Archive for January, 2010

Scrabble addict

January 29th, 2010
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At the risk of sounding really dowdy, I would like to share with you that we've started enjoying wholesome family entertainment in my house. Scrabble, specifically. In and of itself that might not be so bad, but when paired with the revelation that I also like to go to sleep in the 9 o'clock hour, I might as well just sign up for an AARP membership.

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My mom dug up a Scrabble board that they'd bought me one year as a child. She gave it to me a few years ago, because a Chinese household can keep goods of all kinds for years and years. I remember this board. I used to try to get all my friends to play with me, but none would. I then tried to nag all the adults to play with me, but they were usually too busy. That's why it's in pristine condition.

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I stashed it in the living room cabinet with the intent to actually play it. That day came on the week of Christmas. Now that I don't need to go to sleep at 7 p.m. for work, we've started watching TV some nights after we put Olivia to bed. Claus wanted to rent a movie. "How about a game of Scrabble?" I offered.

For some reason, he never played this. And it's not like they don't have it in Denmark. Our first game went really, really slowly. I had to recite the rules that ban the use of Danish words, abbreviations, proper nouns, and slang. And then Claus comes out with a typical-Claus-the-creative-thinker question: "Can I make a sentence?"

I think the answer is no, but the rules don't address it. I asked, "A simple sentence? Like, I can run?" "Yeah, something like that," he said. After hemming and hawing, I finally said, "Sure. Make a sentence." Obviously, he was going to add on to some existing word, to try to gain the double or triple points.

He starts putting tiles down by the word SCAN. After he's finished, I see he's written SCANOFBUN. What the hell is that?, I ask. Scan Of Bun, he replies, as if it's the most normal thing in the world. I see he's snickering now because it's such a nonsense sentence. "No, take it off," I chide. Claus is such a rules subverter.

I also got my cousin Val addicted. She downloaded the app to her iPhone, and now she plays every day. Her kids complain it's the first thing she does in the morning. Ha ha ha!

I bring the board to their house when we visit on some Sundays.  One adult will partner up with a child and we'll have Scrabble teams. I feel like an anachronism in an age of video games, but you know what? It's fun. It feels more interactive to me than staring at the TV set, which is what one would do even if we were playing the interactive Wii Fit.

Who knows what tech mutiny could follow. Reading an actual book, instead of a Kindle? Reading a real newspaper, instead of online?

Do you play board games, and if so, what do you play?

Weight loss challenge

January 27th, 2010
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My husband is involved in a weight loss challenge. He came home one day and told me everyone at the office (and by office, I mean mortuary) is doing it, so he is. That's great. At least he will have very fit funeral directors who don't want to become clients sooner than they have to.

Moanalua Mortuary staff

Moanalua Mortuary staff

Here's the challenge: the person to lose the most weight in 30 days wins the kitty, which is now at $300. As a former competitive athlete and then Division I coach, Claus is a health nut, so he added his own personal incentive. He'll give the winner an additional $100 out of his own pocket, if that person keep the weight off for six months. But, if in another six months from that, the person has gained back weight, he or she has to return the $100.

As he was telling this to me, I walked back to the kitchen for a fourth bowl of soup. "Gee. Maybe I should invite you to join the challenge?" he joked.

"Are you counting how much I'm eating?" I said, with raised eyebrows.

<Red alert! Red alert!>

He wisely read the signals. "Oh, of course not. Four bowls. That's including mine and Olivia's bowls, I mean."

SOUP RECIPE

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Hey, soup is healthy. If they all ate this, they would probably lose weight. I should therefore like to share a very easy, very tasty, very clean recipe for aforementioned soup. Got it out of Sunset magazine two years ago.

Japanese-style one-pot supper

Prep and cook time: 20 min

Makes 4 servings

3 oz dried bean-thread noodles

5 c low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 c Mirin or cream sherry

1/4 c soy sauce

1 T sugar

3-5 thin slices ginger

12 oz boned, skinned chicken meat in 1" chunks.

1 small red bell pepper, thin slices

4 oz snow peas

4 oz button mushrooms, sliced

8 oz firm tofu, cubed

3 green onions, cut

Sriracha for flavoring

1) Soak noodles in boiling water until soft, about 5 min. Drain.

2) In 6 qt stockpot or 12" frying pan with sides at least 2" high, bring liquids to boil over high heat. Then reduce heat and simmer 5 min.

3) Arrange noodles, chicken, veggies, tofu in separate piles in the pot. Cover and simmer about 5 min without stirring, until chicken is no longer pink in center. Cut one to test. Serve with a side of Sriracha.

I liked it. It doesn't get any easier than that. And it felt healthy. I used ham instead of chicken, as you can see in the photo. I tend to do a lot of substituing when I cook, based on what I have in the fridge. I also don't mind having less meat than this (or any) recipe calls for, since I try to lean towards more vegetables and fiber.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

***

Also reach me via DianeAko.com

Cake decoration classes (basic), part 2

January 26th, 2010
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In this week's class, we learned to figure pipe bears and other round, puffy shapes; how to make a shell border; and how to make and save drop flowers (star and plumeria.) We also learned how to make a clown out of frosting.

Figure piping

Figure piping

Clown on right has no head

Clown on right has no head

My favorite: we practiced two ways of making multi-colored frosting. You can either pre-mix colors and add them into sections of the bag, or you can do the "lazy" way and get some color gel and a paintbrush and paint stripes on the sides of the bag. The first way comes out looking like the soft serve ice cream. The second way, brush striping, has a beautiful effect because it produces color shades of varying intensity- darker near the center of the stripe.

Brush striping

Brush striping

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We ended class with a chance to decorate three cupcakes that the teachers provided. It was red velvet. We could ice it with the usual buttercream frosting, or buttercream mixed with cream cheese. YUM. I like the latter.

Mine

Mine

By the time class ended, I was quite tired, so I had already packed up my decorating mojo. I had really simple, plain cupcakes. I notice I tend towards a clean, Scandinavian, simple aesthetic in general- whether it's my living space, my glass work, my beading, or now, my cakes. But tonight's design plan was just laziness.

I like this more than I expected. I fell asleep thinking about cupcake designs I'd like to attempt for a party. Not too many people I know like sweets (versus salty) so I have been keeping a mental list of who I might be able to bake for. If I bake a cake a week I certainly can't eat it all.

P.S. Sorry I didn't take photos of everything I described. I was tired.

***

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My first cake

January 25th, 2010
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GETTING SUPPLIED

My mom is very interested in getting refreshed with the particulars of cake decorating, because I'm in that class. She dug up her old kit to bequeath to me. It's in perfect condition.

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If you ever questioned that I'm Chinese, this should prove it to you. The kit's been saved lovingly for three decades in case, just in case, someone in the family would want to use it. It's especially exciting for her that the person is me, so the kit can stay in the immediate family and be saved and passed onto Olivia.

There are so many things in my parents' house that have been saved and unearthed. Now and then she'll come over with yet another relic of my youth for me to use. I marvel at her ability and desire to do this! I didn't even save all my wedding dresses for Olivia. (I used one at the wedding, one at the reception.)

I appreciate having it. I like it very much. It has many tips and other accessories. And, it's retro cool. I had to try it out! After my first cake class, I baked a cake.

FOOTBALL CAKE

I made a football-themed cake for an NFL playoff viewing party. I am not ashamed to admit I used a box mix. I can't bake well. Maybe with some concerted effort, I will learn in the near future. The box mix came out surprisingly good. Not as tasty as the ones the Cake Creations makes, but c'mon. They're professional bakers.

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I used their recipe and made the frosting. It came out good, but not as good as theirs. I am sure I know why. 1) I didn't use HR shortening, I used Crisco, because it was at a store closer to me and I was lazy. 2) I didn't use clear vanilla extract, because I owned regular vanilla extract. Clear is good for making sure the frosting comes out white, for wedding cakes. I didn't care that mine might be a tad yellow.

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I bought a box of frosting dyes, though it is kind of a pain in the butt to keep changing the frosting when you only have three bags. I forgot to buy parchment paper or more plastic bags. As a result I only used three colors.

My mom loaned me her Kitchen Aid mixer. Everyone else in class said they had one and I was the only one who didn't. But I have easy access to one!

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I conscripted my parents into kitchen service. My mom helped me, and my dad was assigned to tester/ surplus eater/ photographer/ filling whipper. It was a very fun afternoon.

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The cake was well-received at the party. I am enjoying this hobby.

Darren and Darin, Cowboys fans

Darren and Darin, Cowboys fans

The man cave

The man cave

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Posted in baking, mom | 8 Comments »

Cake decoration classes (basic), part 1

January 22nd, 2010
By



My friend Joy and I are taking cake decorating classes together. Our first class was fun! In it, we learned how to foil the cardboard base, why a lazy susan is good, how to make frosting from scratch, how to roll parchment papers for icing, how to use a coupler, how to level and fill the cake, and how to ice it with a spatula and with an icing bag.

How to foil the base

How to foil the base

Why you need to use CLEAR vanilla extract

Why you need to use CLEAR vanilla extract

They gave us their icing recipie!

They gave us their icing recipie!

How to roll parchment paper

How to roll parchment paper

How to fill and then ice

How to fill and then ice

The filling and the dam

The filling and the dam

We then got to practice. This is my cake

We then got to practice. This is my cake

To end, we were given pre-made six inch cakes to use all our new skills. We got to fill and frost it.

We took home our cakes at the end of the first class

We took home our cakes at the end of the first class

Mine is a little loud, but I was actually having fun playing with the frosting tips, so when other students finished with their bags, I would take it and frost my cake more. I enjoyed seeing what tips produced which designs.

There are eight women in the class, though other classes have had up to 14 students. This is a nice size. The teachers are good. They supply all the supplies, but you just bring an apron and notepad to this class. (Maybe the advanced classes require you to buy more things.)

The students seem to range in age from 20-ish women, including culinary students whose cakes kicked mine's ass - eh no fair! - to grandmothers who want to decorate for their grandkids. There are five different kinds of classes, year round, going from basic to very advanced.

The classes are from 5:30 till about 8:30 p.m. though I would advise you try not to show up late, and if you can, take it with a friend. You are seated on tables of two, and you can help each other. Joy and I are planning cake-dates to play around in the kitchen!

www.cakecreationshawaii.com

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Also reach me via DianeAko.com