Hot Air Balloon Baby Shower

21 Sep

I am prefacing this post with an admittance that this is over 3.5 years late.  As Kev and I are on the brink of welcoming our own little one into the world, it seems that we’ve got all things baby on the brain these days.  I realized I never shared this project when the baby being welcomed at this shower started preschool a couple of weeks ago!

The Guest of Honor!

As I perused Bernie’s baby registry (yes, in 2014), I noticed a really cute hot air balloon crib sheet set and immediately scoured the internet for some ideas to theme a work shower around. Bernie and Ben wanted the gender of the baby to be a surprise, so I wanted to keep the the decor gender neutral.  I found an AMAZING set of printables and a Hot Air Balloon Diaper Cake tutorial (to the right in the photo below) on Hostess with the Mostess, with blue, yellow, and pink.  Perfect!

 

The Cookie Casa Spread

I used the patterned paper downloads that Hostess with the Mostess provided to create a bunting and some additional signage for the room.

Bunting

I also sketched out a cloud shape, cut it out, and used it as a stencil.  I cut that same shape into a few sheets of letter-sized paper, cut them all out, and sewed them down the middle. Boom – a quick cloud centerpiece!  I used some streamers in coordinating colors with the theme to make a starburst, tying the colors back into the clouds.

Makeshift “Centerpieces”

To provide the treats, I enlisted the well-loved (and now sorely missed!) Cookie Casa to create mini cupcakes and cake with sprinkles that matched our color scheme, and used the small decorative flag downloads from Hostess with the Mostess as as miniature cake toppers.

Cookie Casa Minis!

For the cake, I cut a few circles out of the decorative paper and sewed them down the middle to create a dimensional paper hot air balloon, cut out a couple paper clouds, and used one of the larger decorative flags to create cake toppers.

Mini Cake with Toppers

I also found another centerpiece tutorial on Weddings Illustrated for a centerpiece using a styrofoam ball and paper, and picked up some coordinating scrapbook paper from the craft store to create it.

Styrofoam Hot Air Balloon

Here are some more snaps from the crafts and the party!

 

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Chocolate Whipped Cream

17 Sep

For Kevin’s birthday this year, I made the last cake I’ll probably have time to bake for a long time.  His side of the family came over for a celebration, and I wanted to make a cake with a lighter feel.  I went with my favorite go-to chocolate cake recipe for the cake and added fresh strawberries and bananas in between the cake layers.

Fresh Strawberries and Bananas

 

And instead of frosting, I went with a chocolate whipped cream after coming across the perfect recipe on The First Year.  I also love the look of a naked cake, and tried to do something similar.  However, I made the whipped cream a bit stiff so that it would hold up longer out of the fridge and it wasn’t as easy to spread.

Makeshift Naked Cake

When you want a whipped cream that will last longer, you should also freeze the mixing bowl and whisk you’re going to use in advance.  With frosting, whipped cream, or any other recipes where texture is important and you’re adding lumpy dry goods to it, I also recommend sifting the ingredients to prevent lumps!  Here’s the delicious chocolate whipped cream recipe as adapted from The First Year:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place a metal mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the bowl from the freezer. Add the heavy cream, and sift the cocoa powder and powdered sugar into the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form and the whipped cream holds its shape.  Don’t over beat!

    Sift Into Frozen Bowl

  3. Use on cakes, cupcakes, pies, hot cocoa, etc. Place leftovers in a container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

Happy Birthday, Kevin!

Happy Birthday Kevin

 

Bulgogi (Grilled Korean Beef)

19 Aug

I’ve made this recipe a few times but have never written about it – I figure it’s time to finally share!  While bulgogi isn’t something I normally order at a Korean restaurant, I do love making it at home.  It’s also an easy crowd-pleaser when you have people over.  The marinade can handle more meat than the recipe calls for, so if say you wanted to make two pounds of bulgogi, just multiple the marinade ingredients by 1.5x!  Here is the original recipe from New York Times:

INGREDIENTS:

  • pound well-marbled, boneless sirloin, tenderloin or skirt steak
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 cup peeled, chopped ripe Asian or Bosc pear  (I’ve also used an apple in a pinch!)
  • ¾ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 TSBP soy sauce
  • 1 TSBP roasted sesame oil
  • 1 TSBP light brown sugar or honey
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ sliced white onion and 5 white mushrooms (optional)
  • ½ tsp sesame seeds, toasted

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Wrap beef in plastic wrap or butcher paper and place in freezer for 1 to 2 hours to firm up.
  2. Cut beef across the grain into thin slices. If cooking in a skillet, slices should be less than 1/8 inch thick; do not worry if they are a bit ragged. If cooking on the grill, uniform slices, 1/8-inch thick, are best.  As an alternative, you can purchase pre-sliced meat from the Japanese or Korean market.  For this particular post, I used some beautifully marbled thinly sliced Prime Beef Shabu-Shabu Style Chuckroll from Mitsuwa and it worked perfectly after a couple of trims (they come in long thin strips).

    With Sliced Prime Beef Chuckroll

  3. In a food processor, combine garlic, pear, onion and ginger and process until very smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.

    Bulgogi Marinade

  4. In a bowl or sealable plastic bag, combine steak, marinade, scallion, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar and pepper and mix well. Cover or seal, then refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  5. If using a cast-iron grill pan or large skillet, heat over high heat. Add all the meat and its juices to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated and the meat begins to brown around the edges.

    Added Sliced Onions and Mushrooms

TO SERVE:

  •  Whole, fluffy lettuce leaves for wrapping, such as green leaf, oak leaf or romaine; and whole perilla leaves (optional)
  •  Any or all of the following: hot cooked short-grain rice; long green hot peppers, sliced crosswise into 1-inch chunks; small peeled garlic cloves; carrot and cucumber spears or sticks, 1 to 2 inches long
  •  Korean Barbecue Sauce (Ssamjang, see recipe)

The great thing about this recipe is that you still get the sweet-and-savory flavor of bulgogi without added sugar.  We served this with sprouted brown rice (only 1/3 cup per meal, thanks to the GD), kale sauteed with garlic and sesame, steamed broccoli, and plenty of MSG-free kimchi.

Bulgogi (Grilled Korean Beef)

I haven’t made panchan (Korean side dishes) from scratch before, but there are SO many of them and one recipe makes far too much to eat for just one meal (or a couple meals if there are leftovers).  I learned my lesson from the batch of Pickled Daikon and Carrot which we STILL are trying to get through.  The thought of driving to Koreatown just to pick-up some sides was too much to bear, but luckily Lissette had tipped me off last month about a little Korean market hidden in the valley.  I picked up japchae and a plethora of mixed panchan to top off our meal.  Thanks again for the tip, LG!

Bulgogi (Grilled Korean Beef)

Vietnamese Pickled Daikon and Carrot

7 Aug

To compliment the Lemongrass Chicken bowls, I made a batch of pickled daikon (Japanese radish) and carrot.  The pickles are the perfect garnish for any type of Vietnamese food – banh mi sandwiches, egg rolls, meat dishes – you name it!

I got the recipe from New York Times. The recipe will make about 3 cups of pickles, so you can divide the recipe if you don’t foresee needing THAT much garnish.  I don’t think you’ll regret making the full batch though!

INGREDIENTS:

  • large carrots, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 1 pound daikon radish, no larger than 2 inches in diameter, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup warm water

Daikon and Carrot Matchsticks

DIRECTIONS:
  1. Place carrot and daikon in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and 2 teaspoons sugar. Knead vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling water from them (this will keep them crisp). Stop kneading when vegetables have lost about 1/4 of their volume. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water. Return vegetables to bowl, or transfer to a glass container for longer storage.

    Quick-Pickle Rinse

  2. In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar, the vinegar and 1 cup lukewarm water, and stir to dissolve sugar. Pour over vegetables. Let marinate at least 1 hour before eating, or refrigerate for up to 4 weeks. Remove vegetables from liquid before using.

Vietnamese Pickled Daikon and Carrot

Lemongrass Chicken

7 Aug

As this crazy summer heat wears on, I’ve found myself really wanting Vietnamese food.  Maybe not so much a hot bowl of pho, but a nice rice noodle (bún) bowl is so refreshing on hot days.  I love the many fresh herbs and cold vegetables (fresh and pickled together!) that compliment deliciously grilled meats and cold rice noodles.  Nong La is my go-to for a nice pork bún bowl, and their egg rolls are to die for.  I don’t dare try and recreate their pork bowl, but I did find a nice recipe for a lemongrass chicken on the interwebs.   Here’s the recipe as adapted from Bon Appetit.  BA’s original recipe calls for chicken breasts which you have to pound to eliminate dryness, but I used chicken thighs since they tend to have more flavor and frankly are much harder to dry out.

Lemongrass, Shallot, Lime, Garlic, Fish Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layers removed, chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

    Ready for a Whirl

DIRECTIONS:
  1. Process lemongrass, shallot, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes in a food processor to a fine paste.

    Lemongrass Marinade

  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in a resealable plastic bag or container. Add lemongrass mixture; chill at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 days ahead).

    Ready for Marinating!

  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Remove chicken from marinade, scraping off excess (this is important!), and cook until golden brown, 5-7 minutes; turn and cook until cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.  You can also throw these on a grill if you can stand the heat!
  4. Serve chicken with lime wedges for squeezing over.

NOTE: If you’re doing whole-30, you can substitute the brown sugar for orange juice.  However, the nice thing about the sugar is that it will make sure you get a nice char on the chicken once you cook it.

Kevin and I recently discovered GABA sprouted brown rice (unpolished brown rice that has been allowed to germinate to improve the flavor and texture and increase levels of nutrients such as γ-aminobutyric acid), and we LOVE it despite the longer preparation requirements.  To maximize the nutrient factor and flavor to the meal, I sliced and sauteed a leek in a wee bit of soy sauce and tossed it with a batch of GABA rice in chicken broth in lieu of traditional rice vermicelli noodles.  Together the lemongrass chicken, Pickled Daikon and Carrot, freshly shredded lettuce, Persian cucumber, cilantro, green onion, and crushed toasted peanuts (oops, not pictured), it was the perfectly balanced healthy dinner!

Lemongrass Chicken