Chinatown Cake for Chinese New Year

Posted by Carly Morgan

Today is my birthday!

Birthday brunch

I hosted brunch for my dad’s family this morning and decided I needed a cake for the event. I wanted something extra rich and chocolatey, but I’ve been pretty good about not indulging too much and didn’t want to totally derail myself. So, I thought I’d try my hand at a steamed-ish Chinese style cake like the ones my family gets at the Chinatown bakeries for big events. Typically these are made in steamer baskets, but I don’t have one so this is a simpler version of this light and yummy cake.

This is a perfect cake to make for Chinese New Year next week. The trick to this one is not to over-mix it because the batter needs to be really light (downright foamy) so that it bakes up to this soft and spongy eggy goodness.

Chinese sponge cake

Chinatown Cake for Chinese New Year

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 10 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup cold whipping cream
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the cake flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together and sift.

In a large bowl, whisk together the 6 egg yolks and 5 tablespoons of the sugar. Whisk in the oil and the milk and then fold in the dry ingredients you sifted.

Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites and the other 5 tablespoons of sugar until you get stiff peaks. Fold the whipped egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture gently. Mix until thoroughly combined but don’t mix too much because you want it to be kind of a foamy batter.

Chinese cake batter

Butter two cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Pour the mixture in the pans and tap them on the counter to bring the bubbles to the surface. Baking them one at a time, put a cake pan in the center of a cookie sheet and place in the oven. Add 2 cups of water to the cookie sheet so the cake pan is sitting in the water and bake for 20 minutes. When that cake is ready, pull it out of the oven and bake the other for 20 minutes.

Let the cakes cool completely in the pans and then flip them out gently, removing the parchment paper. Using your mixer, whip the cold cream and powdered sugar (to taste, I like about 1/4 cup) until stiff. Use a spatula to add half of the whipped cream to the top of one cake, put the other cake on top, and finish with the rest of the whipped cream. Top with strawberries or fresh fruit of your choice and dust with powdered sugar.

Chinese new year cake

Freezing Green Smoothies for the Week

Posted by Carly Morgan

Freezing Green Smoothies

I’m really trying hard to get more vegetables into Morgan family bellies. We’re steaming and roasting vegetables for dinner and at lunch we always have a fresh vegetable on the side now. Breakfast, though? Breakfast is tough. I love a good mushroom omelette or a bed of garlicky kale under a runny egg, but when I serve things like that the kids act like they’ve been poisoned. The only way they’ll do veggies happily is if I put them in fruit-flavored smoothies.

Leafy green vegetables

That should be easy enough since I am a stay at home mom with access to my fridge, blender, etc. but it just kept not happening. Part of the issue is that Kyle mostly takes care of the kids in the morning in between getting ready for work because I’m either sleeping in or at the gym. So, by the time I take over breakfast has finished and green smoothies are late to the party. The other issue is that it is a bit of a pain to get all of the fruit and vegetables out so I can wash, peel, and blend them up. I also kept forgetting to keep fresh produce in stock so I would be faced with uneven smoothies (too much green, not enough citrus) or smoothies made with questionable produce (how slimy is too slimy?). Yes, first world problems here, but even though I had good intentions I was constantly missing the green smoothie mark.

I finally solved this by doing the whole week’s worth of green smoothies in one shot. I shortened my Monday morning workout a little bit so I’d have time to hit the grocery store on the way home. Now I load up on smoothie ingredients, go home, and use them all up making a week’s worth of smoothies (9-12 at a time).


Blendtech green smoothies

I use pint-sized freezer jars to freeze them in (the kind you buy in the baking aisle at the grocery store) and leave about an inch and a half at the top so the smoothies can expand. In the morning, I pull one out before I go to the gym and when I get back it’s usually a good slushy consistency. We did have a couple of mornings where it was so cold outside, nothing was defrosting in our drafty house, but I figured out that if I put the frozen smoothie in my 2-cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup and microwaved it for 20 seconds, I could pull it out, stir it with a fork, and enjoy it just fine. And for mornings where I don’t go to the gym, I leave the smoothie out on the counter and we enjoy it around tea time when everyone is ready for a snack but we aren’t close to lunchtime yet.

Frozen green smoothies

Fair warning: I’ve found that not all smoothies work as easily as others after freezing. This really works best for smoothies that don’t have a lot of lumps, so when I did one that had big chunks of banana mixed with soy butter (among other things), it was kind of unevenly frozen even after being defrosted and not as easy to drink. Also, yogurt based smoothies work but they look a little funny after they’ve defrosted so be prepared.

My favorite combinations:

  • kale + orange juice + frozen strawberries + chia seeds + banana
  • apple + ginger root + baby carrots + chia seeds
  • spinach + blueberries + clementines + chia seeds
  • banana + tsp of soy butter + milk + oatmeal
  • kale + lemon juice + frozen blueberries + lavender + chia seeds
  • spinach + tangerines + banana + chia seeds
  • arugula + lemon juice + banana + frozen blueberries

The Finest Hours: A Review and Some Thoughts on Family History in Movies

Posted by Carly Morgan

I took my dad to a screening of The Finest Hours, the new moving Disney is releasing in a couple of days (January 29th). I knew that it was a historical drama about a Coast Guard rescue off the east coast in the 1950s, so I was glad dad was able to come along because his father was stationed in the same general area at the same general time. I also get a lot of my history geek genes from dad so anything that is even slightly accurate is usually a movie we’d both enjoy.

I have to admit, I was a little unsure about this one because I don’t think of the Coast Guard as being particularly exciting. It’s terrible, since my grandfather was in the Coast Guard for more than twenty years, but I don’t hear about big things the Coast Guard is doing so they mostly go unnoticed. (I’m sure it doesn’t help that I haven’t lived by a coast of any kind since I was six years old. Not a lot of Coast Guard action here in Salt Lake City.)

The good news is that the movie was good – definitely better than I had expected – and all of the actors did a great job. Ben Foster in particular stood out as someone who really sank into the role and even though Chris Pine will always be a bit of a pretty boy for me (and maybe a little too pretty to play the bashful main character), he made it work for this one. Fair warning: we saw it in 3D but it’s definitely quite the ocean-y action movie so if you aren’t keen on feeling like you’re actually getting tossed around by giant waves I would go for the 2D showing.

The Finest Hours

I’m actually much more interested in my grandfather’s Coast Guard career now that I’ve seen this movie. The good thing about this one for me is that it was probably spot-on as far as giving me an idea of what being stationed in that area was like since he was in nearly the same place within two years of the date of this movie.

Grandpa in the Coast Guard

Obviously, his service days probably weren’t quite as exciting as Chris Pine and Ben Foster’s were, but I still got an idea of what kinds of things they were sent out to do, how the chain of command worked, what the different jobs were among the men, etc. I also got a good sense of how it was to live near the people who had lived on the coast all their lives (fishermen, etc.) and what it was like to be the Coast Guard wives waiting for the men to come back home after the rescue boats went out.

Grandma and Grandpa

Plus, since my father was born in Massachusetts in November while grandpa was stationed out there, I got a fun look at what the weather would have been like around that time. According to letters I have, grandpa couldn’t be there for dad’s birth, so my grandma would have been doing the single mom thing with her two daughters somewhere near the base in the middle of what looks like an incredibly unpleasant winter. Seriously, how do people live out there with freezing ocean spray and scary ocean blizzards? No bueno.

Scan 28A

I have a bunch of documents from my grandfather’s service, but I haven’t been motivated to piece them together to map out exactly where he was and what he was doing. Having seen this movie, though, I’m going to sit down this weekend and do just that.

Scan 59

Honestly, if you’ve gotten a little bored in your genealogy and you’ve hit a bit of a rut, I would look for a historical film based in the same area/time as your ancestors. Granted, the movies won’t always be a perfect fit for your family’s story, but any historical movie worth its salt will have had researchers working to get all the details right…which means they’ve saved you a lot of work when it comes to recreating a narrative of what daily life looked like!

Also, you should go see that movie. I think it’s one of those that will be better in the theater when you’re seeing it for the first time. Biiiig scary ocean waves and all.

Chinese New Year Picture Books

Posted by Carly Morgan

Chinese New Year is coming up fast! The Year of the Monkey starts on February 8th so you have just about a week and a half until the dim sum starts rolling in.

Chinese New Year 2016 for Kids

Sadly, there isn’t a huge selection of good holiday picture books out there for Chinese New Year. I guess it just doesn’t have the marketing draw that Christmas and Halloween have. We’ve bought our fair share of books that ultimately had poor illustrations or stories that fell flat, so I wanted to do a little round up of books that passed the Morgan children readability test. Not all are strictly Chinese New Year, just to warn you, but each is beautifully done and a good addition to your home or classroom library!

Picture Books for Chinese New Year
Bringing In the New Year by Grace Lin /// Dragon Dance: a Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book by Joan Holub /// My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz /// Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim /// Hiss! Pop! Boom!: Celebrating Chinese New Year by Tricia Morrissey /// Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year by Kate Waters /// The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine /// Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn /// A New Year’s Reunion: A Chinese Story by Yu Li-Qiong /// Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes by Nina Simonds /// Red Is a Dragon: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Thong /// Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin /// In the Snow by Huy Voun Lee

Labor Fears Follow Up – What Was and Wasn’t Worth Worrying About

Posted by Kate Ardohain


Before I went into labor and delivered my baby boy, I wrote a blog post about my labor fears. Now, one month after giving birth, I wanted to take a moment to follow up on those fears and talk about what was and wasn’t worth fretting over.

My list of fears from that blog were as follows:

1. The unknown, including contractions, epidurals, and labor in general.

Let me start this off by saying one thing: labor and delivery are different for every woman. There is no cookie-cutter story or set of experiences that I could type out to make it so all your questions and fears are addressed, but in my experience, it was so easy to fear the unknown and there was nothing I could do about the stress it brought upon me. People can tell you not to worry about it or that there’s no reason to be anxious when you don’t know what’s to come, but let’s be real: you’re going to worry.

A lot of this relates back to my birth story so I’ll be brief here. I was worried for all the right reasons. I didn’t know what I didn’t know but, in all honesty, nothing I experienced during the entire process was horrific. There were moments that I was scared (“time to start pushing”), there were moments when I was in pain (7 contracting hours into labor), there were moments when I was unsure (“it’s always difficult to administer an epidural when someone has this big of a tattoo on their back!” Hardee har har), and there were moments I was extremely uncomfortable (shuffling to the bathroom and being sponged down for 10 minutes by nurses while trying to pee for the first time since the catheter was removed). But it’s all possible. I’m not going to say it was the most pleasurable experience in my life, but, honestly, I would rather give birth again (with an epidural) than go to the dentist to get a cavity filled. Yes, I’m totally serious.

2. Being unsure of my pain tolerance

From what I’ve read, contractions are different for everyone and that’s what I mentioned in this first blog. I wasn’t sure what they would be like for me. In a word: painful. In two words: painful but tolerable (I suppose that’s three words). In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was a contraction or if it was just cramping until it happened again, with the same duration, same cycle, (build up, painful peak, and slow taper) and closer and closer together. I’m not gonna lie, the peak of the contraction, although only about 20 seconds for me each time was pretty painful. It felt like having a period cramp times 50 where you are incapacitated. I couldn’t talk or walk, I just had to breathe (hee-hee-hooo Lamaze style) and rock back and forth while leaning against something (usually Chris).

There was relief between the contractions but when they got so close together, the relieving moments were few and far between and by the time we decided to go to the hospital (7 hours after the first contraction) I was feeling exhausted and extremely uncomfortable. When the time came that the nurse asked me what my plan was for pain management, I immediately said “epidural.” Apparently, 7 hours was long enough for me. It wasn’t that the contractions were excruciating, it was more the fact that they were exhausting. When they got so close together, it was like, as soon as one ended and I could catch my breath and regain myself, another one would start. And the bottom line for me was, no matter what I decided or how this baby came out, I would still be getting the same baby! There’s no “downgraded version” that rears its ugly, misshapen head because you choose to have an epidural. Birth is birth!

3. Tearing / getting an episiotomy

I spoke to my doctor about his thoughts on an episiotomy during my appointment in month 8. He told me that his episiotomy rate was low and that he generally preferred not to do it if it could be avoided. That being said, I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t need any “assistance” because my vagina would magically stretch to the exact size it needed to be and then retract down to its original size by the time I left the hospital with my newborn baby in tow. That, unfortunately was not the case.

I talked a lot about this in my “Things Women Rarely Talk About Postpartum” blog but let’s just be brief and say that I did tear. Not in the muscle, which I am grateful for, but I did have 4 small skin tears around my vagina and urethra. The pain following the birth in the days I came home was, in a word: extreme. It really was something I was not fully prepared for (I’m not really sure how you can ever be prepared for that) and I was tremendously uncomfortable for days, being unable to sit without my donut pillow, and unable to pee without numbing spray. The fear was real, folks. I honestly should have put much more merit into this fear because this was all I was focused on for about 10 days following my hospital stay.

4. That something will go wrong during birth

This one was at the bottom of my list for a reason: I wasn’t that worried about it because I knew that I would be delivering in a hospital and that the medical staff was set to handle 99% of all situations. The only thing that was a little unnerving was the amount of suction they had to use for Steven. Apparently he had taken a gulp of amniotic fluid on his way toward the light and his breathing was muddled and labored when he arrived. The nurses kept using the bulb syringe on him while he was laying on my chest and seeing how difficult it was for him to breathe and cry at such a close proximity was unsettling to say the very least. After about 2 minutes, he was good and had a hearty sob going but those first 120 seconds were difficult for me emotionally.

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