Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Family Travel: Olympic National Park Part 2: Hoh Rainforest

*Activities in this post are suitable for healthy individuals from 2 years old to 70 years old.  We did backpack carry our 2 year old in a Tula carrier at times on the hikes. 

On day 4, we moved rental homes from the east side of Olympic National Park (Lake Sutherland) to southwest Quinault Rainforest (Amanda Park/ Lake Quinault) area.  On our drive over, we stopped for lunch and some groceries at Forks (biggest town on the way to Lake Quinault), and visited the awesome Hoh Rainforest. 

When people think of Olympic National Park, Hoh Rainforest comes up as one of the top highlights.  I'll let the pictures do the talking :) 

Family Travel: Olympic National Park Part 1: Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Valley

*Activities in this post are suitable for healthy individuals from 2 years old to 70 years old.  We did backpack carry our 2 year old in a Tula carrier at times on the hikes.  We travelled from our rental home on Lake Sutherland. 

Day 2:  Exploring Lake Crescent & Hurricane Ridge, 
Our little hikers - Brian (2) and Alex (2) 
Cousins enjoying the Lake Pleasant area
We began our day with a hike to Marymere Falls, near Lake Crescent  This was a 1.8 mile out and back trail through the forest to a waterfall, which our family greatly enjoyed.  It is mostly flat,  except the final part where you climb some steep steps to view the waterfall. Our 2 year old walked most of the first half himself (0.8miles), and then we put him in the backpack carrier before climbing up the steps.  The other kids (4,5,10) and the grandparents had no problem hiking this. 
After our hike, we went to the Lake Crescent lodge where we enjoyed a nice lunch. The view from the restaurant was beautiful, though I did not get a picture of it :).  The service was a bit slow - but the kids were entertained with coloring pages and crayons. We enjoyed our fish and chips and salmon. 

Family Travel: En route to Olympic National Park: Strawberries, Lavender and Ice Cream in Sequim

PNW Summer 2017 Trip:  Day 1:  Strawberries, Lavender and Ice Cream in Sequim

In late June, we travelled as family of 10 to the Pacific Northwest, in order to visit Olympic National Park. Our group included 2 grandparents (healthy, in their late 60's), my family 2 boys - ages 2 and 4), and my brother's family (their kids -10 year old boy and 5 year old girl).  I planned this trip to include a combination of fun activities, suitable for all ages. We visited the Olympic Peninsula for 5 days, described in the next few posts. You can also find all of our ONP posts under the label "Travel-with Kids"

Since we were arriving from Arizona and California, our family met up at the Seattle Airport - SeaTac. After renting our cars (we booked through Costco), it was already around noon. We decided to grab a quick bite on the road and headed towards our first rental home in the Port Angeles area. For family travel, I like to find houses from airBNB, homeaway/ VBRO because there is more room for the kids, kitchen and laundry access -more on this in the next post.  

We took the route using the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and stopped in Sequim (pronounced "Skwim") on our way, as it seemed like a charming place full of lavender fields and farms.  Since it took us about 3 hours to get there from the airport (with a short lunch & bathroom break), we didn't arrive until 3:40pm. This limited what we could do, since most of the farms close around 4 or 5pm. We were able to squeeze in strawberry picking, a lavender field and ice cream!

Our boys love U-pick, so our first stop was Graymarsh Farm U-Pick, where they happily (and quickly) picked strawberries until closing time 4pm.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Chinese New Year Mochi Cake : Baked Nian Gao with Red Bean Paste Center

For Chinese/ Lunar New Year, it is a popular tradition to eat "Nian Gao".  "Nian" means the word "year", but also sounds like "sticky". "Gao" means cake,  but also sounds like "high".  This cake has so much meaning from new year cake to aim high for the new year.  It symbolizes a family "sticking together".
The classic version is steamed, and does not contain eggs or milk.  However, this baked version with a layer of red bean paste is my favorite, and I've eaten a lot of different "Nian Gao" over the years!   My mom used to have a great recipe, but it has been misplaced. So last night, I did some research and came up with the following recipe to recreate the optimal taste and texture that I remembered. I was a little nervous, but when it came out - it was wonderful! So good, that despite having two little boys (nearly 4 and 20 months) running wildly around me, I had to get on my laptop to post this recipe, just in case someone wants to make this for New Years today!.

Baked Nian Gao with Red Bean Paste Center

  • 1 lb (16 oz) bag of glutinous rice flour (sticky rice flour) *available in Asian markets, but I was able to find this in the asian section of our local Albertson's. 
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 2 1/2 cups milk 
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar 
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 can mashed red "adzuki" bean paste (available in cans in Asian markets)   
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 175 Celsius).  Spray a 9x13 pan with PAM or equivalent.  
  2. Mix all the ingredients (except for the azuki bean paste) with an electric mixer at low speed until blended.  Beat for 2 more minutes at high speed. 
  3. Spread 1/2 of the batter on the bottom of the baking pan. 
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the batter is just beginning to set.  
  5. Remove the pan from the oven.  Spread a layer of azuki bean paste. Since the batter isn't fully set the beans, it may be a little messy.  That's ok.    
  6. Add the remaining batter over top of the beans. 
  7. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for another 30 to 40 minutes, until a chopstick or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 
  8. Allow to cool before slicing.
This is best served the same day, slightly warm or at room temperature.  It is also good the next day, but if you store it covered, the crust will become softer.  I haven't tried this, but some people recommended reheating their nian gao in the toaster.  Happy New Year!

Chinese Steamed Whole Fish with Soy Ginger Scallion Cilantro Sauce

It's Chinese/ Lunar New Year and I've decided to return to blogging to share some festive and delicious recipes that I've either found and tested, or adapted for optimal results.  This recipe was so easy, and resulted in the most tender, flavorful fish - you must try it!  After much google research, I chose this recipe from A Steamy Kitchen, and my family gave it a big thumbs up!

I used a 1 lb Branzino, as that is what looked the best at my fish market this week.  However, you can use any 1 pound whole fish (or filets 1 inch or thicker). For larger fish, you will need to adjust your steaming time.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Funfetti Cake For Two!

It's been a while since I've posted. I've been so busy working full time and running after our two little boys (3 years old and 1 year), but recently I've tried a few recipes that are so good that I had to share!  My little one's birthday was last week, but we'll be celebrating with family and friends tomorrow. I've decided to make funfetti cakes for the party.  This morning, I whipped together this mini cake as a test run since I've never tried a funfetti recipe before. It was a huge success - the entire family approved! The taste was light and fluffy, and the sprinkles were well distributed throughout the batter.  I adapted the recipe by Christina of dessertfortwo blog.   

Mini Funfetti Cake
Serves 2-4

For the mini cake:
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, softened*  
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar **
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ***
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2/3 cup cake flour****
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup whole milk ****
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sprinkles *****
* can use unsalted butter, but then add 1/4 tsp salt
** I like to use ultra fine baker's sugar, but regular is fine
*** my baking secret is that I use Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean paste in place of vanilla extract.
****all purpose is ok, but I used cake flour for a fluffier cake
***** whole milk recommended, but I only had 2% and it worked fine
****** i used cake mate rainbow sprinkles

For the frosting:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 to 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoons milk 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 tablespoon sprinkles
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (I used the convection setting at 325F). Spray a mini 6" cake pan (I used fat daddio brand) that has 2" high sides with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper (trace it on a piece of parchment paper, cut it out, and fit it in).
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla and egg white and beat until well-mixed.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder (and salt, if you used unsalted butter).  Beat for a few seconds to combine, and then add the milk. Beat until smooth, but do not over mix.
  5. Gently stir in the sprinkles
  6. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with only moist crumbs clinging to it. 
  7. Let the cake cool slightly before placing it on a plate--it should come out easily. Peel the parchment paper off.
  8. While cake is baking, beat together all of the frosting ingredients, except the sprinkles.  When the cake has cooled, frost, add additional sprinkles. 
I'll be making a sheet cake version with a slightly different recipe to serve all the guests.  Will update with that recipe after I bake it!  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cook: Fancy BLT's with Roast Tomato Basil Soup and Kale Date Almond Salad

Last night's dinner was delicious! We enjoyed fancy BLT's made with Trader Joe's Sprouted Sourdough bread, Maple bacon (from Costco), Cheddar, Avocado, Romaine Lettuce and Tomato with a small smear of Mayonnaise.  As a busy mom of two boys, I made the salad and soup ahead of time during my toddler's nap. Here are the recipes for Tomato Soup and the Kale Salad. We enjoyed these Chocolate Cupcakes for dessert :)