Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Celebration Feast

Easter is probably the most significant holiday in our family, and yet, we have never formally gathered together to celebrate the occasion over a meal.  I think it's more of a Western tradition and it's not one either of our families adopted along the 30-plus-years of assimilation in the U.S.  Well, we wanted to change that this year.  So we gathered with good friends after church to celebrate the risen Savior over a simple Korean feast (it also happened to be my wedding anniversary).

These beauties, a Korean dish known as galbi (marinated beef short ribs), served as the main entree.

I'm actually not a big red meat eater (in fact, I abstained from it all throughout college and then for some period afterwards).  It wasn't until I started dating my husband (who could probably eat a whole cow straight from the slaughterhouse) that I started eating red meat again.  But only galbi and bulgogi - both marinated in a special sauce consisting of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and garlic.  I don't know what it is about that sauce, but it's the only way I can eat and appreciate red meat.  I still cannot bring myself to eat steak or burgers (much to my husband's dismay).

My husband marinated and baked the galbi to perfection.  The secret is in the sauce, which I'll save for a future post.

If you saw the way I devoured these short ribs, you'd never guess red meat and I are not the best of friends.

Complementing the galbi was a host of popular Korean side dishes.

Here we have the seafood pancake ("haemul pajeon").

I wanted to keep it very simple, so I used the prepared pancake mix and added a few, basic ingredients:  scallions, spicy Korean red peppers, and seafood medley (which consisted of squid, shrimp, and clam).

I used the same pancake mix to make fried battered sweet potato (goguma twigim).  I simply sliced the sweet potato into thin pieces, steamed it until tender, poured it into the mix, and then fried it with vegetable oil.

And then lastly, we had vegetable and meat dumplings (mandoo).  I wish I could claim I made these from scratch, but I didn't have the time.  These are of the store bought, packaged variety, nevertheless, very good.

Then we finished off with dessert.  A trio of Junior's cheesecake samples (lemon coconut, red velvet, and devil's food chocolate).  Chocolate was my favorite.

Food coma slowly started to set in, so we thought it would be a good idea to get some exercise and let the kids out for the Easter egg hunt.

Nate ran as fast as his little legs could take him.

The boys loved every minute of it.

And when all was said and done, everyone had a fabulous time and we relished this gift of life - now and forever - graciously given to us through a great act of love.  This is the first of many Easter gatherings to come for our family.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Compost Salad with a Side of Hairball

April 22nd is Earth Day.   In celebration, I'd like to share with you a recipe that's made every day in our house.  It's so simple, my 2-year-old can make it with his eyes closed!  The beauty of this recipe is that it requires no measurements, no cooking, and you already have all the necessary ingredients.  And it's great for the earth!

First, you take some egg shells:

Then you throw in a couple banana peels:

Then add chopped watermelon rinds:

Some onion peel:

For added fragrance, throw in a couple used tea bags (the one shown is Celestial Seasonings Black Cherry Berry but really any flavor will do):

Some coffee grinds and filter (there's never a shortage of this in our house):

And when you're done wiping down the counter, you can throw in the paper towel:

And the piece de resistance?  Dryer lint with just a touch of dog hair to add a nice garnish:

And if you really want to go all out and impress your guests, you can also add the hairball from the shower.  But I'll spare you the image because even that would gross me out.

Then you take all this, mix it in a large bowl, and it's ready to serve! 

Okay, because you just never know who's reading this and thinking "really?", here's the disclaimer.  No, not really.  PLEASE DO NOT actually try to serve this to anyone.  Unless it's your pet rat, in which case means we could probably never be friends. I HATE rats.

All these ingredients actually go into a plastic pail like this one:

And then when the pail is full, the contents make their way to The Earth Machine.  Meet Beartha.  She sits in the far back corner of our backyard.

The contents will eventually decompose and look something like this:

In summary, composting is one of the easiest ways to reuse and recycle.  Our town actually encourages it and supplies the Earth Machine at a fraction of the cost.  It even comes with a helpful handbook.   

So why compost?
This article on Planet Green does a good job of summarizing the benefits of composting.  Waste reduction, methane reduction, and free fertilizer.  Reduce, reuse, and recycle.  What could be a better reason?

What can you compost?
You'd be surprised.  Here's a fabulous list from Planet Green.  Almost everything but the kitchen sink!

How do I get started?
Purchase or make your own compost bin (Simple Mom offers a great tutorial on how to make your own using a trash can).   If you don't want to bother making one, be sure to check with your town before purchasing a bin.  Many counties encourage composting and will provide a bin at discount.

I live in a small space.  Can I still compost? 
Absolutely!   Here's some great tips from Planet Green on how you can compost in a small space.  You can use worm bins and/or Bokashi.  I'm not very familiar with these, but I'd love to hear how it's working for you if this is your method of composting.

What about the smell?  Doesn't compost reek?
If you're doing it properly, it shouldn't give off a bad odor.  If it does start to smell, turn it to help air it out and add "browns" (i.e. leaves, paper napkins and towels) to dry it out.   

How long before you get compost you can use?
Depending on how well it's cared for, you can get usable compost in as little as 6 weeks.  But 6 months is probably the average.

So my question to you:  Are you making this recipe at home?
If you're composting, I'd love to see your pictures!  Yes, really.  I never knew taking pictures of trash could be so fun until this project (granted it would have been better with the digital SLR but that's in the shop).  :)   I've love to see your compost pile.  Just post them on the Eaternal Bliss facebook page.  

And if you're not already composting, I hope you found this post informative and would at least consider it.   I think you'd find that it really is a simple way to reuse and recycle.  I'm happy to answer any questions you might have if you can't find what you're looking for on the internet.

Happy Earth Day!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chocolate is the Winner

Thank you all for sharing your favorite cupcake flavors in this post!  It seems like chocolate is definitely a winner.  Speaking of chocolate cupcakes, I had a couple friends tell me they made Alice's Espresso Chocolate Cupcake last week and loved it as well!  So be sure to keep that in your repertoire if you're ever in need of a great chocolate cupcake recipe.  And Alice just posted a recipe for chocolate buttercream frosting on Savory Sweet Life which would go perfectly with the cupcakes.  I wanted to lick the monitor as soon as I saw it!

And now I'm looking at Hello, Cupcake! for some Easter inspirations.  How cute would this be?

So here are the winners of a free copy of Hello, Cupcake!:

KarenP who said:
Sometimes I'm in the mood for chocolate, and sometimes I want vanilla cupcakes!

Fresh Local and Best who said:
I am going to have to bookmark this recipe! I love coffee flavored desserts, and this one looks really good! I like so many cupcake flavors it's hard to say just one. If I had to choose a favorite it would be chocolate, not very original, but very reliable. 

Thank you for sharing, and I'd love to see what you create using this book!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bocca di Nonna Cookies ("Grandmother's Kisses")

These have easily become my favorite cookies, and I think the folks I've made them for would agree (at least my husband does).  With just the right combination of chocolate, almonds, and hazelnut, this crunchy bite hits the spot.  I saw the recipe while flipping through my trusty Ultimate Cookie Book by Better Homes and Gardens, and it peaked my interest. 

I was curious what bocca di nonna meant so I googled it.  It's Italian for "Grandmother's kisses".  It then quickly took on sentimental value as I thought of my own maternal grandmother, and the way her kisses, sweet smile, and powerful prayers would move you in an instant.  She lost her battle to lung cancer and passed away six months ago. 

{ holding her great-granddaughter,
my niece.  photo by sun yun. }
It's still hard to believe she's not here.  She was an incredible influence and example in my life and still is.  I paid tribute to her in a eulogy given at her memorial service attended by hundreds who expressed their condolences.   She was greatly loved.  I realize how fortunate I was to share a good portion of my life with her.  She was there to see me graduate from high school, get my college degree, walk down the aisle to say "I do", and hold and kiss my two boys.  She was there for me through it all.

My entire family took the loss very hard.  It was painful watching her suffer in her last days as the cancer spread rapidly throughout her body.  Yet she remained resilient and filled with praise even to the end.  My sweetest memory of her last days occurred while she was in the ICU and had been unresponsive for over a week.  My mother, cousin, and I were in the room with her, and I softly sang "Amazing Grace" into her ears.  After a few stanzas, my mother jumped up from her seat and pointed at my grandmother's face.  The corner of her mouth had turned up ever so slightly.  It was the smile that brought me and my mother to tears.  I lovingly kissed my grandmother on the forehead knowing she was going home to see her heavenly Father soon.

I know for certain she still sends her kisses down from heaven, and one day, she'll adorn me with them again face to face.

So these cookies will hold a special place in my heart, because I'll think of her every time I make them.  I adapted the recipe a bit.  First I substituted white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour, and it tastes great.  I also used ground raw almonds instead of blanched.  To grind them, coarsely chop 1 1/2 cup whole almonds and then put them in a food processor or blender until they're finely ground. Finally, I used Nutella for the filling instead of the suggested earl grey ganache (although that sounds delightful and I'll have to give it a try).

These are very simple to make.  They're quite splendid on their own, but the Nutella takes it to a whole new level of sweet indulgence.

What recipe reminds you of your grandmother?

Bocca di Nonna Cookies with Hazelnut Filling
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
{Makes 24 cookie sandwiches; Prep time: 30 minutes; Chill time: 1 hour; Bake time: 12 minutes per batch}

2/3  cup white whole wheat or all-purpose flour
2  tablespoons Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4  teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2  cups finely ground raw almonds
Nutella spread for filling

  1. In a small bowl, stir together flour and cocoa powder; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.   Add sugar and vanilla.  Beat until light and fluffy, scraping side of bowl occasionally.  Beat in almonds.  Beat in flour mixture just until mixture is combined. Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until it is easy to handle.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil; set aside.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Place balls about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.  Press each ball to flatten slightly.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until firm.  Cool on cookie sheet on a wire rack.  Remove cooled cookies from cookie sheet. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the nutella on the flat side of one cookie and top with another cookie, making a sandwich.  Makes 24 sandwich cookies.
  5. Place sandwich cookies in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hello, Chocolate Cupcakes! (And a Giveaway)

If you're ever in need of a great chocolate cake or cupcake recipe, you need not look any further.  I tried three different recipes for the butterfly cupcakes, and every one of them flopped miserably.  The flavor and texture were completely off, and there was no way I could serve any of the cupcakes at the bake sale in good conscience.  I was almost on the verge of tears after the third batch turned out disastrous.  I didn't realize a good chocolate cupcake was so difficult to make!

So I turned to a pro, and I wondered why I hadn't done this in the first place!  When in doubt, just head over to Savory Sweet Life.  The ever talented and very gracious Alice does not disappoint.  When it comes to cake, she knows her stuff (she used to own a wedding cake business).  Her chocolate espresso cupcake is to die for.  Its flavor is rich and decadent; the texture moist and dense.  Need I say more?  Just perfect and it saved the butterfly cupcakes.  Next time, I will have to try the Frangelico ganache frosting to go with it.

Alice's Espresso Chocolate Cupcakes
From Savory Sweet Life
Makes approximately 40 cupcakes

Photo from Savory Sweet Life

2 cups hot strong coffee
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (11-1/4 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  In a small bowl, mix cocoa powder and coffee until it looks like a smooth chocolate sauce; set aside to cool.  In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugars until nice and fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.  Slowly add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until batter and mix for 2 minutes.  Add chocolate-coffee sauce mixture and mix the cake batter for 3 minutes on medium-high or until the batter is smooth.

2. Fill each muffin cup until 2/3 full.  Bake about 25 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing and allow to cool on a wire rack.

The Giveaway
So now it's your turn to make some amazing cupcake creations!   I'm giving away two copies of Hello, Cupcake! to readers (domestic U.S. residents only).  This book is filled with wonderful, playful ideas on how to dress up the average cupcake (like the candy butterflies).  The instructions and photos in the book really do make it easy for anyone to make these fun creations.   

(open to domestic U.S. residents only):
Simply leave a comment telling me what your favorite cupcake flavor is.

For extra entries:
  • Like Eaternal Bliss on Facebook and leave another comment letting me know you did so (if you already like, you can add a comment letting me know).
  • Follow Eaternal Bliss publicly via Google Friend Connect (again, if you're already doing this, just let me know).
  • Post about the giveaway on Twitter: "Win a free copy of "Hello, Cupcake!"  at http://bit.ly/ia4XOv via @mothersmementos."  Leave an additional comment letting me know you tweeted this.

Deadline for entry is 11:59pm EST on Monday, April 18, 2011.  Two winners will be randomly chosen by a number generator.  I'll announce winners and email them directly to let them know they've won.

Good luck!  And please do try Alice's amazing chocolate cupcake recipe.  You won't regret it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Butterflies Come to Life

The inspiration for the candy butterflies came from this fun book:

It's filled with tons of creative ideas for cupcakes, including the butterfly:

You might notice my butterflies look slightly different.  I tried using the template provided in the book but didn't care for how it turned out (too many squiggly lines).  So I decided to draw my own:

And a template was created (you can download it here if you like):

Then I gathered my materials and got ready to work.  Now I'll be up front about this.  I had my doubts whether I could do this.  The book claims these are creations anyone can make.  Well, I still wasn't confident I could pull this off.  I practiced making these the weekend before the bake sale just to see if they were feasible.  After the first few attempts, I was ready to can the idea and just make butterfly shaped cookies instead.

I guess my determination got the best of me.  I made some adaptations (which included making my own template) and after a few more tries, I started to slowly get the hang of it and figured out what worked and didn't work.  Some of the mistakes I made included snipping the hole too big (thus causing the chocolate to ooze out everywhere) and another blunder was trying to work with the candy when it started to harden.  It really is important to keep it melted and soft while you're working with it.  So make sure you're not too far from the microwave.

That being said, practice does make perfect.  So don't give up if you try this and it doesn't work out the first few times.  You'll just have a few less-than-perfect wings for you to enjoy.  :)  I had a bunch.

So here's how these butterflies came to life.  

[Note:  I used pink and blue candy wafers for the butterflies.  The photos below will alternate between the two.  Sorry about that but trying to take pictures while making these was not an easy task.]

Candy Butterfly Topping
Makes 12 butterflies
Inspired by Hello, Cupcake!

What you'll need:
12 chocolate cupcakes baked in liners
1 cup dark chocolate melting wafers (I used dark mint chocolate, available at A.C. Moore and Michaels)
1 cup candy melting wafer in any color (I used pink and blue)
2 tablespoons white nonpareils
3/4 cup dark chocolate frosting
1 can vanilla frosting (I made cream cheese frosting)
Parchment paper
Three ziplock bags
Wilton Open Star Tip (I used star tip 199) - for butterfly body
Butterfly template (here's the one I created)

1.  Gather all your materials together.  The candy wafers dry quickly, so it's important to be fast, efficient, and have everything on hand!

2.  Cut out 12 sheets of parchment paper large enough to be placed over your template.

3.  Place 1 cup each of dark chocolate and blue candy wafers into separate ziplock bags.  Don't seal the bags.  Microwave for 15 seconds to soften.  Massage the wafers in the bags and return to the microwave.  Repeat this process until the candy is smooth (about 1 minute total).  Press out the excess air and seal the bags.  Then place in small bowls. 

4.  Take the scissors and snip the corner of each bag.  My recommendation is to snip a very tiny hole.  If the hole is too big, it's hard to control the flow of the chocolate and it'll just get everywhere.  Using the dark chocolate, work one wing at a time and outline the template on wax paper.

5.  Fill in the inside area with the blue melted candy. 

6.  Softly rap (pull back and forth) the parchment paper to flatten the candy and help the colors smooth into each other.

 7.  While the candy is still soft, take a toothpick and pull through the two colors from the outside in.  Rap the paper again to smooth it out.

8.  Add a few sprinkles of nonpareils to the top and bottom corners of the wing.  Believe it or not, I found this to be a challenging step because the sprinkles would get all over the wing.

9.  Repeat steps 4-8 for the other wing.  Let dry completely (this doesn't take long) and your wings are done.  You can store them up to 2 days prior to use in a cool, dry place.

  •  This might go without saying, but I'll say it anyway.  Be certain to seal the bags once the candy is melted.  I made the mistake of forgetting to do that and the candy just oozed everywhere.
  • The melted candy dries quickly.  If it doesn't flow easily and starts to harden, reheat for another 15 seconds.  I found I had to reheat after every 4 wings.

Now time for the assembly when the frosted cupcakes are ready. 

1.  Cut a hole into the corner of a pastry/ziplock bag large enough to insert the star tip.  Fill with dark chocolate frosting.

2.  Gently insert the wings into the frosting.  With a toothpick, carefully scoop out the frosting between the wings.

3.  Squeeze four small dots of the chocolate frosting between the wings.  And your butterfly cupcake is complete!

The book suggests making antennas for the butterfly, but for the life of me, I could not get those to turn out well.  The butterflies looked beautiful without them, and I strongly doubt anyone missed them.

This is an elaborate and time-consuming process but very worth it in the end.

Come back for the next post and I'll share the recipe for the chocolate cupcake and maybe offer a copy or two of the Hello, Cupcake! book to readers.  :)
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