Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Latest Treats - A quick post

This is just a quick post...
Record and music notes for my friend, Julie of Lot116's daughter's "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" 5th Birthday (Wow, that was a mouth-full!). She and her sisters throw such awesome parties and they're so well-planned! I really enjoy attending parties with a plan. Here are more party pictures from her blog. Julie is a VERY talented and popular photographer here in San Diego - which is why she's booked for the rest of this year (wow)!

Easter Cupcakes with bunnies and eggs. I used a Swiss Meringue Buttercream and it was very smooth and tasty (not too sweet). Thank you, Aunt Cheryl, for the idea!

Sugar Cookies, of course! This is my "Easter Pops revisited." I had some special vintage Easter cookie cutters given to me by my friend, Pam. Plus a dainty butterfly that I couldn't pass up when I saw it at World Market. My very first "real post" on this blog was about Easter sugar cookies. And this would be my last in this format...

I'm rebuilding this blog to be bigger and better!

I've been working on it between projects so it's been taking quite some time. I have plans to post at least every other week (more often than now). I'm also planning on including some PDF templates and tutorials as well as other fun stuff.

On another note, Easter was quite eventful and bittersweet. Not only was it Easter, it was my youngest daughter's first egg hunt experience, we experienced the longest and strongest earthquake I've ever felt (7.2 magnitude about 100 miles away, everyone's okay - only stuff fell off shelves), and the most saddest was my grandfather's passing that same evening (he was a long-lived 89).

We've been feeling a lot of aftershocks from the earthquake and our oldest daughter is still a little scared. Plus, we've been helping with some preparations for my grandfather's funeral. So it may be another few weeks until I can launch the new site. Until then, hug your kids and tell the ones close to you how much you love them.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Leggo my Logo'd cookie!

I usually make sugar cookies for church events. One is a shamrock for a St. Patrick's day treat to go along with a fish dinner and another is a heart as gift for the dads on father's day (at a brunch). At a Valentine's event which I co-chaired and cooked for, one of the guests stopped me on my way out of the kitchen and asked if I made sugar cookies for the event. Of course, I didn't. I'm guessing that he was probably one of the father's day cookie recipients.

I was asked to provide my "special sugar cookies" for a tea party hosted by the Catholic Daughters of the Americas (CDA), which I am a member. I thought about the cookie cutters I had and even considered making a custom cutter but I went back to the good ol' circle cutter. Luckily for me, the CDA logo is a circle that had a cross and crown.  Boy were these a hit at the tea party! They were all curious as to how I did it - so I'll share it with you...

I basically followed the frozen transfer method using royal icing but did not reverse the image.

  1. I printed out a few "cross and crown" logos on a sheet of paper, placed parchment over it and traced the image with white royal icing. Once they fully dried, they peeled off real easily.
  2. I flowed some purple icing on the cookie and placed the cross and crown logo on top of it while it was still wet.
  3. I used the smallest round tip that I had and piped the details on the cross and crown.
I think I'm getting the hang of using royal icing the right way. I've been letting the icing sit overnight so that the bubbles come up. I've also let dark-colored icing sit for a day so that the colors can deepen. I've changed my recipe a few times and have finally figured out the right consistency. The rule is that if you run a knife through the icing and the icing goes flat between 5-10 seconds, you've got the right consistency. It works well for both outlining and flowing.

Sugar cookies are time-consuming but I literally take it one day at a time, from baking to decorating. I see why some people charge upwards of $3 per cookie, especially if they're detailed!

Here's a group shot. I ended up making 40 cookies. I will be making about 50 in April for another CDA event. I think that next time, I'll use wax paper instead of parchment. I faced the same problem of parchment wrinkling; some of my crosses did not sit flat on the cookie. If you know of a solution to my "wrinkling problem" let me know!

UPDATE: I figured it out. I need to use an acetate sheet. Now, to hunt one down...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Card Table Playhouse

I'll admit - I'm guilty.

Guilty of stealing...


I'm one of those people who browse Etsy to look for craft ideas. I wish I had more time to be come up with original ideas but with work and kids, I don't have much time to think that way. It's kind of sad, really.

In searching for something fun for a cupcake party, I came across a felt card table "cupcakery" on Etsy. It was so cute that I wanted to make something like it. But instead of using felt, I needed something more sturdy (knowing how rough the 5 year old is). So I used canvas duck cloth for the outside and cotton for the lining inside.

This is a belated Christmas gift for my girls. My intention was to start this project in mid-September since I knew we would be quite busy from October through December. If you read my previous post, we have been hit hard with two family deaths in September and my project had to be postponed. So I started in the beginning of December. It wasn't nearly enough time to get it done by Christmas - especially while keeping it out of the sight of curious little eyes. It meant a lot of night sewing and cutting at my friend's studio.

I'm proud to say that I got this project done while it's still Christmas (since for us, Christmas doesn't end until 12 days after Jesus' birth) and BEFORE the new year.

Looks simple, right? Well, not quite. I pondered over the best solution for the scalloped roofline and had to figure out how to get everything I wanted in there. You'll see what I mean...

As you can see from the top, there's a "working" mail box and a paned window with a window box for flowers (I still have to put flowers in there).

Here's a look at the back and the other side:

You can slide half a sheet of paper in the frame (for a menu) and the teapots and cups are removable, made out of magnets, fabric and mod podge. I've sewn a slot to insert (and remove) 8.5x11 magnetic sheets.

Take a look inside. This is the back of the house:

The cookies, cakes and chocolate box (with chocolates) are removable. The shelves and table top have magnet sheets behind them. I made everything but the cupcakes - those were made by my friend Pam's daughter, Amber (who's also a cupcake aficionado) who resides in Minnesota.

Here's the left side:

There's a "storage bench" which is really a big pocket.

And the right side:

There's a "shelf" which is separated in three sections. The girls have already put toys in it.

The good thing about a playhouse like this is that it's fairly easy to clean and you can easily fold it up and put it away. But right now, it's probably going to be out for a while. Both the cats and the girls are having fun in it.

Catching up...

It's been quite a hectic end of the year with loads of work, Mya starting kindergarten, a few deaths in the family (so close together), a not-so-pleasant Mexican Riviera cruise, Solana's 1st birthday and Mya's 5th birthday. I did a lot of projects but wasn't able to document it as much as I hoped. It's one of those situations when you're under the wire and you just want to get things done so the picture taking goes by the wayside. I'm sure there are photos of the final product somewhere, but I have to gather them and post them at a future date.

I was able to get Christmas photos off of the camera before they were off-loaded onto another computer.

Here's this year's tree on Christmas eve:

I've used the same color scheme year after year. I grabbed some silk poinsettias from my Mom's supply of stuff from her old flower shop. It really filled the tree. We also have some fun ornaments in there, mostly tchotchkes we grabbed on our honeymoon and turned into ornaments and items from the girls' birthday parties. Can you spot the cupcake? It's made out of Sculpey. I'm a first-timer with the product and I over-baked it—It cracked, but it wasn't anything that a glue gun couldn't fix. I also covered up the biggest crack with a real cupcake wrapper.

Gingerbread houses for the neighbors:

These houses were about 4 inches on each side and 6 inches high. I didn't have enough candy canes and peppermint sticks so I broke up some mints for the corners—It kind of has a stacked stone feel, don't you think? The lights are candy and chocolate coated sunflower seeds.

I made 9 houses, and 8 went to the neighbors and friends. Mya had a house to herself to decorate (hence the reason why I didn't have enough peppermint sticks).

Christmas was a bit easier this year - no handmade gifts for my friends' kids plus we drew names for a gift exchange. It's so much easier than finding the right gift for 6 kids.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Turon - Sweet. Crunchy. Goodness.

We have an annual block party around this time of year. We have 10 different nationalities represented just on our little cul-de-sac and the variety of food is just amazing. I struggle to think of what to bring that's not your typical Filipino dish like pancit, lumpia, or chicken adobo. Since most people bring savory dishes, I thought I'd go the dessert route this year.

Turon has got to be one of my all-time favorite Filipino desserts. It's basically a banana egg roll. The banana used is a saba/plantain banana so it's a bit more firm and mild. Some people put jackfruit (langka) and coconut. But I like to stick to jackfruit since it complements the texture of the banana. The flavor is... hmm, how would I describe it...

Crunchy and sweet at first bite because of the lumpia wrapper and caramelized sugar
Tender and mildly sweet on the inside because of the saba banana
Fruity and almost sweet perfume-like when you bite into the jackfruit

I had to research how to to make this. I didn't quite know the technique when it came to caramelizing the outer wrapper. So I found the most common method of rolling it in brown sugar then frying and stuck to it.

So here it is...

5 Saba Banana (I bought it at Seafood City but it can be found in Mexican produce stands as well)
1 can of Jackfruit (can be found in any Asian market)
20-25 pack of Egg Roll or Lumpia Wrappers (I go for the extra route just in case they tear)
Golden Brown Sugar
1 Egg, beaten
Vegetable oil for deep frying (a light-flavored oil works best)

You can use a "regular" banana but I'd stick to a more firm one since it would get mushy when you fry it.

Separate the egg roll wrappers (this was my job as a kid when cooking with dad). Keep the wrappers covered with a damp towel to keep it from drying out. Peel and quarter the banana lengthwise. You may have to use a knife to help you peel the banana. Slice the jackfruit across the grain.

Lay 1 piece of banana, 2 pieces of jackfruit at the corner end of the wrapper. Top with about 1-1/2 tsp of brown sugar.

Roll it by pulling the corner over your ingredients, then the top and bottom corners and then rolling towards the other end. Seal the end with a light coat of the beaten egg.

Make a whole bunch of them and keep them covered with a damp towel until your ready to fry them. Right before frying, slightly wet the uncooked turon and roll it in brown sugar.

Deep fry in 350°F oil. I know it's tempting to get a lot done at once, but don't over-crowd the fryer/pan. You'll bring the cooking temperature down and end up with soggy turon (ick!).

Drain on a cooling rack. Do not drain on a paper towel because the sugar on the outside of the wrapper will make it stick.

Allow to cool enough to not burn your mouth and enjoy!!

I'm sure there's a better technique for making it more sticky and caramelized on the outside. It seemed that a lot of the sugar fell to the bottom of the fryer and didn't stick to the wrapper. But it still added to the flavor and texture. If you look at the picture above, there's only 19. I tried one of them without the sugar on the outside and it was acceptable, but did not have the sweetness texture I wanted.

It was good... not as good as the street vendors on the Philippines or from Tita's Kitchenette. But the neighbors seemed to enjoy it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

What's in a Box?

So many things!!

I'm jumping the gun with this post as this project is for a future gift for someone. But I couldn't wait. Since my life has been quite hectic I would probably forget to take photos and give the gift away without one last memory except for the scraps that came out of it.

I apologize for the grainy/fuzzy pics. I was losing natural light and my ISO was a wee bit high.

So on with the show…

Sushi anyone?

How about some noodles with beef?

Perhaps a snack of sugar snap peas, gyoza, strawberries or a cookie would be your speed?

Felt food is so much fun. I started making felt food when I was pregnant with Solana - I wanted to make cookies to go with Mya's tea set and surprise her with them as a gift after Solana's birth. Then I started doing felt food searches on Etsy and boy, did my head get filled with ideas!

So why Japanese food? First off, I like eating it (real food, not felt). But really...when Mya started eating lunch at school I went to Daiso and picked up a bento box ($1.69 - can't beat that!) so that she didn't have to deal with bulky tupperware in her lunchbox. Me being me and having to research everything, I looked up what usually goes in a bento box and found Lunch in a Box and was intrigued. I didn't realize that bento boxes are usually stuffed. Well, I would never stuff Mya's bento that much - she probably couldn't eat all of it (unless it was full of egg-salad sandwich). So I figured that the next best thing to making a full bento is to do it with felt food.

All the food was hand-sewn (no glue). I didn't even use a sewing machine. It probably would be hard to use with such intricate work. I mostly did a blanket stitch around the seams with the exception of the strawberries. The noodles were the easiest thing - they're just 1/4 inch strips of felt.

This is a dual-purpose gift - you can play with the felt food or set it aside and fill up the bento with real food. It's great for trips to the zoo, amusement park, or anywhere where you wouldn't want to buy expensive amusement park food. I'd probably fill mine with what the Filipinos call baon (pronounced Bah-ohn) which is usually rice with some kind of mixed vegetables and meat in a sauce. Then on the bottom (smaller portion) I'd put some cookies, crackers or cut veggies.

So here it is all together... in a bento:

I'm working on more food—A cake as a matter of fact. It's quite cathartic sewing this all by hand. It's like sewing the binding on a quilt... except this travels better. I can sew these little things while having tea or coffee with my friends.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cupcake Party Plans

I am planning TWO birthday parties this year!! My baby's going to be one in October and Mya will be five. Mya had picked out a cupcake theme for her sister and has already planned her own party (ya think she takes after me?). Since we are going to be rather busy in the coming months I had to start planning early.

I'm a fan of making inspiration boards. I'm also a fan of fabric. Lately my inspiration has come from fabrics. In the center is a Robert Kaufman fabric—I believe it's called Cupcakes from the Confection series with a coordinating Jimmies Sprinkle fabric. Hovering below the fabrics are colors I intend to use for the party. I'm just itchin' to get my hands on that fabric. I already have an idea of what to do with it after the party.

The party images on the top right are from a "Cupcake Par-tea." Invitations are from Williams-Sonoma but I plan to make my own, possibly using the Jimmies sprinkles. What would a cupcake party be without inspiration from Hello Naomi and Bakerella?!? The cupcakes are so adorable and the cupcake pops are a great idea for party favors. I've also included some cupcake-inspired images from a few Etsy stores. I'm not a tu-tu kind of gal but I think little Solana would be adorable in it.

This theme is rather girly of me but it's fun to step out of my comfort zone. I'm not quite sure how this will translate into a 1-year-old birthday party just yet. I'll have to write up a guest list and see what the age range is so that everyone will enjoy it.

On another note... my project status
I haven't quite yet gotten to all the projects that I've been intending to do. Work has me swamped as well as volunteer and social commitments. Not to mention my family needs attention, too! So I have been doing things on an on-demand basis, like making nursing covers (aka "hooter hiders") and crayon rolls for gifts. I have some fabric that's been cut and ready to sew, I have dresses and skirts that are ready to be hemmed and taken in (if you knew how short I am, "normal-length" dresses look ridiculous on me)—My sewing machine is beckoning me.

I hope everyone's enjoying their July!