The food part of this blog has moved to I'll see all you foodies over there!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Meet Kuro-chan, Nori, and Kobe

We have some new babies in the house, three cute little chickys. We're on our way to having our own eggs. Currently, these chicks were the only ones available, they grow up to be black and white, and lay white eggs. (Jimmy and Lynn, if you're reading this, I was wrong. Color of bird doesn't determine color of eggs! ^_^). So we have these indoors for a few weeks till their feathers come in, and then they'll start living outside. After that, we're going to get three more chicks, Rhode Island Reds, they start off as yellow chicks but grow up to be reddish brown, and lay brown eggs. These chickys are soooo cute, they peep all day!
Emi named hers Kuro-chan ('kuro' is Japanese for 'black'), Abby named hers Nori (seaweed), and Sage's is Kobe (after Kobe Bryant.) At first his was "Shaq" and later changed it. I would definitely say that chick does not look like a Shaq! Besides, Kobe sounds cuter.
Emi has been really good at taking care of them. She's been hanging out with them a lot and cleaning their cage. I can see her getting attached to them already.
Abby's chick is the most hyper (like Abby...) and she doesn't like to be picked up. I'm sure after a while she will come around. Kobe is the mellowest of the three. She'll just hang out on my hand. All three are just so adorable.
I'm really excited we've finally made the first step towards having chickens. These guys won't start laying for about six months, but once we build the coop (hopefully within the next couple weeks), we'll go get older hens which will start laying right away. Yes, we are turning into hillbillies!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - March Challenge - Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

Oh, I have waited so long for March 30th to roll around. I had made my cake a few weeks ago and was itching to post it. This month's challenge: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake, hosted by Morven at Food Art and Random Thoughts. Making a cake from scratch was something I haven't done before. When you can buy a cake mix for a buck, and the ease of baking a cake by adding only a few ingredients, it has been appealing enough to keep doing it that way. Although every time I eat a cake made from a mix, there is that slight disappointment that it wasn't as good as a good cake should taste. So I was really excited about this month's challenge. But I wanted to keep it plain, white cake with white frosting, so I omitted the extra flavorings. Oh, and I added some strawberries.

Here's the recipe:

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)

4 large egg whites

1 ½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream

1 cup sugar

4 large egg whites

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable

About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.To Make the CakeSift together the flour, baking powder and salt.Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out cleanTransfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.Remove the bowl from the heat.Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake

Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.Spread it with one third of the preserves.Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.


The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.StoringThe cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

I'm not sure if the cake didn't rise as much as it was supposed to, but cutting that in half would of ended in really thin layers of cake, so I stuck with two layers instead of four. I cut up fresh strawberries for the center, sandwiched by the buttercream. The buttercream had a really nice texture, nice and thick, not runny at all. Next time I would add some sort of flavoring, I had omitted the lemon juice and subbed vanilla, but the flavor was very bland and it was like eating shortening. But I was pleased that it wasn't overly sweet. And maybe instead of buttercream in the middle, a custard cream would be good. All in all, a very pleasant experience. Thanks Morven!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Moving Along

I had a business meeting today. Boy, was I nervous. I'm not the business-person type. I tend to stick my foot in my mouth a lot (I'm too honest sometimes), and I was just unsure about the whole thing. Well, it turned out alright, and I have secured our first screen printing job. Yeay! I'll be making about 170 baseball uniforms and caps. Yeah, that's a lot for a first job, but it'll be ok. I'm keeping my fingers crossed... (results will be posted in about a month. Stay tuned...)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

You've Got to be Kidding Me

Sage tells me he can't wear his LA Dodgers cap to school. They told him he can't wear anything LA because of the LA gangs. What?! How ridiculous, we live in the middle of nowhere, where the crime rate is very low. Now, where on earth is he going to run into some gangs? This world is turning into a strange place (well, maybe just California with their unbelievable amount of laws over meaningless stuff.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pet Peeves-Illustration Friday

After Emi decided to start Illustration Friday, I thought I'd try it out too (was I supposed to wait till Friday to post?) I'm hoping it'll get me into drawing again. This week's topic and my first IF submission: Pet Peeves. This is about slow drivers who ignore turnouts and brake all the way down. Those who live on two lane highways on windy mountain roads (so you can't pass) can relate! Sharpie on paper, colored with photoshop.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Another See in the Blogging World

Emi has become a blogger. Her friend Wesley has one and has inspired her to draw more and post it for the world to see. She wants to try out Illustration Friday, a theme a week and post it. The current theme is "Pet Peeves", it'll be interesting how she interprets the various themes. Check her out at Bliss Art (for those of you who are wondering why both her blog and mine has 'bliss' in it... it's Emi's middle name.) I'm glad to see she's developing more interest in creating art.

Lunch with a Smile

The kids' lunch today, english muffin pizzas with a face. Black olive eyes and a red pepper mouth. My girls were all, AWWWWW SOOOO CUUUUTE!!!!! Sage is sitting there, yeah, whatever... (boys....^_^) Served with a cup of veggies, a tangerine, and pink bunny cookies.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday

This year was going to be the first year we weren't going to do a egg hunt at home and the kids weren't going to get baskets. They went to a egg hunt yesterday, and they already have a lot of candy. And they have so much stuff, they don't need more junk. Until Emi asks if we could do a egg hunt. She says, I don't care if they are empty, I just want to pick some eggs. Well, I guess we can do that, we do have some plastic eggs from last year we can use. So I go down into our storage room, open the box labeled "Easter" (in the past, I used to decorate the house with bunnies and easter stuff, and had still kept them), pulled out the eggs, and then I see some bunny stuffed animals. Hmmm... I guess I could give these to the girls, what good would it do packed away in a box, might as well put them to use. Luckily they didn't remember seeing them in the past!
The girls were so happy with their bunnies. I don't think I would gotten the same reaction if I had gotten them a basket full of junk...I mean, easter goodies.
Being a sucker, I went out and got a few things to put in their eggs. I color coded them so they were only allowed to pick their "own" eggs. I hid them so they don't have to move anything to find them, but hid some of them hard enough so that they have to look at it at the right angle to see it. The usual five minute (if that!) egg hunt lasted over 30 minutes. Now that's hunting!
Since Sage wouldn't be happy with a stuffed animal, I gave him my old football helmets (I grew up with brothers....) Some of them had logos on them that aren't used anymore, so he seemed stoked that he has something that you can't buy anymore (well, maybe on ebay...).
Our local supermarket is really limited on fresh fruits and veggies, so when I saw some mint I grabbed it. Made some tabbouleh with it, and ate it with some homemade tortilla chips.
Made some Cheesecake Topped Brownies. I love cheesecake and brownies, so these sounded really good. I wish I had doubled the cheesecake layer, you couldn't taste it too much, the brownie part took over. It sounded good, but I think I'll eat my cheesecake plain, and my brownies plain. This way I can really enjoy each taste separately.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hunting Without a License

Idyllwild's Annual Egg Hunt was today. The Idy egg hunt has REAL eggs, unlike many larger egg hunts. It really gives the egg hunt an ol' time feel. So as you can imagine, we end up with a lot of hard boiled eggs. Luckily the kids don't grab every egg in site as they're too busy looking for the "golden egg", which is actually the only plastic egg out there. Emi missed the egg hunting this year, she was out horseback riding for her friend's b-day.

I realize homemade cookies taste so much better than ready-to-bake cookies, but these were so cute and after it being on sale and my coupon getting doubled, it was only 50 cents so why not, right? The kids still enjoy them, and cookie cutter cookies are something I hardly ever make so I thought it was ok to cheat sometimes.

Meet the Rabbit Gang.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Sweet Finish to a Great Season

Basketball season came to a close today. They had played really well this season. Everyone really grew. Going into the playoffs they were in 2nd place, and ultimately at today's Championship Game, they won and won the title. It was a very close game, it was heartstopping to watch. It's one of those moments where if you don't have high blood pressure, you will have one by the end of the game! The games were really exciting to watch, and I enjoyed watching my kids and their friends play. Emi became more aggressive this year, being her third year playing the sport. This was Sage's rookie year, he started off a little intimidated, but seem to loosen up as the season progressed. We had bribed him with a pack of baseball or football cards if he got a rebound, and a year subscription to Sports Illustrated Kids if he made a basket, hoping this will motivate him to try harder. Well, it worked, and I have to pay up now!
Emi getting fouled and shooting a free throw...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wrap It Up!

Today's bento...wraps. Made with last night's fried chicken and some lettuce, a side of caesar dressing, cherry tomatoes and a tangerine. I had a wrap many years ago when they first came out, and for some reason it didn't taste good. My kids didn't like it either. So it became a food we never ate, until recently we had a chicken caesar wrap and a mediterranean chicken wrap from Trader Joe's. And it was delicious! And so, the wrap has entered our life. Funny how things work.
Yesterday's bento, tonkatsu (breaded fried pork), on a bed of shredded cabbage and carrots, rice and takuan, and mandarin orange segments. Emi's friend asked her what she's eating, and she replied, "fried pig"! That sounds bad, doesn't it? I guess it's my fault for when they ask what were having for dinner, I don't say "pork" but "buta-chan" (li'l piggies.) It's one of those times when a direct translation doesn't work. My poor kids, people are going to think they're weird (if they don't already!)

Also made some rolls a couple days ago. French Bread Rolls to Die For are what they're called. Oh, they were so FLUFFY on the inside, and tasted oh-so-good fresh out of the oven. When something is this fresh it tastes great plain.

Tooth Fairy Going Broke

Abby lost another tooth, AGAIN. Seems like someone's always losing one. With three kids this is a common occurance lately. The tooth fairy must be busy, she doesn't come right away...or maybe she just forgot? Hmmmm..... There had been times where she didn't come for weeks (bad toothfairy!), so I said, just give it to mommy, I'll give you a dollar. Now Abby really looks like a hillbilly, with her two front teeth missing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Castella (Kasutera)

Having access to Japanese recipe sites, I can now make all these things I love to eat, but rarely buy. One of which is castella (or kasutera.) It's like a sweet, honey flavored sponge cake. It's a cake introduced by the Portugese or the Spanish, and now has become something Japanese. It didn't come out as fluffy like the ones I've had before, but it tasted just like it so I was happy.
There are a few recipes out there, I chose one that was from a Japanese site, and the description said it tastes like the ones from Nagasaki, which is the castella capital of Japan.
4 med. eggs at room temperature (I used 4 lg and it still turned out well)
1 c. flour
6t. milk
2T honey
1c. sugar
Preheat oven at 350*F.
Mix together the milk and honey over LOW heat and bring it to body temperature. (I put them in a cup in a pan of water.)
Whisk the eggs (remove the white membrane by the yolk) in large bowl.
Add sugar, and beat 10 minutes.
While beating, add the milk/honey mixture, and beat 1-2 minutes.
Add the flour and beat 1-2 minutes.
Keep the mixer running and beating the ENTIRE TIME.
Line a 9x5 pan with parchment or wax paper.
Sprinkle a little raw sugar on the bottom.
Pour in batter, no more than 4/5 full.
Tap the pan to let the air bubbles out.
Bake for 1 minute. "Cut" the top of the batter with a spatula to get rid of air pockets. Return to oven and repeat 3 times total. Bake 10 minutes more.
Lower oven temperature to 310*F, and bake 45 minutes. (see notes below)
Remove from the pan while still warm, wrap in saran wrap, let cool, then refrigerate 1-2 days.
***Some changes I would make the next time. I had lined the entire pan with parchment paper. Next time I would just do the bottom. Having reading other recipes, the cake pulls from the sides when baked, so mine pulled the paper with it and it was hard to peel off without ruining some of the cake. Initially the recipe said to bake 25-35 minutes. After which I poked it with a skewer and the entire thing deflated and made a well in the middle. In times like this, I think overbaking is better than underbaking and then poking it. After putting it back in the oven a couple times, my total baking time after lowering the temperature was 45 minutes. Next time I'd try a 8x8 or 9x9 brownie pan, and stick to the original times of 25-35 minutes. Overall, I am happy with the recipe, it was easy and very tasty. And this recipe uses only 4 eggs, while others use 7 or 8 (maybe more eggs make it fluffier?) Sometimes seeing a recipe using too many eggs makes me put off making it for a while due to the high cost of cage free eggs. Maybe after I have my own hens I'll try those other recipes. More castella info and a different recipe can be found at Just Hungry.

Origami Master

Siren Mary sent over this cool link that had these amazing origami creations on it. Among them was Satoshi Kamiya, an origami master. These are his creations...jawdropping, aren't they? Also checkout his website, although it's in Japanese.
This red dragon took him 6 hours (!), from a single sheet of paper.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Croissants & Snow

Croissants are one thing that baked fresh and day old makes a big difference. So I was really happy when I found frozen plain croissants at Trader Joe's. We've had the chocolate ones before and they were really good. Just thaw overnight and bake in the morning.

Good thing I eat whatever I want without thinking twice about consequences...
Snowed about six inches last night. I like it when it snows during the night, and then we have a sunny day. The kids went out to play to a possible last snow day of the season.

A B&W of some snow on the pine tree.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Banana Sour Cream Bread

Banana bread is a popular bread in my household. It's very simple to make and bananas are around all year, so I bake them often. I have a recipe I like and pretty much that has been my go-to recipe. Why change something that works, right? But I'm always open to new recipes. While searching for quickbreads, I came across another banana bread recipe that caught my eye. This one has sour cream in it, which gives it added moisture. And yes, this bread was moist and was quite good. The only modification I made was instead of using all white sugar, I subbed equal amounts of white sugar, brown sugar, and raw sugar. I halved the recipe and got two 9x5 loaves. Oh, and I didn't sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on the pan, but just sprinkled on top. A streusel topping might be good too.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Too Cute

Siren Mary sent this site over and on it were these oh-so-cute-it'd-be-a-waste-to-eat-them Panda bread. The creativity of some people is just amazing. Although the recipe is in Japanese, you can check it out here. The dark parts are flavored with cocoa powder, and the green part is green tea powder. With this same concept, there are other great creations. Of course, after showing these to my kids, they want me to make these. This might be a good Daring Baker challenge.


Woke up to another nice view. We can see the top of the clouds which look like a sea of cotton candy. This always trips me out, especially when I'm in Hemet and see the clouds above, and to think that we live above that. It just seems so high in the sky.
Breakfast: Chikara Udon. Basically, udon noodles with mochi. Growing up, there weren't Japanese stores everywhere like they do now, so we'd go drive to Los Angeles to look at Japanese stores. We usually ended up at a noodle restaurant, and I remember Teru and I, almost always ordering this. Back then, mochi must of been a rare thing for us to eat, before the days of the mochi maker...
Kids' bento today: Lasagna, a variety of cherry tomatoes, tangerine, and Fizzix, a fizzy Gogurt.

Fizzix, a fizzy yogurt in a tube made by Yoplait. They claim it is just as nutritional as their regular gogurts. I thought this would be a fun treat for the kids, and they seem to really like it. For me, this just seems un-natural. Fizzy yogurt...what a strange concept. They try to explain to me what it's like, but they all give a different answer. Although I don't want to, I may have to just try one myself...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Better Than PB&J

The kids' bento today. Last night's Chinese. Jasmine rice with pancit, orange chicken, and some green beans. A tangerine and a fortune cookie for dessert :) Much better than the PB&J Uncrustables served at school today. [Although Sage might disagree. He likes those things. (yuk!) He has a liking for processed junk food, possibly because he doesn't get to eat them too often.]