Saturday, February 27, 2010

Miss T is 3!

Balloons!

As my little girl likes to remind me, I have a big girl now no more baby. I could have swore that it was just a little while ago when she was still a little bitty thing. We decided to have a little party for her this year, just family and a few friends. I've been baking more than ever (really, it's just 4 dozen cupcakes...) Now I'm exhausted and really looking forward to spending a couple days in the mountain learning to ski. Wait a minute, maybe that won't be so relaxing after all.

A quick recap of Miss T's celebration:

ice cream cone cupcakes
A couple dozens of these were brought to her daycare class to share with her friends.

my taste tester
Here's her taste testing them the night before.

Broken tent
Disappointment of opening up a present that was broken...

buttercream
She discovered the joy of eating buttercream straight from the piping bag.

Vanilla cupcakes with French Buttercream
Another couple dozens of cupcakes.

Bowling
Some bowling fun.

cupcake tower
First time using the cupcake stand.

And lots of presents of course! Thanks to those that came out and celebrate Miss T's birthday with us.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Artist in training

Talise's self portrait

Miss T seems to have gotten a little of the artistic genes. I would say from me, since I'm the one who went to art school. Although I can't tell you the last time I actually try to sketch something. Don't even ask when was the last time I actually finish a complete drawing. Maybe she could inspire me to start again...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Productive Sunday

Creamy Chicken Pasta

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I would complain if I have a nice relaxing Sunday just hanging out doing nothing. I could even make that happen if I wanted to. But to me, the best way to spend Sunday is to get ready for the work week ahead, especially in terms of food. (We like to eat around here!) We have been trying to eat more whole grains so getting a head start is pretty important to accomplish that since they do tend to take longer to cook. Today, I made a loaf of brown soda bread (from the current issue of Cooking Light), a loaf of banana bread (from Joy of Cooking, but I made a few changes to suit me), cooked multi-colors rice (mixture of brown, red, and black rice), and also tried a recipe for quinoa pudding (milk, sugar, quinoa). The best part, I even got time to make dinner for tonight.

Creamy Chicken Pasta

I started off thinking that I would make a casserole. But since I had the breads baking in the oven, I just did everything on the stove top instead. I use Wondra flour all the time as thickener instead of a roux to cut down on the fat.

1 lb dried whole wheat spaghetti, broken into shorter pieces
2 cooked chicken breast, cubed
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups of mixed cooked vegetables (I used frozen bell pepper, peas and corn cause I needed to use them up)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp Wondra flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup shredded low-fat three cheese blend
1 - 2 tsp seasoned salt (or salt and black pepper), to taste
handful of flat leave parsley, chopped

Bring water to boil and cook the spaghetti to al dente. Don't overcook since it will heat up a little more in the pan with the sauce. Drain.

While the water is boiling/cooking, cook the onion in olive oil on med-low heat in a 3 quart saute pan until medium brown and smells amazing. Add garlic and cook for another 30 sec. Add the chicken broth and scrape up all the little brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Mix the flour and the milk together and pour into the pan. Cook over medium heat until it starts to thicken. Add the frozen vegetables and chicken to pan to heat through. Mix in the cheese. Season with the seasoned salt, make sure to get it slightly saltier at this point since it will be mixed with the spaghetti. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Finish with chopped parsley.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

恭喜發財!新年快樂!

cherry blossoms

Happy Chinese New Year! We now begin the year of the tiger. Last night we had our 團年飯 at my parent's. It's a tradition to gather the family together to have dinner on New Year's eve to welcome the New Year's together as a whole family. Being that it happens to be on a Saturday this year made it a lot easier for us to meet at my parents. The only bad thing is that half of us have been sick and did not have our usual appetite. Here's the dishes:

團年飯 Chinese New Year's eve dinner

The poached chicken and the pig's hand (I'm not convinced that it's the foot though) are there as usual. Normally we would have steamed fish, but we had a steamed crab this year instead. Another more traditional dish is the one with mushrooms, dried oysters, and seaweed that looked like hair. Okay, maybe that sounds a bit strange if you're not used to it. To round out the rest of the meal, we also have blanched lettuce with oyster sauce, fried pork chops, and shrimps with scrambled eggs.

I picked up a dessert on the way there from my favorite place to get fruit tart, Patisserie Philippe in San Francisco. I don't think I actually went in a bakery before that close to Valentine's Day and was pleasantly surprised to see all the baked goods with the little white chocolate hearts on them. They have this large, red heart shaped macaron filled with whole raspberries and cream. Even though it was a large macaron, there's no way I could divide that between 9 people. So sadly, I had to past on that. Take a look at the fruit tart that I got though:

Fruit Tart

I think the gold was a nice touch for Chinese New Year's, don't you?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Meringue cookies

The cookies above are from Patisserie Philippe in San Francisco. The raspberry meringue cookies looked so cute that I couldn't resist them while picking up a fruit tart for dinner last night. Chris and I actually don't celebrate Valentine's Day after we had a car accident more than 10 years ago on this day. It's harder to ignore it now that Miss T learns about these things and there were activities planned at daycare for it. As mentioned in the earlier post, I offered to make cookies for her class to eat during snack time since another parent have already volunteered to bring in cupcakes. I decided to make these:

Valentine's cookies

They were pretty simple to make, just sugar cookie dough (home made please) and fill the cutout in the center with crushed hard candy before baking. I remember making these in the early days of dating Chris for Christmas one year. The trick is to pile the candy as high as you can in order to have any thickness at all after it melts. Along with the cookies, they were also exchanging Valentine's cars. These are the ones Miss T picked out:

Valentine's cards

From what I heard, the cookies were such a hit that a lot of the kids actually ignore the cupcakes and just ate the cookie. That definitely made the work worth it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Busy busy busy

34/365

February has proved itself to be quite a busy month. The worst thing was that I was completely unprepared for it. Yes, Miss T's birthday is at the end of the month and we already decided to actually give her a little party this time. Now that she's going to be 3 and have been to a number of her cousins birthday parties that she could remember, she figured it out that a birthday party means cake, presents, and have people sings to her. Of course, being us, we have no idea how to really throw a party so we'll see what happens. At least we know for sure her cousins will be there! Besides Miss T's birthday this month, there's her cousin Sara's and my cousin Elisa's as well right before hers.

Then there are things at her daycare that popped up. Valentine's day, I agreed to make cookies for the class. So in addition to making a couple dozen cupcakes for Sara's birthday party this Saturday, I'll have to make a batch of cookies as well for Friday. Usually, Chris is around to help, especially when it comes to baking. Bad news for me, he got sick today and have not been out of bed since dropping Miss T off to daycare this morning. I know I know, problem will be solve if I just go and buy the stuff. That's just not in our DNA. Don't get me wrong, I saw half a dozen cupcakes at the supermarket today for $5 and I was definitely questioning why I'm making them from scratch. Then I remember all the crap they put in there and I came back to reality. Being one to never pass up an opportunity to try something different, I can't just make drop cookies like chocolate chip or anything. So tomorrow night will be cookie baking night and let's hope I won't be decorating them in the middle of the night. I also asked about whether any other parents are doing anything for Chinese New Year. That somehow turned into me possibly going in to tell stories and pass out treats. Did I mention Miss T's birthday? I'll be bringing in cookies and ice cream for her daycare class along with little party gift bags. I realized that I brought on the stress to myself, so maybe something is wrong with me...

Have I mention that I'm sleeping on the couch tonight to avoid being sick? (I don't even know how it would work if BOTH of us are sick.)

Don't even get me started on work.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Comfort Food

Bowl of comfort

I'm sure I'm not the only one that thinks a bowl of homemade chicken soup as the ultimate comfort food, especially when you're not feeling well. I've been trying to fight off this flu/cold/whatever the past week and finally gave in and decided to stay home for a day to just rest. As great as staying in bed until noon is for resting, it does not do much to keep my stomach from rumbling. In a rare moment of foresight, I made chicken dumpling soup over the weekend in an attempt to cook up stuff that have been sitting in the freezer/refrigerator longer than they should be. One of the things that I always have around is bags of bones I saved from roast (chicken/turkey/goose). With 3 bags on bones taking space in the freezer, I decided to make some soup for dinner. (I have about 4 quarts of stock in the freezer as well.) I used the pressure cooker to make the stock to cut down on time. I actually use the slow cooker quite a bit for stock as well, but pressure cooker works better when there's less time. Chris makes fun of me whenever I make soup because I go overboard and put too much things in there that it's more like a stew. I restraint myself this time and it turned out perfectly.

Chicken Dumpling Soup

Stock:
about 2lb of bones leftover from roasted chicken
2 small carrots, washed and cut in half
2 stalks of celery, washed and cut in half
1 small onion, washed and cut in half
about 20 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic, mashed slightly
8 cups of water

Put everything in a pressure cooker. Bring it up to pressure and let it go for 1 hour. After it cools down and de-pressurized, strain the stock into a 5 quart pot.

Soup:
2 small carrots, peeled and diced
celery heart with leaves, diced
1 small onion, diced
3 sprigs of thyme
4 chicken thighs, diced

Add everything to the pot and bring it up to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer. while the soup is simmering, make the dough for the dumpling.

Dumpling:
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp garlic and onion salt
3 tbsp of milk

Mix the flour and baking powder together. Cut in the butter until it is mostly small pieces. Add the milk and mix together. Work the dough so it incorporate together, knead a few times. Divide into about 24 pieces.

Season the soup with salt to taste. (Season now will prevent breaking up the dumplings later.) Drop the dumplings in the soup and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, try not to disturb the dumplings or they will fall apart.

That's it. It's done. If you make the stock prior, you could easily make this a mid-week meal. I filled two small containers and put them in the freezer. As much as I need to clear out my freezer a bit, there's always room for good home cooked soup.