Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lemonade Popsicles with Mixed Fruits

Lemonade Popsicles with Mixed Fruits

Are you enjoying your summer so far?  I hope you’re having a blast like we do.  My Kids are off from school since the end of June and we’ve been spending lots of fun time together.  Celebrated Baby Girl’s Birthday, taking swimming classes for the very first time, visiting the parks to meet up with friends, and my hubby’s BIG birthday will be coming up soon as well.  My original plan was to keep a schedule and daily routine with the Kids so we don’t mess up our sleeping, reading, learning, and outdoor activities too much.  Oh well, my plan and schedule was an awesome idea and it’s my bad that we haven’t been following any of it, at all!!!  But what can I say, we did have fun.  So, I think when it comes to August, I better follow through with it so we don’t struggle too much when we have to wake up extra early when school starts again.

Lemonade Popsicles with Mixed Fruits

One of the fun activities my Kids and I love to do in the Summer is to create these popsicles together.  My Kids love their pops with fresh fruits in them and that’s totally approved by me.  Still remember the Meyer Lemonade recipe here?  That recipe became a staple in my fridge this summer and I used them to make these Popsicle this time.  It’s so refreshing!  The sweet and tartness compliment the fresh fruit nicely in these pops.  Of course, you can also use fruit juice as well.  I tried them with mango nectar,  orange juice, apple juice, pineapple juice, and coconut water before and they are all wonderful.  I love using the Meyer Lemonade because the liquid is pretty much clear and you can see the different colors from the fresh fruit in the pops, which is quite pretty.  Don’t you think?  

Lemonade Popsicles with Mixed Fruits

One of the fruits we love inside the popsicles is kiwi fruit.  Here’s a quick and easy way to peel and slice them.  First, wash and pad dry the skin of the kiwi.  I always do so with any kinds of fruit to make sure the skin is clean when you cut through it.  Slice the top and bottom of the kiwi, as shown in the picture below.

How To cut and peel a Kiwi

With a pairing knife, go around the kiwi and cut off the skin vertically as shown in the picture below.  Try not to cut off too much flesh, if possible.  Be careful of your fingers, the kiwi fruit could be a little slippery when the skin is peeled.

How To cut and peel a Kiwi

Then, turn the kiwi to the side and you can slice it to the thickness you like.  Make sure the knife is sharp so you can cut through the flesh easily.

How To cut and peel a Kiwi

And now, I have a confession to make.  I've been making my Popsicle with my Zoku Quick Pop Maker that I've won from a fellow blogger’s giveaway (thank you again, Yvette).  It’s probably the easiest and fastest way to make popsicles, and they are ready in as little as 7 minutes!  Again, you can make these pops with the traditional popsicle molds such as these.  My Little Boy loves this Zoku maker because it’s amazing how fast the pops are ready.  My Little Boy is also my little time keeper when we make popsicles.  It’s a great way for him to learn how to tell the time and practice on addition.  Of course, he’s also the one picking out different fruit to add into these pops as well.  I was a little surprised that he requested to add the kumquat that I got from my In-Law’s garden.  I was going to make candied kumquat instead but haven’t had a chance to do that just yet.  I’m so happy for his suggestion.  Not only the kumquats add some lovely orange color to these pops, they were really tasty as well.  They compliment the citrus flavor from the lemonade perfectly.  We also added raspberries in this batch.  But really, you can use any fruit that you love, strawberries, peaches, blueberries, grapes etc. 

My Zoku

So, what are the fun activities that you've been enjoying this summer?  For me, hanging out with my Kiddos and enjoying some colorful popsicles definitely top my list.  Do you have some fun and educational activities for kids that you want to share?  Please do so in the comment below.  I would love to hear from you because keeping my Kids brains busy is one of my priorities as well.  Stay cool and have fun!

Lemonade Popsicles with Mixed Fruits

Tool used:

Zoku Quick Pop Maker (Click here for more information)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Fruit Bites—and Pictorial on How To Temper Chocolate

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Fruit Bites

My Kids and I are having a blast so far this summer.  They are currently taking swimming classes together.  Besides swimming classes, we visit the library, theme parks, the regular parks, and family/friends gatherings quite often.  It’s always nice to have the Kids around the house when they are off from school.  During the Summer, I tend to make simple recipes and treats that my Kids can help out.  Actually, many treats are inspired by them.  Such as these Chocolate Dipped Frozen Fruit Bites. 

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Fruit Bites

Whenever we visit the theme park, my Son would ask for a frozen treat, such as the frozen banana because I made these treats all the time (see previous post here).  But, it’s way easier for the Kids to eat them (without making a mess) when the frozen bananas are in bite size, instead of the whole banana.  Plus, they are a lot more adorable in bite size too, aren't they?  Besides banana bites, I also made chocolate dipped frozen raspberries quite often.  The key (and quick tip) to make these frozen bites is to pick ripened bananas, cut them into bite size pieces, then, insert the tooth picks while they are still in room temperature.  I place the tooth pick ready banana bites in freezer safe containers, cover with lid, and freeze for at least 2 hours before dipping them in melted chocolate.  Same with the raspberries.  In my opinion, they are the perfect healthy summer treats.

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Fruit Bites

After dipping the frozen banana bites in the melted chocolate, you can dip them in a small bowl of chopped nuts such as peanuts, pistachios, pecans, or hazelnuts.  Or, as my Son would preferred, leave them plain.  They are equally good.  My Kids love helping out with the dipping process because they can dip as much as they want.  Not to mention, they get to “clean out” the bowl of the melted chocolate when the dipping process is done.  I guess that’s part of the enjoyment, besides eating the treats.

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Fruit Bites
Of course, you can melt your chocolate in the microwave, as mentioned in this recipe.  But, tempering chocolate is just as easy.  I included a step by step pictorial with tips to show you how.  Perfectly tempered chocolate gives you the crunch and shines that will highlight the entire chocolate experience.  Here’s how (this is also known as “the seeding” method):

1)  Heat about an inch of water in a medium saucepan until simmer.  (See bubbles rising on the sides of the water).  Make sure to lower the heat so the water remains simmer and not a rapid boil.  Otherwise, the chocolate might burn easily. 

2) Make sure the chocolate is finely chopped.  When each chocolate piece are roughly the same size, it will melt more evenly. 

3) Place about 3/4 of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over the saucepan of simmering water.  Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Place a candy thermometer into the chocolate if you have one.  Stir with a spatula or a spoon to encourage even melting.  It is very important that you do not let the temperature of the chocolate to exceed 120 degrees F.  Around 115 degree F would be perfect.

4. When all the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from heat.  Wipe the bottom of the bowl to remove condensation because if any water gets into the chocolate, it could seize up into a chunky mess.  And don’t ask me how I know that.  So, making sure all equipment is dry is very important in tempering chocolate.

5. Stir in the remaining 1/4 (“the seed”) of the chocolate until all melted.  The chocolate will start thickening as the “un-melted” chocolate will lower the overall temperature.  When the chocolate has dropped to 82 degree F, place the bowl back to the saucepan of simmering water.  Stir constantly, and reheat the chocolate back to 88 degree F.   Do not let the chocolate gets over 91 degree F or the chocolate will be out of temper and you'll have to start over again.

6.  See how nice and shinny the melted chocolate is?  To test if your chocolate is tempered, spread a small amount of melted chocolate on a piece of parchment. It should remains shiny when  it’s dried with no streaks.  Now, you have perfectly tempered chocolate.

Note:  I love the seeding method because by introducing a "seed", the un-melted 1/4 of the chocolate, that is still in temper, will encourage the rest of the melted chocolate to reform its melted cocoa butter crystals, in a tempered state.  When using 'a seed,' your chances of having a bowl of perfectly tempered chocolate is higher because you don’t have to wait for the proper crystals to form on their own in the melted chocolate.
I hope you’re inspired to temper your chocolate at home and start dipping!  Or use your melted chocolate in candy molds and other fun chocolate projects.  For the Chocolate Dipped Frozen Fruit Bites, you can use any fruit that you like.  For example, blueberries, strawberries, sliced peaches, orange peels, & etc. would be just as wonderful.  I love the banana ones as they are creamy inside and the chocolate crust is crunchy on the outside.  The raspberry ones are sweet and tart inside, perfectly balanced with the bitter-sweet dark chocolate crust.  So, start creating and let your taste buds and imagination take you to a whole new delectable level.
Chocolate Dipped Frozen Fruit Bites

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ice Cream Recipes Round-Up for National Ice Cream Day

Today is National Ice Cream Day.  I normally miss out on most of the national food day, except this time.   What can I say, I’m crazy about ice cream and the craziness is year round in my house.  Today, I made another batch of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream to celebrate the occasion.  Please click here for the recipe.  It’s so versatile and you can simply add any other ingredient you like to please your palates with this basic recipe. 

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Another ice cream flavor that’s quite popular in my house is the French Roasted Coffee Ice cream.  Recipe here.  You definitely don’t want to miss out on this recipe if you’re a coffee lover.  I can definitely have a scoop to replace my morning cup of coffee.

French Roasted Coffee Ice Cream

As for my kids, they adore this the Valrhona Dark Chocolate Ice Cream.  Please click here for the recipe and pictorial.  These are so decadent and they aren't called favorites for no reason!  This will satisfy your biggest chocolate craves with just a small scoop, I promise.

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
For a healthier flair, yet still decadent, check out this Coconut Ice Cream with Toasted Coconut.  It’s so rich and creamy that you won’t believe it’s vegan friendly. 

Coconut Ice Cream with Toasted Coconut

I know the strawberry is still in season and there’s absolutely no reason for missing out on this refreshing and velvety Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream.  Each bite is strawberry lover’s heaven.  Click here for  recipe and pictorial.

Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream

My latest love would be this Matcha Ice Cream.  Rich and strong and that earthy Matcha flavor is undeniable.  You've got to give this a try if you love Matcha.  Please click here for the recipe and pictorial.

Matcha Ice Cream

Last but not least, these fun Ice Cream Bon Bon!  They are simply too adorable to pass up!  Best of all, you can make them with your favorite ice cream flavor and different kind of chocolate for coating.  Please click here for the recipe and pictorial.

Ice Cream Bon Bon

Are you inspired to make some ice cream yet?  Or simply have a scoop just to celebrate National Ice Cream Day?  What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?   I hope you see one of your favorite from this post. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Meyer Lemonade

Meyer Lemonade

Summer is in full swing.  When I think of summer, I think of outdoor activities such as the beach, the heat, and then, lots of lemonade to beat the heat!  I’m so glad that I’m not standing behind the lemonade stand under the sun.  Otherwise, I don’t know if I can resist drinking the whole thing before selling any to others.  Since I get unlimited supply of Meyer Lemons, I made this batch with my favorite Meyer Lemons.  Of course, you can use regular lemons with this recipe as well.  I think lemonade is one of the most refreshing drink to quench the thirst. 

Meyer Lemonade

You might remember I served this Meyer Lemonade at my Baby Girl’s party.  Yes, this is a great recipe for summer entertaining.  You can easily cut the recipe in half if you don’t have any company.  But by all means, make the full batch and keep it in the fridge so you can enjoy this refreshing lemonade anytime you walk by the fridge!  And you bet that’s what I've been doing this summer.

Meyer Lemonade

The recipe is super simple and there are only a few ingredients.  Let’s check out my pictorial below so you can make a batch right after this post.

1) First, let’s make the simple syrup.  In a small sauce pan, melt the sugar and water on medium heat.  Stir occasionally until all sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and let the syrup cool completely.  Why? Because you want ice-cold and chilled lemonade, right?  I don’t think lukewarm drink is a great idea in the summer.
2) Add the freshly squeezed Meyer Lemon juice in the beverage dispenser.
3) Then, add the cooled simple syrup
4) Up next, add the ice.
5) Thinly sliced a Meyer lemon.
6) Add the lemon, fresh mint leaves and water in the beverage dispenser.  Stir well and serve chilled.

Note:  I got this gorgeous Hampton Square Beverage Dispenser here.  It’s great for everyday use as well as entertaining and parties.  Or, you can simply use a large pitcher or whatever you have on hand. 
The Aqua Blue Paper Straws are from here. I think they are super fun for parties too.

Lemonade Picorial

What is your favorite summer drink?  I would love to know and try your recipe as well. 
I hope you enjoy today’s simple and refreshing recipe.  Stay tuned for more summer treats on the blog. 

Meyer Lemonade


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Happy Birthday to a Little Princess and a Special Guest, Plus A Birthday Cake Decorating Idea

Happy Birthday

It was my Little Princess’ Birthday and we celebrated early this year.  Since Hello Kitty is (still) the Birthday Girl’s favorite character, I have to make sure the Kitty banner was in place before the party started.  Do kids ever out grown Hello Kitty?  If you know the answer, please share!  I was never a fan myself when I was young so I couldn't tell.  And I don’t think I would miss all the pink Hello Kitty items around the house if, one day, my Princess decided she doesn't like it anymore.  Hahaha…wish me luck that it will happen one day!  Besides my Little Girl’s birthday, it was also my Hubby’s Aunt’s birthday on the day we hosted the party.  She happened to be visiting the States from Hong Kong so we celebrated her Birthday as well.  It was our honor to have her at the party. 

Red Bean Ice Dessert (紅豆冰)

In the afternoon, I served up these Adzuki/Red Bean Ice Dessert (紅豆冰, see picture above) , made from the Homemade Red Bean Paste, recipe here.  It’s a very popular Chinese dessert and perfect for hot summer days.  Simply fill a tall glass with some shaved ice (I blended some crushed ice in a blender to turn them into shaved ice consistency).  Then, top with some red bean paste, more ice, more bean paste; last but not least, splash in some evaporated milk and that’s all.  It was so good, refreshing, chilled, creamy, and very satisfying!  You bet I’ll be making this very often this summer!

Next, onto the birthday cake, its a Chocolate Mousse Pocky Cake!  Can you tell I'm quite excited about this cake?  You might noticed that I haven't show you the entree and appetizers and jump right to the cake. You bet that's the way we roll here, always start with desserts first.

Pocky Chocolate Mousse Cake

Little Princess requested a chocolate cake for her birthday, so I made a chocolate mouse layer cake for her. (Similar to this chocolate mousse cake but in bigger scale.)  This dark chocolate mousse cake started with a chocolate cookie crust on the bottom, two layers of chocolate sponge cake in between the dark chocolate mousse layers, and topped with cocoa powder.  As you can see from the picture below, the sides of the cake wasn't that neat, so I decorated the cake with my kids’ favorite snacks, Chocolate Pocky and Strawberry Pocky!  As you might have guessed, pink is my Little Princess’ favorite color, that’s why I used the Strawberry Pocky as part of the decoration.  If you’re not familiar with Pocky, they are chocolate covered (or strawberry covered) pretzel sticks.  They are really tasty and fun snacks on their own.

Pocky Chocolate Mousse Cake

I simply line and pressed the Pocky sticks onto the side of the cake.

Pocky Chocolate Mousse Cake

Then tide it all up with some pretty ribbons.  But if I would do it again, I probably would apply a thin layer of cream on the side of the cake before adding the Pocky so that the Pocky sticks would stay-put when we cut into the cake. 

Pocky Chocolate Mousse Cake

To go with the Strawberry Pocky theme, I simply decorated the top of the cake with a few strawberries right before serving.  The Pocky sticks are great for cake decorating if the sides of your cake doesn't look perfect.  As you all know by now that I'm not a crafty person, so, this is probably the easiest way to make the birthday cake looks great.  Hope you like this simple cake decorating idea.

Pocky Chocolate Mousse Cake

Besides the cake, we had plenty of food.  Such as Chicken Cold Noodles with Sesame Dressing as shown in the picture below.  My Parents also prepared tuna sashimi and a self-serve sushi hand roll plates.  And somehow I didn't have a picture of those dishes alone.  They were surrounded by people constantly!  That’s how good they were.  The self-serve sushi hand roll plates was definitely a perfect dish to prepare for summer parties.  I’ll try to post a recipe in the future when I make it again.   I also made fried shrimp balls as appetizers and they were all gone before I had a chance to even take a picture.

Chicken Cold Noodle with Sesame Dressing

I also prepared some Meyer Lemonade for the party.  It was Little Princess’ latest favorite drink.  So refreshing and perfect for any guest.  It was a nice party and we all had a great time.  It was filled with food, laughs, gifts, fun and love.  I hope you enjoy these pictures from the party and the cake decorating idea.  Stay tuned for my next post on more summer treats and recipes.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gardening Update and More

4th community gathering

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July celebration.  My family joined the community pot luck hosted by our neighbors.  It was nice to get to know some of the neighbors in our community.  I made a pasta salad with balsamic vinegar dressing to share.  It was a nice and quite gathering….until my kids showed up until the fireworks began. 


Meanwhile, some of my plants are doing great.  The cherry tomato I planted from seeds a couple months ago is now almost as tall as I am!  Okay, I admit that I’m a shorty. But still, from seeds to 5 feet tall, that’s some achievement, don’t you think?  See the mini tomatoes from the picture below?  I think they’ll be ready in no time.  My Little Girl is the most excited one as she adores tomatoes.


My Chili plant is also doing great.  It’s been producing more chilies than I can consume.  Guess I’ll preserve them by turning some into chili oil. Yay!  It’s always more exciting to spiced things up, right?  At least, that’s the case in the kitchen, I think! 


Unfortunately, my green thumbs is still acting….so sad that my favorite thyme didn’t survive.  I really can’t figured out what I did wrong.


Neither did the tarragon below.  Any tips or advice you can give me, will be greatly appreciated!  I know some of you are great with gardening.  So please help.


And since my Italian basil started blooming, I have a few more self-invited friends in the garden lately.  Such as Mr. Bubble Bee (see picture below), and his entire family!


So, remember my new “Housemates/self-invited guests”?   The babies are out now and they are so cute.  Unfortunately, their nest is way up high on the 2nd floor’s roof so the picture isn’t too clear.


Here’s a closer look at them.  I think they are super adorable, don’t you think?  Although I have to clean up their mess everyday on the porch, it’s all worth it when I see these little faces and hear them sing everyday.  Can’t wait to see them spread their wings and fly on their own one day.

I hope you’re all doing well.  I’ll post my latest favorite summer treat on the next post.  Stay tuned.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Ultimate Fresh Fruit Tart—Happy 4th of July


I’d made this The Ultimate Fresh Fruit Tart and have taken these pictures a while ago.  Somehow, I didn’t have a chance to share it on my blog yet.  To celebrate the 4th of July, I think we can all use a little pie/tart recipe as beautiful as this one, right?  This fresh fruit tart was an attempt to recreate my favorite fruit tart that I used to purchase from a Japanese bakery.  The ones from the bakery was a 4-inch tart. But for celebration, I think a full 9-inch tart is more beautiful though.  Somehow, the bakery changed their recipe and I didn’t like their new tarts anymore.  So, this fresh fruit tart is how I remembered what the tart used to be like from the bakery. 


What is unique about this tart is that it has a crunchy and flaky butter cookie crust.  Hm….yummy right?  I can’t resist a tart that has a butter cookie crust, can you?  On top of the crust, it’s a thin layer of chocolate.  So, think about chocolate cookies now.  Topping the chocolate layer is another layer of pastry cream, and a thin layer of freshly whipped cream.  Sounds decadent?  You bet it is.  Then, I top the whole tart with different fresh fruit.  I used Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, mandarin oranges, and kiwi.  The berries are in season and it’s the best time and best way to celebrate them with this Ultimate Fresh Fruit Tart.  I brushed the fruit with a thin layer of glaze made with my homemade orange marmalade that was thinned out with a dash of lemon juice.  Each layer tasted wonderful on it’s own and really compliment each other all together.  This is really closed to the fruit tart that I love from the Japanese bakery, if not better.  


Due to the different layers involved in preparing this tart, there are quite a few steps in the recipe.  However, each step is quite simple to prepare.  I hope you will all enjoy today’s recipe and give it a try.  I wish you all a safe and wonderful 4th of July celebration.   


Note: I got this Pie plate a long time ago.  You can find a similar one here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Nest

Okay, I’ve news.  Well, not really news, it’s more like, I have some self-invited guests.  Technically, they are more like self-invited housemates, because we’re now living under the same roof!  Just a few weeks ago, it was one of the typical, hectic morning that I tried to get the kids out the door to go to school on time (and tried to keep myself in one piece at the same time).  As soon as I stepped out the door, I notice something strange at my front door porch.  There were puddles of mud drops on the ground right on the porch.  I puzzled for a few seconds, rubbed my eyes to make sure that wasn’t illusion as I was still trying to get myself awake.  I looked around the area, nothing unusual.  Then, I looked up the roof and this was what I saw(see picture below).  A well built nest, that happened just overnight.  After dropping the kids off to school, I had a little “investigation”, along with my camera. 


After standing there for a couple of minutes with my camera clicking, this little guy peek out of his/her nest. (see picture below)


There!  See picture below with the big-o white arrow!  See that little fellow?  Apparently, he/she feels that this is a nice and quiet neighborhood and decided to settle down and call this place, home!  Well, that was exactly what my hubby and I did a couple of years ago.  Guess we do have a little in common.  After all, we are “housemates” now.  After consulting the “bird expert” (sorry, it’s an inside joke), I was told that the birds are probably building a nest for his/her eggs.  When the babies hatches and can fly on their own, the whole family probably will move somewhere else.  But of course, the mud drops used to build their nest wasn’t the only thing that they have left on my porch.  The situation is getting worse each day and I don’t think I should post that yucky picture on my blog, I’m sure you understand.  But I have the evident on file!  So, I just need to host down my porch every now and then until they’re ready to move on.

On the up side, the kids had been so excited to check out the nest every single day after school.  We all wonder how many eggs there are in the nest.  Just a few days ago, I was watering my plants outside and found a half shell on one of the plants.  The shell was quite tiny though.  But then, this little fellow wasn’t that big at all.  If that’s a shell from one of her eggs, I guess that’s about the right size.  Unfortunately, I haven’t see any baby birds yet.  I’ll sure to report back when I capture something interesting on camera.  Does that ever happen to you?  Did you ever have to deal with the self-invited guests/housemates (either in animal form or human form)?  I would love know how you handled the situation.