milk&honey cafe

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sew Easy: Pretty Bow HeadBand

I've done it. I've jumped on the mom-bandwagon and started to sew. I dusted off my old sewing machine and started to make things for the baby. Yes, Pinterest and this whole DIY-movement has launched me into this "mom-on-mat-leave" stereotype, but it just made practical sense! I could make things just the way I wanted it, at a fraction of the price. It started when I couldn't find a nursing cover I liked because of the unappealing fabric choices and the ridiculous price it asked for. And then I wanted to make the same headbands I bought for Heidi at the Gap for $10 a piece. From then on it was just a whirlwind of little projects I could think of, late at night while Heidi was asleep. I am no where near an expert sewer but I've been sewing here and there since Jr. High (I promised my mom I'd put good use to a sewing machine if she bought me one – I kept the promise!). And so, I want to share these little sewing discoveries with you. I am still learning myself and you could probably find a ton of blogs that teach you better than I could, but I thought it'd be fun to share my projects with you and maybe show you a few things I've learned along the way. (I'm new at this tutorial thing, so please bear with me!)

Here is my first tutorial: an easy bow headband. This bow is a cute accent to any outfit for your baby girl. I love putting it on Heidi. And I've made a bunch in different fabrics because it's super easy.

- 2 pieces of fabric for the bow (sizes are below)
- Elastic (the length of your baby's head circumference)
- Thread

You'll need two pieces of fabric: one for the main bow and the second for the middle piece. The size of the final bow would basically be a quarter of the piece of fabric you cut. So here, I cut a 6"x 6" piece that would ultimately make a 3"-wide bow.

1. Fold the piece of fabric in half, with the right sides facing each other (so that you see the wrong side). Then sew along the edge. Flip it inside out.
2. Fold that piece in half again, so that the seam is outside (the clean side is in). Sew along the edge. Flip it inside out.

1. Take your small piece and fold it in half length-wise. You're gonna sew it in an L-shape so that you get a closed pipe.
2. Flip it inside out. Then sew it shut. This part is kind of tricky since it's a small piece of fabric but with patience, you'll get it through!

Take your bow piece with the non-seam side facing up and hold it so that the closed sides are on the left and right, open sides on the top and bottom. Do an accordian fold. It's basically like when you fold a paper fan. I like having the edges on the top and bottom folded so that you don't see the edges. Now take some string and tie it tightly around the middle. I loop around it quite a bit so that it stays nice and tight.

Knot it a few times so that it doesn't unravel.

Now sew the elastic piece into a loop. Make sure you use the zig-zag option so that the elastic doesn't come apart.

Place all three pieces together so that the small piece wraps around the bow and elastic. Make sure the neat end of the small piece stays on top.

Get a needle and thread and sew it all together. This is probably the hardest part since you have to hold the pieces tightly together and you have to make sure the thread goes in all the layers. I find it much easier when you take it slow and sew one direction at a time. For instance, I would take the needle from the inside, poke through all three pieces and come up. Then I'll take the needle back inside, again going through all three pieces. I repeat this until I feel like it's on securely.

Voila - it's all done!

Once you start making these, you're not gonna stop! You can make a bow for every outfit.

Friday, January 23, 2015

introducing heidi

I think it's only appropriate to start off my return with the biggest change since my last post, which also happens to be the biggest event of my life – the birth of my daughter Heidi. Becoming a mother has been nothing that I could have imagined in so many ways: like how strong a mother and child's bond can be, or how absolutely horrible sleep deprivation feels, and how wrong I have been about maternity leave (which for some misguided reason seemed "glamorous" to me). Motherhood is exhilarating and exhausting, rewarding and routine. But as any mother would tell you, it is an absolute blessing – the good and the hard – to be a mother.

I want to share my birth story because it's kind of nice to share these kinds of stories, but mainly (and selfishly) because I haven't journaled it and I figured I should leave a record of it somewhere, haha. I will be careful not to over dramatize what happened though. I realized that people love to tell birth "horror stories" because sometimes it truly is crazy what they go through, but I find that it often paints an ostentatious picture of the birthing experience. Yes, it's really intense and there was definitely lots of screaming, but I am humbled by the thought that every single person in history was birthed by someone. So without further ado, here is how little Heidi was born!

The lovely baby shower hosted by my friends Alicia and Mina.

Heidi Ella Chung was born on May 5th 2014, exactly one week after her estimated due date. That extra week was pretty hard, partly because people kept asking and it got pretty repetitive telling them "No, she's not born yet" and partly because I just wanted to stop being pregnant! Pregnancy was not fun at all. I concluded that women who say they love being pregnant are either elves or liars. Being pregnant felt heavy, acidic, awkward and nauseating. Morning sickness is horrible and I hated peeing every 12 minutes. But I did love not having to suck in my belly to fit into tight pants, and also got to go on a baby-moon! I have to admit I'm not looking forward to being pregnant again, but alas, you can't get a bun without baking it first.

One of our last evenings together before Heidi's arrival.

After waiting and waiting, May 4th finally came around. I have been feeling Braxton Hicks contractions (false contractions) for a couple of weeks so when I first felt contractions at 1 am, I brushed it off. But then – it became different. The pain became much deeper and heavier, so I knew it was it! I didn't bother to tell Andrew though, who was sleeping beside me, since they tell you to wait around until 4-1-1 (which is contractions every 4 minutes lasting 1 minute long and sustained for an hour). I tried to sleep without much luck and by 4 am, I knew it was time to go. I nudged Andrew and told him "Honey, this is it. We're meeting Heidi today."

My baby bumps.

We excitedly and nervously got ready and hugged our parents and headed off to St. Joseph's Hospital in Toronto. I called my midwife on the way there, feeling contractions closer to every 2 minutes. We totally assumed that I probably had a long way to go since I wasn't feeling that uncomfortable. The pain was bearable and I didn't look anything like the pictures they show you of the face that you're supposed to make when you're going into labour. But once we got in and the midwife checked me, I was already 5cm dilated and pretty close to go into active labour. I knew I didn't want to get any drugs going into it, not because I felt like I was super strong, but because it can often make labour longer and sometimes lead to complications. Plus, my sister did it twice without an epidural so I figured we may have similar pain tolerance.

Look how happy and okay I looked at the beginning!

So then I felt everything. And that pain was nothing like I could have imagined. While I felt that the contractions were quite endurable (I even joked to Andrew that I didn't understand why people would ask for an epidural at all), when it was time for pushing, I completely broke down. My midwife told me that every single woman comes to a point where they hit a wall and feel like they possibly can't do it anymore. I hit that wall pretty hard and soon enough I was screaming "I CAN'T DO IT. I JUST CAN'T DO IT. MAKE IT STOP. MAKE IT STOP!!" It was especially hard for me since Heidi, while not being breeched, was "sunny side up" which means she was facing up and out to my stomach. Her head was down but she kept turning forward instead of facing my back. My midwife would then have to reach inside and turn her head while I pushed (and screamed and screamed). OH my Lord, every time she put her hand in there I could feel it and I felt like everything was burning and ripping. SO MUCH FRKIN PAIN.

But nothing lasts forever, thank the Lord. When I started to feel hopeless and delirious with pain, my midwife told me to try and feel her head that was just crowning. At first I refused because I didn't want to know what was going on down there. But she insisted and it was the best advice she could give me at that point. As soon as I felt her warm head I felt a rush of urgency – that I needed to get her out!! I refocused and gritted my teeth and pushed and pushed. And then! After 8 hours of labour and 45 minutes of pushing – there she was!! My baby! So alive and so real. I will never forget that moment: Andrew's elated face that searched my eyes to thank me, my body's huge sigh of relief, and Heidi's tiny body pressed against mine. I instinctively started to sing to her when she couldn't settle down and for the first time I felt like her mother as she calmed down and snuggled peacefully in my arms. This was my child and I was gonna love her with my whole being.

Someone's falling in love real hard, real fast.

That's how Heidi came into the world. Only now have I realized that the birthing was actually the easy part of motherhood, the hard part was just beginning! But I discovered the real beauty is that day by day I fall in love with her more and the day before that will always be a precious memory. I'm so thankful to have experienced giving birth and I'm so grateful that I gave birth to a healthy little girl. I know it's truly a miracle and I promise to never take it for granted.

My happy girl Heidi is now almost 9 months!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Back to the café

I don't even know where to begin. So much has happened in my life that it's almost silly to play catch-up. But if there's one thing I've learned in the past few years, it's that we have a surprising capacity to love, feel, and experience life. And more importantly, that I myself have an earnest need to express all of that. Despite my hesitation to call myself a "creative individual" (even if I work in the creative field),  I realized that I indeed have the hunger to create. I need an outlet to fill that creative craving and every artist needs a stage, right? 

So that's why I'm back.

My blog milk and honey café is more appropriate than ever. I started and named this blog after a café that I hoped to open one day. It was a cheesy and ambitious dream of a university student 8 years ago. (Can you believe it's been 8 years?) I named it milk and honey, after the promise that God makes to His people - that He would deliver His people from slavery and pain, to a prosperous land that God has prepared. I wanted a café where people could go to find peace, beauty and community. And so I made a blog that shared bits and pieces of my life that brought me peace, showed me beauty and gave me community - through FOOD! I baked and baked and baked, mostly because I was a hungry college student and had lots of free time and even more hungry friends. I baked so much that people still know me as Sarah the Baker (I actually just ran into a friend today and asked me how my baking business was going haha). I was never a professional baker and I hardly bake any more, but I want to continue this blog—not necessarily as a baking blog—but a place to share life, just like how I intended my café to be. I want to talk about motherhood (oh yes! I am a mother now!), design inspirations (if you didn't know, I am a graphic designer by profession), craft ideas, music and, yup, lots of recipes too. 

It's gonna be tough to commit, I know.  I'm a new mom – I barely have time to do chores and sleep, let alone quality time for myself! But I'm gonna take it post by post and just enjoy it! And I really hope you enjoy it too. Let's share fun and lovely stuff in our lives, laugh a lot (mostly at me) and get inspired. 

Wanna sit down and stay a little while?

p.s. I just revamped the design of the blog but there may be a few discrepancies for all of the older posts. If the photos look a bit wonky and if there are missing links, I apologize! Let's just pretend it looks okay, yeah? Thanks!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Real Valentine's Day

Yes yes, it's another post on Valentines Day. If you've got a long roster of food blogs on your reader, or enjoy food communities tastespotting or foodgawker and the like, chances are, you've seen plenty of Valentine's Day themed treats. Of course, there's red velvet everything – whoopie pies, crépes, lollipops, brownies and even a red velvet cheese ball (yikes!) – you name it, and everywhere you go there's enough pink and red to make even a 5 year old girl go nuts. I've definitely done my share of talking about Valentines Day (Be Mine, Love) and I myself enjoy making a bit of extra income doing my annual V-Day Cupcake Sale. Sure, this "holiday" is probably just a big fat business scam to many, but isn't it quite funny how so many of us still fall for it every single year?

But maybe we miss the point when we keep analyzing it. Last year, I've written about finding my own meaning to what "Love" is and I've shared how I wanted to express it during Valentine's Day. That's all nice and dandy, sure. :) But this year, I realized, "Hey – what's wrong with showing a little extra effort to someone you love?" What's wrong with finding an occasion to celebrate love just for the sake of celebrating love? What's wrong with a guy finding the courage to buy roses and chocolate to the girl he's always had a crush on; or a little girl excited to send a candy-gram to the friends who's always been kind to her? Alright alright, it's getting a bit cheesy now, but my point is, when we stop trying so hard to find fault in everything around us, it frees us to enjoy and value the little things in life!

So dear ladies and gents, why not pick up your spatulas and express your love through the wondrous creation of "baked goodies" this year? And make it GOOD, with love, with extra-effort. And make it from scratch! It tastes soooo much better than the boxed mixes and your Valentine will surely be impressed!

Here are my favourite recipes and some decorating tips!

valentine's day

1. This is my classic Red Velvet Cupcakes with Brownie Hearts. I do a special sale of these babies every year and I've received so much love for them. The brownie hearts are especially loved and it's such a cute little touch to the classic red velvet cupcake.

sparkling cupcakes

2. Dragees (silver sugar balls) are always such an elegant and sparkly decoration for your cupcakes. You can easily buy them at your local bulk barn (bulk food store) or Michaels (craft & baking store).


3. You can never get enough chocolate during Valentine's Day. Try making these Chocoholic Cupcakes with Rich chocolate cake and smooth milk chocolate frosting.

flower bridal shower

4. Can't afford a dozen of roses? I totally understand – the prices during V-Day is absolutely ridiculous! Well why dont you make a dozen of cupcake roses? These aren't the crazy intricate roses that I'm sure many of us struggle to ice, but they're cute and simple! They definitely do the job. All you need to do for these cupcakes is use a offset spatula for the white frosting part. And use a normal star tip for the rose. Just swirl OUT to IN in the middle of the cupcake.

how precious

5. Ahh, the good old heart decorations. But try using some more modern and unique colours and styles! Maybe not purple like this one, but play around with your design to keep it original.

strawberry cupcakes

6. Here is a delicious and elegant cupcake! These Strawberry Cupcakes are one of my favourites and I think my unique decorations may relieve you of the heart-theme fatigue.

Alright, so I think I've got plenty of cutesy decoration ideas for all the lovebird bakers out there... but how could I forget the lovely ladies and gents who don't really have someone to bake for. Valentine's Day is also a perfect day for my single friends to indulge just the same. ;) Here are some ideas for good ol' vegging. ❤

the baked brownie

1. Rich, delicious brownies. Doesn't get any more indulgent than this. Make sure you use the best chocolate you can get your hands on. Remember, it's V-Day – you can spoil yourself a little. :)

chewy chocolate chip cookie

2. Chewy Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies. And this is a must: Make it fresh and eat it right out of the even with some ice-cream. It will surely make the whole world feel better. :)

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

3. Chocolate Toffee Cookies are perfect to soothe your sweet tooth!

best buttermilk pancakes

4. Make yourself the best buttermilk pancakes with lots of fresh fruit and even more syrup. Don't forget the whipped cream. Hehe! Also, make sure you're in your PJs.

Alrighty -- I hope this post has inspired you to take some time loving your friends, lovers, and yourself! I'd even love it if you told me what ideas you have in mind for next week! Share some of your favourite Valentine's Day recipes and rituals!!

I wish everyone a very happy and cheerful Valentine's Day!!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Craving the Sun

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

I love Winter. I love the snow and even the blizzards (it's exciting!). I love the sight of the snow-covered city and the sight of people bundled up head to toe. But if there's one thing I can't stand about winter time, it's that it gets pitch black by 5:00 pm. The shortened day killllls me. I hate walking home at 5:30 PM feeling like it's 10 PM. By the time I'm home and cooking dinner, there isn't even a trace of the sun. This also greatly effects my window of opportunity for food photography, as I greatly dislike taking photos in the evening with tungsten light.

View from my kitchen

Being able to bask in (and take food photos in) sunlight is a rare opportunity and this luckily, this Saturday was a beautiful one with plenty of sunshine. So when I woke up, I started the day with a mission. I promised I'd spend my day to make something really delicious and take a gazillion photos of it. I flipped through cookbooks, bookmarks, various blogs and food sites to find the right recipe. I wanted something some-what time-consuming to take full benefit of my free Saturday and something refreshingly different than what I've made here before. And there I saw it: Toasted Almond Dacquoise.

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

I've had this cake at a birthday celebration before, made from Dufflet Pastries and I was blown away. I loved the delightful texture of the chewy/crunchy meringue and the pleasantly un-sweet berry-licious whipped cream filling. I knew I wanted to make it when I took a bite out of it, so when I saw a recipe that alluded to this cake, I instantly knew it was the one! I also happened to have a jar full of almonds and a container of berries in my refrigerator. Perfect!

The dacquoise is delightful cake layer that is used in a lot of fancy cakes, but don't be fooled by it's harsh sounding name – it's so easy to make! I found this wonderful recipe from Zoe Bakes and I think she describes it perfectly! "It's a light meringue that has nuts folded into it and baked in a thin layer. The dacquoise is crisp and used to add a sweet, nuttiness to your cakes. I love the contrast of a dacquoise with a soft sponge cake and a fruit mousse in the summer or with layers of rich chocolate in cooler weather." Are you in love yet?

(And this time, I had a whole day to bake so I made it a good one. Here's a step-by-step photo post for you!)

Toasted Almond Daquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

This recipes calls for almond meal, and you're free to buy them that way, but you can also just make your own. I happened to have almonds at home, so I toasted them (to make them more fragrant and delicious) for just about 8 minutes or so in a preheated oven at 350F. When cool, I grounded them in a blender/chopper.

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

Next step is to preheat the oven to 225F and prepare your baking tray. Prepare sheets of parchment paper by drawing circles that match the size of the cake you are going to bake. The original recipe was for a 9-inch cake and so she used a cake cardboard round, but I wanted to make cute single-serve desserts so I used a glass instead.

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

In a small bowl, mix the almond meal and 1/4 cup of sugar. Set aside. (I know you can see big chunks of almond here. I know it should be almond MEAL, but I actually liked having almond chunks in my cake before, so I kept a few in there.)

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

Now, it's time to whip the egg whites. A few tips here:
1. You probably need some sort of electronic mixer for this. I don't doubt you have the muscle-strength to whip eggs into its voluptuous state, but it's just really really hard work. It doesn't have to be stand mixer, though. I hand-held mixer is perfect.
2. Make sure your bowl is completely clean. Any traces of yolk, fat or soap, and these babies won't rise.
3. Have all the ingredients set out and ready. You want a steady and smooth transition when you're adding sugar and such, so it's great to have it all ready by your mixing bowl instead of letting the air die down while you prepare your next cups of sugar.

Beating Meringue

Whip the egg whites on low speed until they start to foam, about 45 seconds. Add the 2 tablespoons sugar to the whites and continue to whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Once the whites form soft peaks slowly add the 2/3 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks are formed and the sugar, about 2 minutes.

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream
Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

Time to whip out your spatula. Add the almond meal in two batches, folding them in gently after each addition. Don't overbeat! Fold in only until the almond meal is well distributed. You know your proper "folding" technique, right? Cut down the middle, scoop around the edge, rotate the bowl and repeat!

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

Now, you need a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (or in my case, no tip at all – I couldn't find mine) and fill it with the dacquoise. The fun part: pipe spirals to fill the circles you've drawn on the parchment. It should be around 1/8" - 1/4" thick.

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

The hard part: Bake the dacquoise at 225° until dry, about 65-85 minutes. (My little circles took around 70 minutes.) Why is it hard? That hour and a bit feels like forever when you're smelling the delicious almond meringue cooking in the oven! You can use this almond dacquoise recipe in a whole lot of delicious little desserts. I hope to try different cakes with this recipe! Oh, and did I tell you that this treat is gluten-free? This meringue-based cake is a great alternative to flour cakes!!

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

When your dacquoise layer is baked, let it cool on a rack. It's time to make delicious whipped cream with berries! Make sure your heavy cream is cold and straight out of the fridge. You're just going to whip the cream with a dash of pure vanilla extract and when it starts to hold shape, add about 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar (add and subtract depending on how sweet you want it). I like mine whipped to its hardest peak, just try not to curdle it! Fold in your berries and voila – your delicious berry whipped cream.

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

For my little treat cakes, I sandwiched two pieces of dacquoise between the cream, with more cream and berries on top. I even sprinkled some almond meal and dusted it with powdered sugar for extra prettiness. :)

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

So there it is! A very delicious delicious dessert that I know you'll love as much as we did at home. After one bite, Andrew asked me, "Do you have any more? I think this is the best thing I've had in a loong time!" It was soo delicious!

And yes yes - this is more of a summer treat, what, with the berries and whipped cream and all. It's not quite fitting with the winter season, but think of it this way: how brilliant is it when you can create a bit of sunshine in your own kitchen? Cheers!

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Sweet Berry Cream

Toasted Almond Dacquoise with Berry Whipped Cream
makes 9 little cakes or one 9" cake
recipe adapted from Zoe Bakes

2/3 cups almond meal (1/3 cup whole almonds, finely ground)
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cups egg whites (about 5 large)
2/3 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar (separate)

2 1/2 cups heavy cream, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoon powdered sugar
2 cups fresh berries (you can also use frozen fruit)

1. Toast whole almonds in a preheated oven at 350°F for 8 minutes. Grind them finely in a food processor or blender/chopper
2. Prepare parchment paper by drawing circles that match the size of the cake you are going to bake. In my case I used a small glass. Preheat the oven to 225°.
3. In a small bowl, mix the almond meal and 1/4 cup sugar and set aside.
4. Whip the egg whites on low speed in a mixer until they start to foam, about 45 seconds. Add the 2 tablespoons sugar to the whites and continue to whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Once the whites form soft peaks slowly add the 2/3 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks are formed and the sugar, about 2 minutes.
5. Add the almond meal in two batches, folding them in gently after each addition. Make sure you only fold until almond meal is well-distributed.
6. Place the dacquoise in to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe in a large spiral until you have filled in the circles drawn on the parchment. it should be about an 1/8″ thick.
7. Bake the dacquoise at 225° until dry, about 65-85 minutes. Place on rack to cool.

For the cream:
1. In a mixer with a whisk attachment, whip heavy cream with vanilla extract until it starts to hold shape. Pour powdered sugar and add more to taste.
2. Add berries and fold until well-incorporated.

Assemble with prepared dacquoise, adding pretty details like powdered sugar and almond bits.