DIY: Leather Cord Charm Bracelet

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Another year has flown by with 2018 looming just over the last page of our dogeared  calendar; and I was just getting used to writing 2017 on all the kids’ school forms/permission slips.  The fam-bam and I packed so much in this year yet that feeling of regret over having lost another year, time we won’t ever get back, and all the to-do’s that never got “do-ed”, leaves me in disbelief at how time really does, literally, fly.  But just like I get a fresh, new slate daily, it’s time for my annual fresh, new slate.  Yeah, you shouldn’t wait for the new year to set and evaluate your goals and progress, but the new year is always a perfect time to do just that.  So, yes.  I’m saying a triumphant ‘goodbye’ to 2017 and I am ready to receive 2018 with open arms.  But first, let me get through this Christmas rush while I try to reverence the true meaning of the season with my little ones amidst all this commercialism.  And since Christmas and gift-giving go hand-in-hand, here’s a little DIY tutorial for a shiny, little something to put under your Christmas tree.

I work with a church youth group of girls ages 12-17 yrs and every year the leaders put together a little birthday gift for the girls and drop it off for them on their birthday.  So while brainstorming gifts, I stumbled across an image of a leather cord bracelet with gold tubing that would be perfect but way out of our budget to purchase.  Plus, we wanted to incorporate the new year’s youth theme into the gift as well.  After doing some research, (hrs upon hrs, ok not really) I figured out a way we could make the bracelets ourselves for about $3 each including a charm etched with our new theme!  I was pretty ecstatic because they are so cute and I know the girls will love it!  (One can hope)

I added links to places where I purchased the material, but I was buying in bulk so you may want to purchase smaller batches.

DIY Leather Cord Charm Bracelet w/ Gold Tube

Materials:

Tools:

  • scissors
  • jump-ring tool (I just used my fingers)
  • E6000 & Super glue (or Gel Superglue, Gel Gorilla glue)
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I guess gold comes in different hues… Luckily the charms and the gold tube matched while the end caps were a little more yellow, but I made it work.

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What you’ll need to make one complete bracelet. (plus the glue)

Instructions:

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  1. Cut desired length of leather cord. (My finished bracelet size is 7 inches.  Measure wrist for accuracy but that seemed to be a good size for most of the girls.  You want the length of your leather cord and the clasp to total your desired bracelet length)IMG_5121-1
  2. Thread the cut cord through the gold tube bead.IMG_5120-1
  3. Add the charm. (I had to switch the jump ring on my charm to an 8mm jump ring in order for it to fit over the gold tube)IMG_5122-1
  4. Add a dab of glue to each end of the leather cord and gently insert into the end cap clasp. (if using E6000, let dry few mins, then pull back out and add a dab of super glue.  E6000 by itself came out with a tug test) (If using gel super glue or gel gorilla glue, then just glue once and done)* Let it dry overnight.

*I had E6000 glue already from a past project and thought that would suffice when gluing on the end caps, but when I tested it with a tug the next day, it slipped out fairly easily.  So I added a dab of super glue (runny kind) and it held tight.  I decided to get gel gorilla glue and that by itself held well.  Use what glue works for you.

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SUPER EASY and SUPER CUTE!!!

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I hope you made one for yourself, too~

Thanks for reading-  Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays (however you may celebrate)!

-Flora

Quick Rice Cooker Castella

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I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!  This is going to be a quick post on an easy and quick recipe that I saw today and just HAD to try right away.  I was browsing FB and saw this video:  https://www.facebook.com/dingo.food/videos/854615187974792/

Bake a cake in a rice cooker????  say what???1230161535-1pm

I always wondered why my Zojirushi Rice Cooker had a “cake” button and who would be crazy enough to bake a cake in their rice cooker… I guess I was crazy not to try it sooner!  At least with this Castella recipe, the rice cooker was just the right amount of heat and steam to make a fluffy, light, and airy Castella cake, which is basically a type of sponge cake, but a far cry from those dry sponge cakes that need to be soaked with syrup.  It’s a childhood favorite growing up and now my own children have adopted a love for them as well. Try it with a tall glass of milk!  You’re welcome.

And without further adieu, here are my converted measurements for the ingredients which were all in grams.  (If you know Korean and you watched the video, you may have noticed I substituted Mirin for Soju, since that’s what I have in my pantry and we don’t have soju in our home.)

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Quick Rice Cooker Castella

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided into 1/2 cups
  • 1 TB Mirin
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 2  1/2 TB honey
  • 1  1/2 cups cake flour
  • 4 TB oil (canola, vegetable)
  • scant 1/4 cup milk

Directions

  1. Grease your rice cooker with Canola oil spray.
  2. Whip 6 egg whites in a clean stand mixer with whip attachment and add 1/2 cup sugar in 3 increments until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.
  3.  Whip 6 egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar.  Add the Mirin, salt, and honey and whip.  Add the cake flour and mix.
  4. Fold in a third of the meringue (egg whites) into the yolk batter and carefully fold in.  Add another third and fold.  Finally, add the remaining meringue and fold.
  5. Mix the oil and milk together then fold into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into greased rice cooker pot and push your “cake” button or the video says “steam” setting for 60 minutes.
  7. carefully invert the cake out of the pot onto a plate, cool, and eat!

*Note: the top of the cake will look pale when you open the rice cooker and you may wonder if the cake is “cooked” through.  You’re welcome to try the toothpick test,  but it was nicely browned on the bottom of the cake (which becomes the top when you invert it).

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Now go and try it yourself!!!  I’m  never baking my Castella in the oven again!!!

Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!!!

-Flora

Steamed Korean Buns

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It’s a cold, rainy day here and I’m enjoying just shuffling around the home and being grateful for the warmth, shelter, and food in our tummies.  I’ve got a little slot of time before the Thursday afternoon madness resumes  so I thought I would post an old-time favorite snack of mine that we made a while back but I never got around to posting.  If you noticed my last post was some time ago … there’s been some crazy real estate swapping that went on which kept me just a bit preoccupied.  I’m the type that likes to concentrate on one thing at a time and feel frazzled if I have too much going on and of course I ended up starting a part-time job at the same time we decided to sell and buy…  so there’s my excuse 🙂

Back in SoCal, I loved walking through our big neighborhood Korean grocery store and walking to the back of the store where they made “Wang Mandoo” and sneaking a pack into the grocery cart.  “Wang” means king and “mandoo” means dumpling.  So you can imagine they were giant, softball-sized dumplings filled with my favorite “Japchae” or glass noodles.  The slightly sweet steamed bun exterior mingled with the savory beef and veggie japchae interior was perfection that would leave you feeling like the “after” of a Snickers Bar commercial.

I found this recipe for steamed Korean buns many years ago on a Korean baking site, and it’s just perfect when you live 30 mins from the nearest Korean store (compared to 5 mins growing up) and you do not want to do the Caldecott Tunnel but you want some “Wang Mandoo”.  Plus, homemade is always better, right?   The recipe was all in grams so I measured all the ingredients into volume measurements for my own sake and I’m sharing them with you.  I didn’t notice any difference in the result when I used my converted volume measurements to make them again and again.

I made two different fillings for my buns: “Wang Mandoo” with Japchae filling and “Hobbang” with sweet red bean paste filling.

You can use my Japchae recipe here for the “Wang Mandoo” and the red bean paste filling was purchased at my past Korean store excursion.  You can really put anything you want inside the bun, Spam and kimchi is super yummy, too!  Or you can just make buns without any filling!  I made both japchae filling and the red bean paste filling and they were both so delicious!  Would be perfect for this cold, rainy day… wish I had some right now.

img_1843In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk powder.

img_1847Add the warm water and mix/knead until dough forms.  You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.  Once you have a ball of dough, add in the oil and knead until you have a nice, shiny dough that isn’t sticky.

img_1848Divide the dough into little balls (60 gram balls, about the size of a golf ball).  Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, cover with clean cloth and let rest for 15 mins.

img_1861Flatten a ball of dough and fill with desired filling of choice.  Pinch ends closed then place onto a square of wax paper.  (If not using filling, just place ball of dough onto wax square)

Watch my mom pinch and close the dough for the bun.  Apologize for the static background noise.  watch with sound off 🙂

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This is my store-bought Red bean paste

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Traditionally for the “Wang Mandoo” you place the seam side facing up and for the “Hobbang” you place it seam side down.

img_1871Let dough rise in a warm place for 30 mins

img_1872While the dough is rising, start heating your pot of water for the steamer over med high heat

img_1874Place the dough into the steamer (don’t over-crowd, they will grow) once the water is boiling and you see steam rising.  Steam for about 10 mins. Don’t open the lid while steaming.

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And Voila~ beautiful, fluffy, warm, delicious buns!!!

Steamed Korean Buns Recipe (왕만두/호빵)

Makes: about 2 dozen buns

Ingredients (Bun)

  • scant 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 TBS baking powder
  • 1 1/2 TBS dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS non-fat dry milk powder
  • 1 cup warm water (more or less)
  • 1/6 cup vegetable or canola or grapeseed oil

Filling

Japchae Recipe or store-bought Red Bean Paste or be creative! 🙂

Directions

  1. Prep: cut out 24 little 3″x 3″ squares of wax paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk powder.
  3. Add the warm water and mix/knead until dough forms.  You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.  Once you have a ball of dough, add in the oil and knead until you have a nice, shiny dough that isn’t sticky.
  4. Divide the dough into little balls (60 gram balls, about the size of a golf ball).  Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, cover with clean cloth and let rest for 15 mins.
  5. Flatten a ball of dough and fill with desired filling of choice.  Pinch ends closed then place onto a square of wax paper.  (If not using filling, just place ball of dough onto wax square)  Traditionally for the “Wang Mandoo” you place the seam side facing up and for the “Hobbang” you place it seam side down.
  6. Let dough rise in a warm place for 30 mins
  7. While the dough is rising, start heating your pot of water for the steamer over med high heat
  8. Place the dough into the steamer (don’t over-crowd, they will grow) once the water is boiling and you see steam rising.  Steam for about 10 mins. Don’t open the lid while steaming.
  9. Carefully remove and enjoy your steams buns!!!
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Before my mom devoured hers 🙂

I’m going to get my butt out to the Korean store soon.  My stock of Korean ingredients is dwindling… probably when it stops raining.  Yes, I’m spoiled with good weather here and don’t go out when it rains… and my parents live in WA… ha.

Thanks for reading and stay dry and warm out there!

-Flora

Birthday Wishes… Shopkins

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My little girl just had a birthday; and of course no birthday celebration is complete without a cake topped with birthday candles to wish on before they are extinguished in one (or a few) puffs, which concurrently blankets the cake with tiny droplets of birthday girl germs.  But we digress… let them eat cake.  Germs are everywhere.  Besides, this cake is bulletproof!  It’s covered with homemade marshmallow fondant which no one likes to eat anyway.  I just peel mine right off and get to the good stuff: 4-layers of moist chocolate cake, devil’s frosting, and french vanilla frosting just under the peel, err… fondant.

I’m definitely not a fondant fan, but I must admit that certain cake requests (like this Shopkins cake) does require edible modeling clay to achieve that smooth, plastic look of a toy.  Most of my cakes are covered in buttercream or whipped cream, but I made an exception for this one since I didn’t think tinted buttercream would look as nice as fondant would.

My little princess got 2 birthday parties!  One on her actual birthday with family, including grandma who was in town, and her second party with a little group of friends at our humble home for a night of pizza, “Snow White” the movie, popcorn, and cake, followed by a spontaneous game of balloon war; organized chaos at it’s best!

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Of course I used Ina Garten’s Cheesecake recipe but without the jam, just topped with fresh raspberries.

So lucky mommy (yes, that’d be me) got to bake a cheesecake for her family party and this cute Shopkins cake for her party with her friends and I’m going to share my Shopkins cake construction process.

Little princess wanted a chocolate cake, so little princess got a chocolate cake for her special day.  I used Toba Garrett’s chocolate cake recipe from her book “The Well-decorated Cake” and I promise it’s the BEST chocolate cake you will ever taste!  She claims it’s good to the last crumb, and believe me, it is!  For the filling, I made a HUGE mistake and accidentally  made chocolate icing!!!  Like the kind that you drizzle over desserts for the nice chocolate-spilling-over-the-edge look, and that doesn’t work for a cake filling unless you want a “Sleeping Beauty” type of cake look with all the layers sliding and frosting dripping and the whole cake leaning like the Tower of Pisa.  That’s why, my friends, we should stick to tried and true recipes when attempting a special cake for a special occasion.  Lesson learned.  SO, instead of dumping the chocolate icing, I just doctored it by adding more butter and powdered sugar and it was fixed!  Now, I had delicious devil’s chocolate icing buttercream that was perfect layered with the chocolate cake.

After that detour, I decided I didn’t want to risk the dark brown color of chocolate frosting possibly showing through the light yellow fondant so whipped up a batch of our favorite vanilla frosting, which is also found in Toba Garrett’s book (see above link) called French Vanilla Buttercream.  This buttercream tastes like vanilla ice cream and has a texture that’s lighter and in between a buttercream and whipped cream.  Definitely one of my go-to recipes and have used it in many of my past cakes.

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I made 2 batches of marshmallow fondant and colored one batch yellow then left a larger part of the 2nd batch white and colored some pink and a little black.

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I wanted a taller, cake but I didn’t want to bake a 3rd cake, so I cheated and used my inverted cake pan as my 3rd cake layer to give the cake more height.

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I was in a rush and wasn’t careful removing my 2nd cake from the pan and it broke in several places!

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see how much of the outside broke off?!?!

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But it’s okay!  Just take those broken cake crumbs and mix it with your frosting and now you have chocolate cement to fill in the cracks.  (This is also how you can make cake pops.  crumble cake, mix in frosting, shape, and stick onto sticks)

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Whew, there. Now the cake is good as new 😉

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I split my 2 cakes in half so I got 4 layers.  Put some frosting on my “fake” cake layer then stack cake, frost, stack cake, frost… you get the picture.  I purposely left the top layer rounded since I wanted to keep the rounded look for the Shopkins Wishes cake.  Refrigerate your stacked cake for about 30 mins so it’s easier to cover with frosting and doesn’t shift.

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Smooth on your vanilla buttercream frosting with an offset spatula and refrigerate again while you work on rolling out some fondant. Notice how I frosted my cake pan, the bottom layer of my “cake”.

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After you work your fondant with your hands to get it pliable again, roll it out as big as you can.  I wasn’t able to get it big enough to drape over the entire cake, so I just cut out two 6″ strips (height of the side of cake) and stuck it on.  Get a wet paper towel and run it over your fondant so it will stick to the cake. (dampen only the side that will be touching the cake)

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Carefully smooth it out with your hands or a fondant smoother tool.

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I used two strips to cover the sides of the cake. (you can see the small seam on the left)  It’s okay, I’m going to add the arms there later.

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Roll our your white fondant, then use an 8″ cake base (cheese board from Dollar tree) as a guide to cut out a circle.  You want enough of the white fondant to come over the side of the cake.

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Use a sharp knife to cut around the fondant like above to achieve the look of icing drips.

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Again, dab a wet paper towel over the fondant, then carefully position over the top of the cake.

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Now for the pink band around Wishes.   Roll and cut out an appropriate sized band

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Stick it on with some water then use a blunt knife or I used a wooden skewer to make the slanted indent patterns on the pink band.

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Now make your eyes, nose, arms, and lips and attach with some water!  It already looks so cute!

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Make 3 white snakes then coil into these little swirls

 

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Attach the swirls and make some white “sprinkles” and the cake is complete!  She wanted a “6” on her cake and didn’t want just green candles (which is what Wishes has).

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She loved her little party and was so excited she kept hugging me and telling me ‘thank you’.  That’s what makes my Saturday spent on a birthday cake, all worth it!

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Eating a slice or two of cake helps, too.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

adapted from Toba Garrett’s “The Well Decorated Cake”

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1  1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 2  1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1  1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temp.
  • 1  1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2  1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 6 oz. melted semisweet chocolate (good quality), melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and parchment line two 8″ cake pans (2″ high).  Melt chocolate, set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugars together on med- low speed until fluffy.
  3. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl, set aside
  4. Add eggs into the butter mixture, scraping bowl as needed.  Add vanilla.
  5. Add in a third of the flour mixture, mix. then a half of the buttermilk.  Mix and scrape bowl. Repeat until you have ended with the rest of your flour mixture.  Scrape bowl.
  6. Add in your melted chocolate and beat on med-high until well mixed.  Scraping bowl as needed.
  7. Pour into your prepared cake pans and bake in preheated oven for about 50 mins or until toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Cool in pan for 10 mins then remove carefully onto cooling rack.
  9. Frost cake after completely cool.
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Her friends got to go home with these cute Shopkins keychains from the supplies I had left from a past party where I had bottlecap necklaces.

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I found that printable for free on pinterest and taped them onto pink craft bags.  My girl is into word searches so they got a word search booklet and mechanical pencil (from Dollar Tree) and a pretzel rod dipped in white chocolate w/ sprinkles, plus the keychains.

 

Good luck with your baking adventure!  Thank you for reading and please subscribe!

-Flora

More Gingermelon Dolls!

 

I absolutely LOVE how these dolls came out and had to share!   I revisited the Gingermelon Pocket Polly felt dolls this week and finally finished these dolls for my friend’s girls.  Kind of exciting with it being my first sale, but with how long it took me to finish the dolls… I wonder if I want to be cranking them out to sell when I’m the one making them by hand.  It’s not a difficult pattern, but the embroidery for the face and adding the hair is definitely more time consuming and a bit tedious.  I worked on these dolls over the course of a *ahem* a couple months.  I cut them out and let them rest, I embroidered on their faces then let them rest, I stuffed and sewed their bodies then let the rest… you get the picture.

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My daughter said the dolly with the white hair looks like Elsa.   I thought about giving her an icy blue dress to really make her look like Elsa, but I think I’ve had enough “Frozen” to last me for years.  I loved the movie when it first came out but Disney went a little overboard with it’s Frozen marketing and I see it EVERYWHERE; and let’s just say I need a break from the royal Arendelle sisters.  But, we did watch Frozen Disney on Ice this past week in Oakland and of course my girls were so enthralled that it made the drive, crazy $40 parking fee, the will call, the lines, the “you’re in my seat”, all worth it.

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I added simple details to their dresses and used shaped craft scissors to cut the hems of their dresses to give it that scalloped look.  I really like the blonde dolly.  Reminds me of a fairytale character; like Goldilocks or put a red hood on her and she’d be Little Red Riding Hod.  Just so cute!

If you missed my previous post on these insanely cute felt dolls and how to make them, click here.

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Thank you for visiting and reading.

-Flora

Kimchi Queso Dip-mom approved

IMG_1748_kimchiquesoToday’s post will be short and sweet.  My mom’s visiting from WA and time has just flown by MUCh too quickly.  She’s leaving this weekend and I’m wishing this week will be one of those weeks that drags, but it won’t really “drag” because I have my momma.  I still have so much that I want to do with her; haven’t even made a dent in my mental list of things I was planning to do with her.  But I did make her this kimchi dip from the Buzzfeed recipe I saw floating around Facebook.  It was hubby who showed me the video of the dip last night and I couldn’t wait to try it!

Yes, I’m Korean and I love my kimchi!  I figured I should make it when my fellow kimchi enthusiast (aka: my mom) was in town to help me enjoy it.  Don’t worry, Ken, I saved you some.

In case you were wondering if it was super spicy…  I halved the recipe and added:

  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 TB red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup kimchi, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped

It was NOT spicy.  OK, I guess it depends on your spice-o-meter, but I didn’t really think it was spicy.  The sour cream and cheese probably helps tone down the spicy factor.  I personally would add more kimchi next time around since I like having more of the kimchi crunch in each bite.

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Here’s the link to the recipe:  Kimchi Queso Dip from Buzzfeed.com

and to make your life (browser tab) easier… recipe from their site that I used:

Kimchi Queso Dip

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped Kimchi
  • 2-3 TBSP Korean Red Pepper Powder (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 green onion chopped

Directions:

In a medium sauce pan, melt cheddar cheese part way (until it’s mostly soft but still clumpy) then add the sour cream. Melt and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add the red pepper powder and stir until evenly integrated. Add kimchi and simmer until evenly mixed and smooth. The liquid from the kimchi may give the appearance that the queso is chunky, continue heating and stirring 5-10 minutes and it will smooth out. Serve garnished with chopped green onion. Goes great with chips, raw vegetables, or straight into the mouth via spoon.

 

 

“Thunder Cake” Happened…

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I borrowed this book ,”Thunder Cake”, from the library a couple weeks ago to read to my children when it was raining nonstop here in the bay area and we had some hail and thunder (but alas, we saw no lightning, much to my son’s dismay).  Maybe because of the hills, trees, and homes that block our view of the sky…  But as my High School Chemistry teacher always used to say, “we digress”!

This book is a story about a little girl who is afraid of everything, especially thunder, and how her grandmother “distracts” her into overcoming her fears as they gather the ingredients to make this special ‘thunder cake’ that needs to go into the oven right when the thunderstorm is above them.  Much to my children’s delight, there was a recipe at the end of the book for this special thunder cake which uses a surprising secret ingredient in the chocolate cake that (I must admit) made me giddy with excitement to try.

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We did our own “gathering” of ingredients for the cake, most of which I already had stocked in my pantry, but we ran to the store to buy the ‘secret’ ingredient and some strawberries.   Our run to the store could have been spared since we didn’t end up baking the cake until today and only because the strawberries wouldn’t last any longer if we didn’t bake it and I didn’t want to make another run to the store for one ingredient.

So what is the ‘secret’ ingredient you ask?  Well, it’s pureed tomatoes!  Isn’t that something?  I was skeptical but hopeful that it would turn out into a delicious chocolate cake and BOY, did it turn out into a scrumptious chocolate cake! And dare I say, it may be the best tasting chocolate cake EVER, especially paired with some light, fluffy chocolate frosting and fresh strawberries.  My kids are funny.  They start with the strawberries and then they eat the cake.  Every morning, I give them their fruit after their ‘main’ otherwise, they won’t finish their food and only eat the fruit.

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*SEE BELOW for UPDATED METHOD!!! Some pointers about making the cake.  The recipe really doesn’t give the step-by-step directions I’m used to in a recipe, but having baked enough cakes in my life, I started off creaming the butter (I substituted the shortening for unsalted butter) then added the sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks.  Then I transferred the butter mixture to a large bowl, thoroughly cleaned and dried my stand mixing bowl to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  I sifted the dry ingredients together and set it aside.  But here is where I panicked!  I added the water and pureed tomatoes to the butter mixture and of course with that much water, the butter is NOT going to incorporate it and looked like a curdled mess with the tomato puree and water mix.  But I just kept going, putting trust in the recipe (and crossing my fingers that it would turn out).  I started adding the flour mixture into the butter mixture then folded in some of the egg whites and repeated until I had cake batter!  It looked lumpy with butter still not incorporated in the liquid, but I still baked it according to the recipe and the cake turned out great!  It really tastes SO soft and moist!

*1/14/2016  So, I had to make this cake again and found a much better way to make this cake batter come together without lumps of butter.  

  1. Preheat oven to 350F . Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans
  2. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and the egg yolks.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. Measure out the cold water and pureed tomatoes. (I strained it so no seeds or tomato skin pieces) 
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the dry mix to the butter mixture, next add half of the tomato/water mixture, then another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the tomato/water mixture, and finally the remaining third of the flour mixture.  (So basically dry, wet, dry, wet, dry into the butter mixture.)
  6. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form w/ whip attachment.  
  7. Carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
  8. Divide the cake batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake about 30- 35 mins (toothpick test)

P.S.  I used fresh pureed tomatoes (and my son drank the rest and wanted more 🙂

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Oftentimes, I find butter cakes to be not as moist and soft as cake mixes, but this cake is so soft like a cake mix and tastes delicious!  I could only slightly taste a hint of the tomato (maybe because I knew there was tomato in it… the hubby couldn’t tell), but it was very good and even gives the cake a slightly red-velvet cake-ish hue.  I’m curious how the tomato helps the cake taste so good!

Now, the recipe in the book only says to frost the cake with a chocolate butter frosting.  SO, I used this chocolate frosting recipe:

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate (melted)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

I melt the chocolate carefully in the microwave at 50% power in 30 sec increments or you can melt using the double boiler method.  Beat the butter until light, then add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy.  Then add the melted chocolate (shouldn’t be hot).

After tasting the frosting, I decided I wanted to lighten up the frosting and whipped about a cup of whipping heavy cream added a bit of powdered sugar then folded it into the buttercream frosting.  It made the creamy, intense chocolate frosting, into more of a chocolate mousse-like lighter frosting that I think paired perfectly with this cake and the strawberries.

So, there.

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Who knew pureed tomatoes could make the best chocolate cake, ever!!!

My 7 yrs. old has already requested that I make a copy of the recipe and save it so he can have it for his birthday (which is not ’til Sept).  Then his 5 yrs old sister chimed in and said she wanted the same!  It’s really that good!  Don’t believe me?  You’ve got to try it yourself!

Daddy came home while we were enjoying dessert so he got to read the book “Thunder Cake” to them while they ate their ‘thunder cake’!  Nothing grand going on here, but they were all so happy.  It’s the little things that count.  🙂  I love my family.

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Thanks for reading!

 

Love,

Flora

Fudge-y Chocolate-y Cherry Brownies for your Soul

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It’s official.  I’m a soccer mom.  We even picked up a minivan this summer despite my husband wailing and kicking against the inevitable “suburban mom car” he knew was upon us.  Now our next 10 Saturdays are scheduled with cheering for our 1st grader and Kindergartener and watching them swarm across the field back and forth running after the ball that miraculously makes its way into a goal post once in a while.  Did I mention my husband is coaching my son’s 1st grade team?  He’s an avid sports fan and loves basketball, football, and baseball, but soccer…  Let’s just say he’ll be learning as he goes.  Who knows, he just may add soccer to his list of favorite sports soon.

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I have a huge sweet tooth, but then, I don’t like sweets too sweet.  Does that make sense?  I like desserts, but I like to cut back on the sugar when I’m baking and like light Asian bakery cakes better than the creamed butter frosting covered cakes (although I eat those too).  So whenever I bake, I cut out some of the sugar that the recipe calls for and I usually don’t run into any issues with the final product.  This Chocolate Cherry Brownies I made from the recipe book “Chicken and Egg” was so fudge-y and delicious with the tart cherries adding the perfect compliment to the rich, chocolate-y brownies studded with chocolate chips!  It made one big 9×13 pan of brownies and I had to give some away after I started to feel my waistline disappear…  Even after cutting out some of the sugar, it was still rich because of the chocolate chips embedded in the brownies; a good thing too, otherwise, I might have finished the entire pan of brownies.  It really hit the spot though when I was craving those decadent chocolate treats that my body craves (not me, my body) every once in a while.  😉  The recipe calls for a chocolate frosting to cover the brownies with, but I thought that was a bit overkill… maybe I’ll try frosting it next time I’m really in the mood for death by chocolate.

Chocolate Cherry Fudge-y brownies

(adapted from “chicken and egg”)
ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (60% cacao) (I used Trader Joe’s dark choc.)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs, room temp (place cold eggs in warm water)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I used about 1/2)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz semisweet choc chips
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries (I used Trader Joe’s)
directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and coat a 13″ x 9″ glass pan with nonstick spray.  Melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave at 50% power in 30 sec increments until warm and melted.  Whisk smooth then set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  In large bowl, beat the eggs then add the sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add the chocolate mixture and mix then on low speed, add the flour mixture. Add the chocolate chips and cherries then pour into prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the brownies are set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (if you can find a spot to test that doesn’t have melted chocolate)  Let it cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  4. Cut and enjoy~

*Optional Frosting

  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 TB unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

-Combine ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and melt at 50% power for 30 sec intervals until it is melted and smooth.  Spread over the brownies before you cut.

I didn’t use the frosting and it was already very rich with all the chocolate chips mixed into the brownie batter.

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The tart dried cherries I used from Trader Joe’s. Not sure if they’re seasonal, but I got them this Aug.

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Perfectly Sweet Lalaloopsy Birthday

My daughter just turned 4! Where has the time gone?!!?!.  So for my little girl’s 4th birthday she wanted a Lalaloopsy theme, which was not too difficult with all the resources out there posted by wonderful bloggers and all the free printables from Nick Jr.  I gleaned inspiration from birthday express and from images I searched on Google and I was excited to use some recipes I’d been wanting to try including a 6-layer birthday cake, macarons, and an Oreo cookie pop.  I’m usually a procrastinator but this time I made myself prepare early enough so I wouldn’t kill myself, but ha ha… I still ended up procrastinating a lot of decorations so here I am recovering from it.

The hanging pompoms are made from $1 plastic table cloths from the dollar store.  One of the purple sizes makes 4 or 6 from one tablecloth depending on how full you want the pompoms.  Here’s a link to the tutorial I used from Craft,Interrupted blog.The pink ones that look like flowers are just the same thing, accordion folded, just didn’t open it up, so looks like a flower and adds a nice varying touch. 
I already had her name from her room decor so used wall mount 3M brand adhesives to stick it on.  The tiny confetti pompoms surrounding her name are from the dollar store and stuck on with double-sided tape.
I stayed mainly with pink, purple, and white with colorful confetti-theme and pink and green streamers.  

I tried to keep the party simple and used the craft paper bag lalaloopsy puppets as examples (for the kids’ craft) and decor.  You can print them off on nickjr.  We also did a Bingo game which I tried to get the hubby to make, but found one we could just print off for $5 on Etsy, which he was ALL for. 🙂

The party feast in action: PB&J sandwiches and cream cheese-cucumber sandwiches, fruit and veggie platters, plenty of sweet treats, and Avie’s favorite salty snack: pirate booty.

Our little dessert table.  macarons.  pirate booty.  Oreo cookie pops.  My reject macaron shells topped with whipped cream and raspberries.

Oreo Cookie pops!  They look just like cake pops and tastes way better~ I’ve never been a fan of the mushy/soggy cake pops made from crumbled cake mixed with frosting.  These have more texture and not so mushy.  And seriously, who doesn’t like Oreos?

I was wondering who was sneaking all the raspberries from the dessert… my son… caught in the act
Simple but cute cake with Spot and her crew.  She’s the one who paints, so the confetti dot sprinkles look like paint spatters.  Perfect!


See how smooth you can get this buttercream frosting?  It helps if you have a rotating cake decorating stand and a pastry scraper too.  

Time to blow out the candles and make a wish!
I forgot to take pictures of their party favors, so I took one of an already unwrapped one (please excuse the wrinkles) I saved for my daughter but basically got Lalaloopsy paperback books from Amazon, wrapped them up and added a white-chocolate bowtie lollipop (same as on cake) on the front.
NOW
FOR
THE RECIPES
6-layer strawberry cake with strawberry cream-cheese filling, frosted with vanilla buttercream
  
For the cake and the strawberry cream-cheese filling, I used the recipes from Better Homes and Garden’s Six-layer strawberry cake  but I didn’t use their frosting recipe for the outside of the cake, which would also have been a cream cheese recipe, just without the pink tint and the chopped strawberries.  Instead I used my favorite French Vanilla recipe from Toba Garrett’s “The Well-Decorated Cake” (see recipe at bottom of post).  This buttercream tastes great (“like vanilla ice cream”) and frosts smooth and keeps shape well as long as it’s not too warm.  For the bow behind Spot, I added confetti sprinkles to a Bow-Tie candy mold and filled it with melted white candy melts.  After frosting the cake, drop and throw the confetti sprinkles on the cake and place your washed lalaloopsy to finish it off.
*Only have two 8-inch cake pans so carefully sliced each into three’s, which wasn’t too bad since this cake is dense (but still tastes moist and not dry) and didn’t break easily.
The cake tastes great… but WAAAAY too sweet for my liking.  Two bites was just fine for me.  My first attempt at this recipe so I followed it to the T, but next time may add a lot less sugar for the cake.
Now for the macarons… my first attempt and half of all my batches failed…

I still have no idea what makes them perfect like above, and what makes them crack and ugly, like below…
but I’ve had a friend refer me to this site to troubleshoot… Maybe I need to let them sit and dry the top a bit after piping them into circles and before placing them in the oven.  It was a rainy day so perhaps it was a humidity problem.  Bottom-line… baking macarons are SO Simple! Yet SO tricky!  I used the recipe my friend sent me from the Martha Stewart Living magazine.  The only thing I did differently, is I used blanched almond flour instead of grinding my own flour from almonds, and I only had to bake them for about 8 mins.  The ones I bakes for the 13 mins it calls for in the recipe, were waaaay too brown and hard on the bottom.
And last but not least:
THE OREO cookie pops!
These are really just so simple.  Place an entire pack of Oreos in a large freezer-size ziplock bag, then get your 5yr old son, who’s not napping, give him a wooden spatula and let him go at it, while you go get some zzzz’s.  After a broken spatula (pretty strong 5 yr old), and a good nap, make sure the Oreos are all finely crushed and dump them into a stand mixer bowl.  Add almost an entire pack of 8oz cream cheese, (I added 3/4) and let it mix well until you don’t see any streaks of cream cheese.  Form them into balls and refrigerate until firm.  Melt your candy melts, dip a little onto a lollipop stick and poke halfway into the Oreo ball.  Then dip and tap off excess, add sprinkles, and place in a pop stand*.  You may need to stick the pops into the freezer for a bit if it gets too soft and it falls off when you dip it in the white chocolate.
*I made a pop stand with a Capri-sun size box, wrapped it in gift wrap paper, and poked holes with the help of a pointy tip knife and a metal chopstick.
This vanilla buttercream recipe I used for the cake is adapted from the Institute of Culinary Education blog and Toba Garrett’s book “The Well Decorated Cake”. 
FRENCH VANILLA BUTTERCREAM
Tools: 5 or 6 Quart Mixer
Yields: 2 ½ to 3 lbs (5-6 cups)
Ingredients:
  • 1½  cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1½ Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/8 cup or 3 fl oz (85 g) heavy cream
  • 1¼ lbs (5 sticks) unsalted butter (cut-up)
Or, for a larger quantity:
Tools: 20 Quart Mixer*
Yields: 10 to 10.5 lbs (4.45 to 4.76 kg)
Instructions:
  1. Make custard by heating milk and sugar over a double boiler until sugar crystals dissolve.  Remove from heat and add flour and salt and whisk until flour is incorporated.  Place over an ice bath until the custard has slightly cooled or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool (about 30 mins)
  2. Pour custard mixture in mixer bowl with paddle attachment.  Add cut-up butter and heavy cream.  Mix on LOW speed to fully incorporate ingredients or until mixture starts to thicken.
  3. Mix on NEXT highest speed until mixtures starts to look light and fluffy.   This can take 7 to 10 minutes or longer if making larger batches. DON’T panic if it looks like cottage cheese!  Keep mixing!
  4. Store and refrigerate buttercream in an air-tight container.  Freeze for up to 2 months.
Note:  If the buttercream curdles, it will just take a longer time for the butter to warm-up.  Continue beating until the butter softens and the mixture looks light and fluffy.

Thank you for reading~ and please subscribe and follow my blog if you like what you see! 🙂 

Berry Oven Pancakes or panCUPS :)

Walking through the grocery store,  I see a lot of berries out already and they are actually sweet!  So I bought a pack of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, whipped up some sweetened whipped cream and thought about just plunging the berries into a cup of my fresh whipped cream and preview a taste of summer.  Then I remembered these delicious oven pancakes from Ina Garten’s book so I told myself I could wait and enjoy the berries, whipped cream AND delicious puffed pancakes..  I like to take pictures of my favorite recipes on my phone so I have easy access to them without having to go through my stack of cookbooks.

The recipe calls for 3 eggs at room temperature.  Really?  REALLY?  You’re talking about a breakfast dish here… My daughter is usually up at 7am, then my baby, then my son, and they’re all up before 8am.  So anyways, I really don’t plan ahead and think to run upstairs and pull out 3 eggs so it can sit at room temperature while I direct morning traffic.  SO what to do?  Just place the eggs into a bowl of warm water and you’ll have room temperature eggs while you get all the other ingredients measured and ready.  YES!  So there, you have no excuse to NOT make these incredible pancakes that will be all ready at the same time and not one-pancake-out-of-the-pan at a time.  
I use jumbo muffin pans to bake them into cute little individual servings but my husband likes them baked in a huge pie pan so he can “fill ‘er up”.  Whatever floats your boat.  You can use little gratin dishes as well.  The muffin tins bake faster and works just as well.  When you add the batter into the muffin cups, only add about 1.5-2 TBS, enough to coat (about 1/4 inch deep?) the bottom of the cup, so you get a nice cup shape for your berries and cream.  
Oven Pancakes (adapted by Ina Garten)

printable recipe

2 TBS unsalted butter, melted plus more for pan
3 large eggs, room temperature
½ cup milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
¼ tsp salt
Serve with seasonal berries or fruits, sweetened whipped cream, and/or maple syrup.  You can play around with these.  They are a good base for any fruit really. 
Preheat oven to 425 F
Zest the orange into your measured milk.
Place the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk until well mixed.  Add the milk and combine, then add the milk with orange zest, flour, vanilla, melted butter, and salt.  Whisk until it’s not too lumpy.  It will still be a little lumpy and that’s okay. 
Add about ½ a pat of butter into each muffin cup and place it in the hot oven for about 1-2 mins, until it’s hot and bubbly.  Immediately add the batter into each muffin cup and bake for about 10 mins, until it’s puffed and golden brown.  Don’t worry if it looks really big, it will deflate a lot when you remove it from the oven. 
Fill it with your whipped cream and berries and dust with powdered sugar if desired.  OR come up with your own toppings.  
P.S.  If you noticed my “muffin” pans look like it has a dome in the center, you’re right.  You’re very observant.  I used my muffin pan to freeze homemade baby food last night.  I freeze them in the pan, pop them out and place them into a freezer ziplock once they’re frozen discs.  That way I have perfect portions that I just need to pull one “disc” out of the freezer and defrost.  SO, I had to substitute it with another pan that has a dome for baking cakes that you place toppings onto.  They work just fine, but some of my pancakes ended up with holes.  ha ha.