Sunday, December 11, 2011

{silhouette cameo: train t-shirts}

i'm excited to share with you my second project on the silhouette cameo! {surprise amy and drew! i couldnt wait. hahaha} christmas is coming up and i really wanted to make some customized tshirts for my nephews, samuel and noah, and my baby boy matthew. it will be noah and matthew's first christmas. awwww!! samuel and noah were train conductors for halloween, so i thought it would be cute to make choo-choo train tshirts. each train car has the initial of their cousins, with their name spelled out as the puffs of smoke coming out of the smoke stack. i had some grey flocked and yellow flocked heat transfer paper, so i used the grey flocked paper for the wheels of the train and yellow flocked for the boys' initials and the stars. i love that it gives it another dimension. i'm looking forward to giving it to the boys on christmas day and having them all wear it together for pictures. heehee.

i used silhouette blog's great online tutorial on how to curve the letters for the clouds. remember, when you're making the shirts with the heat transfer material, you need to mirror the image. everything went quite smoothly, until i tried to mirror the curved clouds. it was flipping the letters upside down, rather than mirroring it. i sent an email to silhouette's customer service and they were awesome! within an hour, they emailed me back and figured out a solution.

Here's the solution to mirror curved words, so you can use it for transfer paper/vinyl:
1) Right click the text (not the path)
2) Select "Make Compound Path"
3) Right click the text again
4) Select "Flip Horizontally"

i {heart} my cameo!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

{salted caramel sauce: recipe}

i. LOVE. salted caramel. smear some in a macaron and its like this transcendent food experience. haha. salted caramel is this lovely sweet & savory symphony for my taste buds. salted caramel has so many uses--simply off the spoon, melted over ice cream, drizzled over chocolate cake, as a filling in macarons (which i'll post about soon since i used this sauce in my fleur del sel macarons). i've always been a little afraid of making a caramel sauce because it seemed so difficult, but believe it or not, the sauce is quite easy to make.

the secret ingredient to this salted caramel is the fleur de sel. fleur de sel is this hand raked salt harvested from a region in France. it has this complexity in flavor that is hard to describe and perfect as a finishing salt.

the first batch of caramel i made, i actually slightly burned. {OOPS} i {ALMOST} threw it away, but decided to finish the recipe to see what it would taste like. i actually ended up LOVING the slightly burnt flavor since it added a hint of bitterness, which accented the sweet richness of the caramel. the second batch went perfectly and also tasted deliciously decadent. the important part of making caramel is to watch it very closely. it quickly turns from a beautiful caramel (color) to burnt in a matter of seconds. second point--although a candy thermometer is helpful, i found that it is actually somewhat misleading. i was waiting for the temperature to hit the 335 degree called for in the recipe. my thermometer was still reading the mid 200s when it started to turn slightly brown. i was fixated on the thermometer to read the 300s. but, it actually burned before it hit that temperature setting. so the point is, use your eyes and nose!!
the other important part is to not stir the mixture while it is boiling, since this can cause the sugars to crystallize. fourth, buy a kitchen scale.

this is the recipe i used {caramel fleur de sel, from the macaron chronicles}. you will love it.
the recipe was adapted from Chef Pang.

- Heavy saucepan or Dutch Oven
- Immersion Blender
- Kitchen scale
- Candy thermometer

- 200 grams of sugar
- 1/4 cup of water
- 2 tbs corn syrup
- 3/4 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla pod)
- 200 grams heavy cream
- 3.5 grams fleur de sel
- 140 grams unsalted butter, chilled, and cut

Recipe: (slightly modified with my own tips)
1. In a heavy saucepan (i used le creuset dutch oven), bring the 200 grams sugar, 1/4 cup of water, and 2 tbs of corn syrup to a boil
2. Once it starts bubbling, do NOT stir
3. in a separate saucepan, warm the 200 grams of heavy cream
4. Use your nose and eyes--when sugar turns a deep amber color, take the saucepan off the heat. (according to the original recipe, heat until mixture is 335 degrees)
5. Add the WARM cream, a little at a time, into the sugar mixture (BE CAREFUL! the sauce will bubble up and splatter). The warm cream prevents the caramel from seizing.
6. Add the fleur de sel
7. Stir to make sure the sugar has dissolved. (I actually turned on the heat a little to make sure the sugar melted. not sure if that is ok, but it worked for me)
8. Cool the mixture to 105 F
9. Add in the well-chilled, cubed butter
10. Use an immersion blender and blend in the butter until you achieve a smooth glossy paste
11. Transfer into glass container
12. Line the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming
13. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use
14. Spoon over ice cream or fill your macarons with this delicious sauce!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

{easy beef udon soup recipe}

my husband and i love udon soup. udon is definitely one of our favorite noodles because its chubby and has a great chewy texture. as i write this post, i realize that i clearly have this affinity for chewy things {udon, mochi, macarons, cookies/brownies....mmmm}.

anyways, here's an easy udon recipe since you're using mostly pre-packaged or frozen items. what busy mom wouldn't like that?? :) although the initial cost of buying the packaged ingredients may seem more costly than buying a bowl at a japanese restaurant, most of the items can be used for several meals! below i have pictured the frozen ingredients that i used, which you can buy at most asian grocery stores.

Ingredients: (to serve about 4 people)
- ~1/2 pound Shabushabu Kobe beef
- Frozen udon noodles (I used Shirakiku Sanukya Udon noodles)
- Slices of Korean Fried Fish Cakes (or use any type of fish cake)
- Udon soup base
- Soy sauce
- Chopped green onions
- Chopped Napa Cabbage

for the meat, i used a shabu-shabu kobe beef that was purchased at marukai japanese supermarket, which is sooo tender and delicious. [we use this meat for hot pot as well}.

Directions for udon noodles:
1. Boil water.
2. Add frozen udon noodles until cooked (about 1 minute!).
3. Drain and place it into your serving bowl

Directions for soup:
1. 1 cup udon soup base and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce into pot
2. Add 4-5 cups of water into pot {I wrote 4-5 cups since you should make it to your liking for saltiness. I liked 5 cups, but if you like it saltier, use 4 cups}
3. Heat udon soup base and water to almost a boil
4. To cook the meat, there are 2 ways you can do it.
a) For a clearer broth, you can boil some water in another pot and dip the meat into the water until cooked. (we're talking a minute...its fast...don't overcook it!). Remove meat and set it aside.
b) The other way--which is not necessarily better, but pictured below, we dipped the meat into the broth quickly until cooked, removed it and then set it aside. The annoying part of the second method is that you have to "strain" or remove the layer of "stuff" from the meat that accumulates on the top of the broth.
5. Add the napa cabbage and the fish cakes into the broth. {I only did it for a minute since i like my napa cabbage crunchy}
6. Spoon the soup, napa cabbage, fish cakes over the serving bowl with the cooked udon noodles
7. Add the meat into the udon noodle bowl
8. Sprinkle with chopped green onions

Enjoy this on a cold night. Its delicious and easy peasy too!

Friday, November 18, 2011

{mochi cake recipe: matcha green tea, strawberry, blueberry}

have you ever tried mochi? yum. mochi is this asian snack that is made from a glutinous rice flour (not gluten), prepared in a variety of ways. when i think of mochi, i usually envision this white gooey chewy rice cake, filled with sweet red bean paste. but, it is probably most well known in the US for being filled with ice cream. Someone recently posted a link on facebook about mochi cake and my interest was peaked! The recipe that I followed seemed easy enough and sounded delicious. I love me some mochi and I love me some chewy cake. So many flavors to choose from...Green tea, strawberry, blueberry.... I figured, why decide? just make all of them at once! haha!

Its hard to describe the flavor, but it reminds me of a somewhat egg-y, chewy, dense cake. what is great about these mochi cakes is that the outside is slightly crunchy and the inside is chewy, so it creates this great texture. it tasted the best right out of the oven (be careful, don't burn your tongue though!) of all 3 flavors that i made, my favorite was definitely the strawberry mochi cake. i loved how the juice of the strawberry created a slightly gooey texture to the cake and it added this lovely acidity to the mochi cake. a few friends sampled the mochi cake and also loved the strawberry the most. my second favorite was the green tea {my mom's favorite though}. if i was going to make it again, i would probably add a little more matcha powder to make it even more potent. my least favorite was surprisingly the blueberry mochi cake. i thought i would love the blueberry mochi cake since i normally adore blueberry flavored cakes, but it was weirdly bland. maybe i should try fresh blueberries next time?

Here is the base recipe below.

Ingredients to the base: (recipe i followed was from JustJenn Recipes)
1 pound mochiko (1 box) {i purchased this at Marukai in Costa Mesa, California}
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup of butter, melted (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

--For the green tea, buy matcha powder: full batter-use at least 2 tablespoons. (i purchased mine at marukai also)
{For me, since half of my batter was for the green tea mochi cakes, i only used 1 tablespoon.}

--For the strawberry mochi cake: i used fresh strawberries
--For the blueberry mochi cake: i tried frozen blueberries

To easily make all the flavors, I created the base {with no fruit and no green tea matcha powder}. I thought it would be fun to make them into little muffins, rather than a sheet cake. So, for the fruit flavored mochi cake, I spooned the base into the muffin tins (sprayed with Pam) with no liners. For the blueberry mochi cakes, I just sprinkled some frozen blueberries from Trader Joe's on the top, and just gently swirled it with a spoon to mix it in. I read to not overly mix it in, or else the color of the batter would turn a strange and unappetizing grey color. For the strawberry mochi cakes, I sliced fresh strawberries and placed them into the muffin tins. For the green tea, I used 1 tablespoon of the matcha powder and mixed it in with the remaining base.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Grease muffin tin with Pam or butter. I used Pam.
3. Stir sugar and melted butter
4. Add evaporated milk
5. Add eggs one at a time into the batter
6. Add vanilla extract
7. Carefully stir in mochiko, baking powder, and the pinch of salt
8. Add either the fresh fruit/frozen fruit, or the green tea matcha powder
9. Spoon into muffin tins
10. Bake for about 20-25 minutes
11. Let slightly cool, but eat while warm!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

{Bailey's Coffee Creamers: Review}

I love drinking my "steaming" cup of Joe in the morning. I put "steaming" in quotations because usually I brew it and am all excited to drink it while its piping hot, but somehow, 90% of the time, I become distracted by work stuff and come back to a cold cup of coffee {like I'm sure most of you moms out there. haha}. Cold or hot though, I still love my coffee.

My favorite cup of coffee is actually a soy cappuccino (foam lover!), but that's not so good for the pocketbook. So, I always tell myself to save the money and drink the coffee at work and make it fun with different flavored creamers. I was excited to find out that Bailey's (the company that makes the alcoholic Irish Cream) released a line of coffee creamers via a coupon in the newspaper. It has been apparently out for some time...but I never noticed them. I'm usually a coffee-mate kinda girl. Anyways, they come in 7 yummy-sounding flavors and I had a hard time choosing which flavors to purchase: Classic Irish Cream, Caramel, French Vanilla, Hazelnut, Creme Brulee, Toffee Almond Cream, Chocolate, French Vanilla Fat Free, and Irish Cream Fat Free. I had a coupon to save $1 off 2, so I picked up the classic Irish Cream (and a Caramel, which I might review at a later date, since I haven't opened it yet). If you like Bailey's alcoholic Irish Cream, then you will love this creamer because it tastes, smells, and even has that thick consistency, like the original irish cream! They state on their website that it is ok for the lactose intolerant, but not for people with a true milk allergy. Its supposedly gluten free, alcoholic and caffeine free (of course). Would I buy another bottle of this creamer? Yes!! Go out and buy some!

Tips: Here's a link to find out where they sell these Bailey's creamers

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

{ innobaby packin' SMART review }

my baby boy, within the last week, has been somewhat able to pincer grasp gerber puffs and put them into his gummy mouth, albeit with some difficulty. L.O.V.E it. i love how he sometimes grabs a puff in his hand and misses his mouth. i love how the puff sometimes sticks to his palm or the sides of his chubby fingers and he doesn't know how to move it into his mouth, so he tries sticking his whole hand into his mouth. its exciting when he actually puts the puff into his mouth. {clap clap clap!} now as i'm blogging about it, it reminds me that i need to video tape him eating puffs to capture that moment forever.

i've actually been excitedly waiting for my little man to be able to start eating those little gerber graduate puffs. why you ask? so i can put the puffs into these cute little innobaby containers that i bought a while back (and because its a source of entertainment for him when we are out at a restaurant). i first heard about innobaby through this awesome baby deals website that features a few products two times a day, called babysteals.

I purchased the innobaby packin' smart (safari pattern) line because i loved the sorbet colors and animal prints on the sides. cuteness! it comes with 5 small stackable containers, which allows you to place 5 different snacks, without them becoming crushed in the bottom of your diaper bag like they would if you used a plastic bag!! how great is that?! you can use as few, or as many containers as you want. right now, i'm using only 3. each little container has a funnel top that allows you to dump out the snacks onto a tray if you don't have the top lid in place (not sure if i really like that feature, but it has its benefits). they are quite sturdy, since just today, i dropped it on a hard tile floor and no cracks. so, i have some apple cinnamon puffs in one, strawberry yogurt melts in another, and some cheese puffs in another. the other great thing about these containers is that you can use it for other things when your baby is older, like putting in candies, spices, beads, jewelry, anything to keep you organized!! so all in all, a great invention and an item i would recommend for mommas that like to bring snacks for their kids when they are out and about. also, this would make such a great baby shower gift, don't you think?

how do you carry your babies snacks? does it work well? what snacks do you usually bring with you?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

{sharing a great deal on adorable customizable books and products: paper coterie & howdoesshe}

before i received my silhouette cameo, i tried to win the machine in a bunch of giveaways that occurred a few weeks ago. needless to say, i didn't win. haha. but, i did stumble upon this great website, How Does She. Recently she posted this GREAT DEAL, celebrating their 2nd anniversary. Click Great Deal to see the link and the special code. They are working with this cute company called Paper Coterie, where you get $30.00 off any purchase. Here you can find super cute books, journals, recipe books, flip books, cards, calendars, growth charts that you can customize with pictures of your baby or your family. Many of their adorable products are just under $30, so all you have to do is pay for shipping! I made an ABC book for my baby, filled with pictures of our family, like A is for Auntie A**. or N is for Nainai (grandma!). I can't wait to get it!

Hurry! The deal expires in a few days!

{trader joe's dark chocolate minty mallows review}

on my way out of trader joe's the other day, these cute boxes of minty mallows caught my eye. i love marshmallows, in small quantities {and especially roasted on a stick}. gourmet flavored marshmallows are popular and can be quite expensive. so, at $3.99, i definitely wanted to give these a try! these marshmallows are quite good. i can eat maybe 1 or 2 in a sitting, then it becomes really sweet. what i enjoy about these treats is that the marshmallow is quite chewy, with a nice punch of peppermint. this is then nicely complemented with the more bitter dark chocolate. kind of reminds me of a chewy version of a peppermint patty. all in all, i would say, good job trader joe's! me likey!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

{silhouette cameo: my first project, custom tshirt}

hello readers! i took a long hiatus after giving birth to our beautiful spunky chunky little boy, matthew. its been a sleep-depriving, but incredibly joyful and rewarding journey. we feel so blessed to have this wonderful addition to our family and look forward to exciting challenges ahead.

so, to restart my blogging, i decided to share a little about a new toy that i recently acquired, the silhouette cameo, rather than about food :) not sure if you've ever heard of this machine, but it is amazing! it is this electronic cutting tool that can cut through different materials (papers, vinyl, heat transfer paper, fabric, etc). my hubbers was nice enough to gift me with one for my combo anniversary/christmas gift. i debated for a while whether it was worth purchasing the machine, since i could see myself tucking it away into my closet after a couple projects and having it become a pricy dust collector. but the more projects i see on blogs, the more i feel confident that this machine is a keeper and going to be well used in this home of mine.
the first thing i wanted to make was a custom tshirt for my son. {that still looks really weird when i type that out. haha!}. i finally settled on making a robot tshirt. the robot is supposed to be matthew, and the robot dog is supposed to be my dog, which is his favorite source of laughter. here is the final product!!! i'm quite happy with the result!!

i had also ordered some heat transfer paper from since they had a deal on free shipping and 40% off one item. the heat transfer is rather expensive though and wish there were cheaper alternatives. if any of you readers have any tips, i would love to know if there are other different brands that work just as well, or better, than the silhouette brand. anyways, after scouring the web and youtube videos to see how to use the machine, i felt ready to give my new machine a whirl. i downloaded two images (robot and a robot dog) from the silhouette online store, using my free $10 download card and imported it into my library. i then played around with the images, decided on the size of the objects i wanted, and created a master layout of how i wanted it to look on my tshirt. after reading many tips from other silhouette owners, i made sure i mirrored the images prior to printing it. after clicking the print window, set it to silhouette heat transfer paper (smooth). the good thing is that it tells you the blade setting (1--for this project). I also moved the rollers to 9" since my paper was only 9".

Here is a tip {learn from my mistake}---under the page tool settings, make sure you change it to "LETTER size" (rather than the default 12x12) and that the cutting mat is set to "NONE". The other important thing to note is that after you click "send to silhouette", you'll see the image and the arrows pointing in the direction of how you would load the picture. well, note that the orientation is different! although the screen is top/bottom, the image would print at a 90 degree orientation to the left. soo i changed the orientation of my images to save my heat transfer paper. so with a little trial and error, i printed out my images, after a few trials of pausing/reloading/and a few screeches of "OH NO, its cutting the machine instead of the paper!" {which happened to be practically every time, my husband laughingly pointed out, yet true!!} haha.

for my project, i actually had to do 3 separate print outs for the 3 colored papers (1--for inside of robot body since i wanted it white and the name, 2--yellow dog, 3--teal robot shell). this required "subtracting" the image. my font was the "american typewriter". ironing the images on was quite difficult!! it took me about 2-3 hours of ironing and ironing and ironing. the white ironed on quickly (1 minute tops, like it is supposed to...). the teal robot arm and yellow dog would just. not. stick, no matter how much pressure i used, heat level on the iron, or thickness of cloth that i used....finally, in a last ditch effort, i picked off the image slightly with the silhouette hook tool and then ironed again and that seemed to help. then after removing the transfer paper, i ironed it again with just a thin cloth separating the image from my iron. and voila! tshirt was done! have to say overall, i really loved how it turned out. can't wait to put it on my little monkey!!

although i'm no expert by any means, if you have any questions about what i made, send me a comment and i'll try to give you any tips i've learned.
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