Umma’s Kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi)

IMG_1839_ummakimchi

I have a confession to make.  I am Korean.  Okay, that wasn’t my confession.  Here it is:

I am Korean.  And I buy my kimchi.  -_-  I know, I know.  I don’t deserve to lay claim to my Korean roots if I don’t make my own kimchi or own a kimchi refrigerator.  (Yes, there is such a fridge and it keeps kimchi and regular produce fresh forEVER!)  But wait, do you know what kimchi is?  It’s only the best, tastiest, and healthiest Korean mealtime staple with natural probiotics and lots of Vitamin A and C.  Basically it’s fermented Chinese cabbage (can also be made from a variety of other vegetables and seasonings) that is eaten as a side dish and ranges from mild to spicy, to watery, to fishy.

My mom’s visiting and I’m taking full advantage of her Korean cooking skills and documenting her kimchi-making process so I can try to replicate it next time I run out of her kimchi.  I’ve made kimchi by myself once before in my lifetime and I must confess it was a fail.  My mom sort of walked through the steps and ingredients with me over the phone and I tried to mimic it… and well… it just wasn’t the same.  Hopefully, standing over her shoulder and breathing down her neck while watching her make this kimchi will help me the next time I attempt it.  We sort of measured the ingredients as she went along because, like many Korean moms out there, her measurements and recipe is in her head and her hand.  She just sort of eyeballs it and adds more or less by taste.  I was probably frustrating her whenever I stopped her to measure the ingredients 🙂  but she was super patient with me.  So here is how my mom makes her kimchi:

 

IMG_1752

Add lots of salt to a bucket of water (should taste like the sea). We used Kosher Salt because I don’t have Kimchi salt, but my mom prefers to use Kimchi salt (which might be the same as rock salt).

 

IMG_1755

Slice your cabbage in half, vertically.

IMG_1754

Slice again, so you have quartered your cabbage. Cut off the hard core/stem, but we want enough of the stem to keep the leaves together.

IMG_1758

Dunk your cabbage quarters in the brine water, let it drain, then salt between each leaf, concentrating on the thicker, white (non-leafy) portion of the cabbage.  Repeat for all.

Here’s a quick video to help you (and me) see how to prep/brine the cabbage.

 

IMG_1765

After salting all the cabbage, pour the rest of the salt water over the cabbage and let it brine for about 2-3 hours. (depends on how much salt and water.  taste it after 2 hours to determine)

IMG_1766

Turn and rotate the cabbage halfway through brining

 

Meanwhile, make the kimchi paste/marinade by chopping your onion, Korean pear, ginger, garlic, and radish, place in a blender, add your fish sauce, then puree.

IMG_1811

Add your red pepper flakes and brown sugar to your puree and you have your kimchi paste

After the cabbage is salty enough, dump out the salt water, then rinse your cabbage in running water 2-3 times and let drain for about 30 mins.  Now get on some food service gloves (the red pepper on your skin will sting) and smear on that kimchi paste all over and between the cabbage leaves.  “Wrap” the outer most leaf around the quarter of cabbage then carefully tuck into a glass jar.  Fill the jar (cover w/ lid) then place in the refrigerator (or to eat it sooner, leave it out at room temperature for a day).  And you lucky ducks with a kimchi refrigerator, you know what to do.

Ingredients

  • 2 Napa (Chinese) Cabbage, washed
  • Lots of Coarse salt (Preferably Kimchi salt)
  • 1 cup fish sauce (I used Tiparos brand Thai Fish Sauce. Korean ones are saltier and less sweet, so add more or less according to taste)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Korean pear, chopped
  • 1 cup Daikon radish, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger root, chopped
  • ~13 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 ½ cups coarse red pepper flakes
  • 1 TB brown sugar

*You will need a big, wide bowl to brine, a bucket, food service gloves, and wide-mouth glass (preferably) jar to store kimchi)

Directions

  1. Add lots of salt to a bucket of water (should taste like the sea)
  2. Slice your cabbage in half, vertically. Then slice again, vertically, so you have quartered your cabbage.
  3. Cut off the hard core/stem, but we want enough of the stem to keep the leaves together.
  4. Dunk your cabbage quarters in the brine water, let it drain, then salt between each leaf, concentrating on the thicker, white (non-leafy) portion of the cabbage.  Repeat for all.
  5. After salting all the cabbage, pour the rest of the salt water over the cabbage and let it brine for about 2-3 hours turning and rotating the cabbage halfway through brine period . (depends on how much salt and water.  taste it after 2 hours to determine)
  6. Meanwhile, make the kimchi paste/marinade by chopping your onion, Korean pear, ginger, garlic, and radish, place in a blender, add your fish sauce, then puree.
  7. Add your red pepper flakes and brown sugar to your puree and you have your kimchi paste
  8. After the cabbage is salty enough, dump out the salt water, then rinse your cabbage in running water 2-3 times and let drain for about 30 mins.
  9. With food service gloves (the red pepper on your skin will sting), smear on the kimchi paste over and between the cabbage leaves.
  10. “Wrap” the outer most leaf around the quarter of cabbage then carefully tuck into a glass jar.  Fill the jar (cover w/ lid) then place in the refrigerator (or to eat it sooner, leave it out at room temperature for a day).  And you lucky ducks with a kimchi refrigerator, you know what to do.

*I bought only one Napa cabbage but the recipe makes enough kimchi paste for two Napa cabbages so the recipe calls for two of the cabbages.

IMG_1837_jjangkimchi

Good luck to you (and to me)!

Thanks for reading!

-Flora (and my mom)

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.

IMG_1751

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…

IMG_1720_pm_polaroid

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.

IMG_1717_pm_polaroid

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.

IMG_1718_pm_polaroid

*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 🙂

IMG_1725_pm

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.

IMG_1724_pm_polaroid

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.

IMG_1731_polaroidfilm

Thanks for reading!

 

Love,

Flora

Thankful for…

 

IMG_1503pm.png

As I sit and reflect on my past year this Thanksgiving season, I have many, many things to be thankful for, and this Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for my good health and for the good health of my family.  I’m grateful to be able to wake up in the morning and be able to get up on my own, to be able to take care of myself and my children, be able to drive and go places, be able to cook, bake, sew, read, do the things I enjoy and also the things I may not enjoy too much (aka: clean the toilets), to be able to live life and not be in constant physical pain is a tremendous blessing that I am reminded of this season.

My next door neighbor has cancer and only has maybe a week left before she will be leaving this world behind.  I believe she will be happy and no longer be in physical pain after she leaves this world, but it is still difficult to see her go.  During my last visit with her when she was still awake and aware of her surroundings, she said to “enjoy life while you can” and that is something that I really need to work on.  I am always immersed in the “to-do’s” and always looking for the “better”: “I’ll be able to breathe after I get through this, this, and this”, “I’ll be happy after I get a bigger place”, “I’ll be happy after the kids grow older and can take care of themselves”, etc, etc.  I have been trying to find joy in the “here and now”, and it really seems to be about your attitude and perspective, as I found in this pretty neat post circulating Facebook: (read from top to bottom then from bottom to top)

11745868_10153402918191291_7035104667065874590_n

I am grateful to be able to use my hands to create things for my children.

I have always been afraid of hand-sewing and have made a boy’s necktie before that required hand-sewn seams to close the back of the tie, but that may have been the first and last tie I made due to the hand-sewing which deterred me from making more.  That was a few years ago, and I was really doubtful about trying to make a doll that was ALL hand-sewn when I stumbled across this book by Shelly Down while Christmas shopping (in lieu of Santa) and thought they were beyond adorable!  I looked up her Gingermelon blog and saw there were free tutorials and patterns for some other insanely cute felt animals/projects and decided to try my hand at her little Sparkle Kitty. I figured I would throw up my hands (like the necktie) after trying to hand-sew the kitty and save myself from spending money on a book/pattern I wouldn’t end up using, but I really surprised myself at how the hand-sewing didn’t seem too bad and at how quickly and easily it came together (plus they are Super cute!).  Coming into the project, I had NO idea what a whip stitch, blanket stitch, or a ladder stitch were but after a few searches on Google and youtube, I was good to go; though you could tell which stitches were first and which came later.  I made 3 of these little creatures (one for each of my children) and was ready for more!

IMG_1493pm

They’re tiny little creatures 🙂

 

IMG_1499pm.png

After the kitties, which were a huge hit with my 3, I decided to purchase a PocketPoppy pattern from Gingermelon’s Etsy shop to try my hand at a doll and am pretty impressed with the pattern and how the dolls actually turned out!

IMG_1506pm

I used a wool blend felt from Felt the Wool (Etsy).  The wool blend felt really does make a difference in the quality of your doll and I would advise against using acrylic felts (usually sold at Joann and Michael’s) because they pill and don’t look nice after a little bit of handling.  I made the Kitties with the acrylic felt I had at home and they look worn and old already.

IMG_1501pm

I used 8mm safety eyes from Amazon instead of the 7.5mm that the pattern calls for, and I think my dolls look perfectly cute.  My only real challenge with the dolls was the hair!  I was able to “poke” the hair into the seams at the top of the head, but I couldn’t “poke” the hair into the felt down the back of the head like the instructions suggested and opted for the gluing option instead.  Only the first layer of “hair” is glued to the back of the head and the other layer of hair over that portion covers it and makes it look just fine.  I also ended up gluing the bangs portion in the front to keep it looking nice.

Add a little color to their face with a red or pink crayon! Rub on gently and add more as desired~

1125151010

The other more minuscule problem I found was that a couple strands of hair that was “poked” into the seam and hadn’t been glued to the back of the head had fallen out after my girls had played with them.  So I tried to remedy that by adding a tiny bit of glue to the “scalp” to keep the upper layer of hair in place and hopefully, withstand the playtime that it was meant to provide for my girls.

Summary of supplies:

  • PocketPoppy pattern
  • wool blend felt  Felt the Wool
  • pair of 8mm safety eyes
  • batting, fiberfill, cotton batting  (I used polyester batting)
  • yarn for hair (thicker is easier to work with)
  • Aleene’s Jewel-It glue (this is the one I used)
  • matching embroidery thread
  • needles (a few different sizes help)
  • fabric scissors and embroidery scissors help too
  • pink/red crayon for blush

Here they are so happy with their little dolls!

My older girl wanted black or brown hair for her dolly and my younger girl wanted red hair.  Sisters yet they are SO different!  I love them so much and am so grateful to have a family I can dote on.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving season with loved ones.

Thank you for reading.

-Flora

 

 

 

Early-bird Bacon and Egg Breakfast Tart

IMG_1466

What do you do when you get up at 6am to drop off the hubby at the BART station so you don’t have enough time for your morning exercise (since that means you would need to account for shower time) and you realize you have all the ingredients (surprising, indeed) to try out the recipe you have been wanting to try for a couple months now?  You roll up your sleeves and just do it, despite, after quickly skimming the recipe, the many steps including refrigerating the dough and pre-baking seems to threaten complicating your morning routine when you have lunches and snacks to pack, not to mention getting the kids out of their PJs and into semi-presentable (okay, passable) clothes for school.  You give yourself a pat on the back for getting it done with time to spare and now the kids are having fun playing with the empty laundry baskets that carted the weekly mountain of laundry onto the bed (one can be hopeful that it will get done before bedtime), where it awaits its return to the basket at night when you accept defeat, then back onto the bed then the basket a few more times before finally making it into their intended drawers.

What is this?  You hear rain outside!  It’s a welcoming pitter-patter with a few rolling thunders to pique the children’s interest away from the laundry baskets so you can finally put them away.  Besides, the youngest kept spilling out of the basket and you were afraid she would end up bumping her head on the furniture.  The kids have never witnessed a thunderstorm or seen lightning and so you show them a few youtube videos so they can see what lightning is like; nothing like experiencing nature vicariously through the web.  The boy was especially intrigued, and sat looking outside the sliding door waiting to see if the rumblings of thunder would make way for some lightning flashes across the gray sky, but none so far.  Maybe next time.

The rain is still coming down at a steady rate and you secretly hope the rain will continue for a few days so you can hibernate in your little home with the heater cranked on, maybe finally get some of the backed up projects done.  Too ambitious?  Perhaps, maybe just get through the day and squeeze in some laundry folding followed by the tedious task of distributing the folded laundry into its place.  Let’s take it one day at a time; or one moment at a time.  Breakfast is done.  Now on to…

IMG_1453

Unroll thawed pastry and cut into 4 squares. Fold in edges 1/2″. Brush with beaten egg. Refrigerate for 15 mins.

IMG_1456

Mix cream/milk with Dijon mustard. Mix in 6 TB Parm cheese. Spread cheese mixture into center

IMG_1459

Bake at 425F for 8-10 mins

IMG_1454

Slice grape tomatoes in half, slice green onions, cook bacon then slice into 1/2″ pieces

IMG_1461

Crack an egg and place into center of each tart. Scatter bacon, tomatoes, and green onions. Sprinkle with salt and remaining Parm cheese

IMG_1462

Bake for 5-7 mins, until egg whites firm up

IMG_1465

Beats cold cereal any day, but especially so on this cold, rainy day.

This recipe was adapted from Janice Cole’s “Chicken and Egg” recipe book.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast Tart
ingredients
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (I like the ones from Trader Joe’s)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 slices of Trader Joe’s Applewood Smoked Bacon
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 TB shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions (sliced through the white part, lengthwise to make thinner)
Directions
  1. Thaw the puff pastry (or if you’re in a hurry, I microwave it very carefully at 50% power for 30 secs, then maybe 20 more secs, if needed.  You don’t want the dough to be hot).  Unroll the puff pastry then cut into 4 squares.  Fold over the edges of the dough 1/2″ and place on baking sheet covered with parchment. Prick the center of the pastry dough to prevent it from puffing up.
  2. Whisk 1 egg in a bowl, then brush it onto the pastry squares.  Refrigerate the dough for 15 mins (or you can put it in the freezer for a shorter period).
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.  Cook the bacon over medium heat until browned, pat the bacon with a paper towel to remove oil, then slice into 1/2″ pieces.  (I used kitchen scissors to cut them)
  4. Mix the heavy cream with the dijon mustard, then add 6TB Parmesan cheese and mix.  Spread the cheese mixture over the center of each of the pastry squares and bake for about 8-10 mins until golden.  If the center has puffed up, then prick with a fork to deflate.
  5. Crack and place an egg into the center of each tart and sprinkle with some salt, then scatter the bacon, tomatoes, green onions onto the egg, and scatter remaining 2 TB Parmesan cheese on top (I omitted the sprinkling of cheese)
  6. Bake for about 5-7 mins until the egg whites are firm and cooked.

Serve and enjoy!  Makes 4 tarts.

IMG_1470

Breakfast of the champs! My 3 kiddos enjoyed it, despite some picking off green onions and others, the tomatoes. 🙂

Thank you for reading and please subscribe!

-Flora

For Birthdays September Is…

September is the most exciting, busy, and tiring month of the year.  It beats even the holiday frenzy of Thanksgiving and Christmas in our family with the number of birthdays we have along with all the back-to-school shenanigans.  My birthday is also guilty of being in September along with my now, 7 yrs old son, who we just finished throwing a themed party for last weekend.  My son has always had something he was obsessed with since he was a baby, starting with airplanes, dinosaurs, etc, and now we’re at Star Wars, so you can probably guess the theme of his party.  I always start off saying I’m going to make the party as simple as possible, then I start adding things here and there until I find myself staring at the ceiling with about a gazillion things running through my head at 3am and wondering what I got myself into.  We ended up having his party at our local park with about 2 dozen 1st grade boys after inviting school friends, church friends, and his soccer team.  Let’s just say I’m glad that this park is usually empty so we had the place mostly to ourselves and so relieved that there were no injuries aside from a rope burn.

Brayden Star Wars shirt

So I am kicking myself in the butt for not taking more pictures at the party, but I was more concerned at that time in making sure I didn’t lose anybody’s kid and that they were safe than try to document the setup/party.  Just imagine I posted pretty pictures of the “Yoda Soda” made from green Gatorade powder in a large, glass, drink dispenser and a beautiful spread (who am I kidding? ha ha) of a huge bowl of our own hodgepodge trail mix ranging from a “seasonal” Star Wars Lucky Charms type cereal, Star Wars Honey Maid grahams, M&M’s, pretzel sticks, Chex cereal, to Rocket Ship Crackers (Trader Joe’s).

In preparation for the party, I wanted to make those lightsabers from pool noodles, but after some research, I was disappointed that the pool noodles were actually quite expensive.  But I found a pinterest image of one made from pipe insulation and duct tape to make the lightsabers which I thought was perfect; especially the price.  I got the 6 ft. insulation at OSH for $1.29 (Home Depot was cheaper but further from me) and I was able to cut them into 3 pieces.  I got red, blue, green, and gray duct tape to cover the pipe insulation and later added thin black duct tape to add a finishing touch to the handles.

lightsaber_steps_instructions

0930151218

This is also an after-the-party picture (if you can’t tell by the slight warp to the lightsaber).  It was pretty crazy when I handed out the lightsabers to the boys to play with… had to take them back after 2 kids started crying because someone hit them on the head and they didn’t like it… so hand them out at the END of the party.  -__-

IMG_1392

I used my go-to Soft Sugar Cookie recipe to make the cookies and got the Star Wars stencils from this Etsy shop.  I used store-bought black cookie icing (the kind that hardens, aka. royal icing) to “scrape” the Star Wars stencil designs onto the cookies.  See the step-by-step pictures below.  You could do that really with any stencils.  I did have to wipe down the stencils carefully after each cookie so the edges and lines would stay neat and not get smeared from leftover icing.  Sort of a tedious task, so I used buttercream to frost some of the cookies 🙂

stencil icing steps

cookies closeup

Obviously, I made a huge black mess on my first try with the icing and stencils , but the key is to make sure the stencil doesn’t move and scrape carefully so that the icing doesn’t seep through the cracks and “muddy” the lines and edges.

IMG_1370

Since the party was at the park, I didn’t want to cut a cake there and in order to “simplify”, I did cupcakes with these Star Wars cupcake rings to top them off.  Silver cupcake liners and silver sprinkles for the R2D2 rings, gold liners and gold sprinkles for the C3PO rings, and silver liners with Chocolate sprinkles for the Darth Vader rings.  I didn’t get a chance to get close-up pictures of the actual cupcakes from the party on the Star wars Cupcake stand, but I had leftovers with one C3PO ring on it, so I was able to take those pictures at home.  See below for the recipes I used for the cupcakes.  The yellow cake recipe is by far my favorite vanilla cake recipe and it’s the moistest homemade butter cake you will every try!  I have “The Well Decorated Cake” book by Toba Garrett and her recipes are fantastic.  I usually use her French Vanilla Frosting recipe which tastes like Vanilla ice cream, but I tried this other buttercream this time.

Yellow Cake Recipe (I made cupcakes instead and reduced baking time to 20 mins)

Special Buttercream Frosting (I replaced half of the shortening w/ unsalted butter)

IMG_1398

So imagine all of those cupcakes had a cupcake ring on it 🙂

IMG_1401

My favorite purchase from putting together this party were these $1 cupcake carriers!!!  Yes, you heard me, $1 from the Dollar Tree!  They fit 9 cupcakes, and the lid is high enough not to squash the frosting if I had decided to go crazy on the frosting or decoration.  We were able to stack them to carry, and they even have handles (although I wouldn’t recommend carrying them by the handles since they are just a dollar and I wouldn’t want the bottom to fall off and the cupcakes…)

IMG_1376

We ended the party with the Darth Vader Pinata which was actually a pull-string pinata but my son wanted to whack it so I just cut the strings off and called it good.  Note to self: forego a pinata with 7 yr old boys… they stampede and trample…  Good thing my little 3 yr old (pictured above taking a whack at the pinata) was used to having a rambunctious 7 yr old brother and was fine when they all swarmed around for candy.

yodaBrayden

If you’re contemplating putting together an all boys birthday party of 6-7 yr olds… may the force be with you.  🙂  My son loved it and I think they had fun; that’s what counts for me, but would I do it again?  Ask me next year.

Thanks for reading~

-Flora

Fudge-y Chocolate-y Cherry Brownies for your Soul

IMG_1288

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.

IMG_1283

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.

IMG_20150914_110511

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

IMG_1284