Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chocolate Chips Cookie Dough Cake

chocolate chip cookie dough cake

My niece turned 12 last month. Per the birthday girl's request, I made a cookie dough cake for her. My brother showed me a picture of one they found online. The one they showed me had a full layer of cookie dough in the center as filling, which I thought would be way too heavy (in terms of weight and taste). After a few more searches, I saw that it was not that unusual of a cake afterall and there are many variations of them out there. I settled on the idea to make small little cookie dough balls and incorporate that with the frosting in the middle. The yellow cake recipe is from CookWise by Shirley O. Corriher. The cookie dough recipe is the brown butter chocolate chip cookies from The America's Test Kitchen. I left out the eggs and use 1/2 cup less flour (if it's still too thick, add a little milk to get it to the dough consistency.)

chocolate chip cookie dough cake

My flickr stream shows that there are 100 views on this picture. There must be a lot of people interested in making a cookie dough cake? Maybe this will be the new cake flavor for 2012!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Candy Pretzel bits

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I've seen versions of this on pinterest a few times and thought it would make a great project for T to do. I had T and my niece made them together. This is possibly the easily "cookie" that comes out of my kitchen. Get pretzels (square or circle ones) and line them on a baking sheet. Top each of the pretzel with a Kisses candy (we used cookies and cream here). Put the tray in the oven at about 230F for 4-5 minutes. Finally, push a M&M on each while the Kisses are still soft. That's it! I think we'll do it again and give them out for T's preschool class for the holidays.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Only Light

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We took a quick weekend trip to Seattle last weekend. This is one of my favorite picture from the trip. It also reminded me to write down this little note.

Miss T designated us to do certain things for her. Chris somehow is the designated person to turn on lights for her when it gets dark in her room. Now, whenever T wants the light to be turn on, she calls out for her "only light" to do the job. =)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kale Chips

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(Sorry for the blurry picture.)

I've seen kale chips 'recipe' for a while now but have never gotten around to make them. Chris and I already enjoys kale (cooked, not raw though) so while the idea is interesting, there was no reason to try it either. Last week I got a beautiful bunch of kale from my CSA box and I know I've got to eat it today or they'll be wilted by tomorrow. Kale chips seemed like a good idea to snack away a bunch of kale. (I have a little too much food in my fridge right now.) A little time consuming to make with all the trays needed, but not complicated at all. Just clean and dry the leaves really well. Tear them into pieces (no stalk!) Toss with a little olive oil and salt. Place in single layer on baking sheet. Bake at 325F for about 15 minutes. The best part, the 4 years old who eats most vegetables except for green leaves loves them! That is reason enough to make them again.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Watermelon radish

Watermelon radish

I signed up for a farmshare CSA program a couple of months ago. I've tried a few different produce delivery service over the years and was never impressed since all the ones that actually delivers to where I live are more like a producer distributor rather than something more local. The quality and the variety of produces were not too impressive either. I kept looking though because I think it would be fun for Miss T to try some new food and save me a trip to the farmer's market every other week. Capay Valley Farmshare seems to be meeting my needs so far. While they don't deliver to my house, they do deliver to where Chris works. I do have to pick it up at his office on my way home, the box would slow him down a bit on his commute home on a bicycle. We got these watermelon radishes a few weeks back and I was surprised to learn that its origin trace back to China. The Chinese name is 心里美, "beauty in the heart". I ended up trying to make pickles with them since I'm not a huge fan of raw radishes. The pickles were okay, but my refrigerator smells like rotten food. (Miss T thought it looked very pretty but has no interest in eating it since she thinks it smells like garbage.) I may just have cook it like a daikon next time instead or something.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Backyard

backyard - finished

Since I kinda forgot that I had a blog for a while, I didn't get to post the finished picture of the backyard. This was back when the work was just done, still looking all nice and neat. If I were to show you a picture of it now, there would be more weeds around. We are in process of trying to hire a gardener to keep up with the maintenance. We are not good at it and there are way too much work to do between the front and back yards.

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This is the top part of our backyard. I asked for the landscaper to leave me some space to play with. This was what I started the beginning of the summer. Now I have a lot of weeds, a lemon tree, and a blueberry bush. I think when I finally get that gardner, that person will have to help me out of what to do. I didn't mind having some space to play with, but this is actually way too big. I'm thinking of maybe using half as a flower garden. The other half would be a combination of fruit tree/bush and vegetables/herbs. But, right now, wish me luck in finding a gardener soon!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

White Chocolate Cranberry Scones

white chocolate cranberry scones

Lesson learned here: low fat scones = cake. It's not horrible, but it's definitely not a scone! I'll leave the baking back to Chris...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

White Chocolate Covered Cookie Pops

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Miss T is at the stage where she's asking to do a project or help out with something all the time. For Halloween, I thought it would be fun to make white chocolate covered cookies pops to share with her friends at school. I was buying the cookies for that monster brownie/cookie bar thing anyways. All we needed to do was to melt a couple bags of white chocolate chips and dip the cookies in. T got the job of ensuring all cookies get the correct amount of sprinkles on each. It was definitely a quick and fun project to do.

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The only change I'll make next time was to use powder coloring instead of the gel stuff. I tried to color half of the batch to orange and the little gel was changing the consistence of the white chocolate too much. They ended up a light peach instead.

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Something to keep in mind for next time. I think we'll make them again for Christmas!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie and Oreo brownies

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Anybody else addicted to Pinterest? I've been saving clippings on my computer for years but Pinterest made it so much easier. I've been seeing versions of this pinned by so many people that I developed a strong urge to make it. The problem, of course, is that I really don't eat much sweets. Especially not one with a chocolate chip cookie bottom, oreos in the middle and top off with brownie! I finally decided to make it to bring to work on Halloween. You can eat as much sweets as you want on Halloween, right? I used Joe-Joe's from Trader Joe's instead of oreos and made brownie from scratch. I did end up keeping all the edges, I like the crunchy edges and the middle part already filled the tray. It was a hit at work, but definitely plan on serving small pieces as they are very, very rich. Now that I got this recipe out of my system, I'm off to find something else that I just have to make!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

I don't think I've ever been this busy or had this much to do for Halloween. I think Miss T is taking over my life! Wait, I supposed that's what happened when you have a child.

We started off with a trip to the pumpkin patch earlier in the month. We missed out going with our friends, so I took her to Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm near my work. It was Columbus Day so she had no school and wanted to stop by my office to visit my coworkers. The farm was pretty nice, didn't get to ride the little train since it only runs on weekend. But lucky us, we also missed the rain that came down after we left. We even got a bit of sun (hence all the pictures of Miss T with lines as eyes!)

She had to go put her face in every cut outs there. I love this one where she was yawning like a cat.
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Look, she's this tall now!
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She, of course, tried to pick the biggest pumpkin she could find. Not very successful at picking it up though.
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My favorite picture of the day...
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Now we moved on the the next activity for the month. As part of the musical theatre company group at her dance school, she was encouraged to participate in the haunted house during the Halloween carnival. Being that she's only 4, she was not expected to actually be inside the haunted house to scare people. So her job was to walk around the courtyard inviting people to go in the haunted house. We did a little practice run the week before so she knows what to expect. She thought the idea of scaring people was fun, but she does not want to see pictures of herself. I guess she's scared of herself?

Practice run
How's that for going from a cute picture of her to the other extreme?

At the day of the carnival/haunted house, she actually did go up to a few strangers and asked them to go visit her haunted house. We were pretty impressed that she got over her shyness, especially since the two other older girls with her were too shy to talk to anybody the whole time.

Finally, we got to the actual day of Halloween. Being that Halloween was on a Monday this year, she couldn't hang out with her cousins in the East Bay and stay up late. The Halloween parade at preschool was actually on Halloween though. Her official 2011 Halloween costume is...

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Violet from The Incredibles!!

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Oh no! Her secret identity is revealed!

She tried to convinced me to be Elastic Girl, but umm... me and that tight outfit? Not so much going to happen. After a few years of break, I decided to carve pumpkins for her this year. I must be really out of practice because before I could finish all three pumpkins, I stab my finger with one of the wood carving tool so that put an end to any more carving! Maybe it would be best of I limit myself to those "safer" pumpkin carving kits for kids.

Here are the two unfinished pumpkins.
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(I don't now where she's learning to pose for pictures...)

I'm somewhat relieved that Halloween is over. It was hectic at times, but totally worth it to see how much she enjoyed it. We had to keep reminding ourselves that this pure excitement for things will only last a few more years. So in the end, any and all efforts are worth it. Now, on to November!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Low Carb Snack

Snack

Every now and then I find myself doing a low carb diet. It could be part of an exercise plan to increase protein intake to built muscles or just a light detox type of thing where I wanted to decrease the craving for sugar. (I never loose any weight doing them, what's up with that???) The last time I was doing the low carb thing I came across this snack idea that I loved and would make even when I'm not on any type of diet restrictions. The dip is roughly based on the recipe from Whole Foods here. The cracker recipe I found on Food Renegade here after a little internet search. The only change I made to the cracker recipe was I used a salt-free seasoning mix instead of the rosemary and garlic powder. I also halved the recipe since I didn't want to keep them around too long so it'll go stale.

Eggplant-Garbanzo Bean Dip
(based on the Whole Foods recipe)

1 large eggplant
1 large onion, cut in quarter
1 clove garlic
1/2 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into smaller pieces
2 tbls tahini
2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbls fresh chopped parsley
1 tbls chili garlic sauce (adjust to personal level of spiciness if needed)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F. Sliced the eggplant in half lengthwise and drizzle with olive oil. Toss the onion, garlic and red bell pepper with a little olive oil and salt. On a large sheet pan covered with foil, place the eggplant halves cut side down and the rest of the vegetables around it. Roast in oven for about 45 min to an hour. The vegetables should be soft and caramelized. Let it cool for about 15 minutes. Scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and placed in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. The dip keeps for about a week in the refrigerator. The dip goes very well with raw vegetables as well as the almond crackers.

Photos from the dance performance

Here are pictures taken when she was on stage for the rehearsal since there were no photos allowed during the actual show. We were also late to the rehearsal, so we missed the musical theater part. I just realized that I really don't have more pictures of her in that outfit. The video is on order though, so at least we'll have copy of the show later.

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And to show that she really did have an elephant outfit for the other performance...
Elephant again

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Little Dancer

Little dancer

Miss T had her recital today for both her musical theater and ballet/tap dance. It wasn't her first one, since she had a small winter recital back in Dec to practice. This is the big annual show at her school though. She actually goes to a decent size dance school, close to 1000 students at all levels. The annual recital actually consists of 3 different shows that's about 2 1/2 hour each. Lucky for us, both her classes are performing at the same show. The musical theater number was before the intermission and the tap number is after the intermission. Once the intermission began, I started to run to the backstage so I could change her in time for the next performance. No cameras allowed in the theater, so no pictures. They will sell a video of the show and I'm sure we'll get. The best part was how excited Miss T was to perform and how well she did on them. I guess this means that she will be enrolling in the fall again.

Backyard

Backyard - before work starts

This was what my yard looked like this morning when I left for work. Overgrown weed. Retaining walls on verge of collapse. I literally never goes out there. The tire swing was probably the best thing it had going for it. Today is also the day landscape work started. The estimated time frame for the job to be done is 2 1/2 weeks. I'll be taking a picture each work day to document the progress and hopefully at the end, we'll have a yard that we won't be embarrassed to show people.

Oh yes, I'm way behind on posts and hopes to catch up on some soon.

(Incidentally the tire swing had to go due to the very ugly tree it was attached to. I need to find some way to incorporate a swing for Miss T now.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Little dancers

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At one of her two weekly dance class. This one is ballet/tap.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Miss T's birthday part 1

Miss T's birthday cake #1

What? You don't celebrate your birthday more than one time?? Oh, wait, normal people only celebrate once on their birthday. Maybe the memo haven't got to this 4 years old yet. Her birthday is coming up on Sunday so we celebrated today at daycare. Everything started so innocently in the beginning. I was completely out of ideas on what to do yesterday. I know that I can't just go to the store and buy a cake like normal people. (I have that working mom's guilt and tries to do more than I could really handle to make up for it. Who needs sleep anyways?) I live with someone who does not believe in boxed cake mixes either, no matter how natural/organic it may be. I decided on a simple carrot cake with a thin layer of cream cheese frosting so the other kid's parents won't hate me for getting them all high on too much sugar when it's time to go home. How did I made the jump to have this cake at the end? I'm not really sure. I know I've always wanted to make a cake like this. Every time I see a garden cake in magazine/web/blog, I would study it and file in my mind for later. I guess it just seemed like a perfect cake to impress a bunch of 3-4 years old. And let me tell you, I feel like a rock star this afternoon. Nothing like getting recognition from 20 little kids. I hope Miss T enjoyed her first birthday party. Tomorrow will be all about birthday cupcakes for Sunday!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

兔年快樂! Happy Chinese New Year!

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As with last year, we are bringing red envelops with chocolate inside for Miss T's classmate. She's a bit more helpful this year though.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Restaurant: Lettuce - Walnut Creek

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I know that there are places similar to this in San Francisco. Alas, I work out in Walnut Creek though and as far I know, this is the only one in the area. Lettuce is one of my favorite place to have lunch. I have yet tried a salad that I don't like. I won't go into the calorie area. I realize that depending on what you put on your salad, it will make a big difference. My take of healthy food is always eat as little processed/fake stuff as much as possible. This fits perfectly. For those that need more substance than salad, they also have sandwiches, soups, and pastas.

1632 Locust St
Walnut Creek, CA

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Kitchen Staple: Tomato Pasta Sauce

Pasta with a creamy tomato sauce

Every time I have to pick up a jar of pasta sauce at the store I think to myself, I really should make this instead. A slow cooker made the process extremely easy. We used it tonight for dinner with a little cream cheese melted in to make it creamy to go with the egg pasta Chris made. The best part is I have enough for 4 more dinner out of the batch. Just freeze it flat in a quart size zip lock bag and take one out the night before you use it. I made mine vegetarian this time and added TVP (Total Vegetable Protein) for additional protein and also to absorb some of the liquid from the additional vegetables I put in there. Free feel to use ground meat or a combination of meat/TVP instead.

Tomato Pasta Sauce

This makes a large batch. I would use it the night of and then freeze it in quart size bags (about 3 - 3 1/2 cup each). The amount of sugar and salt used will depends on the type/brand of tomatoes used.

Ingredients

  • 2 can crushed tomatoes, low sodium, 28 oz each
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, low sodium, 14 1/2 oz
  • 1 can tomato paste, 6 oz
  • 2 carrot, peeled and cut into big chunks
  • 1 zucchini, trimmed and cut into chunks
  • ½ large onion, trimmed and cut into chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into chunks
  • 3 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried sage
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp. basalmic vinegar
  • brown sugar, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup TVP, leave dry


Method

With a food processor, chopped each vegetables into very small pieces separately. It takes a bit more time, but you will have more uniform pieces if you don't mix all the vegetables together.

Put everything in the slow cooker and cook on slow for 8 hours. Adjust the seasoning with brown sugar, salt and ground black pepper as needed.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

She's very proud to pick this dress herself

How could I possibly not start off the first post of the year with this picture? We went shopping downtown yesterday and she picked this dress out herself at Zara. I'm lucky that they are only located in downtown and I can't shop online, or I may just end up buying the whole girl's selection for Miss T. It was a lovely start of the New Year/4 days weekend (took an extra day off on Monday since Chris still have the day off). First of the year always allow the mind to drift to goal setting for the upcoming year. Since I am still working on the ones I started last year (and the year before...), it's probably best to not add anymore to the list. Well, maybe just one, I'll try not to spend my entire pay check on clothes for Miss T.