Monday, September 30, 2013
Did your Mom ever tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? And yup, Mom is always right. When I start the day right with a scrumptious and healthy breakfast, I feel energetic and focused, well, at least until lunch time turns around. I don’t necessarily have all the time and energy to fix something complicated and elaborated in the morning. Remember, I’m not the morning person type, but more of an night owl! So, I need a breakfast that I can be prepared quickly to keep myself sane before I get out the door!
My hubby always grab his breakfast on the go, too. So, these Breakfast Veggie Wraps are perfect to fuel our bodies and souls with wonderful flavors and nutrients. I love these wraps because they are super quick to put together. You heard me right, you can get breakfast on the table in as little as 15 minutes! Want to find out what I put in them and how to make these healthy and yummy wraps?
For easy “grab and go” application, I used store bought tortilla wraps for this recipe. I have them around the house quite often because they are very versatile. You can use flour, corn, or whole grain tortilla wraps, really, whatever you preferred. Then, I place a layer of scrambled eggs in the middle of the wrap. While the eggs are still hot, sprinkle a generous amount of shredded Gruyere cheese on the eggs and the heat from the scrambled eggs will slowly melt the cheese. I love melted cheese, don’t you? For the grown up’s, I love to add a few dashes of hot sauce on top of the scrambled eggs, too.
The next layer is the diced vine ripened tomato. They are sweet and juicy, really add a lovely freshness and texture to the wrap. I then top it all off with a generous layer of creamy California avocado! Talk about decadent! This Breakfast Veggie Wrap is so satisfying that you won’t even miss the meat, at all.
Roll them up and simply wrap them with foil or parchment paper and you are good to go! My kids love colorful food (who doesn’t?), and these veggie wraps are one of their favorites!
Last but not least, I’m submitting this post and recipe to the Wake Up Breakfast with California Avocados Link-Up party hosted by Dine and Dish and Cookin’ Canuck. I can’t wait to check out what others are cooking!
Friday, September 27, 2013
I love Halloween. It’s one of those festivals that you won’t feel as guilty when you pick up that extra piece of chocolate or candy in between meals, or whenever. My kids definitely are excited about Halloween and we’re planning early this year. Not only we've already picked up the costumes, I know, that seldom happen in the past. And I have prepared these Halloween Party Spoons for you. Do you host Halloween parties? These Party Spoons would be perfect little treats for your guests to munch on. Okay, more like to lick on instead. You've got the picture.
If you use disposable spoons and wrap them up in individual treat bags (such as these), you can hand them out as party favors as well. Sweet, right? These party spoons definitely are sweet. Besides enjoying them as is, you can serve them with a cup of hot cocoa or coffee and turn your drink into one chocolate-y concoction.
I’m enjoying this party spoon with my homemade hot chocolate (recipe here). These Party Spoons are easy and fun to make as well. You can plan a spoon decorating party for the kids and let them decorate their own. I haven't met a kid who doesn't like adding sprinkles on things, let alone, we're adding sprinkles on chocolate! These would be great hits for your party. My kids definitely enjoyed making their own party spoons!
Where did I get the inspiration? From the book "Sprinkles!"
The original recipe were Party Spoons with dragees or sixlets. Since I didn't have those in my pantry, I used some Halloween sprinkles instead. I told you I was ready for Halloween, didn't I?
“Sprinkles!” is a book filled with Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts. It covers sprinkles vocabulary, decoration ideas, recipes and DIY Sprinkles. It’s written by Jackie Alpers, an award-winning photographer. I love that the book is packed with colorful and beautiful pictures, so you know what you’re making and how the end products will look like. The recipes are simple and easy to follow as well.
Take a look at the picture below, so gorgeous and inspiring. I would love to host a rainbowlicious tea party like this some day.
And of course, I can’t wait to make my own sprinkles and sugary treats. My eyes are all on this Rock Candy (see picture below). I love stirring one into my cappuccino all the time. They will make a wonderful holiday gift as well.
Speaking of holidays, check out these Gingerbread Ornaments! I can’t wait to make some this holiday season. And this book, “Spinkle!”, would make a wonderful gift for your foodie friends as well. You can get your copy here today. Or, try your luck in winning a copy of “Spinkles!”, courtesy of Quirk Books.
Here are the details on how to enter this giveaway.
One lucky uTry.it reader (with an U.S., Canada or U.K. mailing address) will win a copy of “Sprinkles!”.
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post and tell me what’s your favorite color from the rainbow (my favorite color is purple). Deadline to enter is October 6th, 2013 by mid-night PST. Winner will be selected through Random.org and announce shortly after the giveaway is closed.
For extra entries, do any or all of the following (leave a separate comment for each extra entry):
1) Add me to your Google+ circle here
2) "Like" uTry.it's Facebook Page, click here.
3) Pin a picture from this post onto your Pinterest board.
4) Share this giveaway on Facebook (with a link back to this post please)
5) Share this giveaway on Twitter (with a link back to this post please)
That’s all and Good Luck everyone! Have fun sprinkling!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of “Spinkle!” for the purpose of this review and I was not compensated in any way to write this post. All comments and opinions are 100% my own.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Still remember my Little Boy with the Din Tai Fung statue picture above? Yes, as I promised, here goes my Din Tai Fung restaurant review. The very first time I dined at Din Tai Fung was back in my college days, when I travelled to Taiwan with a few good friends and my Brother. My friend’s Aunt who lived in Taiwan at the time took us around for sight seeing, shopping, and food tasting (I’m forever grateful for the hospitality!) The day before we visited Din Tai Fung for lunch, we were “warned” about the long lines and be sure to get there early, otherwise some items would be sold out way before noon. I didn’t know what the fuzz was all about until I tried my very first Juicy Pork Dumpling (小籠包)! My world was never the same again! No exaggeration, by the way.
The picture above shows the famous Juicy Pork Dumpling from Din Tai Fung. I know, they might not look like much, nor anything spectacular from the picture. (Sorry, the pictures from this post were taken from my Android Phone, not my regular camera. So the picture didn’t do justice for these Juicy Pork Dumplings at all!) But I assure you, go try them when you get a chance. They are truly an art in every little package and I’m going to tell you why in just a minute. And yes, there’s always a line at this restaurant, and the wait could be long if you don’t arrive early. But then, these Juicy Pork Dumplings are totally worth the wait.
Before we get into the details of these dumplings, here’s picture that shows you the people waiting for seats outside of Din Tai Fung. Yup, a pretty nice outdoor waiting area and it’s always packed too. There are two locations in Arcadia, California and they are right across the street from each other. After discovering the new location, I’ve always go to the newer one for easier parking. Click here for the address and hours. The new location closes from 3 pm to 5 pm for a break between lunch and dinner. I always make sure to arrive before 5:30pm to avoid a long wait. Yes, the seats do get filled up that fast!
Now back to the dumplings! Each dumpling has a thin and tender dough wrapping the juicy minced pork filling inside. There’s a small dish of fresh ginger, julienned, for each person. You simply pour the black vinegar over the ginger and that’s your dipping sauce. A very simple sauce, yet it compliments perfectly with these rich and juicy dumplings.
See how thin the dough/skin is (look at the picture below). And if you look closer, you’ll also see the “soup” inside. Yes, that’s how juicy these dumplings are. And it’s not easy to make the dough so thin and tender, yet the soup stay intact even when you pick the dumplings up with a pair of chopsticks. This is why I said earlier that each dumpling is really a work of art! When you bite into these dumplings, the soup inside will burst inside your mouth. So, be careful not to eat them when they’re still piping hot. These Juicy Pork Dumplings are really succulent treats.
I must be too busy eating and didn’t take a picture when I pick up my dumplings with the chopsticks. But look at this picture below, it’s a picture from the brochure/menu of the restaurant. So now, you’ve got the idea. And yes, I did pick up each dumplings with my chopsticks and transfer them onto my spoon/bowl. And you guessed it right, they didn’t break at all during the transfer! We always place two orders for these dumplings along with other dishes as my Baby Girl can finish 5 of these juicy dumplings on her own, plus noodles, and other things we order. These dumplings are 'must-try' when you visit. Din Tai Fung also offers a varieties of dumplings besides the pork ones; such as Juicy Pork & Crab Dumplings (another one of my favorite), Shrimp & Pork Dumplings, Fish Dumplings, Chicken Dumplings, and Vegetarian Dumplings.
The one item that got sold out all the time is the Small Dumplings with Soup. It’s only served on weekends for limited quantities. I’ve only tasted them back in Taiwan but not in the L.A. branches. You know I’m not a morning person, right?
Besides dumplings, we also ordered Shrimp Noodle Soup, see picture below. That’s my Little Boy’s favorite and he would asks for this every time when we visit.
The picture below shows the House Beef Noodle Soup. This is the first time we tried this one and it’s pretty good, especially if you want something lighter in taste and not as heavy. We usually order A Braised Beef Noodle Soup that is in a deep brown flavorful soup base that is slightly spicy. So, this clear soup version was a nice change. The beef is very tender and the soup is very soothing.
This one below is the Pork Chop Fried Rice. We’ve ordered this one many times and it’s one of our favorites as well. We’ve also tried the Shrimp Fried Rice before but didn’t order that this time because we already have the Shrimp Noodle Soup. But all their fried rice are nicely done. Besides a variety of dumplings, soup, noodle soup, and fried rice, Din Tai Fung also offers Noodles with sauces, fried noodles, a varieties of sautéed vegetables, vegetarian dishes, and desserts. The only thing that is considered somewhat negative is their portion, they tend to be smaller compared to most Chinese restaurants. The good news is, you can try a varieties of dishes this way. You would want to try everything when you’re there. And so far, I haven’t tasted anything that I don’t like with all my visits.
Hope you’ll give Din Tai Fung a try if you’re in the area or plan to visit soon. Below is their contact information and link to their website for your reference.
P.S.: My first "unofficial" lunch date with my Hubby was at Din Tai Fung, back in 2002. Talk about life changing dumplings! Maybe that's why, these little Juicy Dumplings are always so special to me.
Click here to Din Tai Fung’s Website
Address: 1108 S. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91007
Address: 1088 S. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91007
Restaurant Review Disclaimer: uTry.it restaurant reviews are solely based on our experience at each restaurant we visit. They were just our opinions. uTry.it and its owner were not compensated in any way to dine at these restaurants nor to write reviews.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
I love the cooler temperature of Autumn, but not so much the dry weather. Unfortunately, they go hand in hand. Not only my skin gets dry easily in Fall, but also my hair. Especially with the area towards the ends of my hair. It sometimes gets so dry and fuzzy, which is not too much fun to deal with. On the other hand, my scalp gets pretty oily on a daily basis. That makes me feel uncomfortable not to shampoo my hair everyday. But isn't more washing will dry out the ends of my hair even more? That sounds like a snowball effect! Do you have the same issue? Well, this Homemade Hot Oil Hair Treatment might be the solution for you, too. It helps to balance out the oil and moisture in our hair. It’s super simple to prepare and only requires a few ingredients.
For this Homemade Hot Oil Hair Treatment, I did a little research on the internet to gather some useful information for you, such as the benefits of different types of oils, herbs, and essential oil (don't you think the internet is the greatest invention, besides my hot oil?) Also, I summarized the information of when and how to use the hot oil treatment and some other general information. Besides that, some are the tips that I learn from using this hot oil myself.
First of all, hot oil hair treatment is for all hair types. The key is to customize it to suit your needs and your hair type. Therefore, choosing the right ingredients for your hair type is important. You can use a single type of oil, or a blend of a few, depending on your needs. Here are some basics oil you can choose from and their benefits.
Olive Oil: It conditions hair and improves elasticity.
Jojoba Oil: It’s best for oily hair. The jojoba oil is like our own natural skin and hair oils. It will leave your hair soft and light, without weighing it down.
Avocado Oil: It is the the most moisturizing oils. Great for dry and frizzy hair.
Almond Oil: It relieves dry scalp, controls hair loss and smooth cuticle of strands
Rosemary Oil: It relieves dry scalp, stimulates follicles and slows premature hair loss.
Coconut Oil: It adds shines and soften your hair! Coconut oil is great for all hair types. It also helps in reduce dandruff.
Castor Oil: It helps strengthen the hair. Perfect for fine hair that breaks easily. However, castor oil might leave your hair dryer. So, use sparingly in the blend. It might be best is your hair is the oily type.
Sesame Oil: It is great for all hair type and adds shines to your hair. It also helps slow down hair loss, great to treat thinning hair.
Besides oils, I also love to infuse herbs in my Hot Oil Hair Treatments. Here’s a list of what your hair might need to improve on and the types of herbs that you can choose.
Hair strengthening: Use chamomile, horsetail, or arnica.
Hair Clarifying: Use rosemary, parsley, sage, or nutmeg.
Hair moisturizing: Use chamomile, lavender, dried rose petals, or aloe.
Stimulating hair growth: Use Peppermint, parsley, horsetail, sage, chamomile, ginger, or cinnamon.
If you don’t have the fresh or dried herbs on hand, you can substitute with essential oils as well. Here’s what I use in my hot oil blend (see picture below). I used Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Jojoba Oil, Olive Oil, infused with fresh rosemary and a few drops of peppermint essential oil. This hot oil blends balanced out the natural oil and moisture in my hair, clarify the hair, and stimulate growth. I love the fragrant from the fresh rosemary and refreshing peppermint essential oil.
Here’s how I prepare my Hot Oil Hair Treatment (see picture below). In a medium saucepan, heat a few inches of water on high until boiling. Then, reduce to low heat and keep water on a simmer. Measure* and place all ingredients (except the peppermint essential oil) in a heat proof bowl and place over the pot of simmering water. Let the oil heat up slowly and infuse for 30 minutes. When it's done, add the essential oil.
*Measurement details are in the recipe below.
In this particular recipe, I made enough oil for 2 treatments. That way, I don’t have to do the above prep work again. Saving time and energy, smart, huh? Check the recipe below for details in how to store and reheat the oil treatment. I think this would make a wonderful hostess’ gift too, don’t you think? I hope you’ll bookmark this recipe and save it for the holidays. The homemade gift-giving season will arrive sooner than you think!
Here comes the fun part on how to apply this Hot Oil Hair Treatment. I recommend you to cover your shoulder with a towel, or wear a t-shirt that you don’t care about. Because the oil stains could be hard to wash out. Just a side note, my natural hair color is black and I haven’t color my hair for over a year already. Those brown color you see on the ends of my layered hair were from previous coloring + dryness. Boy, the ends of my hair was so dry it’s not even funny! I felt like combing hay every single morning!
Anyway, let’s get started! Place the hot oil in a small bowl, around 2-3 tablespoons for medium length hair. Dip your fingertips into the oil and gently massage the oil from scalp to end. Take your time, relax and enjoy the process.
When all the oil is used, cover the hair with a shower cap. At this point, you can also add a damp and hot towel over the shower cap for better result. Leave it on for 30 minutes. This would be the perfect opportunity to catch up on your TV soap, reading a novel, eating afternoon snacks, or do whatever that makes you happy! Then, get into the shower and shampoo your hair. I usually shampoo twice after this hot oil treatment. Repeat oil treatment every 2 to 4 weeks.
Pretty easy, right? Ready to see the before and after picture? I’m sure you do and I was so amazed by the result. Keep in mind, this before and after picture was taken after only 1 use of the hot oil treatment. And I will definitely continue with it and keep you posted on my hair’s condition after a while.
Taa-Daa…..here’s the close up! My friends!
See how the dry and probably damaged ends on my hair improved after the treatment? My hair was so soft to the touch that I can’t stop touching my hair afterwards. I wish I can let you feel the difference in texture of my hair after the treatment.
Now, you can probably see why I wanted to continue with this treatment, can't you? Don't you think the result is amazing? I hope you’ll give this Homemade Hot Oil Hair Treatment a try. This homemade version is way more economical than getting a hot oil treatment in the salon and you can do it in the comfort of your own home. What a bonus! Best of all, you can blend the oil that’s tailored to your own needs. Do you think you’ll give this a try? I certainly hope so.
P.S.: I purchased most of the oil and essential oil from a local health store. You can also get them online if you can’t find them in store. Click on each ingredient below for your reference to purchase online:
Peppermint Essential Oil
Small Air Tight Glass Jar
Health and General Disclaimer:
No information, ingredient or product mentioned on this site is meant to diagnose, treat or replace professional medical advice. They are my experience, my journey, and my opinions. Please consult with your doctor before using any of the ingredients or products mentioned here.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Today, September 19th, is Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節 in Chinese). It’s a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese, dating back over 3,000 years. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. The moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest. When my Little Boy saw how bright and round the moon was a couple nights ago, he already requested to have dessert out in the back yard area after dinner on the day of Mid-Autumn Festival. That’s what we did in the past few years as well.
Since I didn’t make a new moon cake recipe this year for Mid-Autumn Festival, I just wanted to share with you what we had in the past few years. Such as these traditional moon cakes from the picture above. Click here to see similar product.
Or these Ice-Skin Mooncakes that I made a couple years ago. They were made with Matcha (Green Tea) Powder and pomegranate juice, so the colors are all natural. Click here for the recipe. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to make your own moon cakes, check out these moon cake molds here.
Or, try these Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta that I made from last year. I know, they are not quite the traditional type of Mid-Autumn Festival food but a scrumptious one. Click here for the recipe.
But very likely, I’m going to make my family’s favorite Asian dessert/snacks: Black Sesame Seed Mochi! Please click here for the recipe. I know my kids will have fun help rolling the dough and wrapping these mochi with me.
Last but not least, I want to wish you all a wonderful Mid-Autumn Festival, 中秋節快樂 and 人月兩團圓. Until next time, take care.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Thank you everyone who participated in the Singing Dog Vanilla Lover’s Gift Set Giveaway. Also, special thank you to Singing Dog Vanilla again for providing the prizes for this Giveaway. The two lucky winners are as follow:
Carolsue who said, “I like Singing Dog Vanilla on Facebook as Carolsue Anderson”
And Ruby who said, “tweeted this post https://twitter.com/RubyRedApron/status/375050791444168704”
Congratulations to the winners! I’ll be sending an email to the winners soon. Please stay tuned for another fun giveaway in the near future.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Finally, Kids are back to school and things are back to “normal”. Or should I say, back to the usual routine? My Kids are always hungry when they get home. They would ask for their afternoon tea to fuel up before tackling homework. This Chocolate Angel Food Cake (巧克力天使蛋糕) is one of their favorites afternoon tea to enjoy. Aren't they spoiled or what?
This angel food cake is light and spongy, yet very chocolate-y. There’s no oil, cream, nor butter used in the recipe. Therefore, this is perfect if you like a low-fat cake recipe. But of course, I can’t help it but add a dollop of freshly whipped cream on top….and some dark chocolate curls to finish it off! That's kind of not an option, but a must for me!
Angel Food cake, or Angel cake, is a type of sponge cake that is originated in the United States. The main ingredients in this cake are egg whites, lots of egg whites. As you know, I've been making lots of ice creams this summer (which means using lots of egg yolks). So, this is one of my favorite cake that uses up all the egg whites, besides making French macarons. This cake is super light, fluffy, soft and spongy. Because of the lightness of this cake, it was referred to as the "food for the angels", and I couldn't agree more!
I recommend that you use an Angel Food Cake Pan for this recipe, click here for more information. The center tube allows the cake batter to rise by 'clinging' on to all sides of the pan. For the same reason, never greased the angel food cake pan so the cake batter have something to "climb on". After baking, the cake pan is inverted, to allow cooling, to prevent the cake from falling in on itself.
Come into the kitchen with me to see how I make this cake. (see pictorial below)
1) Preheat oven to 325 degree F. Place un-greased angel food cake pan on the baking sheet.
Tips and notes: Make sure the pan has a removable tube and don’t grease the pan so the cake batter has a chance to “climb up” and stay tall in the baking process. Since there’s no leavening ingredients in this recipe besides the natural whipped egg white, this step is very important.
2) In a large mixing bowl, sift cake flour, cocoa powder and 3/4 cup of sugar together.
Tips and notes: Yes, we add a portion of the sugar with the dry ingredients and the rest to whip up in the egg white to form the meringue. The reason is that if you add all the sugar into the egg white, the cake would be too stiff and chewy. Putting a portion of the sugar with the rest of the dry ingredients will ensures a tender and spongy cake. (you are very welcome!)
3) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, water, cream of tartar and salt together until foamy. Then, add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a steady stream.
4) Add coffee mixture and vanilla extract, beat until stiff peak forms.
5) Just want to show you the volume after the egg whites at stiff peak.
6) Sprinkle 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the dry ingredient mixture onto the egg white mixture. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredient into the meringue. Be careful not to deflate the foam.
7) This is how it looks after folding the first round. Then, repeat with the rest of the dry ingredient until all used up.
8) Pour batter into a 9 1/2-inch un-greased angel food cake pan. A 10-inch pan would work just as find if that's what you've got.
9) Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake and comes out clean. Then, invert cake pan on a wiring rack too cool for at least one hour, or until completely cooled. This step is to ensure the cake stays nice and tall in the cooling process.
If you follow me on Instagram here, you might remember this picture below. Yup, that’s how I usually cool my angel food cakes, over a large bottle of cooking sake. Of course, you can use any bottle that fits the middle ring. Just make sure the bottle is big and steady enough for this job! Otherwise, you can simply invert it to cool on the wiring rack as shown above. I do prefer it over the bottle because it’s better air circulation and will prevent the condensation from the heat of the cake.
To remove the cake from the pan, use a knife with a long and flexible blade.
1) Insert the knife between the cake and the outer edge of the cake pan and go around the edges until the knife return to the original point.
2) Then, insert the knife between the cake and the inner rim of the cake pan and go around the edges until the knife return to the original point.
3) Place your hand underneath the cake pan with a gentle push. The ring of the pan should come out easily.
4) Insert the knife between the cake and the base of the cake pan and go around the edges until the knife return to the original point. Then, invert the cake onto your favorite cake stand. Serve and enjoy!
I love my Chocolate Angel Food Cake with a little freshly whipped cream and a few chocolate shaving.
Special tips and notes: To make the chocolate shaving, use a vegetable peeler to shave the curls off a small block of chocolate. The key is to use room temperature/slightly warm chocolate for this. You’ll get these beautiful curls every time! I hope you like today’s recipe, tips and pictorial. Hope you all had a wonderful back to school transition! All the best to everyone in the coming school year!
Note: This is the Angel Food Cake Pan that I use. Click here for more information.