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.
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.
Hubby and I have a new member in our small family. These past months, our focus has been shifted a little bit. Our baby's health has been in our prayer for sure, hubby's has been talking to my belly, and oh my belly is expanding uncontrollably!!! Soon our home will be filled with cute baby stuffs, then after that we are ready for THE arrival of the greatest gift a couple could ask for. In general, I've been having a nice pregnancy, and my activities has been going on like usual.
People at church had been asking what the gender of the baby was. I told them that I didn't want to tell them directly but would give them a clue. So, the Saturday after we finally found out, I baked onesie-shaped cookies with blue royal icing and brought those to a church function. I offered the cookies to my friends there and most of them needed some seconds to realize what they meant then gave me hugs I am so blessed for having such a nice encouraging church family.
This post is also to mark a new addition in my big family. My older sister just delivered her baby boy today. Can't wait to meet Krischnan Calvin Hartono. I am so excited to be overwhelmed with baby stories from my dad (yes, he is the reporter) . There are so much to be thankful for.
We celebrated Christmas this year with our brother's family in Indiana. We didn't have presents underneath Christmas tree because it is not part of our culture and I found difficulty to understand its meaning, but we had a great time together as a family. Other than going to a Christmas Eve service and visiting Chicago, we left our schedule open when we were there because we wanted to spent time with our brother's family. However, dinner invitations from some old friends and catching up with some friends made our visit much merrier.
Before it gets too late, I wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope your Christmas was filled with joy, peace, and love from God alone. I also hope that each Christmas event, whether it's church related events or gathering with friends and families engraved sweet memories for you.
Speaking about sweetness, I want to share what I made for our dear friends weekend before Christmas day. It's cranberry-pistachio cornmeal biscotti using Martha Stewart's recipe. I chose the recipe because I loved pistachio and I had bags of corn meal from CSA. Some people may prefer finely ground cornmeal, but mine was mixed of fine and coarse and we loved it. Combination of sweet from dried fruit, sour from lemon zest, and salty from pistachio created a nice "Christmasy" taste and look. I hope our friends enjoyed them as much as we did.
I signed up for bringing cookies to a Christmas party at church last Saturday. Cookies are not my favorite things to bake because I had so many failures in making those in the past. However, other things I would have liked to pick in the sign-up sheet were taken, so I was left with no choice. My plan was making the cookies from scratch. If I failed, I would get ready-made cookies from a grocery store.
My first choice was thumbprint cookies from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook. I loved that it had raspberry jam on it because sweet and sour go really well together. While searching for different ideas, I found a recipe used Hershey's Kisses chocolate for the center. So I made two kind of thumbprint cookies, ones with the jam and ones with chocolate. For the chocolate, I placed a Hershey's kiss on each baked cookies then put the sheet pan back into the oven for 5 minutes. Using a small spoon, I pressed the chocolate while it was still warm to flatten the top. Crushed candy cane was then sprinkled over the pressed chocolate.
Thumbprint Cookies from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Ingredients: 1 3/4 cups finely ground hazelnuts (I used almond meal)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks) 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Mix ground hazelnuts and flour. Beat the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the extracts; beat to blend. Decrease mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture and mix only until incorporated into the dough.
I believe we all have experienced too much excitements concentrated in one time then dry period for the next. There are time hubby & I are bored because of our routine and some other time we get some invitations from friends which forces us pick one and turn down the rest. There are time I have too much free time, and am swamped with work the next day. Sometimes also, we have too much food, and some other time during school year, we could only hope for the best to have good food for dinner. Don't we wish to divide the excitement evenly during the year so we don't get overwhelmed nor lack of great thing?
I knew that I would not have much free time to make baked goods once school started. Since school started last Wednesday, I made these cookies at the beginning of the week. I wanted to reserve the cookies in case we were running out of our daily bread or other "emergency" situation. I don't know how long this cookies will last because the next day I found hubby was looking for a small container to bring some of them to work
Green Tea Cookies Adapted from: Baking From My Home to Yours
Yields: about 50 cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp green tea powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Black sesame seeds(optional)
Whisk the flour, green tea powder, and baking powder together.
Working in a mixer with the paddle attachment, if you have one, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until it is smooth. Still beating, add the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the butter is light and pale. Add the egg and the yolk and beat another minute or two. Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated.
Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half. Shape each half into a chubby sausage about (2-inches diameter) and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Can't believe that it's been a month since my last post. Things had been crazy in the past month, but I happened to enjoy doing all of those. Now that I am free from classes, I can start sharing my kitchen-related and not-so-related experiences.
I'd started planning a baby shower for my friend, Jocelin, way back then in March. As time went by, I realized that the word "planning" in this case was no more than agreeing on a date for the parents-to-be and us. Soon after Easter break, I was swamped with homeworks, projects, and exams. I was also prone to getting sick last semester when I was too tired, which made things worse. Right after the last final exam, I flew to California to join hubby who was already there. We stayed there for a week and got back late on Tuesday. My week was pretty much full since we watched Star Trek sneak peek on Wednesday after work. Hubby had bought the ticket months before we planned the shower. Since then, he couldn't wait for that day. So watching that Star Trek movie was a done deal. On Friday, I had a meeting in Nashville and a bible study. So, I only had Thursday and Saturday to work on the baby shower.
I am always nervous for events that involves inviting bunch of people. What if not many people come? If the food isn't enough? If the food isn't good? If the party is lame? Well, this time, I didn't really have time to worry about those things because I was trying to accomplish my looong to-do list. Hubby kept saying that I was wearing myself out by doing too much thing and he thought some of those were not necessary since I didn't have much time. Those were things that I thought would be great to have for a baby shower, although I agreed that we could have omitted those without hurting the essence of the party. Of course, among those were things needed to be detailed. Things that I enjoyed doing the most.
While hubby and I had talked about the main food during our vacation, the "extras" were last minute deal. After did some quick online research, I decided to make onesie cookies for the thank you favor, cake with owl fondant figurine, and semar mendem or for this shower I called "rice in a baby blanket". I used Joy of Baking's recipe for the onesie cookies and royal icing using meringue powder. I didn't have onesie cookie cutter, so I tailored them myself using tools I had. Not having a specific cookie cutters allowed me to create different shapes of baby clothes. I'll post another entry about this once I have chance to recreate this cookies. I also found some online tutorial of how to decorate cookies using royal icing, which looked simple until I tried doing it myself. Once again, I was reminded of the importance of practice to master anything. I couldn't believe it's hard even just to make a straight line.
For the cake, I used Dorie Greenspan's vanilla cake, which only used egg whites. The butter cream is the reduced-sweetness version of this recipe. I stuck slices of strawberries in between the cake layers and soon regretted it. The strawberries made the cake watery and hard to cover. For the decoration, I made an owl figurine out of gum paste since Jocelin likes owl. So I was pretty much in the kitchen the whole time on Saturday either baking, cooking, or chopping.
I finished everything just right before the scheduled time although some were not as good as I expected. Until now, I still couldn't believe I could finish the whole thing and still had time to...take a shower before the event! Haha... I didn't have time to snap "proper" pictures of what I made though. The whole apartment was like a mess and the smell of what I cooked stayed until the next day. Nevertheless, I was super pleased that everything went well and the parent-to-be looked so happy. We had a lot of leftover what would be enough for another party. So other than what I mentioned above, I made beef rendang, Chinese corn soup, and stir fried gailan . My friends made fried chicken, cassava leaf (daun singkong) with pork, fried vermicelli, and eggplant in a hot pot.
Now we are eager to see the baby that can come at anytime soon.
I made a list of what I wanted to make with my beet puree, and biscotti was one of it. Our friends invited us for dinner that weekend, so I planned on bringing my biscotti with me. Searching for a recipe online, I found out that beet wasn't a common flavor people used for a biscotti, or for anything I might say. Not only the search engine showed me many kind of biscotti but beet one, it also suggested me to change the word "beet" to "best". Thank you very much!
Didn't want to take off biscotti of my list, I finally decided to alter my almond biscotti recipe. Using my limited knowledge about the science of baking, I substituted white eggs with the beet puree.
I think the biscotti was ok. I still need to work more on the recipe. Nonetheless, I had confident that my friends would love to try those. I knew they were kind of people who love to try new things and believe in homemade cooking, so I had no reason not to bring the biscotti. I was right
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cornmeal and whisk again to blend.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth. Add the egg yolk and beet puree and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is light, smooth and creamy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You'll have a soft, stick-to-your-fingers dough that will ball up around the paddle or beaters. Scrape down the paddle and bowl, toss in the almonds and mix just to blend.
Granola bars had never been our favorite until Earth Fare gave away a coupon entitled "Breakfast Revolution" couple weeks ago. The coupon included a granola bar for a dollar. We bought the bar and brought it on our hike the weekend after. Since then, hubby loves granola bar. Unfortunately, granola bars aren't inexpensive especially the good ones.
So, I decided to make them myself. After I found the recipe I liked, we went to the store to get the ingredients. Little did I know that the ingredients for the bars could get so expensive. I then realized that those were mostly oats, organic nuts and organic dried fruits; and some ingredients are sold in packages. So I have to make more and more batch to decrease the cost per bar
We brought our first bars to our hiking trip last weekend. That was our fourth hiking trip this past month. Note: The picture above shows a view along Alum Cave Trail. It was a dark and cloudy day when we were there.
Homemade Granola Bar
Ingredients: 2 cups oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup chopped pecan
3/4 cup chopped sliced almond
2 Tbs flax seed
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz. chopped dried cranberry
4 oz. chopped prunes
Mix the oats, nuts, and flax seed in a baking dish lined with a parchment paper and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oat mixture. Add the dried fruits and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan lined with parchment paper. Using finger or parchment paper, hardly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares.