Sunday, June 22, 2014
My oven is on almost everyday, or every other day. From homemade loaf bread, cookies, cupcakes, to roasted vegetables and chickens drumsticks, I certainly keep my oven quite busy. But as the temperature rises, I do long for no bake treats. After all, it’s not that fun to turn on the oven and adding more heat to the almost triple digit temperature out there. This Chocolate Tiramisu Layer Cake will certainly holds a special spot in your fridge, then your tummy, and probably in your heart after you've tried a piece. I especially love it when I don't have to turn on the oven in the summer to make a gorgeous cake. After all, I have quite a few birthdays to celebrate in summer!
My Kids love Tiramisu, both the traditional one and the Strawberry version (recipe here). However, I've got to keep it to just a tasting portion for the traditional ones because there’s coffee in it. That’s the main reason why I created this Chocolate version of Tiramisu so everyone in the family can enjoy. I guess it’s not news anymore that my whole family is chocoholic! Um, I guess it runs in the family; especially, my Baby Girl, she loves dark chocolate way more than milk or white ones! She’s definitely a little foodie.
Since there’s no baking involved in this Chocolate Tiramisu Layer Cake, it is rather an easy cake to make. All you need to do is have each element ready before you start layering and assembling the cake. The ingredients are quite straight forward and pretty easy to find these days. At the end of the post, I’ll list the links of the products that I used for your convenience so you know what to look for when you go shop. The toughest part of this cake? WAITING! Yes, after you put the cake together, you have to let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving. That gives the lady fingers the time they needed to fully absorbed all the moisture and goodness, and softened up to cake like consistency. If you ask me, I think it’s totally worth the wait!
As you might already know. Tiramisu in Italian means “pick me up”. Traditionally, this famous dessert is made of ladyfingers (a very light weight and crispy cookies) 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”. So, the texture of this Chocolate Tiramisu Layer Cake is also very light, tender, soft and fluffy! Yet, it’s rich and chocolate-y at the same time because of the dark cocoa powder that I used. I love Valrhona's! Trust me on this one. I've tried a fair share of cocoa powder and this one gives me the richest, darkest, and most chocolate-y taste! The mascarpone cheese provided the silky, rich and creamy texture. This dessert is rich and satisfying, but not overly sweet.
As you can see from the pictures of the whole cake, I leave the sides of this cake with a rustic look and you can see all 3 layers of cream and the lady fingers as well. You can make it smooth and seamless by smearing a thin layer of whipped mascarpone cream mixture to the side of the pan before soaking and lining the lady fingers. You’ll see what I mean when we go over the pictorial below. Ready to step into the kitchen with me? Let’s go!
1) Grease the side and bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan.
2) Line the bottom and sides of the pan with a piece of parchment paper, make sure the parchment paper is a little taller than the side of the pan by 1/2 to 1-inch.
3) Heat and whisk all the ingredients of the chocolate milk mixture until sugar dissolved. Pour mixture into a shallow dish to let cool.
4) In the bowl of the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar until soft peak.
5) Stop the mixer and add the mascarpone cheese. Beat the mixture until medium peak forms.
6) Add the cocoa powder and beat until incorporated
7) Dip the lady fingers into the chocolate milk mixture, 1 to 2 second for both sides. Do not dip too long or else your lady fingers will get too soggy.
8) Line the dipped lady fingers on the bottom of the prepared pan. You might need to break a piece to fill the gaps between the lady fingers. You should be able to fit 12 pieces (100 grams) in a layer.
9) Spread 1/3 of the mascarpone cheese mixture on top of the lady fingers. Spread evenly on top.
10) Dust 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder to cover the top.
11) Repeat 2 more layers by dipping more lady fingers into the chocolate milk mixture, follow by mascarpone mixture and cocoa powder.
12) Do not dust the very top of the final layer of mascarpone cream mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerated for at least 24 hours before serving.
13) When it’s ready to serve, remove the plastic wrap.
14) Remove the ring of the spring-form pan and the parchment paper on the sides.
15) Dust the top of the cake with 2 teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
16) Decorate with a few fresh raspberries and fresh mint leaves and enjoy!
Pretty simple, right? You’ll be amazed with how simple this cake is to prepare, yet got that wow factor and tasted just as amazing as it looks, if not better. I hope you enjoy today’s recipe and give this cake a try. You can come back and thank me later.
Tools and Props used in this post:
9-inch Non-Stick Spring Form Pan (Click here for more information)
Ruffled Edges White Cake Stand (Click here to see similar product)
KitchenAid Stand Mixer (Click here for more information)
Cake/Pie Server (Click here for more information)
2 Tone Bamboo Cutting Board (See similar product here)
Small Forks for Dessert (See similar product here)
Italian Lady Fingers (Click here for more information)
Valrhona Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (Click here for more information)
Mascarpone Cheese (Click here for more information)
Cooking Spray (Click here for more information)
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Thank you everyone who participated in the Singing Dog Vanilla Black Assam Tea and Vanilla Coconut Palm Sugar set Giveaway. Special thank you to Singing Dog Vanilla again for providing the prizes for the Giveaway. We have selected the 3 lucky winners.
Winner number 1 is:
Jasmine1485 who said, “I like your Facebook page as Katherine Ryan”
Winner number 2 is:
karin who said, “my favorite fruit is strawberries <3”
Last but not least, winner number 3 is:
ne-knopka who said, “pin-http://www.pinterest.com/pin/48765608439780186/”
Congratulations to all the winners! I’ll be sending emails to the winners soon. Please stay tuned for more fun giveaway and recipe posts in the near future.
P.S. Don’t forget to give this Mixed Fruit Iced Tea (冰鎮水果茶) recipe a try! (click here for the recipe)
Friday, June 13, 2014
Still remember I’ve got myself a shaved ice machine this Spring? We’ve been enjoying some Fresh Mango Shaved Ice (recipe here) for a while. Of course, you know I won’t just stop there with one flavor. Let me present to you, my latest obsession: Coconut Shaved Ice with Matcha Mini Mochi! It’s delightful to look at as well as to consume! With the steamy temperature out there, this shaved ice treat will sure cool you off from the inside out! Let me assure you, this treat makes doing homework and studying in the hot afternoon a lot more enjoyable (at least for me, it was sure the case)! Hang in there, the summer vacation is almost here, almost!
The first time I had this type of shaved ice dessert was at a Taiwanese café. The café was specialized in different kinds of street food from Taiwan and the shaved ice bar was one of them. You can order your shaved ice there with different kinds of fruit, sweet beans, jelly and/or toppings. However, the shaved ice that they served was just plain ice. I gave it an upgrade and turn it into coconut shaved ice here. Simply freeze the coconut water in ice cube trays and you've got coconut ice. After shaving (the coconut ice), I pour some coconut milk on top to give some richness.
There are several components in this dessert. The great news is that you can (and should) prepare some of them the day before so they have time to chill, especially the sweetened red beans and the coconut ice cubes for the shaved ice. The rest are pretty straight forward. One of the ingredients I used here was Nata de coco. Nata de coco is a chewy, translucent, jelly-like treat made with coconut water. It was originated in the Philippines. Cubes of nata de coco are widely used in Filipino cuisine for cold desserts, and is one of the traditional ingredients in halo-halo. I felt in love with Nata de coco the first time I tried it many many years ago. For this recipe, I used a store bought bottle such as this one here. They are available in most Asian supermarkets. With this versatile dessert, you can pretty much top it with anything your heart fancies for. That's the beauty of this simple dessert.
To see the pictorial on how to make the Sweetened Red Bean, you can check out this link here. The tips to keep the red beans whole and not turned into paste, is to shake the pot gently and not stirring the beans. So, the last component left for this dessert is the Matcha Mini Mochi. Want to see how I made them? Please follow me to the kitchen!
1) In a medium bowl, whisk together the glutinous rice flour and matcha powder until incorporated.
2) In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until all sugar dissolved.
3) Remove from heat and add glutinous flour mixture all at once and stir quickly to combine.
4) Set stove to the lowest heat setting and return pot to stove, stir mochi dough until no lumps. It'll be very
hard to stir at the end as the dough thickened (that also means it's ready). Remove from heat.
5) Let the mochi dough cool down a bit until it's not too hot to handle. Generously, sprinkle potato starch on a rolling mat or silpat, coat your hands with potato starch and take a small piece of the matcha mochi and roll it into a long log.
6) Slightly dust the pastry cutter with potato starch and cut the mochi into bite size piece. Alternatively, you can also grease your hands with a little cooking oil and roll the mochi into small balls. That’s what I did with those shown in the picture above.
The Matcha mochi is slightly sweetened and taste pretty mild on it’s own. But it’s a great addition to this dessert for a tender, yet chewy texture and wonderful matcha flavor. Drizzling some sweetened condense milk on top right before you serve brings this dessert home. I hope you enjoy today's recipe and pictorial. Please stay tuned for some awesome giveaway in the future post. Stay sweet and stay cool!
Tools, Props and Ingredients Used in this Post:
Snow Cone Machine (Click here for more information)
Small Bamboo Spoon (Click here to see similar product)
Nata de coco (Click here to see similar product)
Organic Coconut Water (Click here for more information)
Matcha Powder (Click here for more information)
Adzuki Red Beans (Click here for more information)
Glutenous Rice Flour (Click here for more information)
Organic Sweetened Condense Milk (Click here for more information)
Ceramic Rice Bowls (click here to see similar product)
Bamboo Placemats (Click here for more information)
Saturday, June 7, 2014
The official first day of summer is June 21st this year! Seriously? I thought summer has arrived 2 months ago. Well, at least in Los Angeles, it has! That’s why I’ve been posting Shaved Ice, detox soup, salad, and icy treats recipes on my blog and Facebook page. I hope you like them all so far. And today, I have another refreshing and delightful treat for you, Mixed Fruit Iced Tea (冰鎮水果茶). Plus, a wonderful giveaway that you don’t want to miss, more to that in just a minute. Have I grabbed your attention yet?
The first time when I tried a sweetened fruit tea was during a visit to Taiwan. I felt in love with the tea right away. It’s fruity, refreshing, slightly sweet, and packed with wonderful aroma. What’s not to love, isn’t it? Of course, I can’t help it but to replicate it at home. And I found the tea leaves and a secret ingredient that can take this lovely drink to the next level. The kind folks at Singing Dog Vanilla sent me a collection of their vanilla tea leaves to try out along with their latest product, the Vanilla Coconut Palm Sugar!
I have to say, the Vanilla Coconut Palm Sugar is the bomb! You can taste each element from it and the aroma is so complex, yet, each aroma compliments each other. This is the secret ingredient that I used, to flavor the Mixed Fruit Ice Tea. Okay, I guess there’s no more secret now.
I’ve always loved Singing Dog’s Vanilla Tea. I’ve used their Vanilla Blackberry Sage Tea and made a berry version of this tea and it was so wonderful. Take a look at the tea leaves in the picture below. You can see the vanilla bean pieces among the tea leaves. The vanilla aroma would slowly releases while you steep your tea. You simply can’t get this gourmet vanilla bean aroma from anything else. It’s sweet, fragrant and oh so soothing.
Each package of Singing Dog Vanilla Tea comes with a reusable tea bag for steeping.
And the plastic bag comes with a re-sealable tape to assure freshness with the remaining tea leaves, how thoughtful!
The traditional fruit tea usually calls for using black tea as a base. In this recipe, I used the Singing Dog Vanilla Black Assam Tea. A one cup serving of tea requires 1 teaspoon of tea leave. Since I’m making a concentrated tea mixture (for a large pitcher), I used 2 tablespoons of tea leaves. Here’s how I made it. First, fill the tea bag with the tea leaves, then place the tea bag in a large heat proof pitcher along with the Vanilla Coconut Palm Sugar.
This time, I chose the fruits that are commonly used to make Taiwanese Mixed Fruit Tea. They are apple, lime, nectarine, and lemon. You can basically use any kind of fruit you prefer or in season. Simply pick three to four of your favorite fruit and include a citrus one in there. The tang from the citrus will brightens up the tea.
Next pour in hot water and let the mixture steep for 5 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolved. Then, remove the tea bag and discard the tea leaves. Rinse and dry the tea bag for future use. Next, pour in some apple juice and ice cubes.
As simple as that, and your Mixed Fruit Iced Tea is ready for your enjoyment!
This will be the most refreshing drink for the summer! The tea is slightly sweetened and not overly sweet. The fruits will retain their natural sweetness and as they steep with the tea leaves, they will release their wonderful flavors into the tea. You can taste the wonderful vanilla bean and see the little specks in your tea as well. The subtle coconut and palm sugar flavors give this tea depth, and compliment the black tea and fruit wonderfully.
And the best part of my photo shoot always comes at the end when I can finally enjoy my iced cold drink in these steamy hot days! Ahhh…..so good!
What is better than enjoying the Mixed Fruit Iced Tea in the hot summer days? It certainly is enjoying my fruit tea while I can share my recipe and these awesome ingredients and products with you! Yes, it’s Giveaway time!
How about winning a set of Vanilla Black Assam Tea (2 oz) AND the Vanilla Coconut Palm Sugar (2.5 oz), as shown in the picture above, courtesy of the kind folks at Singing Dog Vanilla!? And there will be 3 winners. Thank you Singing Dog Vanilla for providing the giveaway. Here’s how to enter.
This giveaway is over!
3 lucky uTry.it readers will win the Vanilla Black Assam Tea AND the Vanilla Coconut Palm Sugar. This Giveaway is open worldwide. Deadline to enter is June 15th by midnight PST. Winner will be selected through Random.org and announce shortly after the giveaway is closed. Prizes will be shipped out directly by Singing Dog Vanilla.
1) “Like” Singing Dog Vanilla on their Facebook Page, click here.
Props and Tools used in this post:
Weck Jars with lids (Click here for more information)
Blue Paper Straws (Click here for more information)
Classic Glass Pitcher (Click here to see similar product)
Long Wooden Spoon (Click here to see similar product)
Measuring Spoons Set (Click here for more information)
Two Tone Bamboo Cutting Board (Click her to see similar product)
Disclaimer: I received the Singing Dog Vanilla Teas and Vanilla Coconut Palm Sugar free of charge for the purpose of this review. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are 100% my own and always will be.
Monday, June 2, 2014
During Spring Break, we took the Kids to visit San Francisco. It was their very first visit to S.F., my Hubby and I wanted to take them to places that they’ll love and have fun. It was a 5 days 4 nights trip. But boy oh boy, we wished that we could have stayed a bit longer. There were still a few places that we wanted to go but didn't make it this time around. I guess that gives us a good reason to visit this awesome city again soon! And yes, the Kids already asked to go back again on their next vacation! On this post, I have quite many pictures to share with you. So, I’ll try to keep the wording nice and short.
Originally, we booked a hotel for our stay in San Francisco. Luckily, my Hubby’s cousin offered a guest room for us to stay in. I’m just glad that we took the offer as we had so much fun staying at her place. It was my second time meeting her and it was great to get to know her better. We truly appreciated her husband’s and her hospitality and generosity.
The first day of our trip was pretty much “travelling day” because we took off late. So, we started the next day early; our plans were to waste the least time possilbe. As you can see from the two pictures above, we visited the Stanford University. It was a short visit as our main focus was on our next stop nearby, more to that in just a minute. But I have to say, it was a nice campus and the Kids enjoyed studying the university map/directory. We took a few fun pictures and hanged out for a while. Some families were having a picnic on campus as well. I guess it’d be a nice thing to do if you have more time to hang out.
Ready to see where we visited next? The Google office! Thanks again to Hubby’s Cousin for taking us around for an awesome tour. It was a memorable experience and all of us enjoyed it so much, especially the Kids.
How can Kids, or grown ups, not love this place? It’s more like a giant playground than office to me. Where can you find a humongous gum ball machine inside an office building? The Google office, of course! I hope you didn't have to Google that to find out.
And yes, Google employees, family and friends who are accompanied into the office eat free there. There are various snacks bars around the campus and a total of 22 different restaurants serving a wide varieties of international cuisines as well. That’s only one of the perks for being a Google employee. I truly enjoyed how casual and fun the office buildings are. If you don’t personally know someone who works there, you can still go around the campus and take a few pictures outside the office buildings. There are many Google signs that you can take as many pictures as you want. We spent a great few hours at the Google campus and sampled quite a few different restaurants.
Up next, we visited the the Union Square and took the kids for a little Cable Car ride.
We started off at the terminal so the kids can sit down during the ride. There was a line and we waited for about 30 minutes before we were on board.
We took the full ride to the other terminal and got off 10 minutes away (walking distance) from Fisherman’s Wharf. We were looking at different shops along the coast as we walked around. It must be all those walking that got us so hungry when it was only late afternoon. So we decided to have an early dinner, because we already knew where we wanted to go for dessert afterwards.
We tried Scoma’s along the pier and loved the food there. The restaurant is located 5 minutes away from the tourist joints and it is a little bit hidden from the side walk of the street. The oysters were fresh and sweet.
I ordered the Pasta Diplomatica. It’s very rich and filling as it is a cream sauce base.
Hubby ordered a Mixed Seafood Grill and it was flavorful and each ingredient was cooked perfectly. They also have a kid’s menu. And yes, it’s a kids friendly restaurant. That’s one of the important factor that we look into when we decided on which restaurant to dine in when we travel with the kids. We love this place as the food is fresh and price is reasonable, especially with that generous portion.
After that big dinner, we attempted to walk off the calories and visited Pier 39. As you can see from the picture below, the Sea Lions were back! We were told by some locals that the sea lions were once all gone. Mysteriously, they just show up again one day. I’m just glad that the kids get to see them up close. Although San Francisco was quite warm on the days that we visited, it gets pretty chilly at the pier around sunset. So, I hope you’ll be more prepared if you decided to visit.
After saying goodbye to the Sea Lions, we walked all the way to Ghirardelli Square! It was a good 30 minutes or 40 minutes walk, I think. I guess I've lost track already after the first 5 minutes. And remember, there’s always a line at Ghirardelli! So, be prepared to wait if you plan to visit.
Since we were still quite full from the big dinner, we only order one sundae to share. This scrumptious sundae concluded the day and we took the cable car ride back to Union Square where we parked our car.
The next day, we visited the California Academy of Science. It was another fun filled day and educational at the same time. I encourage you to go for a visit if you have kids. The picture below is an exhibit outside of the earthquake simulator. The exhibit shows fun facts as well as safely tips. The earthquake simulator was quite fun. The kids requested to go for it again so we did it twice.
The science center also has an amazing aquarium. It was huge and beautiful there.
We also visited the penguins’ habitat and it happened to be their feeding time. It was quite a chaos when they started feeding! Imagine meal time with 20 hungry kids with just one bucket of food! I'm sure you got the picture!
There’s also a swamp in there with Mr. Albino Alligator! It looks unreal when it stays still and not moving.
The tropical forest inside the California Academy of Science was my Baby Girl’s favorite. You’re going to find out why from the video below. Yes, she adores butterflies! We explored and hung out until closing time, which was 5 pm. Then, we headed to a family dinner with our relatives and that concluded our third day in S.F.
Did you enjoy the video? Yes, I think it takes courage, determination, and patient to do that. I'm very proud of my little girl!
It happened to be the Easter Sunday when we visit San Francisco. Hubby’s Cousin planned a little Easter Egg Hunt at her yard for the kids. They had so much fun as they've always love Easter Egg Hunts.
After we had a wonderful waffle brunch. We visited the Golden Gate Bridge. I love how they put different illustrations and demonstrations around the area about the bridge.
It was a clear and gorgeous day to visit the bridge.
I love this picture a lot (see below). You can see the gorgeous bay as well as the city in the background.
After hanging out at the bridge, we crossed the bridge to Sausalito. It’s a lovely town and there're many restaurants and small shops in this town that you can hang out and shop around. We decided to have lunch at Napa Valley Burger Company.
Of course, we've got to try a glass of red there along with our burgers!
I've ordered a Sausalito Burger. It was so good and the portion was huge. I love that they came with a side salad as well.
We also shared a Waffle Fries.
Hubby tried their Vintage Burger (picture below). And kids ordered the sliders from kid’s menu (sorry, forgot to take a picture of that). Food was excellent and service was great. We were there for a very late lunch and this place was still packed.
After lunch, we headed back to Union Square for a little shopping. We ended the day at a friend’s place for a homemade pizza night. Kids made their own pizzas while the grown ups had a glass of red and catch up with each other. It was a fun night to see our good old friends from high school!
On the fifth day, when we made our journey back to Los Angeles, we stopped at the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz.
We were greeted by this scenery (see picture below) on our way there. It's gorgeous and there was a hiking trail near by as well.
We arrived and line up for the next tour, there's a 45 minutes wait so we hung out around the area to take pictures. If you plan to go on a weekend, it's better to book your tour online to avoid long wait time. We were told by the tour guide that some folks waiting for 5 to 6 hours over the weekend when they didn't have a reservation.
The tour is only $6 per person, plus $5 parking. The tour was around 45 minutes including hiking up a short distance to the "cabin", as shown in the picture below. See how I stood at an angle like that without falling? Plus that girl behind me can just walked up the "ladder" on the wall? If you want to take "creepy" or I should say, mysterious picture like this, this is the place to visit. But I have to warn you, I get nauseous after 2 minutes into the cabin. What cause the nauseous feeling, you might ask? I'm guessing it's all the illusions of how the cabin was built that cause my eyes to send weird signals to my brain! Go figure!
This mysterious place and experience concluded our trip to San Francisco. I can't wait to take my kids there again. As we missed the chance to visit the Red Wood Forest and China Town this time! I hope you enjoy reading today's post. If you're planning a trip to San Francisco with your kids this summer, definitely check these places out.