Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Candy Sushi Bar: Make Your Own Candy Sushi

Our son is now 8 years old. We had a party for him but it wasn't crazy like the previous years. We barely did anything and we even ordered food. Right?! In fact, we almost didn't have a party at all because he's been naughty lately and my husband was scared his friends would trash our place. Lol. He's scared that every guest would trash our place but honestly, our son has wrecked our place more than anyone else. However, he does behave worse when there are guests over. After some negotiating, we decided to have a small party with just a few close friends of his.

The day I stop Photoshopping for a party will be the day.

We signed our son up for martial arts lesson over the summer for a few months and he really enjoyed it. When we were brainstorming themes, I thought we could do something along those lines and have an Avatar party or Ninja party. I looked into a party lesson at our martial arts center but we didn't know enough kids to invite and it was just too expensive for what they offered. Every year, I find myself researching and toying with the idea of a party venue and every year, I decide it's not for us. I would rather spend that money on a nice gift for our son instead. He would have just as much fun at a party at home with his close friends. And nothing beats the convenience of staying home and customizing your own party without rules. Especially with his baby sister here too. On his actual birthday on November 20th, we had a martial arts party at home with five of his close friends.

I made a theme cake and customized some cookies for the party. That's it! We ordered pizza for food and then I did a food craft with them. Boy, I would have loved to cook Chinese food and all but the kids probably wouldn't eat it. They must have their cheese pizzas and nothing else, right? For entertainment, we bought some sumo bumpers and a martial arts kickboxing game. We also had martial arts video games and if they really wanted we had the Kung Fu Panda movie too.

I even wrote Chinese on the cake! My son's name.

My husband said that the food craft was a great idea. Woot?! I agree! I found everything I needed at Daiso as well and we got to use up our Halloween candies :) I have always wanted to make candy sushi after seeing them on Pinterest. Nothing is prettier and cuter than candy sushi. The end results were just like the images I saw and the boys seemed to have fun. It was a bit messy but it was worth it!

We printed out some nice color images I found online to give the kids some inspiration and ideas. I made two batches of rice krispies (with less rice krispies for a softer, chewier, and more workable version) right before the party started. I was able to press and fill three parchment lined cookie sheets with the rice krispies. We used scissors to cut them into rectangles with parchment paper hanging off of them so that they would be easy to remove. I set up the candy sushi bar with an assortment of fruit-roll ups, gummy worms, Swedish fish, Nerds candies, Starbursts, gummy bears, licorice etc. Minutes before the craft, we made a few pieces of sushi just to see how it would work and to showcase as demos. We cut up some of the fruit-roll ups to make it easier for the kids. I prepared a bit of chocolate fondant as well, in case anyone wanted to roll their sushi using that. They were fine with just the colored fruit-roll ups though.

During the craft, I was there to demonstrate and help the kids make their sushi. I had a cutting board station and I assisted the kids with the slicing, if they needed help. When the kids were done they washed up and went to play. I offered to fill their sushi containers with more candy sushi, if they wanted. The containers were kind of big. Ahem. It was fun and we used up all the Halloween candy, which was awesome! Every kid got to take home the candy sushi container that they made. I also gave them each a bag of karate sugar cookies as part of their party loot.

Done! Take home your own party candy sushi! #partyloot

I made custom karate cookies. One of each pose in a bag.

The party wasn't too out of control. What I find is that if there is a structured activity and supervision, the kids listen and actually do very well. I supervised a friendly sumo bumper match and everyone played fair and had fun. It looked like fun and I wanted to try it too! It's when you let them go free range without adults interfering that they start trashing the place. Let's not forget they're 7 and 8 year old boys after all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Watermelon Themed First Birthday Party

This past weekend was my daughter's first birthday. Crazy, I know! Originally, I wasn't planning to do much since I had no time with my 7 year old at home with us all summer. I only started thinking about this party two weeks ago and only decided on what I was going to do a week before. I'm so used to planning inside food since we're all Winter and Fall babies here but our daughter is actually a late summer baby. Woot! Barbecue, here we come!

We really haven't had many barbecues this summer and I have been wanting to invite some of our neighborhood friends over for one. This was the perfect opportunity to throw a barbecue and combine it with our daughter's birthday celebration. We normally go overboard with the food for barbecues so we could easily feed everyone. The watermelon and end of summer theme came to me since we have been eating a lot of watermelon lately. It was simple enough and in the end, it turned out pretty darn cute too.

Our 1 year old and 7 year old.

We had 23 people attend our party, three of them were babies though. The nice thing about these early birthdays is that we don't even have to think about games for entertainment since babies can't do much still. No loot bags to worry about either. This was just going to be about the food. And a few decorations. Yay.

Here's the menu I had for the party:

  • Artichoke/chickpea hummus
  • Tzatziki dip
  • Lots of veggies & pita bread
  • Maui onion chips
  • Soba noodle salad with BBQ veggie/tofu kebabs
  • Brussel sprout salad
  • Quinoa salad
  • BBQ plank salmon
  • Greek chicken breast souvlaki with pita/tomato/red onion (gyro style)
  • Chicken-less version of souvlaki
  • Drinks: mango nectar & lemon/lime soda
  • Watermelon
  • Banana
  • Green grapes
  • Watermelon cake (Pink velvet with pink buttercream icing & mini chocolate chips)
  • Watermelon cupcakes with cream cheese icing
  • Watermelon rice krispies
  • Yogurt flower cookies (Trader Joe’s)

The lunch food was great but it's the same stuff we always do. I wanted this party to be easy. Lol. Some of it was new for our guests though. I made almost everything from scratch, except for the pita bread, flower cookies, and chips. The chicken souvlaki was really popular. I should have made more of that since the kids liked it. The food we served wasn't really kid friendly but I figured there had to be something in there the kids would eat. Apparently, that was the chicken.

These watermelon rice krispies looked simple but were actually a bit tricky to make.

Totally looks fake next to the real thing, right? Lol.

Look at those colors! <3 And it tasted just as good.

I was happy with how the cake turned out. It was my first painted fondant cake so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I was careful to roll the fondant a bit thicker this time and I put the cake in the fridge before and after applying the fondant. Even with the imperfections here and there, the cake still looked good overall in the end. I was a bit worried because I ran out of red food coloring and I knew the cake was actually pinker than it should have been. No one seemed to mind. When you think about it though there is so much variation in how watermelons look inside and out that it was just fine. The cupcakes with the cream cheese icing were delicious. Ah, yes. Red velvet is still one of my favorite cakes.

I loved the watermelon decorations! The weather had been strange lately so we were so lucky that the sun came out for us the day of the party. The day before, it just poured. I heard that buckets of rain fell and it halted traffic on the highway. Lucky us. The watermelon decorations and colorful fruit and desserts made it a pretty party theme for our girl. Especially, when the sun came out. I loved the gold ONE balloon we got as well. We had color balloons to match our watermelon theme and the house just looked so nice. The colors were very Christmas-like too but it worked well for the end of summer!

No one commented on it but I loved the food table display. I worked on the red ONE sign during the week. I spotted a gold version on Pinterest and loved the idea so I copied it with a version I created from what I could find from the dollar store, Daiso. It was hard to photograph the table with the sun behind it but I thought the sign and food looked great on top of the black and red tablecloth.

I used a red tablecloth for the fruit and dessert table since the watermelon and cakes were very green. The chalkboard had a sweet message, which I also copied from something I saw on Pinterest. Lol. I found a nice watermelon garland pattern online, printed it in color, and then got the kids to put it together. It was a nice and quiet craft to keep them busy :) I got my niece to carve our daughter's name on one of the small watermelons as decoration for the table. That looked great too. Everything just came together so I was happy. I kind of wished we took more pictures though. We don't even have a family picture. Boo. Guess we were enjoying ourselves way too much this time :) Happy 1st Birthday to our sweet baby girl! And happy 1 year parenting anniversary to us (again) for surviving the first year! Phew.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Hunt: Picture Clue Scavenger Hunt

This past Easter, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. I typically am well organized and plan things weeks, even months ahead. I was behind in doing our taxes by at least one month. Then Easter crept up on me. Isn't it usually in April?! I really had to cram for this one.

Weeks ago, my 7 year old started talking about this year's Easter hunt. He gave me suggestion after suggestion. It was like he was planning his own egg hunt! Year after year I would use these plastic eggs, hide each of them with clues inside to find the next egg until the very end when the Easter basket was revealed. As he got older, I made them harder. It was quite a bit of work to come up with good questions and to hide them in new places around the house every year. We did move houses a couple of years ago so that made it a bit new. My husband thinks my son is too old for Easter hunts but I told my husband that he won't stop talking about the Easter hunt so obviously it means a lot to him! He gets super excited every year. But then I did raise the bar a bit by planning these cool Easter hunts and cooking us a feast every year. Ha! Kind of like his epic birthday parties. Ahem.

This year, I just had no time. I mean I thought I still had time but Easter came early this year! I've been busy. I have a 6 month old to take care of now. So I sort of have an excuse. Right? I literally had 24 hours to plan another awesome Easter hunt. Done. At the end, my 7 year old said he really enjoyed it. Yes! :) I survived another Easter and I did not disappoint! Phew.

What I bought for Easter treats.

This year's Easter hunt had three parts to it. Part one involved finding all the plastic eggs around the house. Part two involved opening all the plastic eggs and assembling the puzzle pieces found inside. Part three was to solve the riddle written on the finished puzzle that revealed where the Easter basket was. That's right! We like to make our boy work hard for his chocolate eggs! Muahahaha.

As I was breastfeeding and looking at photos of my daughter on my phone, it dawned on me that I could just take pictures of where all the eggs were hidden. That would be SO much faster than brainstorming new and interesting questions. Then I could just show him a picture where the eggs were one by one in no particular order. Of course I would have to order them so that he would have to run up and down the stairs for each egg. And of course, I would have to make the pictures hard to identify by just taking the edge of an object and zooming in a lot in certain areas. This would basically be a test of how well he knew our house. How well could he find things that he hadn't seen for awhile? All the clues would be in the surrounding picture so he would just have to look carefully and think a bit. Aha! This picture clue scavenger hunt wasn't as easy as it sounded. But he did super well. He was only stuck on one or two of the images and we helped him along a bit. In some of the spots, we inserted a chocolate egg nearby too. Whatever he found, he would put in his basket. He missed one chocolate egg but got everything else! It was actually a lot of fun. I tested out the photos on my husband beforehand and he was even stuck on some. I got him to narrow the pictures down to the ten best ones. The following photos are a few examples of what we used.

Lego, yes. But which one and where? We have a gazillion.

I actually really love the idea of a picture clue scavenger hunt. Some of the pictures really involve problem solving too. For instance, the batman shirt is my husband's tshirt. Yes, it was in our walk in closet but where? My son had to figure out which part of the closet had my husband's clothes, then he had to figure where rather than making a mess of everything searching for it. I am organized and since my husband has a gazillion tshirts, bins were set up for him with various themes. And I used labels! So my 7 year old had to identify that Batman is a Superhero and the bin labeled Superhero/Space would be the place he should look for the tshirt. I'm proud that I came up with the picture clue scavenger hunt all on my own too. Lol. The puzzle idea I had already read about. I'm sure others have done the picture thing before but I didn't know about it. It was my lazy way of coming up with something fast, different, and fun. It's getting harder and harder every year to surprise my little man!

For the puzzle, I was going to use single puzzle pieces for each egg, so 9-12 total pieces. However, my husband thought that was too easy so he picked a puzzle that had 35 pieces and said that was more at my son's level. Okay. After the egg hunt, he was not that interested in putting the puzzle together. There were too many pieces and he was anxious to just get to the basket. It wasn't hard, although since it was printed on paper, the pieces curled and it was hard to attach them without each piece shifting. I helped my son put the puzzle together because it took too long and I had to nurse my daughter who was crying with my husband. He solved the riddle pretty quick and went and grabbed his basket. He was happy and then he ate some yummy chocolates :) Later on in the day, I boiled a bunch of eggs and he painted them. It's sort of our Easter tradition now.

I cooked us a special meal consisting of a vegan Chinese tofurky,  stir fry broccoli, egg salad, and store bought fish sticks and sweet potato fries. I also baked us a carrot sheet cake. Easy peasy. It was a tiring day for me this past Easter Sunday but knowing that my son and family was happy made it all worth it. Hope you all had a nice Easter with a little yumminess too :)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Vegan Dinner Party

We cook vegan from time to time but rarely do we ever do a full vegan dinner. This past weekend was probably the first time I did a four course vegan dinner party. Everything from the start of the dinner to the very end was vegan. Not only that but I avoided all processed foods altogether so no fake meat, fake cheese, fake anything was used! Everything was natural, healthy and made from scratch.

Washing watercress

Watercress soup: before & after.

Since we have been exposed to vegan cooking for years, it actually wasn't that much of a challenge. We invited our neighborhood friends over since I found out that she was vegetarian. We volunteer for the school together and her boy plays very well with our boy. Her family eats meat from time to time but they do pretty well with any kind of food. My husband's birthday is this Thursday so it was an early birthday dinner for him as well. He LOVES vegan food and I have no time to cook much during the week day anymore. Sadly my baby has to cry for 30 minutes or so while I get dinner ready every night :( She always wants to be held, no matter much much I try to put her down.

The dinner party was a success. I thought the food turned out great and our guests enjoyed it as well. Our friend made some fresh bread and brought that over and bought some strawberries to accompany my dessert. It was perfect!

Walnut Mushroom Paté

Paté presentation.

Cashew Cream Cheese.

Vegan Brownies.

Shepherd's pie in the making. Tons of veggies!

Lentil Shepherd's Pie.

Vegan Dinner Party Menu



  • Vegan Brownies with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ganache (from the Rebar cookbook)

The paté was a bit on the wet side but it was very tasty. The cream cheese is no substitute for regular cream cheese but as a nut spread, it was great! It's funny how a little apple cider vinegar can make the cashews smell and taste cheesy. Don't let the strange smell scare you!

I don't think I have ever had regular Shepherd's pie before. The first time I made Chef Heidi's version of the pie, I doubled the vegetables and used half of the meat in the form of beef-less ground beef. It was very tasty. I ended up making that many times. This time, I wanted to use natural ingredients so I substituted green lentils for the fake beef. Honestly, it tasted great too and I did not feel like I was missing anything. I think I'll use lentils from now on!

Warning: Do not put saran wrap over wet ganache!

I have made the vegan brownies countless times. It's probably one of my favorite brownie recipes and perhaps my favorite vegan dessert. I made the topping a little different this time around. I used about 1/2 cup of soy creamer and a whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips from Trader Joe's and maybe 1 1/2 tbsp Earth Balance to make the ganache. Then I microwaved about 1/3 cup peanut butter and poured that over the warm ganache to make a pattern. It was pretty and oh so delicious! Although I did wreck the top a bit when I tried to cover it in saran wrap while it was still a bit warm. Ahh! Hey and did you know that the semi-sweet chocolate chips from Trader Joe's are vegan?! They're accidentally vegan and only $1.99 a bag people! :)

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