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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ballerina and Bubble Magic!

For the last four years, my two darlings and I always have so much fun planning and preparing their birthday parties.  This year, my youngest daughter wanted a ballerina theme for her 3rd birthday party.

First the invitation.  It took us a few trips to Joann and Michaels before my daughters and I could find all the materials necessary for the invitation. A few touch ups here and there and the invitation was completed; actually it took many long hours of detailing and help from my friend Ann before producing the final invitation.

Little by little, things were coming together, but it was challenging at first since I wasn't sure how everything would blend together.  My first thought was light pink and my husband thought of highlighting it with a lime green would go well together. He was right! So I made him drove us to a fabric store to get a few yards of tutu fabric.  My original plan was using it to make skirts for the cake stand but it ended up adorning the  window and wall of the living room.

This year I wanted to try something different instead of the paper strimmers and balloons as in the previous birthday parties.  So, off I went to A Dollar Tree Store  and got some wrapping tissue papers to  make  hanging tissue-paper flowers.  I was very pleased with the end result and ecstatic at how beautiful they hung on the ceiling and the hallway.

My sister-in-law who's many passions include baking made this exquisitely beautiful Ballerina cake accented by a pair of ballet shoes and fine details. Surrounding the cake were these adoring cupcakes.  As always, I like to set up a separate table just for the birthday cake. Everyone wanted to taste the cake as it was so visually appealing. Thank goodness for pictures.

Yummy Mocha Butter Cream Cake

 A tutu handbag

Next came the food. Every birthday party, I like to prepare food for both the parents and the kids.  Planning food for adults is easy but food for the kids required more brainstorming.  I wanted to make fun food and treats that would appeal to the kids.  Since my daughters love lollipops, why not make several of them. There was a Pasteso lollipops, Marshmallow lollipops and Strawberries lollilops.  I also got Vic's gourmet Apple and Cinnamon Popcorns and packaged them into small bags.  Add a nice ribbon and I have another decorative display.

Marhmallow Dipped in Chocolate Lollipops

Click here for Pate Chauds Lollipops recipe

Vic's Gourmet Apple and Cinnamon Popcorn

Strawberry Lollipops

The Strawberry lollipop stand is  made with ribbons wrapped around  a foam cone.
A Dollar Tree store has lots of beautiful ribbons in variety colors.  

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Sandwich

The festive pink lemonade drink stood out on the kid's table.  I love the two color tones of the drink.  They both had the same ingredients, but the deep pink lemonade had frozen blueberries.  I also made these butterfly straws to celebrate the coming of Spring.

Ingredients: 2 liter Sprite, 1 can frozen pink lemonade, 3 cans of water, 1 package kool-aid lemonade, 3/4 cup sugar, fresh or frozen berries, frozen or fresh cranberries ( I used my left over cranberies  from Christmas),  strawberry slices,  lemon slices and  ice

Butterfly Straws

For adults, the main dishes were Grilled Beef and Pork Meatball  served with noodle (Bún Thịt Nem Nướng) and Shrimp Cake (Chả Tôm Huế) served with dinner rolls.   The Aspargus Crab Soup, Egg Rolls, Masago Sushi Rolls, Pate Chauds and Papaya Salad with Beef Jerkey were served as side dishes.   The Masago Rolls were supposed to be on the kid's table since Masago is my birthday girl's favorite but I guess it was also everyone's favorite. LOL.

Click here  for Chả Tôm Huế (Hue Shimp Patty) recipe

Click here for  Nem Nướng  (Grilled Pork Patties) recipe

Click here for Gỏi Đu Đủ Khô Bò (Papaya Salad with Beef Jerkey) recipe.

As for the adults's drink, nothing is healthier than water.  So I made a jug of water with  slices of Cucumbers and Oranges.  The water was not only tasty but fresh, crispy and beautiful.  Sometimes it's the simple things like this that suprise you.

As everyone enjoyed the food, the cake and the drinks, I actually enjoyed the Bubble Lady with her exotic bubble show told through wonderful dialogues, stories, and captivating bubble magic.

Big Sis helped Lil Sis blow out the candles
Happy Birthday to my little Ballerina!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mì Hoành Thánh Vịt Quay (Wonton and Roasted Duck Noodle Soup)

I have been fighting a cold for almost a month. I am not completely well yet but I am well enough to make a pot of Mì Hoành Thánh Vịt Quay to make up for all those weeks that my family had to live off Mama instant noodles, Annie Chun instant udon bowls and lots of fried eggs. 

Mì Hoành Thánh is a delicious, nutritious, easy-to-make meal.   It's one of the best hot steaming   bowl of soup to have for breakfast or a light meal during the day.   The light and yet tasty stock can be made of either chicken broth or pork broth with white daikon, carrots and vegetable seasoning.

The filling in the wonton is the combination of ground pork, chunks of shirmp, crunchy water chestnuts, fresh ginger,  the white part of green onion and my favorite, the wonderful aroma of sesame oil.

You may freeze the premade wonton for a few weeks.  Whenever, you crave for it but have little time to cook, just use canned chicken broth and dilute it with some water, then you will have a bowl of  Mì Hoành Thánh in no time. Now that's what I call instant . . . gratification. 

I always like to enhance a bowl of Mì Hoành Thánh with a few pieces of roasted duck on top, a couple of  boiled baby bok choy and sprinkled it with some fried garlic and a pinch of fresh ground pepper. The roasted duck actually adds quite a distinct flavor and I think it enhances the taste of Mì Hoành Thánh.  

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RECIPE: Mì Hoành Thánh

1 pack Wonton Wrappers
1 Egg White, for wonton wrappers
1 Roasted Duck, chopped into small pieces
2 bags Egg Noodles
Sesame Oil, for noodles
Fried Garlic, for garnish
Green Onion, finely chopped, for garnish
1 bag of baby bok choy, washed
Make about 6 quarts
1 lb Pork Neck bones or 2 cans of Chicken Broth 
1 large chunk of fresh Ginger about 1 inch chunk, cut into a couple slices
1 White Radish, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large Carrot, cut into round slices
Fish Sauce
A small chunk of Rock Sugar or regular Sugar
4-5 tablespoons Mushroom Seasoning
1-2 tablespoons Salt
Wonton Filling
Make about 80 wontons
1 lb of small Shrimp without shell, cut into about  half inch chunks
1 lb of Ground Pork
1/2 can of Chestnuts, about 20 chestnuts, diced small
1 small chunk Fresh Ginger, finely chopped, make about a tablespoon
4-6 White Parts of Green Onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1/2 tablespoon Salt
1/2-1 teaspoon Ground Pepper
3/4 tablespoon Sugar
1 Egg
Making Broth

If use pork neck bones, rinse and clean the pork bones with salt.  Bring it to boil then rinse and clean it again.
Add ginger, carrot, white daikon and ginger to the stock pot and bring it to boil again.  Add salt, rock sugar about the size of a tablespoon, and mushroom seasoning.  Let simmer for an hour. Season the broth with  fish sauce.  Adjust the ingredients if needed.  Discard the white radish.  Keep the carrots if you prefer. 
Making Wonton

Combine all the wonton filling ingredients. Let it sit in a fridge for about half an hour.  The mixture will stiffen as it sits and this will  make it easy to work with. 

Apply egg white around the edges of the wonton wrapper with your finger. The egg helps the edges to adhere to one another.  Fill a wonton wrapper with  about a teaspoon of mixture then press the corners together. 

Bring a pot of water and a tablespoon  of sesame oil to boil.  Add wontons to the boiling water.  Wonton are ready when they float.  Remove wontons from the pot and set them aside.   Continue boiling the remaining wontons. 

The skin of boiled wonton has a soft texture.

Another method to cook wontons is steaming them  in a single layer in each steamer tray for about 10 minutes on med-high. The skin of steamed wonton is firmer and not as soft as the boiled wontons.  I tried both methods and like them both.

The skin of steamed wonton has a firmer texture and darker in color.
Preparing Baby Bok Choy

Bring a small pot of water and a pinch of salt to boil.  Add Bok Choy in boiling water for a about a couple minutes.  Remove Bok Choy from water.  Set it aside.
Frying Garlic
Chop 1 whole garic finely.  Add oil in a pan and bring it to medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, add garlic and stir it until it starts turning color.  Remove from heat and keep stirring it until it's golden.  Don't wait until the garlic turns golden then remove from heat.  The oil is still very hot and it will burn the garlic very quickly. 

Cooking Egg Noodle

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add egg noodles in the boiling water for about a couple minutes.  Drain it.  Add a tablespoon of sesame oil in the noodle and toss it up well. 
Presentation of Mì Hoành Thánh Vịt Quay

In a bowl, arrange wontons, roasted duck and bok choy on top of the egg noddle. Pour hot broth over it with a few slices of carrot for accent if you prefer. Add a teaspoon of fried garlic, garnish with some green onions and sprinkle on some fresh ground pepper and voila.