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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ngựa Con Của Mẹ (My Little Pony!)

In March of last year, my younger daughter turned 5.  In just a few more weeks,  she will be a year older. My oh my how time flies. I owe her a post for her 5th Birthday and it's about time to pay up before she turns six.  

As I'm typing this post, I'm reminded of how she came into our world and how fortunate I am to see her grown into the boisterous but healthy loving daughter. My bundle of joy didn't start out perfectly healthy. A few hours after birth, she actually stopped breathing. Had I been asleep for a brief moment during this critical period, she would not have made it home with us. Thank God I was awake to see her stop breathing (oh my, the things we are thankful for huh?). She spent a week in the intensive care unit at Methodist Hospital and received fabulous care. She made it home strapped to a monitor and a bundle of wires.  Those were the days when there was very little sleep or peace, but now, we grateful for this wonderful joy!

When she was old enough to fit into dresses, nothing seemed to look good on her. She's gonna be  a tomboy for sure, so I thought.

1st birthday-Cupcake party

Then she turned two and all she wanted to do was put on dresses, tutus and nail polish.  She loves being in the kitchen to help me bake and cook.  She adores ballet and gymnastics!  I was soooo relieved!

2nd birthday-Tea party

I treasure every moment with my girls.  As I watch them grow, often I wish I can freeze time and keep them just the way they are. What I love most is their bubbly faces and wonderful  infectious smiles.

But then again, there's a whole life ahead of them waiting to be explored, discovered, conquered. I can only hope to contribute to such achievements. But for now, let's just enjoy the moment.

3rd birthday-Ballerina and Bubble Magic party

4th birthday-Disney Cruise party

So to celebrate Ân-Hy's fifth birthday last year, she wished to have a Little Pony birthday party.

Once a year, I get to express my creativity through my arts and craft, so designing the invitation was incredibly fun. With the help of my friend Ann, we were able to combine Ân-Hy's favorite colors then and this playful picture to come up with a really cool invitation.

My husband took us on a trip to a barn and we brought home stacks of hay to build up the perfect ambiance for this hoedown.

As always, the night before her birthday, I had to give up my beauty sleep to get all the food and treats ready. I was up before sunrise to work in the kitchen alone to make sure all the food and decoration were done.  Everything needed to be completed by noon the next day.  It was exhausting but rewarding nonetheless.

All the food and frolicking is great but what fun would a my little pony birthday party be without the real ponies?

I always like to put a lot of thought into the  birthday cake as it's symbolic. Fortunately, I have a sister-in-law who has the passion for baking.  Almost every birthday, she would bake something gorgeous and delicious for my girls.  This year, she created beautiful cupcakes topped with pony figurines. This is accompanied by the main cake designed as a green pasture which fits perfectly atop a cupcake stand I found at Oriental Trading.

The scene is set, the foods has been prepared.  Soon, her friends would filled the yard to help her celebrate her 5th birthday.

And last but not least, you couldn't close a party without taking down the pinata!

Happy 5th Birthday my Little Pony!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bánh Tằm Khoai Mì (Cassava Silkworm Cake)

It's been raining cats and dogs here in Sacramento; we needed that. My girls decided to create their own fun by putting on their raincoats and boots to go splashing puddles in the backyard while the rain confined me to the kitchen all day.  I made the most of it and kept my kitchen very busy. By day's end, there were mứt dừa (candied coconut ribbons), bánh bao (pork buns), Cá Nướng Vỉ (grilled salmon), and Bánh Tằm Khoai Mì (Cassava Silkworm Cake).
Bánh Tằm Khoai Mì  is one of the dishes that I had spent a lot of time experimenting to get the right texture but I wasn't a hundred percent satisfied.  As you will see in the series of pictures, my girls and I attempted to make this many times. And on a rainy day like Saturday, I was determined to try it again. Finally, I think I found the right balance; here is the recipe for you to try out.  

Bánh tằm khoai mì's texture is somewhat chewy and soft; it's blended in the richness of coconut milk and covered with a layer of grated coconut. When eaten, sprinkle bánh tằm khoai mì with some roasted sesame seeds and peanuts mixed in salt and sugar to enhance the flavor of it.

The name Bánh (cake) Tằm (silkworm) is a description of what it resembles from its appearance.  Bánh Tằm Khoai Mì is made out of Cassava root which is a vegetable that's a  main staple of southern Vietnamese diet.

This Cassava Silkworm Cake can be fun to make with your little ones. They'll have a blast getting their hands onto the goo and adding the colors to the cassava mixture.  As you can see how much fun my girls and their friends had in choosing their favorite colors.

RECIPE: Cassava Silkworm Cake
Printable Recipe


1 (16 oz) bag frozen grated cassava
2 tablespoons Tapioca Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Coconut Milk 
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 bag Vanilla Sugar or 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Powder
1/2 (16 oz) bag of Grated Coconut, I prefer grated coconut over shredded coconut
For Roasted Sesame Seeds Mixture
6 tablespoons Roasted Sesame Seeds 
Roasted Peanuts, optional
1 teaspoon Salt
4 tablespoons Sugar

Preparing Grated Coconut

Steam grated coconut for about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
Preparing Roasted Sesame Seeds

Slightly crush the roasted sesame seeds or roasted peanuts or both in a mortar with a pestle to release the nutty aroma of sesame seeds or roasted peanuts then mix with salt and sugar.  You can also place sesame seeds in a ziploc and slightly crush it.  Set aside.

Preparing Cassava

Squeeze cassava with both hands until the liquid stops coming out. In a bowl, add in cassava, tapioca flour, sugar, salt, vanilla and coconut milk.  Stir until the batter is well blended. 

If add food colors, divide the cassava mixture into small bowls. The numbers of bowls depend on how many colors you choose.   For 1 bag of frozen cassava, I use 2 of the 9 inch pans.  You can use one color per pan.

For green, I prefer to use pandan paste which has a nice sweet and unique aroma instead green food color.

 Pour cassava mixture into 2 cake pans.

Give it a shake to even out the mixture.

Steaming Cassava Cake

Bring the water in a steamer to a boil.  Steam on medium high for about 6 minutes or until cassava becomes transparent.  Let it cool before cutting.

Cutting the Cake

Cut the cassava cake into thin strips and roll them in the grated coconut.


Serve cassava silkworm with roasted sesame seeds mixture.

Ăn Ngon!  Eat Well!