19 Weeks

Dear little one,

We’re almost half way there! Anther 20 or so weeks, and we’ll finally get to meet you. Words cannot describe how excited we are to welcome you into the family. Earlier this week, you dad placed his hand on my growing belly and you kicked right into his palm. Nice aim.

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Speaking of your dad, he is currently away on a 4-day trip and I kind of really miss him. I cannot wait for you to meet him, little one. Nothing in this world is for certain, but you can be sure that you’ve landed yourself the best dad anyone could ever ask for. I know this because right now, he is the most incredible husband and he always has been. We are both so lucky.

He is already so in love with you, calling out to you everyday and rubbing my belly to see if you’ll kick. I cannot wait to watch him teach you about life, tell you stories, and go on adventures with you. He will teach you to speak Mandarin, he will show you how to ride a bike and he will make you the most delicious food (once you’re done with milk). He is patient, supportive, and he has already mastered the ‘Dad Jokes’ part of his job. He is protective and kind, and he will always put you first above anything and everything else. He will show you what courage, respect and love looks like. He is such a great man, there is no one else in this world I could imagine having a child with. He is the best thing that has ever happened to the both of us, and I know you’ll agree with me once you meet him in person.

Another 4.5 months to go, baby! We can do this.

Love you,

Mom

14 Weeks

Dear little one,

This week, your dad and I got the chance to listen to your heartbeat and it was one of the moments I’m sure I’ll remember forever for the rest of my life. Your heartbeat was so strong, beating fast and steady. I snuck a look over at your dad while the sound of your heartbeat filled the midwife’s office, he looked so happy and proud, it filled my heart with love.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and I would be remiss if I didn’t take this time to introduce you to two of the greatest woman I know, who will soon become your grandmothers in six short months.

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This is your grandma Deng Hua (邓华) and she is head to toe covered in grace and beauty. She is strong and is never afraid to ask for what she wants, and I admire that so much. My wish for you is that you will grow up to have her confidence, her strength and to always know that you are enough. I hope that you’ll exhibit her curious nature and her positive outlook, because it will be these things that will pull you through the rough patches of life. She will be the one who will tell you to ‘go for it’, and she will be there to pick you up whenever you fall. From her, you will learn what determination and grit looks like. You will come to understand why your father is the amazing man that he is, as he was raised by a phenomenal women who gave him her everything.

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This your grandma Jenny. She is my best friend and has a heart bigger than all of us combined. Her kindness is infectious and all of my life, I have never met anyone with more friends than her. I hope that her compassion for the world, her love for people and her humility will be passed on to you. I pray that I will be as good of a mother as she was to me, and that I will be able to teach you all of the things that she instilled in me during my childhood. From her, you will learn what quiet strength looks like. You will learn that forgiveness is sometimes the strongest thing you can do, and that a life filled with love is more important than any fancy car, home or jewels.  She will be the first person to celebrate your successes, and unfortunately, probably also the first person to cave when you want something you’re not supposed to have, so try not to take advantage of that too often, deal?

There you have it, little one. These incredible women will become your grandmothers. You are so lucky, it’s not common to come from a line of not just one, but two amazing females. They will be your teachers, your protectors and your biggest fans. I hope that you will get to spend a lot of time with both of them as you grow up and that your heart will beat to the same rhythm as theirs.

 

 

11 Weeks

Dear little one,

Here we are, at 11 weeks, and I am finally allowing myself to write you the 1st letter.

You dad and I are so excited to have you join/change/grow/strengthen our little family. As I wrote that last sentence, Canon in D came on over the stereo. It’s the same song that played as I walked towards your dad on the day of our wedding, so I take it as a good sign for amazing things to come🙂

The last few weeks have been a little challenging. The morning all-day nausea has taken a toll on my body (and sometimes, my mind too). I’m not eating as healthily as I would like. In fact, I am barely eating much at all and the guilt of this is weighing on my mind. I want to give you my very best but my body is resisting.

I pray that you are healthy, that you are growing, and that you have everything you need in this belly of mine. I pray that you will develop a full and generous heart. One big enough to fall in love with the world, curious enough to never stop learning, and courageous enough to always fight for what you believe in.

With the first trimester thankfully winding down, we have started to share the news of your existence with our family and friends (your future grandparents, aunts and uncles). Oh little one, I may not be certain of the future, but the one thing I know for sure if that you will be so very loved. You will be loved by us, by your grandparents, and by our friends who are like family to us. You will be surrounded by good people. They will meet you and give you a piece of their heart to hold on to. You will never be lacking in love, this I promise you. My hope is that when you grow up, when you can no longer stand on your dad and my shoulders as we grow weaker, you will find your people. People who will love you for exactly who you are, and help you reach for the stars just like our friends do for us today.

Little one, happy 11 weeks. You’ve already come so far. Our love for you grows every single day.

Take your time in there, and grow.

p.s. be nice to your dad when you come out, please. It’s hard work taking care of a pregnant wife who needs to eat every 2 hours and then throws up every 4 hours. He is very excited but he is also kind of tired.

Smitten Mom’s Apple Cake

At the end of last October, one of my all-time favourite food bloggers – Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen, released her first ever cookbook.

For those of you who know me personally, you’ll know that I am an avid reader have a slight intense obsession with the Smitten Kitchen blog. Deb’s writing has inspired me to roll up my sleeves and cook from scratch again and again. Plus her recipes have never failed me. Whenever I need a new, reliable thanksgiving entree or a delicious, foolproof birthday cake, I turn to Smitten Kitchen.

As soon as I picked up Deb’s cookbook from my local bookstore (literally hours after it was released in Canada), I read the entire thing cover to cover in one sitting. This humble apple cake was the 1st dessert that I tried out of her cookbook and just like all of Deb’s recipes – it turned out beautifully.

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Deb said in her book that this apple cake by her mom is a showstopper. She promised that if I bake this cake once, I will bake it again. Sure enough, she was right. Even though her cookbook features 8 more cake recipes that all sound much more ‘higher-end’ with names such as Olive Oil Ricotta Cake with grape coulis and red wine velvet cake, I find myself not able to go past this apple cake. And I have absolutely no problem with that.

a dollop of soft butter or oil spray
6 MacIntosh Apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 TBsp ground cinnamon
2 cups + 5 TBsp granulated sugar
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 TBsp baking powder
1 Tsp table salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice, not from concentrate
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, free range & organic
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease bundt pan, or two 9-inch round cake pans with the dollop of butter or oil spray
  2. Toss the apple chucks with cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of sugar. Set aside
  3. Stir together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla
  5. Pour the wed ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and begin adding the eggs one at a time. Scraping down the bowl occasionally to make sure that everything is incorporated.
  6. Pour half of the cake mixture into the greased bundt pan. If using the round pans, divide half of the cake mixture in half again and pour into the 2 pans. Each round pan should have 1/4 of the batter.
  7. Top batter with half of the apples.
  8. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top
  9. Bake cake for 1.25-1.5 hours. If you are using the round cake pans, then check the cake at around the 50 min mark. I found that the cake took about 1.5 hours regardless of what pan I used, but every oven is different so I don’t want to mislead you and have you end up with burnt cake. That would be tragic. Once cake is cooked through, transfer cake pan to a wired cooling rack
  10. Cool cake completely before flipping the cake out of the pan, dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving

 

Homemade Kimchi

I consider myself to be more of a socially awkward person. I dislike networking and I am surprisingly shy when I am in a group setting with people who I’m unfamiliar with. In these situations, instead of turning on my charm, I think I actually become what some would call…borderline creepy.

Despite that, I love it when I can make a new friend. I love the process of when a stranger come into your life, and somehow the two of you stumble upon something that you share in common – you both get really excited, and scream, and talk about it non-stop for 15 minutes, and then you laugh together. Sometimes,  you end up keeping in touch with the stranger and the two of you become friends. I love that. For me, the process is always slightly awkward, but the result is always worth it.

This is what happened between our wedding photographer, Melia and I. Actually, it didn’t happen exactly like what I described above. Melia is very calm and graceful, so screaming is not really her thing. But I screamed, loud enough for the both of us, so it’s all good.

Aside from being an incredible photographer and a mom to 2 adorable boys, Melia is also a kimchi connoisseur. After confessing to her my love for kimchi and mentioning that I’ve always wanted to try and make kimchi from scratch, Melia shared with me her favourite recipe.

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This recipe is originally from Dr. Ben Kim, and folks…it’s a definite winner. I will never be buying kimchi from a grocery store, ever again. The kimchi keeps well in your fridge for at least 1 month and you can make some many things with it, the possibilities are endless – kimchi fried rice, korean pancake, kimchi stew, I could go on for hours.

Here is what you’ll need:

1 head of Napa Cabbage
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup Korean red chili powder (ko choo kah rhoo//고추 가루)
3 stalks of green onions
2 TBsp fish sauce*
3-4 garlic cloves
A chunk of fresh ginger, skin removed, maybe 5-10 grams
1/2 ripe apple
1/2 ripe pear
1/2 medium yellow onion

  1. Roughly chop the napa cabbage into large bite-size pieces. No need to wash the cabbage leaves just yet, that will come later. Throw the cabbage into a big non-plastic bowl.
  2. Completely dissolve the sea salt into a mug of warm water, add it to the cabbage and toss the leaves around to evenly distribute everything.
  3. Let the salted cabbage sit at room temperature for about 4 hours, undisturbed. The cabbage leaves will shrink while the salt draws water out of them.
  4. Strain off all the liquid and throughly rinse the cabbage leaves to get rid of the salty brine. Return the cleaned cabbage leaves to a large bowl
  5. Mix the Korean red chili powder with 1/4 cup of warm water until a red paste forms. Add the paste to the bowl with the cabbage
  6. Roughly chop up the green onions into large bite size pieces, add them into the bowl, along with the fish sauce
  7. In a blender, blend together garlic, ginger, the half apple, half pear, and half onion with a cup of water until everything turns into a smooth puree. Pour it into the bowl with the cabbage.
  8. Put on a pair of plastic disposable gloves. Use your hands to throughly toss all of the ingredients in the bowl so that everything is mixed evenly and that every cabbage leaf is coated with the red peppery marinade. (According to Dr. Kim, gloves are necessary as the pepper will burn the skin on your hands…I took his word for it and I recommend that you do too).
  9. Firmly pack your kimchi into a large, clean glass jar. Really use those muscles and pack the cabbage in nice and tight, this helps with the fermentation process. Then pour in some of the red pepper liquid that’s now in the bottom on your bowl. I like to cover all of my cabbage leaves with 1/2 inch of the liquid
  10. Do not fill your glass jars up to the brim. The kimchi inside will expand slightly as it ferments. Also, do not cap the glass jar too tightly, give it a bit of wiggle room so that air can escape
  11. Leave the jar of kimchi on your kitchen counter, at room temperature for 24 hours. Then tighten the cap and transfer the jar into the fridge and it will keep for at least 1 month
  12. You can eat the kimchi as soon as the first 24 hour mark has passed, and it will be delicious. The cabbage will get more and more sour as it continues to slowly ferment in the fridge. We like it best after it has been in the fridge for 2-3 days, and then it just keeps getting more and more delicious by each passing day.

*Omit the fish sauce if you are making a vegetarian version. If you are feeling adventurous, I heard red miso paste or kale powder (dissolved in water) make can make good substitutes for the fish sauce.

Recipe from Dr. Ben Kim.

Ferrero Rocher Cake

It was K’s 29th birthday a few Sundays ago, and we celebrated the big day together with a platter full of southern BBQ, a siphon coffee tasting and this epic cake.

My originally idea for K’s birthday cake was leaning more towards dark chocolate cupcakes, topped off with a Nutella-like icing, but that plan was quickly thrown out the window as I landed upon Marina‘s photo of her Ferrero Rocher cake.

This cake has K’s name written all over it. 2 Hazelnut cake layers, iced with Nutella and pure chocolate and topped off with crushed wafers? This is K’s dream cake, and what better time to make it for him than on his birthday?

What surprised me the most about this cake is that it was actually a fairly simple cake to bake and build, especially if you bake the cake layers the night before, then make the icing and asemble the cake on the actual day of when you want to serve it. It also does not call for too many ingredients and it’s almost gluten-free (only 3 TBsp flour, and you can leave out the wafers), as ground hazelnuts replaced a huge portion of the flour.

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Cake Layers

7 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cups sugar
2 cups finely ground hazelnuts*
3 TBsp all purpose flour
3 TBsp cocoa powder
3 tsp baking powder

Icing

300 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups chopped chocolate (I used a mix of dark & semi-sweet)
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2-1 cup wafers, crushed

Decorating

8 Ferrero Rocher Candies
3/4 cups wafers, crushed

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of two 8 inch round cake pans with parchment paper and grease the side walls.
  2. Sift flour, cocoa & baking powder. Stir in ground hazelnuts.
  3. In a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, whisk the eggs with sugar until they are three times in volume, light and fluffy.
  4. Using spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the eggs, in three additions.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake’s center comes out clean. About 20-25 mins.
  6. To make the icing, melt the chocolate in a double boiler and let it cool to room temperature
  7. Whip chocolate, butter & Nutella until thoroughly combined and a delicious icing is formed
  8. To assemble the cake, make sure the cake has cooled, then evenly spread a healthy dollop of icing on the 1st cake layer and sprinkle with crashed wafers.
  9. Place the other cake layer on top and use the rest of the icing (saving maybe 1/2 cup) to ice the sides and top of the entire cake.
  10. Press the remaining crushed wafers onto the sides of the cake, then with the remaining 1/2 cup of icing, pipe 8 circular mounts or stars on the cake.
  11. Place 1 Ferrero Rocher candy on top of each piped star and serve immediately
  12. This cakes will keep in the fridge, but the hazelnut cake layers do tends to dry out a little faster than a regular cake, so I would recommend finishing it within 24 hours. The icing will also harden in the fridge, so always bring the cake back to room temperature before serving so that the icing can soften a little bit.

*You can buy ground hazelnuts directly on from grocery stores, or you can ground the Hazelnut yourself using a high speed blender or food processor. It’s definitely an extra step, but in my opinion, freshly ground nuts are so much better than the pre-packaged ones.

**I actually had a lot of icing leftover after the cake was assembled, so you prefer a light icing on your cake, you can probably cut the icing recipe in half. Alternatively, you can place the leftover icing in mini mason jars and give it away to your friends and neighbors as a elevated version of Nutella spread. They will love you for it.

Recipe found on Let the Baking Begin Blog. Original Recipe from Lubię Gotować

Mini Italian Meatballs

The one problem with a physical injury to your lower body is that you have to limit your standing and walking time, which means that we need to think of ways to significantly cut down our cooking time.

Unwilling to sacrifice eating good wholesome food, K and I have started using our weekends to batch-make dishes that will last us through the upcoming week. Over the last 3 months, we have made giant pots of soup, hundreds of wontons and dumplings, and dozens of these mini Italian meatballs.

After they are frozen and properly stored, we can then turn them into pasta & meatballs or meatball marinara baked eggs (pictured below), or simple meatball sandwiches whenever we please. This recipe is adapted from Anne Burrell of The Food Network (we added stock, kale, and took out the veal), and we think it’s a winner.

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Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1/2 cup lacinato kale, cut into long, thin strips
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 pound ground beef, preferably grass fed & non-medicated
1/2 pound ground pork, also preferably medication/hormone free
2 large organic, free range eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
1/8-1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 cup breadcrumbs, white or 60% whole wheat
A big splash of beef stock

  1. Coat a saute pan with olive oil, add the onions and bring to a medium-high heat. Season the onions generously with salt and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until soft and transparent.
  2. Add the garlic, kale and the crushed red pepper and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
  3. In a large bowl combine the meats, eggs, Parmigiano, parsley and bread crumbs.
  4. Add the onion/kale mixture and season generously with salt and mix some more.
  5. Add the beef stock and do 1 final mix. By this point, I’ve usually started using my hands to get everything evenly distributed.The mixture should be quite wet.
  6. If you like, you can test the seasoning of the mix by making a mini hamburger size patty and cooking it.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Using a medium ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop the meat mixture into your hands and form into meatballs.
  9. Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides.
  10. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake them in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through.
  11. Serve them immediately with homemade tomato sauce on pasta, or let them cool on the baking sheet, then pop the sheet into the freezer until frozen, and store in ziplock bags.