Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Basil Infused Lemonade Jelly

It's hotter than the blazes here and I am still pregnant. I only have 9 days until the due date, but the baby doesn't seem to be in a hurry. Possibly this little one doesn't realize how uncomfortable it is for me to sleep? Regardless, I thought I deserved a nice, cool treat and found this recipe for Lemonade Jelly with Basil. I thought it sounded interesting, but more than that - cold.

I halved the recipe for a few reasons, one of which was that I didn't want to buy that many lemons and the other is that I didn't have too much basil in the planter on the balcony and I didn't want to use it all in one go.

Start by combining sugar, water and freshly-squeezed lemon juice.

Put it to boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Tear up the basil and pour the liquid over it, then let it steep.

Put some orange juice in a pan (I recently read a different article about making jellies that said to use a tad bit of orange juice to give lemon flavored jellies a nice, lemony color without changing the flavor - lo and behold, that is exactly what the recipe called for!) and sprinkle with gelatin. Turn on the heat to melt the gelatin, then whisk in the strained lemon/basil mixture.

Then pour it into little containers. I used flower-shaped ones that I was hoping I would be able to unmold from and have cute little lemon jelly flowers.

The next step was to make up some whipped cream. I just used cream and some powdered sugar - no recipe, just add some sugar until it tastes good, then whip it up!

The end result was delicious; like seriously good. The jelly didn't get hard enough to unmold. It was quite similar to Japanese-style jellies - something that I really do love. As in the very first photo, I piped on a bit of the whipped cream and added a tiny basil leaf.

For K's I asked him if he wanted some whipped cream and he turned it down. He loves yellow anything and so I think he was just really excited about the yellow jelly. One bite in...

and huge smiles abound! After about three bites, however, he said it was "spicy." I kept telling him it was sour, but he wasn't having it - it was spicy. I told him that if he put some whipped cream on it, it would be nice and sweet. He took one bite and then said that my mom and I could have the rest of his. Lucky us!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sunflower Cookies

Now that K is on summer holidays, I have been trying to think of fun things to do with him. As it is incredibly hot, the park is kind of out of the question for me. During his last week of school, I took him to the aquarium, Universal Studios Japan for ice cream, and the airport to watch planes take off. I figured at that point I was one month out of giving birth. From here on out, travelling too far is out of the question - baby will be here in less than two weeks! Yikes!! All of that means, that the "fun things" are pretty much relegated to housebound activities.

I asked K what he wanted to do the other day. He had seen some little sunflower pies in one of his school books and decided he wanted to make sunflower cookies. Baking - fine by me! We started with my standard sugar cookie recipe. I only mixed up half a batch because I really don't need a ton of cookies sitting around the house.

K helped make the cookies and did an awesome job. He often likes to "help," which is lovely, but oftentimes just not worth it. This time however, he really did help, and by help I mean he pretty much made the cookies. He mixed the dough (of course I measured - he's awesome, but let's be honest, he's 3).

He folded in the last of the flour.

He took a little break and licked dough off the beater - something he clearly learned from me!

He rolled out the dough.

And finally he cut the cookies. I moved them to the cookie sheet because that seemed like it would have been a disaster waiting to happen.

After that, I cut up some canned pineapple rounds and placed them in a circle just on the inside of each cookie. I usually bake these cookies for about 6 minutes. My plan was to bake them for 4 minutes, take them out and put chocolate chips in the center and then bake them for another 2-3 minutes. Due to the moisture from the pineapples, however, these ended up baking for 14 minutes!

Luckily the chocolate chips didn't melt much. I wanted them to resemble the seeds.

Of course, once the cookies were a tad bit cooled off, K dug in to one of them. He especially liked the chocolate middle - of course.

Each cookie needed about a half of a pineapple slice. I wasn't anticipating this much per cookie, so we ended up running out of pineapple. Instead of just a plain sugar cookie - boring - I had K put some chocolate chips on the top of the final two. He ate one of those as well, starting with just the chocolate.

He ended up looking like this:
Aye yai! He was a mess, but a smiley mess. He had such fun making the cookies. Definitely a fun day inside for the both of us.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bento Thursday - Y's Shinkansen

A few weeks ago I posted about how Y was sad that I had never made him a Shinsansen bento. Well folks, today was the day - Y got his very own Hayabusa bento! It was a pretty simply bento of corn on the cob, potato salad, mini cheeseburgers, cherry tomatoes and the Shinkansen.

For the Hayabusa, I mixed salmon furikake into white rice to make the bottom half of the train. I know it is really just white, but just white rice seemed a bit boring for Y. The top half of the Hayabusa onigiri was mixed with a vegetable furikake to make it green. Then I added nori windows and a little line of flaked salmon for the pink stripe in the middle.
Y said it all held together and was still in Hayabusa shape by the time he ate it. Wahoo!! No word on whether or not he wants a Shinkansen - Redux bento, but I'll be sure to let you know if it happens. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bike Basket for K

It got to the point a month or two ago that I was over pushing K in his stroller when he was acting too lazy to walk. Now if he doesn't want to walk to the store with me, his yellow bike (Strider) is his main mode of transport. This is also his means of getting to the park. He has a tricycle that he used to take, but the bike is so much faster that he gets really frustrated with the tricycle now. The good point about the trike, however, was that it had a basket - perfect for collecting rocks. The yellow bike did not...until now!

I wanted the basket to have structure, but also be able to easily put on and take off. As per Y's suggestion, I started with a little wire basket from the 100 yen shop.

After measuring, I cut some rectangles and sewed them together to make the outside of the box.

Then I sewed the bottom rectangle on and made sure that the basket would fit inside. Wahoo!

I also added three straps to outside of the bag, although I didn't take a photo of these for some reason. There are two towards the top and one at the bottom to match the handles on the Strider.

Next was the lining. This is where things got a bit messy. I wanted the basket to be waterproof so that it would be easy to clean with just a wet rag. I basted the bottom fabric and vinyl together, but for some reason decided I didn't need to do that for the sides.

After sewing it all up, I realized that the vinyl and lining fabric made a bit of a mess, but it was really difficult to fix. IIn the end, I decided that K wouldn't care, so I just folded in the top edges in towards each other and top stitched around.

With that it was ready to be tied on and waiting for rocks.

K loves it, but the first time he took it out he put his water bottle in it and it made it wobble about a bit, given the weight of the bottle. Now he likes to carry my shopping bag, keys, wallet and phone to the store for me. Unfortunately, the basket is too small for him to actually bring the groceries home for me...I should have thought of that!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cake Bag Rip-Off

Some of you may be familiar with Petunia Pickle Bottom's "Cake" line of diaper bags. If you aren't familiar, they are beautiful, yet fairly outrageously expensive bags to keep your leaking bottles, dirty diapers and pukey baby clothes in while you are out in public. As awful as the inside of the bag might smell, the outside will have you looking extremely stylish.

One of my good friends here had a baby a few months back and she was lucky enough to buy one of these so desired Cake bags. Along with it came a little cloth bag.

My friend used it for grocery shopping, but due to the color and the light weight of the fabric it quickly needed a replacement. She asked me if I could make one and I figured I could at least give it a go. We went fabric shopping together (and then out for a delicious Indian meal); I LOVE the fabric she picked, so was excited to get cracking on the bag.

I started by measuring the bag and making a pattern of sorts. Then I cut out my fabric. These are the pieces I started out with, but I ended up switching one of the front/back panels because there was a beautiful turquoise flower that I wanted featured.

I started by sewing the straps to the bottom of the bag. We decided not to line the bag. Since I don't have a surger, however, I wanted to make sure the inside looked pretty and was strong enough for groceries, so we decided to bias tape the inside seams.

Once the bottom and sides were sewn together, I just added in the front and back panels and I had a bag.

The last bit was the bias tape covering the inside. Bias tape always makes me nervous, and the way I put the bag together made going around the corners of the bag a bit messy.

I asked my friend if she would like a pocket to keep keys and a phone in, and she was down. She decided that placement and style of the pocket was not a big deal to her, so I just went with something I thought would be cute. I opted for a pocket on the inside as keys and phones are heavy and I didn't want them falling out. I knew I didn't want to stitch the pocket directly to the inside of the bag, however, because I really didn't want to disrupt the beautiful pattern on the outside. Instead I made a pocket that I attached to the top of the bag with the bias tape. To make it I used the spare panel, cut it in half and then folded it in half the long way.

I put bias tape over the folded edge for an extra pop of color.

Then I put it right sides together and sewed up the sides. Finally I flipped it out and top stitched the sides. I love how the bias tape ended up with rounded corners.

Finally I basted to the top edge of the bag, and covered the top and straps with the bias tape.

The bag was done and I was quite pleased with my work. If you look super closely, however, you will notice the corners are a bit messy from the bias tape issue. I think if I were to make a similar bag (for me, perhaps) I would probably just line it to make it clean all the way around. That being said, I don't think many people will look closely enough at the bottom corners to notice.

That being said, I do love the way the bias tape looks. The pink is such an adorable contrast to the inside of the fabric.

Here is a photo of the new and old, side by side. Cute, eh (did I mention my friend is Canadian?)?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Delicious Butterscotch Cupcakes

As I posted yesterday, on Sunday we had some friends over for lunch and as such, a dessert was certainly in order. Luckily I came across these cupcakes last week and they had my name all over them - cake, whipped cream with mascarpone, butterscotch, and toffee?? Yes, please! I'm not going to lie, they were a bit of a process, but honestly I would do it all again. They were really quite delicious.

It all starts with making the toffee. I have yet to find toffee on a regular basis here, so I made it. I used the same recipe as I did when I made the toffee to top the chocolate cake with dulce de leche, I just left the hazlenuts out. You start by melting butter.

Then add the sugar and corn syrup. Once it caramelizes, add in the baking soda and salt.

Then pour it out onto parchment to let it harden.

Finally just chop it up and the topping is ready.

The next step is to make a rum syrup. Basically you make a simple syrup and then add in some rum. This sounded and smelled delicious, but being the airhead that I currently am, I totally forgot to use it on the cupcakes. It's still sitting in my fridge in case anyone wants to pour it onto something.

Next up is the butterscotch sauce. Melt the butter and then stir in the brown sugar.

Once it has dissolved, add in the cream and whisk it all up.

Then let it boil for about five minutes until it has thickened up.

Mine bubbled like crazy - for a while I was afraid it would boil over, but it didn't. Thank goodness, because that would have been one HUGE mess.

Then just whisk in the vanilla and salt and let it cool as it turns back into a sauce. So delicious!!

Next are the cupcakes. Whisk up your dry ingredients.

Then chop up a ton of butter. Prepare some eggs and milk. You are supposed to add lemon to the milk at the last minute, but I didn't have any lemon juice and I figured you just needed to spoil the milk a bit, so instead I used vinegar.

Mix the butter into the dry ingredients piece by piece. I'm not going to lie, this made a mess. I had butter and flour flying about the kitchen. I was ready to just give up.

I kept on, however, and it ended up working out quite well. I did have a good amount of clean up to deal with while these were in the oven though.

Next you add in the milk/lemon/vinegar situation and mix it up. This is where everything started to take shape.

Finally you add in the eggs and like magic, it turns into cupcake batter. Wahoo!!

I have about a million different cupcake liners, each with just a few left, so I ended up doing a few of each, essentially using up most of those that were nearly gone.

The last step is to bake them. The recipe called for 13 minutes, but mine needed about 18. I'm not sure if my oven temperature got off while I was putting them in or what, but 13 minutes certainly would not have cut it for mine. If I had been paying attention, this is when I would have used the rum syrup. Next time, maybe?

The last step is to assemble these bad boys. I found that when I just put the butterscotch sauce into the middle of the cupcake, it couldn't hold much. Instead I put it in three spots. The way they turned into little faces gave me the giggles. My favorite was easily the one in the bottom left corner - he just looks so happy!!

Once that was done, I worked on the whipped cream. Whip the cream and powdered sugar until you get firm peaks.

Then fold in the mascarpone and be super happy because once you have this all cleaned up, you are done washing bowls and pots and beaters!

I don't know why, but we do not have an ice cream scooper in this house. Weird, I know. So instead I used a spoon. Some looked cuter than others, but what can you do?

Next I added the toffee pieces on top.

And then drizzled on a circle or eight of butterscotch sauce. We had these for dessert, of course, and they were really, really good. Y says they made his favorites list - yay! I agree with him. As above, they are quite a process, but you can make the toffee, rum syrup, and butterscotch sauce a few days ahead. I did the cupcakes the night before and was only left with the whipped cream and assembly the morning of. Also, it says that the whipped cream must be used immediately, but there was no way we were going to finish that many cupcakes between the four of us, so I only made a few that first day and put the whipped cream into the fridge. Over the next three days, I pulled it out to make the portions that we would eat (or those that I gave away) and for the most part it was fine. The last three ended up being a bit droopy and melty, but the taste was the same - delicious.

A few that I gave away were ones that I baked in the tulip papers. Eeek! I think they looked so cute!

I was lucky that I had turquoise ribbon laying about, because I love red and turquoise together. I think it added to the sweetness of these little guys.