Happy Belated Father’s Day and Breakfast Burgers

Father’s Day was this past weekend here in North America and Melissa and her other half posted a very sweet Father’s Day Gift Idea.  We celebrated by having burgers for breakfast (yummy sauce recipe below) and ice cream cake for dessert.  I wish my daddy a very Happy Father’s Day even though I wasn’t be there to celebrate with him.

fathers day ice cream Cake

Saying my daddy was always working is probably an understatement and most my memories are of my daddy were of him working, but I have many fond memories too.

When I was really young, he was never around the house because he was always working. But then as my siblings and I were a little older, I remember playing at the back of the building where daddy and mommy worked.  This was a large dirt area where my daddy taught us how to ride our bikes when he was on a break.  I also remember playing in an empty parking lot while they worked.  This was the same parking lot where I remember my daddy teaching us how to play badminton and to fly a kite.

My dad worked seven days a week for 16 hours a day but I remember that he was often smiling while he worked.  Because working, while tiring and sometimes challenging, was an opportunity to better ourselves.  So I am not afraid of hard work, I am appreciative of what I have and most importantly, I smile, even when the going is tough, all because of my daddy.

Then when I was even older, I remember helping out, and then working alongside, and eventually holding fort on my own.  Nothing could have honed my skills or boosted my confidence in my abilities or prepared me for the real world more than those experiences, all thanks to my daddy.

While most memories revolved around working, there were some other fond memories too, like of all the times he brought home a new dog or cat.  He also instilled a love of camping, road trips, open water and the general appreciation of nature.  He taught me how to fish and was there for my first catch and again, he was there when I accidentally caught one of the biggest fish of the day.

fishing

He taught me how to drive and parallel park like a champ (probably can’t do it anymore but that’s not his fault).  And he also taught the importance of good dental hygiene.

This article at the art of manliness covers 10 reasons according to science why Fathers are important.  My daddy is important to me because he took the time to teach me so much and helped make me the person who I am today.

My daughter is probably still too young to tell me how her daddy is important to her at the moment but she has some big shoes to fill.

shoes - toddler and daddy

(These daddy’s and my shoes photos were cuter when her shoes were teeny tiny but I think I’ll still keep taking them for her.  So if she ever becomes a shoe lover like me, she’ll have these pictures to help her remember her shoes from her childhood.)

shoes - toddler and daddy

Happy belated Father’s Day to my daddy, my daughter’s daddy, and to all the daddies out there!  Thank you.  You Guys Rock!

Breakfast Burger Sauce Recipe

Makes enough sauce for four burgers.  Adapted from the Food Network

1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

I used a sweet chili sauce instead of the hot sauce, and omitted the chili powder so there would be less heat since my daughter and her daddy aren’t huge on spicy foods.  Enjoy!

breakfast burger

 

Cheers,

with love charlie

 

Easy Cheesy Broccoli Rice

White rice has a bad rap because much of the vitamins, minerals and fibers in rice are in the bran and germ, and these are removed in the milling and polishing processes to create white rice.  Although in the USA, white rice is enriched by law so that some of the B vitamins, iron and folate levels are similar to or above that of the whole grain (brown rice).  White rice is also often considered unhealthy because it is both high in carbohydrates and easily digestible which causes spikes in blood sugar, potentially concerning to diabetic individuals.

White Rice is Awesome

Despite those reasons, white rice makes a regular appearance on our kitchen table.  It’s high in complex carbohydrates which we need for energy. The general rule of thumb is that half of our calories should be from complex carbohydrates.  White rice is also a relatively fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free source of protein.

The main reasons why white rice is a staple in this household is because it’s quick and easy to cook, it’s inexpensive, and it’s very versatile.  It’s neutral taste and texture blends well with most foods and white rice can be made into virtually any part of the meal: soups, salads, mains, sides, or desserts.  And it seems that no matter how it’s made, it’s a comfort food too.

It’s a comfort food in particular though when it’s hot and cheesy.  This recipe is my go to cheesy rice recipe because it doesn’t require any butter or cream so it’s light, but still very tasty and fulfilling.

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Recipe

  • 1 lb broccoli florets
  • 3 cups white rice
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 slice ginger
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 3 oz shredded cheese of choice or 4 slices of cheese

When serving rice as a side, the general rule of thumb is 1/3 to 1/2 cup of uncooked rice per person.  When serving this cheesy broccoli rice as a side, that won’t be enough 😉

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Method

  1. Rinse rice (optional if it’s clean or you prefer a stickier rice dish)
  2. Heat oil and fry garlic and ginger and black pepper until fragrant, a few minutes
  3. Add rice to pan and cook until rice is toasted, approximately 5 minutes

fragrant rice4. Remove rice mixture from heat.  Add chicken bouillon to rice mixture and mix well

5. Add broccoli, rice mixture, sugar and chicken broth to pressure cooker and set for 12 minutes (I have a rice setting on my pressure cooker so it’s dummy proof for me).  If using stove top or microwave or rice cooker, chicken broth and cooking time will need to be adjusted to your methods

frozen broccoli

I use frozen broccoli florets (from Costco) and add them to the pressure cooker frozen and they are so soft that they practically disintegrate after 12 minutes.  They are also so sweet that I omit the sugar in the recipe

6. After rice is cooked, mix in cheese while rice is still hot until cheese is melted

cheesy broccoli rice

Can you believe there is a whole pound of broccoli in there?  This can probably be called a sneaky recipe too.

7. Let rest 10 minutes and serve while it’s still warm or reheat if necessary.  Enjoy!

cheesy rice with chicken

Tonight we had cheesy broccoli rice and strawberry chicken, with extra cheese for my daughter.  More cheesy please!

Cheers,

with love charlie

Turkey Sneaky Balls Recipe

There are lots of ‘sneaky’ recipes online for hiding healthy foods in meals kids will eat but I am a visual creature so when I saw the below photo in my Instagram feed a few months ago, I just had to try to make a turkey sneaky ball.  It was a surprisingly huge hit with my family and is now on the regular dinner rotation.

Turkey Sneaky Balls Recipe/ Ingredients

Ever since I learned about vegetable subgroups, I had been trying to increase my family’s intake of red and orange vegetables.  The importance of variety became more apparent to me after learning more about the different vegetable subgroups and their different nutritional benefits.

As a family, we ate plenty of green vegetables, but rarely ate red or orange ones.  Until I figured out why my daughter refused carrots, these turkey sneaky balls looked like a great way to sneak in a little bit of orange vegetables.  And paired with spaghetti and tomato sauce, the simple meal suddenly has both red and orange vegetables covered.  Yes!

Turkey Sneaky Balls

Turkey Sneaky Balls Recipe

Adapted from Fit and Sam’s Instagram Photo below

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp chicken boullion
  • a handful of cilantro leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups baby carrots
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup oatmeal

A photo posted by Samantha Helms (@fitandsam) on

 

Turkey Sneaky Balls Method

  1. Placed the baby carrots, garlic, and cilantro in the food processor until the carrots were finely minced
  2. Mix all the ingredients until well incorporated
  3. Sear meatballs and then cook in preferred method (continue to pan fry or simmer in sauce or bake in oven etc.)
  4. Enjoy!

mix up ingredients

Mix it! I know it’s better to mix meatballs with our hands but I just didn’t want to risk my daughter sticking her fingers covered in raw meat anywhere near her face or attempting to wipe her hands clean on her clothes so I gave her a big old metal spoon.

mix up ingredients

I am thinking these sneaky turkey balls would also make a great patty for a hot melted sandwich, or maybe add a little cumin and chipotle to the ingredients and make a sneaky balls taco?  What do you think?

So will you be sneaky any time soon?

Cheers,

with love charlie

Pickle Carrot Sticks

Carrots are naturally sweet and chock full of vitamins.   A single cup of carrot contains over 400% of our daily requirements for vitamin A, which is key for growth, a healthy immune system as well as good vision.

wash carrots

Whenever I think about trying to eat more vegetables, green (salads, or spinach and broccoli) comes to mind, so imagine my great surprise when I found out that for ideal health, vegetable subgroups need to be taken into consideration, and the ideal amount of red or orange vegetables is actually notably more than dark green ones.

For example, according to choose my plate, people should be getting approximately 3:1 red or orange vegetables to dark green vegetables.  For young children, 2-3 years old, the ratio is even higher at 5:1!

Yikes! Does ketchup and spaghetti sauce count as red or orange vegetables?  I have to confess, despite trying to increase the ratio of red and orange vegetables in my diet, I am still no where close.

When my daughter first started solid foods, it was clear that she didn’t like carrots.  The more she refused it, the mushier and creamier I made them to entice her, but she was adamant on spitting out the carrots so I relented after a few dozen failed attempts.  I had read somewhere that babies might need to try a new food approximately 15 times before liking it, but after trying for months and months, making them sweet, or savory or buttery or spiced or plain and her refusing them all, I stopped trying to get her to eat carrots.

Then one day, maybe a year later, I saw her happily eating some carrots at a friend’s house, so I tried making carrots again.  Again, she refused them.  Now that she was older, I just simply asked her what’s up.

She simply responded that she likes carrots; she just doesn’t like them soft.  Oh.  Well then.  So I handed her a raw baby carrot and she said thanks and munched away while I was watching both in amazement and distress that I had just handed her a choking hazard.

In particular, she liked the sweet, tangy and crunchy pickle carrots we got with our banh mi (Vietnamese style sandwiches) that we buy for lunch sometimes when we go to stock up on Asian groceries.  For the last year, I have been trying to find a recipe that replicate that sandwich shop’s pickle carrot and daikon (do chua).

pickle carrots

The one below, adapted from White On Rice Couple, is the closest so far, but not exact.  I can’t put my finger on what is different, but the sandwich shop’s is sweeter without tasting sugary.  The sandwich shop’s is also savorier, but clean tasting.  I just can’t explain it (and I’m pulling my hair).  Any tips or hints or alternative recipes will be most appreciated!

Vietnamese Style Pickle Carrot and Daikon (Do Chua)

Recipe adapted from White On Rice Couple 

Ingredients

 

  • 1/2 lb carrot, julienne
  • 1/2 lb daikon, julienne*
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic

 

*Often I just double the carrots and do not add daikon because it’s not always readily available in my neighborhood store.

Directions

1. Wash and cut carrots and daikons.  My knife skills are atrocious, and having roomed with a sushi chef who laughed every time he saw me trying to cut something, I like to do this step in privacy.  I argue it’s for my daughter’s safety, but hiding is really optional.

carrots

2.  Combine water, sugar, and salt and heat until sugar and salt have dissolved.  Let cool and add vinegar and garlic.

3.  Add carrots and daikons to solution and let sit overnight to a few days for flavors to infuse.

pickledCarrots

It’s very convenient to have these sitting in the fridge to add a little bit of extra vegetable to meals.  My daughter likes it when I add a small handful of these pickled carrots to her sandwiches for a sweet refreshing crunch.  Last night we made fish tacos for dinner and these also came in handy and added a nice tangy crunch to the tacos.

For more information on healthy eating styles, I love the US’s department of agriculture site: choose my plate!  It feels like I’m trying to increase our vegetable intake one garnish or addition at a time but it’s a worthwhile effort right?  So do you have any tips on how we can get enough red or orange vegetables in our diets?  Please share!

Thank you in advance.

Cheers,

with love charlie

 

Lemongrass Grilled Pork (Thit Nuong)

Lemongrass is a perennial native of India but cultivated worldwide for its oil for medicinal, culinary, or cosmetic applications among a multitude of other uses.  The lemongrass stalk itself, though very tough, is commonly finely crushed or chopped and used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.  I personally like it because it’s very fragrant with a refreshing lemony taste, but more delicate and subtle than citrus zests as I’m very sensitive to bitter flavors.

It pairs well with seafood, chicken and pork and is good for a variety of curries, soups, marinades, or tea recipes.  But it’s hard to find fresh lemongrass in my neighborhood grocery stores so I’ve long contemplated growing my own.  Is it wrong to fantasize about access to fresh herbs on demand?  I have an okay green thumb for ornamental plants, but a complete black thumb when it comes to gardening for food.  I have never ever succeeded in growing anything edible but since lemongrass is a grass, maybe, just maybe?

Growing lemongrass (among other herbs I frequently use) is fairly high on the list of things I would like to do (when I have the time or energy), but it had been very low on the list of priorities to-dos.  However, lately there has been a lot of news about Zika carrying mosquitoes.  I suppose these news are more scary for pregnant or planning to be pregnant women, but either way, it seems the demand for mosquito repelling plants are up, because I am seeing more and more citronella grass, lemon balm, catmint (catnip), marigolds, lavender, and garlic, just to name a few, for sale with “MOSQUITO PLANT” signs or labels (which I assume means these plants help repel mosquitoes rather than attract them).

So what does this have to do with growing lemongrass?  Lemongrass is also a top mosquito repelling plant.  So maybe growing lemongrass, now with the additional purpose of protecting my dinky-a-roo and family from nasty bites, has very good reason to move up on my priority to-dos list?

Grilled Lemongrass Pork Recipe

Adapted from one of my favorite blogs for Vietnamese cuisine The Ravenous Couple 

Ingredients

Lemongrass Pork ingredients 01

  • 1.5 lb pork butt or shoulder
  • 1/4 cup finely minced lemongrass (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp ground pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp thick soy sauce*
  • 3 tbsp roasted sesame

Lemongrass Pork ingredients 02

*Note thick soy sauce is a different product than regular soy sauce.  It is thick and rich and has molasses.  This was another product I had difficulty finding so there are several jars sitting my pantry.

Directions

The hardest part of this recipe might be finding all the ingredients but otherwise, it’s fairly easy and can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.  The below piece of pork butt was approximately 3 lbs and for our small family, was 6 meals worth of meat.  We ate one fresh and froze 5 for the rest of the month.

Lemongrass Pork Butt 01

Cut meat into 2 to 3 inch pieces of approximately 1/4 inch thickness.  Optional, hand tenderize the pieces.  If you have quality meat, this is totally unnecessary.

Lemongrass Pork Butt 03

Mix all ingredients except for the sesame seeds for marinade.

Lemongrass Pork ingredients 03

Marinade for at least an hour up to a day.  If freezing, I just place each meal portion into a plastic bag and then put them directly into the freezer without waiting for it to marinade.  The time it takes to freeze and defrost is sufficient for meat to marinade.

Lemongrass Pork Marinate

Grill until golden and slightly charred.  Alternatively, bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit/ 148.9 degrees Celsius until done, approximately 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve hot with vermicelli or rice. I find it best served with mild or sweeter sides as the meat can be on the saltier side.

I was pensive about posting this recipe because the only picture I have of the finished meal was actually of a flopped attempt.  I’m good with finding time to take pictures during the preparation process but always forget the finished product because by then, my attention is on making sure everyone is ready to eat while the food is still the right temperature.

The pieces pictured below were totally overcooked because I was too zealous about the hand tenderizing (there is something therapeutic with pounding with a hammer) and the pieces were thinner than ideal.  And then I did another cooking no-no, I stepped away from the grill and didn’t check on the pork until it was too late.  It still tasted okay, but was not juicy as usual.  But like my putting growing lemongrass off again and again, until news of Zika gave me additional reason to do it, I decided the same for this post, if not now, when?

Lemongrass Pork

In addition to Tom Yum soup, another recently discovered family favorite with fragrant lemongrass is Melissa’s Curry Chicken.  Thank you Melissa for the recipe!

Next time you’re grilling, will you give this recipe a try?  And if you have lemongrass growing in your yard, there might even be less uninvited pests at your BBQ.

Cheers!

with love charlie

 

Buttercream Frosting

Hello there!  I’m not sure if Tuesday is just a second Monday but here is a little sweet and colorful icing recipe to add some rainbows to your day, whichever day it is.  What is your favorite color?  What about your favorite cupcake frosting color? Are they the same?

rainbow cupcakes 01

If I had to pick one, mine would be blue.  Is yours blue too?  Just guessing blue because according to this info graphic, it is universally the most common favorite color whereas orange is the least popular favorite color.  I used to love reading those color personality tests because blue is often associated with trustworthiness, peace and intelligence and who doesn’t want to be associated with those things right?  Although I have yet to read a negative personality test result for any color 🙂

Lately my daughter is on a rainbow kick, insisting that rainbow is her favorite color.  She used to say it was blue, green and pink but lately she has added purple, brown, orange, yellow, red and gray as her favorite color.  So when it came time to put icing on some rainbow sprinkle cupcakes, she naturally requested rainbow frosting.

plain pudding cupcakes

Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Adapted from My Cupcake Addiction

Ingredients:

5 cups softened butter (250g/ 8.8oz / 2.5 sticks)
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted (600g / 21oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or extract of your choice)
1-2 tbsp whole milk, cold

Optional:  Food coloring if using.  The gel types would add less liquid to the icing

Directions:

 1. Soften Butter if necessary

TIP:  You can soften butter in the microwave using the defrost setting for approximately 10-15 seconds.

I can’t believe how giddy I was when I found how to soften butter quickly because it is usually impromptu baking for this mommy (and, well, I am just plain forgetful sometimes).  This is how my solid stick of butter looked after 15 seconds on defrost:

soften butter

2.  Beat butter for 5+ minutes

Beat room temperature butter for 5+ minutes

3.  Add powder sugar 1 cup at a time and beat for ~2 minutes with each addition so that sugar is well incorporated.  Add 1/2 tbsp whole milk as required if icing is too thick.  When ~1/3 sugar has been incorporated, add vanilla extract.

4.  Add coloring if using.

wilton icing colors

I envisioned a pastel rainbow so I used a small small amount of red, blue and yellow gel dye (a toothpick pokes worth of each).  I put the icing into a plastic bag and then poke each color into the icing, then tried to mix the icing so that the yellow and blue would make green and the red (pink) and blue would make purple.

Pastel Buttercream Frosting

icing in bag 02

Pastel Buttercream Frosting

After I started frosting, I saw that I got a good amount of green but didn’t mix enough purple.  My daughter still okay’ed it but I made a mental note for more purple next time.

Pastel Rainbow Sprinkle Cupcakes

This icing can sit in room temperature for a few days.  If refrigerated it can last for 1-2 weeks.  It can also be frozen for later use but I haven’t tried that.

I got the recipe and directions from this awesome YouTube video by My Cupcake Addition:

p.s. I only made 2/5 the recipe because I didn’t want to put 5 cups of butter and 5 cups of powder sugar on the table for dessert for 3 people.  As a result, I only had 1 cup of icing and it was enough to frost ~5 cupcakes as pictured below:

rainbow cupcakes 02

So let me ask again, what is your favorite icing color?  I think I’m changing my answer from blue to rainbow too.  SMILE!  It’s Rainbow-day.

Cheers!

with love charlie

 

 

 

 

Chocolate chip cookies

Hello Sunday!  Only one more day till Monday.  Boo….I know, don’t remind you.  Let’s just forget I said that.  🙂  I know what would make you feel better.  Cookies!  Chocolate chip pecan cookies to be exact.  I made these for my husband on his birthday last month (I’m a little behind I know, life happens).  We typically don’t buy each other gifts on birthdays and other special occasions (e.g. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc) anymore.  We already have everything and will buy whatever we want for ourselves whenever we want.  So, in place of gifts, we just buy a card and make each other dinner or go out to eat.  I decided to make these because I’ve been promising him months and months that I would make cookies.  I even went out to buy all the ingredients, but they sat in the cupboard as other things got in the way.  What could be more important than cookies?  Don’t get me started!  Well, this year my mom decided that she wanted to cook dinner for my husband’s birthday, so I was off the hook.  Yeah!  So, with dinner taken care off, the least I could do was make dessert, since there was no cake.

Cookies!

Cookies!

But who needs cake when you have cookies?!?  Especially when you’ve got these babies.  Bit crispy on the outside, yet soft on the inside with the perfect amount of chocolate and nuts.  Need I say more?

DSC_1447

Recipe (adapted from pinch of yum):

  • 8 tablespoons of salted butter
  • ½ cup white sugar (I like to use raw cane sugar with a coarser texture)
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour (more as needed)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips and chocolate chunks, whatever you prefer)
  • nuts (e.g. pecans or walnuts, optional but decrease amount of chocolate chips if using)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Microwave the butter for about 40 seconds to just barely melt it. It shouldn’t be hot – but it should be almost entirely in liquid form.
  2. Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, beat the butter with the sugars until creamy. Add the vanilla and the egg; beat on low speed until just incorporated – 10-15 seconds or so (if you beat the egg for too long, the cookies will be stiff).
  3. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until crumbles form. Use your hands to press the crumbles together into a dough. It should form one large ball that is easy to handle (right at the stage between “wet” dough and “dry” dough). Add the chocolate chips (and nuts if using) and incorporate with your hands.
  4. Roll the dough into 12 large balls (or 9 for HUGELY awesome cookies or use a tablespoon for smaller cookies) and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the cookies look puffy and dry and just barely golden.Warning, friends: DO NOT OVERBAKE  this is essential for keeping the cookies soft. Take them out even if they look like they’re not done yet. They’ll be pale and puffy.
  5. Let them cool on the pan for a good 30 minutes or so. These should stay soft for many days if kept in an airtight container.

DSC_1442

Happy Sunday!

A Cake for Mommy

What happens when my toddler wants to bake me a cake?  I baked myself a bake.

My kiddo helped more than I expected so that was a sweet surprise.

measuring ingredients

Bonus:  Refrigerator Art for Mommy

(AKA How I know she really really loves me)

Except when she excitedly showed me the hand prints she proudly made for me.  I suppose I should be thankful the sentiments are there, and glad that she didn’t protest too much when I had to removed her lovely creation.  I showed her the picture I took of it and said I would treasure it forever so I could clean the refrigerator.  She said “forever is a long time Mommy”.  That cheeky little monkey.  I will treasure her sass too.

flour hand prints

Sweet, but not too Sweet, Please

I wanted to find a recipe that didn’t have too much sugar.  I suppose too and much are subjective, but I went in search of a sponge cake recipe for cakes like those often sold in Chinese bakeries because they’re usually not too sweet (IMO).  I found one on the Nancy Baked blog  which had only one cup of sugar.  That’s not too much right?  And most importantly, I loved how she had detailed process pictures, very important (did I say that already?) for a baking-noob like myself.  Sigh, the things I get myself into for my toddler.

Chinese Bakery Cake Recipe

for 2 9″ round cakes, adapted from Nancy Baked

Ingredients:

6 eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar, separated into 1/3 and 2/3 cup
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Tips:  This sponge cake is light and fluffy because meringue is gently folded into the batter.  This is easier if you have two separate mixing bowls, one for the batter and one for the meringue.  Or if you only have one mixing bowl, divide and pour batter into the two cake pans and then wash the mixing bowl before making the meringue and fold it into the batter directly in the cake pan.

Nancy Bakes’ directions were to line the bottoms only, and not the sides of the baking pans, but I didn’t have parchment paper on hand so I didn’t line at all.  Instead I had rubbed a little bit of butter onto the bottom of the pans and felt the cakes came out okay.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (~176 degrees C)

1.  Separate Eggs

(with a Funny Egg Egg Yolk Separator)

I saw this egg separator at Walmart years and years ago and I *had* to get it even though I didn’t really bake because it was so fun looking.  I had it for over 10 years and this was the first time I used it for real.   Everyone who sees it in my kitchen comments on it but I was never able to say honestly if it worked or not.

And (this feels like a big reveal, ta-da), it actually worked well!  I We separated 8 eggs without any mishap so this funny egg egg yolk separator was a good $5 investment.  The recipe only called for 6 eggs, but it was so fun we did all 8 we had.  I just looked for it on Amazon and it’s still $5.  Not much inflation for egg yolk separators huh? (Affiliate link to buy your own funny egg egg yolk separator here)

seperating eggs

2.  Beat egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric beater on high for approximately one minute or until it turns pale yellow.

3.  Sift cake flour and baking powder over the pale yellow egg yolk mixture and mix at low speed until just incorporated.

4.  Add water, oil, and vanilla extract and beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy.

mixing batter

My daughter performed the above steps but I took over for the following steps:

5.  Make meringue by whipping room temperature egg whites with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until slightly foamy.  Then add cream of tartar and beat on high for approximately 3 minutes or until stiff peaks have just formed.  Then decrease speed to low and while the mixer is still on, add in the 1/3 cup of sugar.  Then beat at high for another 30 seconds or so until all the sugar is incorporated.  You should be able to turn the meringue upside down and it won’t move, but how risky you live your life is entirely up to you.

6. Gentle fold meringue into batter until just incorporated.  The less mixing, the fluffier the cake.  Then transfer quickly to baking pans (if not mixing directly in pans) for baking.  The longer the batter rests, the less fluffy the cake.

7.  Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F (~176 degrees C) for approximately 20 minutes until tops are golden brown.  Every oven seems a little different – it took 25 minutes in my current oven (probably because, looking around sheepishly, ummm, the vents in the back of my oven are covered with cat hair).

ready to come out of oven

8.  Let cool until warm, approximately 8 minutes, before moving from pans to cooling racks to cool further.  The cake will shrink and your house will smell wonderful.  I had to guard the cooling cakes from my daughter because she kept pulling up the chair to try to sample them.  I don’t mind her sampling but didn’t want her to burn her cute little fingers.

9.  Decorate as desired when completely cooled.  I also used whipped cream and strawberries like Nancy Bakes did.  I try to always have heavy cream on hand for our family’s favorite creamy chicken recipe and since I often buy my strawberries from Costco, we usually have a little too many so this was a great way to use them up.  Whipped cream frosting is also nice when you want something lighter.

 

Whipped Cream Recipe

For a 2 layer cake, adapted from Nancy Baked

Ingredients:

4 cup heavy cream
2 cup powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or extract of your choice)

Optional:  Food coloring

This whipped cream frosting is very light and the sweetness can be adjusted easily with more or less powder sugar.  You can also adjust the flavor with different extracts or additions.

Directions:

Tip:  It works best to use very cold equipment – leave heavy cream in refrigerator until ready to use and store whisk and metal bowl in freezer for at least 30 minutes prior to mixing.

1.  Whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, starting at a low speed and gradually working up to high to minimize splattering.

2.  When the cream starts to thicken, gradually add powder sugar and vanilla extract.  We stopped intermittently to taste and determine if we needed more sugar.  Try not to eat all the whipped cream and save enough to decorate the cake.  That is very hard to do.

3.  Scoop whipped cream into a coriander to drain excess liquid.  Maybe we didn’t couldn’t wait long enough but nothing seeped out.

Nancy Bakes provides additional directions on adding optional gelatin to add structure and stiffness to the whipping cream.

Decorating cake

My daughter alternated a spoon of whipped cream for the cake and one for her mouth until we ran out of clean spoons.  For the astute, yes, my daughter is now in blue instead of yellow. Baking a cake can be a messy job for a 3 year old and may require a change of clothing, or two, to get the job done.

sponge cake

Mother’s Day is coming up.  While I had said I no longer expect any gifts as experiencing motherhood was the ultimate gift itself, I am not above using it as an excuse to order a big Baskin Robbin’s fudge crunch ice cream cake.  I mean cake is the answer to everything right?  And everyone gets to enjoy the treat so it’s not just for me right? Cake is love right?

I haven’t told the kiddo about Mother’s Day yet but if she wants to bake me another cake, maybe I would do it (sniff ice cream cake, I’ll miss you) since this time didn’t turn out a complete disaster thanks to Nancy Bake’s detailed pictures and to my kiddo for all the help.  How about you?  Would you bake yourself a cake?

 

 

Easy 30 minute dinner

Here’s a quick and easy 30 minute dinner for you:  Korean style pan-fried fish and stir-fried zucchini.  In any other Korean household, these dishes are considered sides or appetizers, but in this household, they make a perfect mid-week meal.  Being married to a Korean man, we cannot go more than a week without having Korean food so it’s nice to have these simple recipes to fall back on when there isn’t much time for extravagant meals.  Unlike most other Korean dishes, there are only a few ingredients for these dishes and all ingredients should be easy to find.  The only ingredient you might need to make a trip to an Asian supermarket for is fish sauce, which I use instead of the saeujeot (salted and fermented tiny shrimp).  Both dishes are easy to make and should only take 30 minutes or less to make depending how much fish you have to fry up and if you can multitask. 😉  These dishes may not be fancy or very attractive, but if they’re good enough for my in-laws on new year’s day, they’re good enough for me!

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Saengseonjeon (Fish Pan-fried in Egg Batter)

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Hobak Bokkeum (Stir-fried Zucchini)

Enjoy!

Recipes (adapted from Korean Bapsang)

Saengseonjeon (Fish Pan-fried in Egg Batter)

  • 1/2 to 1 pound flounder or cod fillet (or any white fish)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour
  • vegetable or canola oil for pan frying

Sauce (optional):

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • pinch pepper
  1. Rinse fish and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut the fish fillet into 1/2-inch thick, 2-inch long slices by running the knife diagonally through the fillet. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides.
  2. Dredge both sides of the fish in flour, one piece at a time. (Do this step for all the pieces before the next step.)
  3. Heat a large non-stick skillet with a tablespoon oil over medium low heat. Dip each piece one at a time in the beaten egg, and carefully place in the heated skillet. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes each side, adding more oil if needed, until slightly golden. Do NOT brown.
  4. Repeat until all the ingredients are pan fried. Add an additional tablespoon of oil each time.
  5. Serve warm with the sauce.

Notes and Tips:

I used my hands to rub the salt on the fish and also used basa fillets because I couldn’t find flounder or cod.  You can also pan fry zucchini and prawn using the same method (see Korean Bapsang for more instructions on how to do this).

Hobak Bokkeum (Stir-fried Zucchini)

  • 1 medium zucchini (about 10 – 12 ounces) or 2-3 small ones
  • 2 or 3 tsp saeujeot (or fish sauce)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise (I cut mine into quarters because mine was round). Then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices.
  2. You can use saeujeot as is or finely chopped. This is very salty, so use 2 teaspoons first and add more if needed.
  3. Heat a pan with the oil over medium high heat. Add the zucchini and saeujeot (or fish sauce) to the pan. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, stirring well.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for an additional 1 – 2 minutes, stirring, until the zucchini is softened and turns translucent.

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Vietnamese style chicken curry (Ca Ri Ga)

The other day, we went grocery shopping to buy ingredients to make Vietnamese style chicken curry.  We saw whole chickens on sale – 3 for $20.  That’s pretty cheap in our neck of the woods so we bought them.  I wasn’t completely sure what I would use all that chicken for (I had a few recipes in mind), but I knew I could just freeze it until I figured it out. We normally buy chicken in parts (thighs, breasts, etc), so having to butcher a whole chicken was a bit of a first for me. I tried to follow Martha’s instructions, but our knives were pretty dull so I had to enlist hubby’s help.  It actually wasn’t so difficult to do, just need some muscles or sharper knives.  😉  We used most of the chicken for the curry, except for the back (we saved for making stock) and 2/3 of the breast.  That way, everyone is happy since the hubs likes dark meat and I prefer white.  You can choose to use any parts of the chicken you like.  I prefer skin-on and bone-in for more flavour.

This recipe is relatively easy to make.  You can divide the work into 2 days if you want, just marinate the chicken overnight the day before you want to eat it.  It’s also a one pot recipe….you know how much I love one pot dinner recipes!  Less dishes to clean!

What makes this curry Vietnamese style is the coconut milk and lemongrass, which may be difficult to find depending where you live.  If you want to omit the lemongrasss, I am sure the curry will still taste pretty good.  You can adjust the spiciness with the amount of curry powder and chili paste.  The amounts used here don’t result in an overly spicy curry.  Even our baby can eat it!

I love the smell of this curry, especially when garnished with cilantro.  Mmmm…can you smell it too?  Don’t forget to have it with toasted baguettes.  It’s how Vietnamese people eat their curry and the best way to eat it, in my opinion!

Vietnamese style chicken curry

Vietnamese style chicken curry

Oh and one more thing, this curry is better than my mom’s (according to the hubs). Shhh…..don’t tell her! 😉

Stay tuned for more easy chicken recipes.  In the meantime, try some of our other tasty recipes.

Vietnamese Style Chicken Curry Recipe (adapted from Food.com)

2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
2 small shallots
1 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon chili paste ( such as Sriracha)
peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 lbs chicken (thighs, breasts, whatever you prefer)
1 medium yellow onion, divided into 6 pieces and separated
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
2 2/3 cups coconut milk
4 large carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
potatoes and/or yams cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/4 cup cilantro leaf

Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine curry powder, garlic, sugar, shallots, salt, chili paste, 1 tablespoon of the oil and black pepper. Lightly puree and pulse into a rough paste.
  2. Rub the paste all over the chicken. Place in a bowl , cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and lemongrass and cook for another few minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Add the chicken to the stockpot and sear for about 10-15 minutes, or until browned.  Remove chicken from the pot.
  5. Turn the heat to high. Add the water, coconut milk, carrots and potatoes to the pot.  Bring to a rolling boil then reduce to low.  Add back chicken and simmer for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked and carrots and potatoes almost soft.
  6. Test the carrots and potatoes for doneness before adding the peas. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes in a light simmer.
  7. Serve hot over rice or with fresh, warm baguettes. Garnish with cilantro.

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