My church family is very excited to welcome my friend Rachael's baby boy, that will arrive several days before Christmas. Couple weeks ago, the family threw a baby shower for her, and I offered to help. Her mom and sisters are great cooks, so I didn't dare to help in the main courses. Then I found a cute baby boy cookies on the internet and thought that they would be appropriate for the occasion. I used sugar cookies recipe from Joy of Baking, then decorated the cookies using royal icing with meringue powder. In case you are wondering, royal icing can be made using either egg white or meringue powder. I used the latter because raw egg should be avoided during pregnancy because of the risk of contamination with salmonella.
Making these cookies wasn't as easy as it looked. I watched some video tutorials about royal icing decorations, and of course all of them looked so easy peasy. I knew it's not! I've made sugar cookies with royal icing before, one for my friends baby shower and one for my own baby, and I learned that even drawing a straight line was hard to do. I was displeased when I looked at the imperfect round shapes of the faces and hats of my piped royal icing. I was frustrated about my incapability of making even a basic round shape.
Decorating the cookies with royal icing was a humbling experience for me. I've learned how to use pen and pencil since I was in kindergarten, but have almost zero skill maneuvering a piping bag. It's like writing with my left hand, while I am right handed. This experience also made me think of my two-year-old baby, Owen, that is still developing his fine motor skills. He often excitedly shows me what he draws on his board. One day he says, "mommy, I drew a car". I looked at his drawing and was smiling seeing his drawing that was not quite close from a car shape. I was happy and proud of him for keep trying and filling his board with his artworks because one should never stop learning. Even his mom still needs to develop some fine motor skills for decorating cookies.
This year, I added another person to thank for. This little person has been filling my last three months with joy and laughter. I thought I've learned about loving a brand new person from her brother, but I've learned many new things from her. I am proud to be called "her mom".
This year, hubby and I decided not to have Thanksgiving dinner on our own like what we did this past few years. Cooking the Thanksgiving courses in our small apartment was a bit chaotic last year, which included the turkey smell that was stuck in the carpet for a week. As much as we like having an intimate Thanksgiving supper with our kiddos, we didn't mind waiting a year or two to have it, when we move to our new house.
Thankfully, a family invited us to her house for lunch, and another family invited us for dinner. We had too much fun, too much food, and too much to be thankful for. I made roasted Brussel sprout and an apple cranberry pie for the feast.
A huge pumpkin from CSA had been decorating our kitchen cabinet since the beginning of the Fall season. Honestly, I wasn't too thrilled about getting pumpkin. Why? First, its big size made it hard to handle in my small kitchen. I mean, prior to pureeing it, I had to either bake or steam it. Since one pumpkin couldn't fit in one batch, some had to sit on my limited-space kitchen counter. Second, canned pumpkin was easy to get and very affordable, while making it from scratch required time and energy. I usually had to dedicate half of my day (and kitchen) to make pureed pumpkin.
Last year I accidentally let a pumpkin got rotten, and felt bad about it. How did I not if I knew that that pumpkin was grown by local people we know fairly well, who dedicated their live to grow the best produce while also make better environment. Therefore, for the sake of my personal satisfaction and our CSA commitment, I made my own pumpkin puree. I am glad I did, because the process apparently wasn't as elaborate as I thought.
Here the direction what I got from Megan, our CSA farmer:
Preheat your oven to 375F. Then, cut pumpkin in half. Remove seeds. Then, chop pumpkin halves into chunks about the size of your hand and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake about 1 hour, or until soft. When pumpkin has cooled, remove pulp/meat of pumpkin and blend in a food processor until smooth. Place in a colander lined with a bread cloth or cheesecloth for 30 minutes-1 hour until it has drained. Pumpkin is then ready to use in any recipe, or it can be frozen.
Having pumpkin puree, I knew what I could make for the church potluck on the first Sunday of this month. Pumpkin soup! I used a recipe from Food Network. The soup turned out to be bland for my taste, so I added roasted garlic and curry powder. I actually never tasted pumpkin soup before so I didn't know what to expect, but I loved how it turned out.
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled and diced
3 cups fresh pumpkin puree
5 fresh sage leaves
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream
3 cloves roasted garlic (roast when you roast pumpkin) Curry powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt butter and saute onion, carrot, apple, and sage until tender. Add in pumpkin puree and garlic, cook about 8 to 10 minutes. Puree in a food processor or use immersion blender. Return the puree to the stockpot, add the chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add the cream and simmer for 5 more minutes, lowering the heat if necessary so it does not boil. Season with curry powder, salt, and pepper.
Steamed chicken feet is our must-order dish at any dim sum restaurant. The idea of eating feet may turn some people off, but trust me, it is so tasty and addictive. Sucking on the bones and slurping the tender skins and cartilages are absolutely satisfying! I myself was grossed out by them when I was a kid. I remember my grandma often persuaded me to eat chicken feet for various health benefits including strong bones, and I just couldn't even try them. I blamed my neighbor's annoying free-range chickens that always managed to intrude my front yard. My grandma must be proud of me now. We usually order at least two portions of chicken feet for the three of us. Furthermore, this famous menu is one of our decision making in rating dim sum restaurants.
Serving dim sum style chicken feet on my own dining table had become my cooking obsession. So, I asked butchers at a grocery store that sold free range and organic chickens if they had the feet, and they said no. I knew an oriental grocery store that sold those, but I don't really trust the meat quality at that store. I asked several times the next grocery visits, hoping that they had those. Well, the feet need to go somewhere, right? Years later (after I quit asking the butchers) I found bags of chicken feet in their fridge, and they were so inexpensive. It's $2 for 15 feet! I had a wide smile having 30 chicken feet marching home.
Little that I knew that getting the chicken feet was the easiest part. All promising recipes I read involved all frying, braising, marinating, and steaming. I thought they were only steamed? It took me about two months to build up momentum to cook them. I must say that cooking them is a labor of love! We had to wait until the next day (yeah, couldn't speed things up having a toddler around) before we really had them served on our table. The greatest part was, they were as great as ones we can get from dim sum restaurants; and most importantly, hubby and our toddler (yes our toddler) loved them. It was so rewarding seeing them enjoying what I cooked. However, I may not make it again in a near future. Driving to Atlanta --the closest place to get dim sum-- may still be a better option
Chicken Feet Source: Dim Sum Central with some modifications 1 pound chicken feet
2 quarts oil
2 quarts water
1 ounce fresh ginger
3 pieces star anise
2 ounces honey
Classic banana bread is still our favorite weekly bread so far. I love that we can eat it as is without the need of any spreads. However, sometime we don't have banana and still haven't had chance to go to grocery store. Sometime also, we want variation. That's when I try different recipes. This time I found another simple recipe from my old Mennonite cookbook.
Combine in a large bowl: 1 c. quick oats
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T salt
2 T butter/margarine
Pour over: 2 c. boiling water Stir in to combine.
Dissolve: 1 pkg dry yeast (or 7 grams) in 1/2 c. warm water
When batter is cooled to lukewarm, add yeast.
Stir in: 5 c. white flour
When dough is stiff enough to handle, turn onto floured board and knead 5-10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise again. Shape into 2 loaves and place in greased 9x5x3 pans. Bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes. Cool on rack, brushing loaves with margarine for a soft crust.
Looking back, we see how God has been good to us. There are a lot of unfavorable baby phases that have passed such as evening fussiness, spitting up after feeding, clogged tear duct, and madness of getting bottle-fed. There are many of those that we still have to deal with such as fragmented sleep and short napping when he sleeps in his crib. Yet there have also been countless joyful moments, and many many more of that that are coming. It always makes me smile to see hubby is so crazy about his little buddy.
For his half year birthday, I made chocolate chiffon cake because I didn't have butter (chiffon cake uses vegetable oil). The finishing was chocolate butter cream and a baby goat on the center of the cake. I chose a goat because his 6-month birthday fell in the 15-day celebration of Chinese new year, and it is the year of goat (sheep). The goat's cheeks were reddish, because our poor baby just had eczema. He is getting much better though. The sheep was white because it's snowing outside. So, his simple half year birthday cake was very meaningful
Now that he's 6-month old, he can have solid food. His first solid food was steamed sweet potato. I cut the sweet potato to a size that he's comfortable holding. He grabbed one, put in his mouth, then spit it up while making funny face. He didn't seem to enjoy eating it, but surely enjoy mushing it with his hands.
Happy half year birthday our sweet baby boy. The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.
These days have been the peak of this year's winter. We got mixture of ice pellets, rain, and snow when temperature was below freezing. The result was beautiful shiny branches and oh not so pretty ice covered cars and roads... and of course we got cold days!
On cold days, I always think of having hot soup. I wish I could go to warung soto or warung bakso. Having enough with the dreaming, I remembered having ginger-looking vegetables called Jerusalem artichokes from CSA. A member of my CSA made soup out of them for a potluck dinner and shared the recipe. I finally did something to those artichokes that I'd let to sit in my refrigerator storage bin for more than a month! My concerned with them was they were small and I didn't have patience to peel them. But hubby had a brilliant idea. Don't. Peel. Them. So I didn't.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Peel and dice: 2 lbs Jerusalem artichoke
Sautee with: 1 Tbs butter
until onion is translucent
Add: 2 cups chicken stocks
Until the artichoke is tender. Puree the soup using a hand blender or food processor.
Add: 1/2 cup of milk or heavy cream
Salt and pepper
The soup tasted really good. In case you are wondering, although looks like a ginger, Jerusalem artichoke has consistency like potato but sweeter and nuttier. I can't wait to get them again hopefully sooner than next year. Next time I make this soup again, I will not brown the onion to get bright cream color.
I am not a big fan of cookies, so it is unusual that I'd been craving them. Cookies are too ordinary, I often thought (snob! I know)... and I chose other sweets when I had chance to have dessert. But I'd been weeks and the craving stayed, so fine... I'd make ones myself.
I got this simple recipe from my old cookbook my friend Ruthie gave me on our wedding day. The recipe was really easy and quick. I mean it is very mom-with-baby friendly. I put Owen on his bouncy seat in the kitchen when I made this. I told him the ingredients and showed him how to arrange the scooped dough on the baking sheet.
Now I feel rich because I have five dozens cookies in the house! We'll see how long they will stay.
Can't believe I've abandoned this blog for months. Our life has been revolving around Owen this past months and it's been fun! Now that he can interact and show more of his personality, we enjoy spending time with him more and more. Nonetheless, sometimes, not as often as before, thanks to my hubby, I can still cooking something more complicated than stir-fried veggies
This galette was made for a friend's birthday. As usual, I used my favorite Dorie Greenspan's cookbook. I made small portion for hubby & I just so we knew how it tasted. We both loved the combination of sourness from the cranberries, sweetness from apple and sugar, earthiness from nuts, and spiciness from ginger.