Sunday, October 9, 2011

One person's trash is another's treasure

I love checking out Craigslist for used furniture. One lucky day I found an old dresser for free on Craigslist and I asked my husband to immediately fetch it for me. It was not in the best of condition. It was very dirty, old, and had no drawer knobs. However despite all of this I saw real potential and decided to keep it.

I love the curved lines and details. I also prefer old furniture because they usually don't have nails. 

I cleaned and sanded the dresser and then painted it green. I bought drawer knobs from an Anthropologie store and voilĂ , here is the renewed dresser!

I love saving furniture. I use it to store candles, table cloths, glass jars, etc. I also add candles, flowers, photo frames on top as a decorative touch.

One person's trash is another's treasure. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Lunch boxes (September 26 ~ 30)

Kamaboko Donburi Bento
Kamaboko and mixed vegetables,
cook in a Japanese sweet broth (soy sauce, sugar, mirin),
add eggs at the end and finish cooking.
Pour over warm rice.

Halloween is coming Bento
It's hard to believe that this was the last week of September. Next month is Halloween and it's my daughter's favorite time of the year. I made chicken karage (Japanese chicken nuggets) stuck with toothpicks, wrapped with foil, and tied with Halloween themed ribbons. Cheese cut like ghosts and bats decorated with seaweed added some scare. Ketchup rice with bacon and mixed vegetables along with broccoli and grapes rounded out the food pyramid.

Anpanman Bento

Anpanman is a hugely popular cartoon charactor in Japan, he will be known by any Japanese child.
I have a bread machine and so I made this Anpanman red bean bread for my daugheter's lunch. Look at those cheeks!

I also made a simple roll bread made into a fish sandwich with baked Trader Joe's frozen fish nuggets with ketchup and mayo sauce. Yum.

I wrapped these homemade breads individually. I added grapes and cheese in a white paper bag with my own artistic touch.

Teddy Bear Bento

I made this for 2nd time. Everyone loves a bear!

Yaki Udon Bento

Stir fried Japanese udon noodle with pork and vegetables in a mentsuyu sauce. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cooking magazine

I used to subscribe to Bon Appetit magazine but without the time to try any new recipes I cancelled the subscription. The magazine had many interesting dishes but I found the ingredients used were often expensive (such as expensive spices that you probably use only once a year) and their cooking method was far too time intensive for a mom of small children. Serendipitously I discovered this month's Bon Appetit in a magazine rack and the cover looked so interesting that I bought it on impulse. Did they wait for me to cancel my subscription before publishing something I would actually want so I would feel regret? Does this ever happen to you? I feel like it happens a lot to me. Regardless, I really wanted to try out this prosciutto-wrapped pork loin cover recipe but cooking it for just one family would be too much so I invited my good friends Quynh, Daniel, and Danee to share in the bounty. I love having them over for dinner.

Cooking the pork was a lot of work and it is definitely not a weekday meal. However, it turned out very well so I am sure that I will make this again. You can get recipe here. While I was cooking the stuffing for the pork my husband came downstairs and told me that the entire house smelled like fall and he loved it. I agree. I just love fall and the season makes me want to cook and bake so hopefully I will update my blog more now that summer is over.

By the way, my friend Quynh took these pictures with my camera. She is my role model. She can do everything! She cooks, bakes, sews, the list goes on. We met in a photography class at a nearby community college about a year ago and I am so happy that we became friends. She also taught me how to properly shuck an oyster. I love raw oysters but I had never shucked it myself until last night. Wow, it is hard, but fun! Thank you Quynh!

Raw oysters with lemon vinagrette
Roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic
Roasted asparagus
Prosciutto wrapped pork loin woth roasted apples

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lunch Boxes (Septembern19 ~ 23)

Here are this week's bento boxes.

Butterfly Lunch (Monday)
All natural frozen mickey mouse chicken nuggets, from Costco
Japanese sweet potato with honey and sesame seeds
Japanese cooked fish sausage, cut with a butterfly cookie cutter for decoration

Korean Pancake Lunch (Tuesday)
I had some Korean savory pancake mix in my pantry so I used it with milk, cabbage, chives, broccoli, and shrimp to make a savory Korean pancake. I then cut it into bite size pieces and packed it into her lunch. This lunch box is one of my lazy boxes and I don't like how it looks but oh well.

Sesame Street Lunch (Wednesday)
To compensate for yesterday's not so wonderful lunch (tastes great but not so decorative), I made a Sesame Street lunch.
Tamagoyaki (Japanese eggs)
Carrots, cut like flowers
Kamaboko (Japanese processed white fish product)

Puppy Lunch (Thursday)
Frozen fish sticks, from Trader Joes
Tomato ketchup and mayo, mixed as a sauce for fish sticks
Tamagoyaki (left over from yesterday)
Meatballs (left over from yesterday)
Onigiri (rice ball), with dried seaweed to make puppy's face

Autumn Lunch (Friday)

Do you remember Soboro Bento from a previous posting?
Cooked ground chicken thigh, scrambled eggs, green peas with rice. When you eat, you mix everything together first.
I cut carrot like fall leaves to create this "Autumn Lunch".
Let's celebrate the beginning of the fall season! 

If you click the links you can see recipes from my previous postings.

Which is your favorite lunch box from this week or from the past 3 weeks? I think the autumn lunch box is my favorite because it is simple, tastes good, and you can clearly tell it is representing the fall season (well I hope it is).

Fun way to keep your children's art work

My daughter loves to draw and of course I think she is really good at it too. What I love about her drawings the most is discovering how she views the world differently from me. I have been keeping many of her drawings thinking someday I will frame and hang them on the wall. Recently though I have found a new and unique way to preserve her artwork.

I was looking at craft magazines recently and came across the idea of stitching a child's drawings on to fabrics. Wonderful, I thought! I also found a blog that used freehand embroidery to stitch art work with fabric directly. I decided to combine the two into one. I have never done hand stitching so I was unsure I could pull it off. I bought a self-teach book and finished everything yesterday.

Here is my daughter's drawing of an apple tree. Not bad for 3 year old, right?  She drew this in June of this year. I adore this artwork so I decided to use it for my 1st attempt at hand stitching.

I used 4 different fabrics (5 if you include the actual fabric I stitched on). It is hard to see but I used two different red fabrics for apples. I used dark brown threads for the stitching.

I am thinking about turning it into either a pillow case, a small bag for my daughter, or a small quilted blanket, a lovey. I'm open to suggestions.

People ask me how I have the time to do this. The answer is "I don't have time to do this." My house is a mess right now, there is too much laundry to be folded, toys to be put away, and so on. A stay-at-home mom's job is pretty much the same everyday. Even if you clean, fold laundry, organize the house, and cook meals for your family - somehow the house still becomes messy, the laundry still piles up, and we all need to eat 3 times a day, everyday.

There is no deadline for these jobs and there is no end either. Through all of this I realized that in order for me to have time to do what I like I would have to make time. It is hard to ignore laundry and a messy house but sometimes I just have to forget about them. Ultimately I don't have time to do everything so I have to make sacrifices here and there. For example, I worked on this fun project last night while kids were sleeping, sitting on a couch with clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away, while kids toys were all over the floor around me, and the clock ticking well past midnight.
Mom has to do what makes her happy sometimes. Happy mom (Happy wife) = Happy family, right?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lunch boxes photos (September 12 ~16)

My daughter did much better eating her vegetables this week. I am a happy mom. Also I am getting better at packing lunch in the morning. I can pack it in about 20 minutes or so on avarage. The key is to prepare some of food the night before, use leftovers from dinner, and use frozen food wisely.

All I have are photos for now, I promise that little by little I will introduce some of the useful recipes for lunch boxes.

Snoopy Bento
rice, Japanese version of cod fish meuniere, carrot and gobo root stir fry, broccoli, grapess

Pig Bento
rice with furikake and cooked spam, Tamago, chikuwa with mix vegetable and cheese, apple

Teriyaki Chicken
teriyaki chicken, snow peas, cooked carrot, apple, grapes

Chinese Bento
leftovers, fried rice with egg cut with airplane shape cookie cutter, pork and vegetable pot stickers, garlic stir fried snow peas, apple

American Bento
SB and J sandwich (Soy nut Butter), chocolate soy butter and fresh banana sandwich, dried raisin, grapes, chicken and broccoli gratin

Recycling my daughter's dress

Seattle had some beautiful sunny days this August and I was hoping we might have an Indian summer. Unfortunately September brought autumn with it and the cold rainy weather we are known for was not far behind. I decided to go through my daughter's summer clothes and sort into donation, clothes for my neice, and what simply needs to be thrown away.

The picture above is a summer dress from Cath Kidston in London. My daughter wore this dress a lot this past summer and it became too dirty to donate or give to my neice so I thought about throwing it away. However, since this is a gift from my good friend Donovan and Mandy, who got it for our daughter when they went to London, I could not throw it away. I also love Cath Kidston and so I decided to recycle this dress and make a futon set for my daughter's baby doll.

Here is the picture of her baby doll. My daughter loves to wrap her in a bath towel and make her sleep right before she goes to bed. We can do better than just a towel, right?

I cut open the summer dress and used the pretty flower print fabric to make quilted futon, conforter, and a pillow. It took 1 hour or so to make everything.

I kept the Cath Kidston tag from the dress and sewed it on the futon. It is now a Cath Kidston futon set for a baby doll!

Don't forget about details. Ribbon!

Last night, I put this new futon set with the baby doll in front of my daughter's room to surprise her when she woke up. This morning sure enough, as soon as she found it she came running into our bed room and said, "Mommy, did you make these for my baby?" She looked so happy. Her smile makes it worth all the effort, and then some...

Let's make cookies!

Since my daughter started going to school full day she has been exhausted. I don't blame her. Last year she went to preschool only in the morning and afterwards we would usually meet up with some friends but this year she just wants to come home right away. I think it will take a month or two for her to get used to the new schedule.

After school we go straight home and she does not even want to go outside to play. I need an inside activity so I decided to bake some cookies with her. I was craving a jam thumbprint cookie that a friend made several times for us. I decided it was time to try and make them ourselves. My friend originally got the recipe from the Food Network website and simply sent me the link. How can you not love the Food Network?  You can get the recipe here.

My daughter did great job rolling the cookie dough, dipping it in egg wash, rolling on coconut flakes, and putting jam in the center. Finally she got to use her playdough skills! Thank you Hasbro.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lunch boxes from last week

This fall marks the first year my daughter will eat lunch at school. For many reasons I am nervous about her new full day adventure. Is she able to ask teacher when she needs to go to bathroom? Can she find and open the bento box by herself? Does she understand that it is very dangerous for her to share food with her friends due to her food allergy? And the list of anxiety goes on and on. Because of this, every morning before she goes to school I tell her "you have to ask the teacher for help whenever you need help", "You need to eat vegetables too so that you will be big and strong", "no sharing food with friends, ok?". I know I should give my daughter more credit because she is very smart and capable, and she has grown up so much over the past year. I think I may need to recognize that while she will always be my baby, she isn't a baby anymore.

Here are the pictures of lunch boxes I made for my daughter last week. Every morning she comes into the kitchen and inspects her lunch box. It is so adorable to see her excitement over a simple lunch. I explain what I put in and always tell her to eat her veggies. She can be picky at times and she does not like vegetables. After I pick her up from school, she always shows me her lunch box and in a proud voice states, "Mommy, I ate well. See? I grew up so much today because I ate a lot!" and she stands up on her toes to be "taller". Simply adorable.

I am planning to take pictures of her lunch box everyday and post photos at the end of the week. If you have questions about food in the lunch boxes, please feel free to ask me. I am also planning to introduce some useful recipes for lunch boxes but have not had a chance to write it down with photos. Oh, and I used the meatballs, which I introduced last year in my blog, twice this week in her lunch box. So versatile. Enjoy!

Pictures of my daughter's lunch boxes
(September 6 ~ 9, 2011)





Friday, September 9, 2011

So you think you cannot cook? Part II

Ground Pork and Green Beans
with Black Bean Garlic Sauce

Recently, my neighbor gave me green beans grown in their garden. I had ground pork in my freezer so I decided to make this recipe which my dear friend Vi served me long ago. I did not know the exact recipe but I knew she used only green beans, ground pork, and black bean sauce. My husband could not find a black bean sauce at our local grocery store so we ended up with black bean garlic sauce. This just might do.

1 lb green beans
1 lb ground pork
5 to 6 tbs black bean and garlic sauce

(Yes! Only 3 ingredients!)

How to make:

1. Blanch the green beans. (you do know how to blanch, right?)
2. Cook ground pork with black bean (garlic) sauce.
3. Add blanched green beans into the pork and sauce, and cook until mixed.

That's it! Doesn't it seem easy? That's because it is. I hope this will help you during a weeknight when you're out of time and energy and need something quick.

Before I end this post, I wanted to add a gratuitous photo of someone close to me. I love my son's chubby legs and his tiny feet. He is such a good eater, not just a messy one!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My kitchen is always messy!

Wow, it has been a long time since I wrote a blog post. I have been very busy! I knew my life would be chaotic when I got pregnant with my 2nd child but having two is busier than I ever thought possible (in a good way - nothing but joy over here :) ).

Taking pictures for this blog and actually finding the time to sit down and write a post can be challenging. However, I now have even more reasons to keep a record of part of my life, two important ones in fact, my children. I am not a keeping-a-daily-diary kind of woman so hopefully this blog will help me capture various points in my life, and my families as well.

You might be wondering what I've been up to. Why cooking of course! Before my children I used to have time to cook new dishes that I discovered on the Food Network TV channel or in cooking magazines. Those good ol' days are on hold. Now that my son, who is almost 7 months old, eats solid food I have to cook for him separetely from the rest of the family. I feel like I am standing in my kitchen all the time either cooking for everyone or cleaning up the mess I made. To add to this challenge, I now have to pack my daughter's lunch everyday. She started attending preschool for a full day beginning this September 1st. Occasionally I packed lunch for a random school picnic or trip but now that I have to pack lunch everyday I have been stressing out. I am not that good at arranging food in a tiny lunch box. I am hoping that by packing lunch everyday I will get used to it and someday it will be easy and quick.

I am relieved that my daughter has started her preschool because I know she will have a lot of fun with her friends, and I will also get to spend time alone with my son. I spent a lot of one on one time with my daughter for her first 3 years of life. We went for a lot of walks to nearby parks, and yes, our favorite place to visit Pike Place Market! I loved walking there during autumn, winter, and spring. Unlike summer, not so many people were there and it was easy to push a stroller or walk with a wobbly toddler. I know it is not possible to give the exact same experiences to my son, but I want to give him as much as I gave to my daughter.

I have thoroughly enjoyed making my daughter's lunch. Here are some pictures of her bento boxes. I miss her dearly while she is away at school and I wish daily that when she opens her lunch box she will think about me. The photos are not up to my standards, my appologies. I didn't have time to wait for daylight to shine through my windows and to arrange the food on the table and choose the right table cloths and everything else that goes into making a great shot. So these photos will have to due, and are purely for keeping a record of  an important event in my daughter's life, and mine too.

I love this lunch box!

This Mickey lunch box needs more color such as green and red.

This lunch box took a while to make. 

I need to work on the bumble bee. I told my daughter, "This is a bumble bee." She replied, "No mommy, it is not a bumble bee." Children are so honest.


This is my son's lunch today. I made a butternut squash puree with a hint of cinnamon and pureed chicken breast for him. He loved it! 

If you have any questions, please let me know.