slow so it stays tender and not browned up.

I used 3 egg whites here for one omelet, you can also use 2 whole eggs instead. 


When the egg whites are 80 percent set, add the spinach onto one side.


Then, add the sweet crab meat on top.


Sprinkle on some fresh chives.


The next step used to be the most “scary” part for me, flipping the omelet.  Here goes Tip #4 in making a perfect omelet: with a spatula, gently go around the edges of the omelet to make sure nothing sticks before flipping.  I used this Flip & Fold Omelet Turner. 


This Flip & Fold Omelet Turner was the ideal shape and size for making the perfect omelet.  I definitely love the flexible head and edges that conform to rounded pans.


Simply slide the omelet off the side of the pan and onto the serving plate.  Serve your fresh omelet with a wedge of lemon and you have the perfect breakfast.  I serve it as a brunch, and therefore, I also prepared a Smoky Caprese Salad.  Let me show you how I made that as well.


First, place some arugula on the serving plate.  I love the peppery and spicy flavors from them.


Next, place a few slices of smoked fresh mozzarella on top.  I love the smoky flavors in this salad.  It balanced well with the peppery arugula.


Next, a few slices of tomatoes on top. 


Then, a tablespoon or so of fresh basil leave, julienned. 


Last but not least, drizzle some balsamic vinegar, EVOO, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!


This Egg Whites Sweet Crab Omelets pairs really well with the Smoky Caprese Salad.  This Smoky Caprese Salad was probably the most simple salad that I've ever put together, yet packed with amazing flavors.  After all, it's the freshness and combination of ingredients that make this salad so irresistible.


Both recipes are pretty easy to prepare, isn't it? With the tips I shared with you on how to make the perfect omelets, I can guaranteed you'll be able to make the most beautiful, light and fluffy omelet for your family, or for yourself.


We just celebrated Mother's day not long ago, but please don't forget Father's Day is coming up soon (June 16th).  This could be the perfect brunch to serve and celebrate Father's Day together.  Do you have any plans for Father's Day yet?  I would love to hear from you.


Disclosure: I received a set of the EGGcelent tools from OXO as shown in this post free of charge.  I was not required to write a review but I loved the tools so much that I just wanted to share with you.  All opinions are 100% my own.  Thank you again, OXO for the Eggcellent gifts.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Jasmine Tea Jelly 茉莉花茶果凍


One of my favorite childhood summer dessert or after school treat was jelly, or gelatin.  Back in those days, the jelly that I savored were mostly pre-packaged ones that you simply throw in the fridge to chill, peel the seal on top and enjoy.  On special occasions, my Mom would prepared jelly from “scratch” (from those flavored gelatin powder, of course) and add mixed fruit into each cup before chilling.  I still love those treats every once in a while because they really bring back many childhood memories.  Check out this post that I shared a while ago and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Shhh….don’t laugh! And yes, that was me and my brother when we were young!  I think that was my 2nd birthday celebration.  You think I have that kind of super memories?  Yes, eat gelatin and get super memory!  Nah….the candles on that cake gave it away.


As time goes by, I guess my taste buds are a bit more sophisticated.  What a fancy word to use.  Really, I long for old time desserts that suit my matured taste buds.   Okay, that sounds more like it.  So, here I created this Jasmine Tea Jelly 茉莉花茶果凍 that fits the bill!  This Jasmine Tea Jelly is a combination of my favorite jasmine tea and my favorite summer treat, jelly.  It might be way too hot to enjoy a cup of hot tea in the summer.  But bouncy, slightly sweet and super cool gelatin is always welcomed.


These Jasmine Tea Jelly are infused with both jasmine tea and the jasmine tea buds.  Here’s a closer look at the jasmine buds.  After they are steeped, they soften and expended into some elegant flower buds so I added a few into each jelly cup before chilling.


Here’s how the package looks like.  I got them from a local Asian supermarket.  Or you can find similar product from here.


I made some of the jelly into bite size pieces because I just couldn't resist!  They are like jewels and looking so pretty.  Click here to see the silicone mold that I used. After they are fully chilled, they just popped right out of the mold when I flip the mold up side down with a gentle push on the bottom of each sphere.  Serve them in a soup spoon and they will be the perfect summer party dessert.


Of course, I love them with a “full” serving most of the time (see picture below).  Yeah, that’s more like it.  And I got the gorgeous tea cups from here.


Just one bite, it’ll cool you down from the inside out.  I love my dessert not too sweet.  So, you can simply adjust the amount of agave used in the recipe to suit your own taste.


I hope you’ll give these Jasmine Tea Jelly a try.  I know you’re going to love them as much as I did.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Strawberry and Lime Sparkle


If you've missed my post on the Strawberry tour at Tanaka Farms.  Click here to check it out.  So, with all the sweet and juice strawberries that we'd picked, I have created a few wonderful strawberry recipes for you, just in time for the strawberry season and Mother's Day celebration.  This Strawberry and Lime Sparkle is perfect to serve at brunch, parties or gatherings.  


I'm really blessed to have the most wonderful Mother and Mother-In-Law in the whole wide world.  They have the kindest and most generous hearts, truly, they are my role models.  They are the most beautiful women I've ever known, both inside and out.  Whenever I need someone to talk to or need advises, they're always there for me.  I can't say enough great things about them, and no words can describe how grateful I am to have them in my life.  So, to my Mother and Mother-In-Law, "thank you, for being the wonderful Mothers in my life and I love you!"


So, on this Mother's Day weekend, share something special with the special Mothers in your life.  Prepare this elegant and beautiful drink is a great way to start any celebration.  This Strawberry and Lime Sparkle couldn't be any easier to prepare.  It’s such a refreshing way to stay hydrated and crunch the thirst as the weather gets warmer and warmer each day.

Let me show you how to prepare this Strawberry and Lime Sparkle.  It’s so simple to make it’ll be ready in just 5 minutes.  First, muddle the mint leaves with a wooden spoon in a large pitcher.


Then, add in some fresh lime juice.


Next step, add the agave.  You can use other sweetener but I love the slightly floral aroma from the agave and it blends in and dissolves perfectly with the rest of the ingredients.


Then, add in the diced strawberries and give it a quick stir.


Last but not least, pour in some chilled club soda, tonic water, or sparkling mineral water.  Then enjoy the hot weather with this chilled and refreshing drink on hand.


This Strawberry and Lime Sparkle is elegant enough for parties and gatherings, yet casual and easy to prepare for any afternoon that you want a chilled drink to enjoy.  It’ll wash away the tiresome from a long day of work as you sip.


I love the sparkles and bubbles from the sparking water.


What is your favorite Spring/Summer time drink?  Do you like the bubbly like I do?  I drink it so often that I think it’s about time to invest in one of those bubbly machine maker.  If you have one, please let me know if you like it.  I would love your feedback and opinions.


So, how are you going to celebrate Mother's Day?  Share your plans, or a recipe in the comment.  Last but not least, I want to wish all the Mothers, Grandmothers, Mother-In-Laws and all Mother-To-Be a wonderful and meaningful Mother's Day!  Enjoy your special day!