Saturday, July 27, 2013
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Zoku Quick Pop Maker (Click here for more information)
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
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.
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.
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.
I simply line and pressed the Pocky sticks onto the side of the 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.
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.
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.
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.
Friday, July 12, 2013
It’s wonderful that the strawberry season lasted for quite a while in California. They really are my Kids’ favorite fruit. Today’s recipe not only feature these sweet and juice berries, it’s also a super easy no-bake desserts. In my opinion, it’s perfect for summer time. Especially when the temperature can hit 3-digits easily during the day and turning on the oven is just unbearable! Best of all, you don’t even need to turn on the stove to make this dessert! Are you sold yet? I hope you are because this could be one of the most wonderful no-bake dessert you’ll ever tasted.
A while back, I shared my Matcha Tiramisu recipe on the blog, it’s one of my hubby’s and my favorite desserts to enjoy. However, my Kids don’t care too much for Matcha as much as the grown-up's do. I guess the kiddos don't like the slightly bitter flavor from the Matcha, and that’s very understandable. So, I created this Strawberry Tiramisu (草莓提拉米蘇) especially for them. It was a love at first bite dessert for the kids. They could have this Strawberry Tiramisu every day if I let them!
Tiramisu in Italian means “pick me up”. Traditionally, this famous dessert is made of ladyfingers dipped in a mixture of espresso and liquor, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks, cream and mascarpone cheese and cocoa powder. The texture is so soft and fluffy, hence, it’s called “pick me up”. In this strawberry version, I keep the ingredient simple and there’s no raw eggs involved. I macerate (a fancy word for marinating fruit) the diced strawberries with a little fresh lemon juice and sugar. The strawberries then gave out their natural juices after just a few minutes. When I layer the strawberries (and the juice) on top of the lady fingers, the cookies soaked up all the goodness and became nice and soft (similar to the chiffon cake texture) by the time you serve it. In case if you wonder, below is a picture of the lady fingers that I used. I’ve tried a few different brands since not many supermarket carry this one brand. I have even tried making my own! But really, nothing compares to this one, both texture and flavor wise, this brand is superb. So, by all means, try to use these authentic lady fingers if possible. You can get them online here if you can’t find it in the market. Don’t you just love how convenience it is with the internet?
Imagine this, slightly sweetened mascarpone cheese that was lighten up with vanilla whipped cream; topped with sweet and slightly tangy strawberries; plus, soft and fluffy lady fingers that soaked up all the strawberry goodness, all in one perfect bite. This is truly strawberry heaven. Want to know how to put this quick and easy no-bake dessert together? I’m going to show you how.
Please refer to the pictorial below.
1) First, line a 9-by-5 loaf pan with plastic wrap. Make sure you have 5 to 6 inches of excess wrap hanging on each side.
2) Place the strawberries, lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl, gently toss together to coat. Let the strawberries macerate while you work on the cream.
3) In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the wire attachment, whisk the cream, vanilla extract and powdered sugar together until soft peak forms.
4) Add the mascarpone cheese and whip until creamy and thick.
5) To assemble, spread 1/3 of the mascarpone cream mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
6) Place 7 lady fingers over the cream in a single layer.
7) Then, spoon 1/2 of the strawberries on top of the lady fingers in an even layer, including some of the juice.
8) Spread another 1/3 of the mascarpone cream mixture on top of the strawberries, smooth the top with the back of the spoon.
9) Line another 7 lady fingers over the cream in a single layer.
10 & 11) Repeat with the remaining strawberries and mascarpone cream mixture.
12) Last, fold the hanging plastic over the top to cover the cream. Refrigerate overnight before serving. Yes, the hardest part of this recipe is waiting! But your patient will be rewarded.
I hope you enjoy today’s easy recipe and pictorial. Give it a try while the strawberries are still in season, and you’ll be glad that you did. Do you have a traditional dessert that you changed up to suit your own taste? Since the strawberries are still nice and bright, I’ve been enjoying them as much as possible. So, if you have a favorite strawberry treat recipe that you think I should try, feel free to share in the comment below.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
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….
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.