Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Saying Farewell to Daycare with Treats

Today is my 4 year old's last day at daycare. He has been there since he was 13 months old. To inform the other kids about him leaving, I made little treats for them the day before. For his farewell party today, I made cupcakes for everyone, including all the teachers in the building from all the rooms. His best friend is also leaving this month and is providing a hot dog lunch for all the kids at today's party. I have a feeling it's going to be an epic party :) Lucky kids!

Since today is his last day, yesterday I brought treats for all the kids in his current room. The treat contained a message saying that he was leaving and going to school. I wanted all his friends to know that he was leaving and I wanted to give them a chance to say goodbye the next day, if they wanted to. Last year, one of my son's good friends left the daycare without saying a word. We had no idea he was leaving and he never got to say goodbye :( He kept talking about that for the longest time. "Jason left and didn't say goodbye" :( A year later, he still remembers this.

The treat I assembled for daycare was actually very cute. The best part was that it wasn't made from scratch so it was super easy and fast to put together :) The extreme foodie in me would have totally made everything from scratch but I didn't have the time. Hey, you do what you can, right? I saw the marshmallow treat awhile ago on Pinterest. I thought it was perfect since the kids just learned about underwater life last week. The fish crackers also went well with the message I attached about going to school. Every time you hear about school, you always associate it with fish. As in a school of fish, obviously :) It just seemed like the perfect gift to make.

The treats turned out alright but I learned the hard way that you cannot dye white candy melts with normal food coloring. You need oil based colors since the fat content is too high. Duh. I tried my best to mix the two anyway and got a slight blue grainy tint out of it. Oh well! Next time, I will just buy the colored candy melts. It's a nice treat so I think I will likely do it again for school :) The taste reminded me of s'mores since it was marshmallows, candy melt, and graham cracker crumbs. Simple and not overly sweet. I also like that you can eat it like a lollipop and not get your fingers dirty.

After the farewell gifts for the kids were delivered, I started on the cupcakes. I swear our house had turned into a cake shop this past week! Oh my goodness. So much cake. I made vanilla and chocolate cupcakes and brought 48 of them to daycare. Attached to each container was a label of what they were and what ingredients were used. My 4 year old also made a card for the teachers.

Cupcakes without sprinkles.

Cupcakes with sprinkles. Prettier. I love sprinkles! :)

I actually really like the rose design. So easy too.

I am so grateful to daycare for their care. Having my 4 year old there part time allowed me to do my own thing at home. It gave us a nice break from each other and it allowed him to make friends and interact with other kids his age. Thanks to daycare he is now well prepared for school and should not have a problem going into Kindergarten in September. In the next couple of months, I will be spending some quality time with him before he begins school full time. I'm so lucky to be able to do this. I plan to have lots of fun with him! The fact that he is about to go to Kindergarten has not sunk in yet. It's just unbelievable. What happened to my baby?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hulk Smash Cake

Yes, it's another Hulk cake. And it's for the same person. Haha. I know, right?! When my nephew turned five last year, I made him a Hulk cake at the request of his mom. I was told he was into the Hulk and that was his favorite Superhero. One year later, he still loves the Hulk. In fact, I think he has grown even more obsessed with the Hulk now. Seriously, I have never met a bigger Hulk fan!

Last year I was able to pull off a Hulk cake. I was scared at first since it was a hard theme to work with. You can imagine my disappointment this year when I was requested to make another Hulk birthday cake. Oh rats!! It would be super easy to make the same cake again since I had already done it once but who wants the exact same cake for two consecutive birthdays? Honestly, my nephew probably wouldn't have minded. Lol. But isn't it cake taboo to make the exact same theme cake more than once? It's got to be.

So I needed to create another Hulk themed cake but it had to be totally different from the one last year. Last year was already hard so how was I suppose to pull this off? Again? To make matters worst, I picked a hard design. Seriously, there aren't many great Hulk cake inspirations out there. I don't like about 95% of the cakes I found online. I think it's because the Hulk is just a hard one to do. Naturally, I fantasized about how amazing it could be by looking at a few jaw dropping photos online of professional Hulk cakes. I am nowhere close to that level of cake making and probably will never be. Who am I kidding?!

Hulk fist out of rice krispies. Cool, eh? :)

With chocolate mold. Still looks okay.

I love the cupcakes. So easy :)

All done!

Hulk fist lost its shape in all the fondant :( Tricky stuff.


After many tiring hours with a few mess ups here and there, the final cake turned out just okay. I certainly liked last year's cake more. Lol. But it was a simpler cake. I think I should just stick to simpler cakes from now on :) For this cake, I started out with a vision of something AWESOME! Then, I settled for something "recognizable." Lol. It's a lot harder than it looks people! I had to learn a new skill to make the Hulk fist. It started out well but then it went down hill after that. The shape of the fist eventually got lost with every extra layer I had to add. Sadly, I had to make the best of it :( I also messed up on the icing after rushing to do it and had to make the best of that too. There was just no time to redo anything. Even though I spent hours on the cake and made fresh fondant, I still felt rushed. This Hulk smash cake was actually the second theme cake I made this past weekend. I have never made that much cake before in such a short period of time. I was totally caked-out! I cannot imagine making cakes for a living. Kudos to those of you who do!

This cake project was an adventure. It didn't turn out like I had imagined it but everyone seemed to like it anyway. I think I'm the most disappointed one. Now that I'm blogging about it, it's going to end up in that 95% inventory online of hulk cakes I don't like. Lol. The best part about making this cake was that I got to learn how to make an object out of rice krispies and use chocolate molding to shape it. That was neat. Hard but neat.

The cake may not look big but it was and it was really heavy! It easily fed around 30 people. And it was so hard holding it in the car! We had to transport it far in our car and I was holding it on my lap uncovered, while balancing it as my husband sped to the party. We were late. Ahem. The thing was, I was tired. It was the first time I ever stayed up late to finish off a cake. I only finished the cake though. The morning of the party, I had to finish off the cupcakes. I even got my husband to help paint the fondant Hulks while I made the frosting. That's what marriage is for, right? :) So we were late to the party. I know every caker says that transporting cakes if one of the hardest and most stressful jobs. I can totally agree. I'm so glad it got to the party in one piece!

Happy 6th Birthday to my nephew! I know he was really happy with his birthday cake :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Number Cake for a 70th Birthday

I have always wanted to make a number cake. When I discovered that it was my dad's 70th birthday, I knew this was my chance. This past Saturday was my dad's actual birthday and we all went out for a big family dinner at Kirin Restaurant. In fact, it seemed like every table was celebrating someone's birthday. Either that or it was a wedding. The hosts and servers were pretty much singing Happy Birthday all night. Lol.

I found a clever cheat sheet on how to make any number cake out of a basic square and round cake. I was able to use one 8 inch round and a large rectangular pan to create both my "7" and "0." I had to double the recipe to fill both pans and in the end, I had just a bit of cake leftover. I made nutella cake with nutella swiss meringue buttercream. It's my favorite and since I was the cake maker, I was the one who got to decide :) Not that anyone objected since I only got positive feedback on my cake. My brother-in-law even said the fondant was good since it was nice and thin and complimented the cake well :) I tried! I know fondant is sweet so I always use the thinnest covering humanly possible. But of course that makes it very delicate and a pain to work with. Ha!

Clever, right?

What was leftover for us to enjoy :) Yum, yum.

The cake was trickier than I thought to cover with fondant just because I was doing it freestyle without any measurements. Now that I have gone through the process, I would have covered the top first before the sides. Oops. The cake wasn't high but it was extremely wide. The numbers took up so much space that I had to go to Rona, a local home improvement center, just to purchase a sheet of plastic styro to create a cake board. Crazy, right?! It worked out well though so I was pleased :) And phew! I almost gave up on the idea of making this cake since I didn't have a cake board large enough. Thanks Rona for saving my butt! :)

A big happy 70th to my Dad!!!

Thin fondant veil :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What a Foodie Eats While Vacationing in Oahu, Hawaii

We got back from our family vacation in Oahu, Hawaii a couple of weeks ago. It has taken me this long to get out of vacation mode and actually find the energy to write about it. The three of us had such a fun and relaxing week on Oahu. We were outside a lot! We swam in the ocean and pool, played with sand at the beach, visited friends, hiked, and of course ate out and cooked :)

We stayed in Ko Olina on the west side at a lovely resort, which had a very well equipped full kitchen. We didn't know at the time since every kitchen tends to be a bit different. My husband was thrilled there was a blender so he could make his super smoothies. He brought crushed chia, flax, and hemp seeds from home hoping he could make fresh fruit smoothies. He used soy milk and tropical fruits and made smoothies every day. After a long run in the morning, he would make a smoothie to accompany his breakfast and would be happy as a clown :) As for me, I was thrilled we had a rice cooker in the kitchen! We also had plenty of Tupperware with lids, which was awesome for storing food in the fridge. In the past, we had to buy saran wrap or use paper towels to cover up food in the fridge. The dish rack was great too because we didn't always want to use the dishwasher. In fact, my husband can't stand dishwashers because they are so loud and take too long. He likes to wash dishes by hand but I think it's just a habit of his :)

We grocery shopped at Walmart first, then Foodland for things we couldn't find at Walmart. No matter where you are in the world, Walmart always has the best deals. However, when things are expensive at Walmart, you can't help but think about the poor locals who have to shop in Hawaii all the time for every day things. I just balked at the high prices of so many things. I have forgotten how expensive it was to live in Hawaii and I know for a fact that people there make much less than people on the mainland. I know prices are all relative but we're Vancouverites and food and every day things for us is quite affordable. For instance, green onions are as much as 6 times more expensive in Hawaii. Many things are 2 to 3 times more. A few things were cheaper such as pineapple, papaya, macadamia nuts, mahi mahi, and wine. We focused on buying things that were local or that were cheaper and worked our food menu around that. When the farmer's market in our area opened on Thursday, we went there and grabbed some produce. We also visited an organic and natural food store call Down to Earth and grabbed a few vegan things there for my husband. We bought a few cold dishes for lunch to take out to the beach. At $10/lb, we didn't buy much. The tofu poke, mock chicken salad, and macaroni salad all tasted quite good but was way too pricey. I mean unless they used organic quinoa, rice, or special multi-grain pasta for their macaroni salad, which I'm sure they didn't, charging customers $10/lb is a lot for simple food.

We're always going for the local stuff! Poi English Muffins.

We had breakfast at the hotel every day. We ate poi English muffins, whole wheat English muffins and bagels we brought over from Vancouver. My 4 year old likes eggs so I would fry an egg or two for us as well. I actually got to cook more on this trip than most of our past trips. Like I said, the kitchen was well equipped and we even had access to nice BBQs at the resort. Walmart, Foodland and Down to Earth were only a 10 minute drive away so it was easy to get groceries. I enjoy cooking, no matter where I am, and it's just so much easier and simpler to eat at home with a small child compared to going to a restaurant. Groceries were expensive but eating in was still much cheaper and healthier than if we dined out every day.

Yes, we did go out to eat a few times! As always, I researched and selected a few restaurants all over the island for us to try out. Our first stop was Beet Box Cafe in Haleiwa in the North Shore. It was a tiny vegetarian restaurant at the back of a natural food store. My husband ordered the Beirut burger (or falafel burger) and I ordered the Healthy Plate of Food. He also had the iced hibiscus mint tea. We gave our 4 year old a bit of both of our dishes. We all loved the food but I think the Beirut burger was the better dish. It was just full of unique tasty flavors and it was a good size. I make a really good falafel burger at home but this one tasted totally different, which I really liked. Why get something you can easily make yourself, right? :) The Healthy Plate of Food was nothing particularly special (i.e. I could probably mimic this at home :)) but it was nice to have the variety and we really needed to eat something healthy. This was our first real meal in the past 24 hours so it was perfect. The Beet Box Cafe was definitely a winner and affordable too.

Healthy Plate of Food
Beirut Burger

We visited a friend of my dad's in Pearl City. In his backyard was a huge mango tree and it was mango season! He stuffed us silly with cut up deliciously ripe mango during our visit and then sent us on our way with a case of mangoes. We LOVE mangoes. We had no problem eating all of them during that week we were in Hawaii. In fact, our fruit count during one week was pretty impressive. Here was what the three of us ate just for fruits alone (I might be forgetting some):
  • 10-12 mangoes
  • 4 pineapples
  • 4 papayas
  • 16-18 bananas, apple bananas
  • 2 apples
  • 2 pears

My 4 year old demonstrating his strength.

The next restaurant we tried was Side Street Inn in Honolulu. We ordered the special fried rice, the farmers salad, and the pan-fried pork chops. The fried rice was tasty but a bit too wet and sticky. Some pieces of the pork chops were a bit overcooked, dry, and chewy. It was nice that they cut it up for you and then give you the bones on the side too. Portions were big and we had to doggie bag our leftovers home. I can see why the locals liked it but since we were coming from Vancouver, we thought the food was good but not great. We are definitely spoiled with all the delicious Asian food in Vancouver. Plus, I can cook a lot of this myself. Lol.

Special fried rice at Side Street Inn.

Pan-fried pork chops at Side Street Inn.

An old friend of ours lives in Honolulu with his girlfriend. He invited us over one evening for dinner. It was nice to take a break from being tourists and enjoy some company. After the visit, we felt somewhat out of place there. Let's just say the experience sparked a few interesting conversations in the car between my husband and myself on our way back to the resort. Later in the week, they came over to our resort for a BBQ feast. Again, this experience intensified the interesting conversations my husband and I started. Lol. The truth is we enjoy each other's company but we realized even more than ever that we are just so different. They were being themselves and we were being ourselves. Nothing more, nothing less. I think this deserves a blog post of its own so I'll write more about it later.

The third and final restaurant we tried was Romy's in the North Shore for shrimp. I knew nothing about this place because it wasn't on my list but we ended up here after the place we wanted to eat at was closed. Tita's Grill & Catering was closed on Sunday! I was so disappointed and I just wished I knew beforehand. In case you are wondering, they close early Saturday around 3PM and every Sunday. Unfortunately, it was our last day in Hawaii so we'll just have to try it next time. Even more disappointing was that we picked the wrong place to go for shrimp. There were a gazillion shrimp trucks in the North Shore but we ended up at Romy's since it looked big and there were shrimp farms just behind it. It was a 45 minute wait after ordering. I actually wanted to leave after I saw the prices but it was the second place we stopped at for shrimp and they all looked pretty similar. We ordered the garlic prawn plate for $14. Boy, were we disappointed:( The prawns had their heads on to make them look bigger. Some were medium, small, and maybe there was a large one in there. The garlic was over fried and tasted a bit bitter. The portion was small. We felt like we wasted our time and money. On top of that, the shrimp farms were so dirty we couldn't see a thing. Okay, that one wasn't their fault.

Looks good but didn't taste great.

We ventured into the North Shore three separate times. Twice for meals and sightseeing and one time for shopping. We spotted the famous Matsumoto shaved ice shop while shopping in Haleiwa and we just had to try it. Every day in Hawaii is a shaved ice day! We got the Tropical and Hawaiian flavor shaved ice. The Hawaiian one had guava, lilikoi, and papaya and looked like a rainbow. I preferred the Tropical one, which had pineapple, coconut, and banana. It was $2.75 for each large cone and they were yummy. Nothing can cool you down more on a hot day :) After shaved ice and before heading back to our resort, we went to Ted's Bakery and bought a whole chocolate haupia cream pie. Yup, a whole pie! We were initially planning to get 3 slices but we figured a whole pie was cheaper at $12 a pie and was just a bit more food. Also, we were pigs. Oink, oink! :) The pie was good and it might actually be something I may want to mimic in the future. After all, I already figured out how to make delicious haupia and I have plenty of good pie crust recipes :) Stay tune people! Stay tune ;)

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