The Idea of Meatless Monday for Finns / Fried Long-life Noodles with Seitan

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You may not know because I haven’t told you yet, I have turned from a waitress/host to a chef for a few weeks now for my sister’s hotel HUONE . It has been fascinating, thrilling and a little tiring. But I was surprised by just how much I love cooking, in a way that working does not feel like work anymore. Sometimes I feel like I have been cooking all the time, which is the truth anyway. But it does not feel bad at all.

I have been enjoying a lot especially from receiving compliment from my customers. Since I started cooking in HUONE, no food has been going to waste, period! ;-) I felt moved every times when I saw those empty plates coming back to the kitchen representing ‘plates licking good’! It has been a rewarding job, a place to be creative, versatile and challenging which I really enjoy. I think I am just the kind of person who simply cannot cope with repetition and homogeneous life.

‘I think’.

The only minus from my work is that I’m cutting and cooking a lot of meat. You know what, it really doesn’t make me feel good. Raw meat smells nasty to me, I feel kind of guilty of cooking them, as if were killing lives. The smell of raw beef is worse, imagine those blood on my hands and knife … But this is my job, to cook and serve to the customers. I’m glad that I’m not a butcher though. Is there a way you could think of?

I have been doing some thinking, what if I serve vegetarian food like out of request? What if I make it tastes so good that nobody would actually realize? Is it possible? Then I tested it on last Monday since they call it Meatless Monday. I was trying to make it sounded good, Pumpkin and Chickpea Curry with Minced Lime Leaves for our buffet lunch. But the thing is, my customers were not happy when they heard the word ‘vegetarian’. To be exact, they had their lips curved downwards after they heard what they have for lunch. They liked the food though, that what they said. No food was going to waste still. But it bothers me because I knew that they didn’t enjoy it, especially men, those Finnish macho men ( no offense guys!). I was told that in Finnish culture, the term ‘vegetarian’ in menus sounds cheap, because it is always the cheapest option. Moreover, for some reasons people tend to assume that they will not get full with vegetarian food, which is not true. Well I think it definitely makes people feel lighter compares to meat dishes.

Am I supposed to convince myself that the concept is not working in our hotel? Shouldn’t I apply my own values and ethics onto my customers? Should I respect the food preference of Finns and just cook what they expect from their lunch, and keep the idea of vegetarianism to myself? You know I have a dream of having a vegetarian Asian restaurant in Helsinki one day. Is it going to happen?

Well, if you have something to say, let me hear your voice. Or should you have some great recipes, share me yours. So that I could test it to my customers on Monday!

Back to the recipe. Last time I promised to share you a recipe with seitan.(Sorry it took so long I’ve been busy!) It is really easy, just add it in noodles, or anywhere to replace meat in meat dishes. Lately I have felt in love with this ‘long-life’ noodles or Yi Mein. Hmm, they are so so good! To me they are best with just fried shallots and a dash of salt. Perfect! Simply irresistible. But today I’m making one that is heavier in taste. Here you go.

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(Serve 2)

Ingredients:

100g Dried long life noodles

100g Seitan

100g Broccoli, chopped into bite size

2 Garlic cloves, minced

2-4 shallots, thinly sliced

1 Chili, sliced (optional)

2 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tbsp Dark Soy sauce

1 tbsp Oyster /Mushroom sauce

1 tbsp Sesame oil

1 tsp Sugar

Dash of white pepper

 

Methods:

1) Boil water in pot, add in some oil and salt. Cook noodles according to instruction or until soft. Drain and set aside.

2) Heat up oil in wok pan, fry shallot until golden brown and fragrant. Add in garlic and seitan. Add oyster/ mushroom sauce and mix well.

3) Throw in broccoli, stir-fry until cooked. Add in noodles and the rest of the ingredients. Stir-fry until everything is well mix. Serve with optional chopped spring onion or coriander.

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I was pretty happy because I made this dish for my brother in law and my sister, they were very surprised and impressed just how good this seitan tasted! In fact my sister asked me to make her another seitan dish the other day. They actually apprecited this type of vegetarian food. You must try and cook this sometimes if you want to get high protein source from your food. Well and again, not for gluten intolerant friends.IMG_4382I don’t really know why this noodles are called long-life or longevity noodles, but it is a dish that we eat during birthdays, Chinese New Year or weddings, since the name represents ‘long-life’,  it acts as a wish to bring the fortune and luck to live longer life to someone. And it tastes good. Win win.

:)

How to eat ‘meat’ without killing any animals / 自制面筋/ Homemade Seitan with Asian flavor

How to eat 'meat' without killing any animals / Homemade Seitan with Asian flavors

I am not a vegetarian but I cook mostly vegetarian food at home nowadays. It’s definitely a healthier option for me. Especially when there is only vegetarian dish on the table, it is so easy to get enough vegetables intake per day without any effort. Even for my husband who always seeks for his protein intake from food, I have got him a solution- my homemade seitan. I bought this vital wheat gluten flour online that contains 75% protein, which is much more than chicken that has around 30%. It is not hard to make, low cost and very versatile in cooking. With seitan, you can make every delicious dish possible meat-freely. I like the texture of seitan, firmer than a firm tofu, a little chewy and you can play around with the taste pretty much any way you like. I have made my seitan a little poultry flavor by adding five spice powder. Read that you can easily twist it by adding seaweed to make it somehow fishy and so on. A perfect option for those who want to give vegetarianism a go!

(Make 4 servings)

Ingredients:

250g Vital wheat gluten flour

250ml Vegetable broth + 1,5 litter for cooking

2 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tbsp Mushroom powder

1 tsp Five spice powder

1 tsp Sesame oil

1 tsp Garlic powder

1 tsp Minced ginger/ ginger powder

Methods:

1. Mix vital wheat gluten flour in a deep bowl with mushroom powder, five spice powder, garlic powder and ginger.

2. Add soy sauce to 250ml of vegetable broth. Slowly pour in the liquid and mix in with the flour. Knit until the dough is formed for about 5 minutes. Cover with dry cloth and let it rest for at least 15 minutes.

3. After resting, knit the dough and divide it to small portions. Cut into smaller pieces as the dough will double its size after cooking.

4. In a deep pot, bring 1,5 litter of vegetable broth to boil, add in the cut dough. Cover with lid and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Let it cool down. Use immediately or keep it in refrigerator in container.

Note: Adding some broth together with cooked seitan in container prevent them from drying out. I have stored cooked seitan in my freezer as well, works just fine!

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IMG_4344This is the second time I made seitan but I always surprised myself each time when I opened the lid to check the doneness of my seitan. My god, you could never expect how big they expand! They almost ‘got out’ from my deep pot! :-D So you wanna have a deep enough pot and not so giant looking pieces when you put them in for simmering.

I really enjoy cooking seitan as I still can eat ‘meat’ dishes without killing any lives. It makes me and my husband very happy after a satisfying meal without feeling guilty and still it is a healthy dish. At least I have not found any studies saying that this thing is not good for you. Of course, nothing is good for you when you eat too much of it. However, this is not for those who suffer celiac disease. Not this time.

Will share out recipe with seitan soon! ;-)

PS: I should definitely cut them into even smaller pieces! :-P

Grandmother’s Prawns with Green Chili /回家过年咯/ Ready for Chinese New Year

IMG_3381It’s been awhile since I wrote last time. Guess what, I finally finished my thesis! 78 pages, I’ll be graduating and getting my Bachelor’s degree in March. :-D FINALLY!

And right after I finished my thesis, I flew back to my home country Malaysia. It’s been 7 years since I last spent Chinese New Year with my family. Like celebrating Christmas, Chinese New Year is a big deal to the Chinese people. During these times, we eat, laugh, talk or actually scream like all the time. Chinese New Year lasts 15 days, you have to have and wear everything clean and new especially on the first few days. Therefore when we got here to Malaysia, my sister and I spent the first couple of days shopping for new clothes, and bought all kinds of food ingredients. It is because people in Malaysia have 6-7 public holidays during Chinese New Year. Shop owners particularly the Chinese people close their shops or stop working for at least a few days, some even rest for 2 weeks. It is a must to travel home and eat ‘Tuan Yuan Fan’ meaning re-union dinner with your family. I was so happy, because after 7 years, I finally made my way home for re-union dinner! My little sister said that this year the atmosphere of Chinese New Year is very strong, just because we are all here celebrating with them… I’m touched, I should make my decision that I will go home for re-union every year. I only need to apply my holiday from work a year before then.

Long story short, my mom asked me to cook since I had the guts to run a food blog publicly. Well, I have to show my skills and prove it to her in reality. So I did. This time I’m making my Grandmother’s own recipe, prawns with a lot of green chilies, my sisters’ favourite. My mom also gave praise for it. And I’m sharing this family’s recipe with you, I hope you will like it! 恭喜发财 Gong Hei Fat Choi!

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Ingredients:

500g Prawns, keep shells

15-20 Green chilli, halved and seeded

4 Medium size onion, sliced

2 tbsp Fermented bean sauce

2 tbsp Soy sauce

2 dl Water

1 tbsp Sugar

1 tbsp Shaoxing Wine

1 tsp Chicken powder

Methods:

1. Cut vertically from the back of the prawns and remove the intestinal track of the prawns, washed and set aside.

2. Heat up oil in wok, put in sliced onion and green chilli, stir-fried for 3-4 minutes until fragrance.

3. Add in prawns, and stir-fry until cooked. Add in fermented bean sauce, soy sauce, sugar, shaoxing wine and chicken powder. Mixed well. Add water, cover with lid and let it simmer for a few minutes.

4. Open the lid, stir-fry until most of the liquid drys up/absorbed by the dish. Turn of heat and serve.

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Just if you are wondering, that one sausage was not supposed to be there! :-D My mom found some left overs… On this day we decided to eat ‘less fancy’ because the next day is the Chinese New Year Eve when we eat our lungs out!

IMG_3421On the Chinese New Year Eve, we were all too busy cooking, eating and having so much fun. I did not care much to take pictures of cooking nor paying any attention in writing down the measurements. Therefore unfortunately I am not sharing out any recipes from the actual day dishes. But we ate well, enjoyed and were really joyful. If you haven’t noticed, we were all in red. :-) (Except our new born baby- Enso) Red represents good luck, and number 8 that means good fortune. If you meet any Chinese people in the next 14 days, you should wish them ‘Gong Hei Fat Choy in Cantonese or ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ in Mandarin. If you are single and not married, you can expect an Angpao or Lai si from an elder Chinese, which is a red pocket that has money inside that will bring you good fortune for the start of the year. :-D

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马年行大运!

Cherry Tomato and Chili Salsa/ Those sweet moments

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I have been really busy. Out of myself, have not even cooked a proper meal within a month. But then I went to the store today. These beautiful, colorful fresh cherry tomatoes completely caught my attention. Wow, they looked so nice that I must buy them ASAP and make some sweet tomato salsa. Just one week ago, my husband took me out for a dinner after another long day at work. We went to this newly opened Mexican restaurant downtown Helsinki that has been always popular since it is opened. Couldn’t get a table though, but we were lucky to have the window bar seats for the two of us. To start, we had guacamole, ceviche and tomato salsa with some freshly made tortilla chips. I was sipping on my Spicy Tamarin cocktail, memorizing those times that me and my husband had during our honeymoon. It was in Mexico, Cancun. Warm sun, crystal blue Caribbean sea. We had been quite poor when we started, therefore traveling to South America was such a luxurious thing to us. The funny thing is, part of our trip was actually sponsored by our wedding guests. We put out a ‘Honeymoon Bank’ at our wedding ceremony which really helped us a lot financially. ;-) Tomato salsa is a lovely thing. In Cancun, we had it at breakfast, as snack, starter, with main and even to end a course. Coronas and Sols were cheaper than water, so we had quite a lot of it as well. :-D Ha ha!

So every time when there is a tomato salsa, it makes me feel good. The sweetness, pungency of the onion, saltiness, spiciness with the smell of coriander are simply irresistible. Today it was outstanding, since all the ingredients were so fresh. It made my day.

Ingredients:

500g Fresh cherry tomatoes (any kind), quartered

2 Medium size Red onion, finely chopped

1 Chili, finely chopped

A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lime

2 tsp Brown sugar

1 tsp of salt

Dash of black pepper

Methods:

1) Place all the ingredients in a deep bowl, mix well. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or serve right away. (Like I did)

2) Add in more chopped coriander for your own preference. Serve with tortilla chips or as a side dish.

Note: If you don’t like spicy food, remove the seeds from the chili before chopping them up. 

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For a healthier approach, I used rye tortilla chips instead of salted corn tortilla chips, which is available in Finnish supermarket. And it worked perfecto!IMG_3358

To be honest with you, I don’t really know what these tomatoes are called. But the darkest one was my absolute favorite! It’s like a bottle of wine that is oak and aged well. Packed with flavors, complicated and has a long lasting taste. The yellow ones are sweeter and unexpectedly, those smallest red ones were lighter in taste. Tell me if I’m wrong, but my palate won’t lie. :-PIMG_3362

IMG_3375Just in case if you are interested, my new goal is to graduate from the university by next February and I’m having more time now to concentrate on my thesis. I’m also feeling more chilled now, learning how to relax and take things easily. But I bet I will be writing my thesis during my Christmas holiday though.

On the other hand, my sister delivered to a baby boy named Enso, and I’m totally in love with him! Watching him simply makes me happy, and my stress immediately goes away whenever I see him, what a miracle!

Here is a picture from our honeymoon in Mexico:21971_251791664590_5658517_n

Cheers to all of you, and have a nice weekend!<3

Golden Pumpkin Rice/ 金瓜饭/ Living in a busy life

 

IMG_3209Halloween is coming, pumpkins are everywhere to be seen. Is it the same in all countries? I love seeing pumpkins, not only that I wish to know how to carve them and put candles inside them, they also remind me very much of Cinderella. You know, when the fairy flicked her magic wand and turned a pumpkin into a beautiful, glamorous carriage, and then Cinderella went to the castle with that and met her Prince Charming. And as you know eventually they live happily ever after. I know It sounds childish which I admit, but this story always make me feel like: Awww… I want that too. I know that it is never going to happen to me unless you are Kate Middleton, well literally. And in real life, it’s simply impossible to have a little tiny fairy to turn a pumpkin into a carriage. Very disappointing. I would really like to blame Disney for lying to all the innocent children out there, for letting them to believe in stories and things that do not exist. Sadly but truly this world is not as wonderful as we were told, and animals are not friends, most of us eat them. I’m thinking that it might be a bad attempt to over protectively keep children inside the ‘wonderful world’ bubble and away from the reality. They will then face too many bad surprises when they grow up.

Well, we all grew up just fine. Maybe it is just best to let them enjoy the perfect childhood when good people and heroes always win and bad people will always be punished. At least the believe itself is beautiful. :-)

Back to the pumpkins. They are not just for decoration and their seeds. See? You can make a super delicious meal like this one, which my mom taught me. Translated directly from Chinese, it is called Golden Pumpkin Rice. My mom used to make this dish back then. I remember many times a row she did not succeed and accidentally turned the pumpkin rice into a pumpkin porridge. But, it tasted still really good. Pumpkin itself is sweet and has a unique fragrance, together with the flavor of sauté shallot and the sweetness from juicy paprika. Man! I’m in heaven! Guess what, this time I managed to make it perfect! My god, it tasted so good, the texture is there, the flavor is there and the nutrients are there. I kept telling my sister and my mom so proudly and kept explaining how great it was when the flavor lingered in my mouth. You have no idea. You simply cannot describe. It was so good that I must squeeze out time from my busy life and share this recipe with you!!

Warnings:

I’m gonna take it a bit slower now with my blog, as some of you might probably be wondering already. If you are here only for the recipe, scroll down please. :)

I started this blog as a thesis project for my bachelor degree, and I’m about to graduate at the end of this year. The thing is, my full-time job is getting busier now, at the same time with my band we are making new materials for our next album, my blog is also taking a bit too much energy from me… On top of that I just moved to a new home, my mom came to visit to Finland for 2 months, my sister is delivering a baby next week. I’m so out of myself. In fact, (if you are still reading) I had some sort of panic/ stress disorder last week and needed to go to the doctor. Well as expected, too much is too much. So I’m going to slow down my pace a little and try to prioritize what I do. I thank my followers and WordPress.com for bringing me such great attention every now and then. It makes me so excited and I don’t wanna stop! So I promise you, whoever are still reading this, I will write for you. ;-)

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Ingredients:

400g Diced pumpkins

200g Shrimps ( omit for vegetarian& vegan)

6 Shallots, thinly sliced

6 Shiitake, diced

1 Red Paprika, diced

2 Spring Onion, diced

2 cups/ 320g Raw rice

1 tbsp Soy Sauce

1 tbsp Black soy sauce

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp White pepper

4 cups/ 640 ml Broth/ Vegetable stock

Methods:

1) Heat up 2 tbsp of oil in wok and fry shallots until brown and fragrant. Add in diced pumpkins, shrimps, shiitake and stir fry until the pumpkins are cooked/ soften.

2) Add in rice, paprika, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well.

3) IF YOU HAVE A RICE COOKER: Add in 1 cup/160ml of broth or vegetable stock and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Turn off heat and put everything into the rice cooker. Add the remaining 3 cups/ 480ml of stock and cook it through. Stir once when the rice is done and keep warm for 5 minutes.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE A RICE COOKER: Add in all the broth or vegetable stock and bring to boil. Keep stirring to prevent sticking from the bottom. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover with lid and let it steam for 20 minutes.

4) Serve with chopped spring onion/ fried onion.

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I will be back!

Wish me luck for my thesis.

Oh yes, Happy Halloween to you! :-)

Penang Char Kway Teow/ 素食炒粿条/ Fried flat rice noodle

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Char Kway Teow is said to be a dish symbolizes the Chinese people who came to Malaysia in the very beginning from the South of China. It is a street dish tossed with high heat and it generates high turnovers, like the hard-working Chinese people. It is true that these Chinese people are everywhere around the world. You see, every corners I’ve been, there are always Chinese restaurants somewhere, no matter if they are selling sweet & sour , thai food or sushi. They are all very hard-working business people. They go everywhere around the globe to look for opportunities.

As I said a thousand times before, I love noodles. Char Kway Teow is rice noodles coated with soy sauce, garlic and most importantly, packed with a strong, burned ‘wok’ flavor. Just like a perfect plate of fried rice, you got to have the ‘wok’ taste in it then you can call it right. You know, those that you might have gotten from the best restaurant in town. To get the ‘wok’ taste, it’s all about the ‘woking’. You’ve got to have your wok steaming hot and stir it real fast. With my home stove, the ‘wok’ flavor I managed to get was from the slightly bit of burning, and yet it is not the same like the one from the street back home. Unless you have a really big fire and a steady wok pan, you must let it burn a little in order to get there.

Char Kway Teow is a popular dish favored by all ages, always. Back home, you can get one steaming hot portion of Char Kway Teow with 50cent, maximum 1 Euro. The street hawker always ask: ‘With or without chili?  With or without eggs? With or without clams?’ Anyway it is just as good, so easy! If you have a super good, well heated stove at home, even only the dark soy sauce will do it perfect. It is not difficult to make, and it still tasted so good on the next day from the microwave. :-) What an efficient dish!

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Note: For a more authentic version, add some shrimps in and if you have, try clams. In Malaysia, some even like to have the clams raw in the noodles, so they are tossed in just before serving. But I don’t recommend doing so unless you have a really good stomach and really fresh clams. If I were you, I would make more portions, because it has never been enough! :-DIMG_3008

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(Make 4 servings)

Ingredients:

250g Dried flat rice noodle, soaked until soft

4 Garlic cloves, minced

50g Bean Sprouts

50g Chinese Cabbage, sliced

1 Firm Tofu, fried and cubed

Spring Onion, chopped

3 Eggs (optional)

4 tbsp Soy sauce

2 tbsp Chili paste (optional)

2 tbsp Dark soy sauce

Pinch of Salt

Dash of white Pepper

Fried Onion

Methods:

1) Heat up wok pan until it’s steaming hot, fry garlic with oil until golden brown. Add in chili paste. (Be careful!)

2) Add in the noodles, soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Stir with high heat until the noodle is well coated and dried.

3) Toss in all the vegetables and tofu. Mix well. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Wait until the eggs are half-way cooked and then stir well with the noodles.

4) Season with salt and pepper. Dish up and enjoy with fried onion.

 

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IMG_3086I have to take this picture because it was the third plates he took of that dish! My husband usually dislike carbohydrates, but this time, he couldn’t resist! ;-)

Self-made Marzipan Babies / Organizing a baby shower/ It’s a BOY!

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Yesterday my friend Laura and I organized a baby shower to my sister, Evon who is 9 months pregnant. It was our first time to organize an event like this.  I’m glad that the party went perfectly well without having the possible fuss of sudden baby delivery. Who knows?! I also felt touched to see Evon smiled and laughed so happily, which you could tell from her face all day long. I am glad that many of our friends showed up.  As you know foreigners like us, we don’t really have many friends nor family around, since this is not the place we grew up after all. The stereo type Finnish people are quite introvert and independent that I find it difficult to win their hearts. Therefore every effort they put and time they sacrifice to us, it means so much to us. We are very thankful and will always keep it to our hearts.

Not only that our friends came, they brought drinks, decoration, and gifts like diapers, pacifiers, baby wipes, baby clothes and etc. It was so fun to see those small little things that none of us are familiar with! We also played games like guessing the tummy width and baby names. Despite the reality, my husband and I have been calling the baby ‘Kasimir’ which is a Nordic or Russian name that sounds like Cashmere. :-D He he he… Evon and her husband have always hated it but since they never tell the baby’s name, Kasimir sounds just fine to us. For food, Laura and I made a table full of Spanish pinchos and omelets as well as Mexican tortilla chips with guacamole.  Laura also made her signature Mango cake, which I have previously modified to a Strawberry version, click here for recipe. To fit the theme, I decided to make baby decoration for the cake. It was my first time ever to make a decor like this. Luckily I have experience playing with clay as a kid, and those baby images found from Google did make me believed that I can make it too. Why not? No tools or what so ever, it’s okay! I used my imagination. ;-)

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Big thanks to Ksenia and Laura for sending me the pictures! :)

(Make 3 babies)

Ingredients:

80g White color Marzipan

1tsp Cocoa Powder

1tsp Vodka/Gin (More for diluting)

Methods:

1. Knead marzipan until it is soften and workable. Divide in 3 parts to make 3 babies.

2. To make a baby, take 1/3 of divided marzipan and roll into a ball to make a baby head. Use your thumbs to press on the ‘face’ to resemble eye sockets. (See image below)

3. Take 1/4 from the rest of the marzipan and roll into a long strip for making legs and arms. Arms should be thinner and smaller, and legs should be thicker and bigger.

4. Make the rest of the marzipan into the shape of an egg to resemble the body part. Make the lower part of the body rounder and bigger to resemble the tummy. Use fork to make chest lines.

5. Use any left-over or steal a small piece somewhere to make a tiny nose and ears. Use knife and fork to make shapes of the fingers and toes. (Repeat step 1-5 to make another 2 babies)

6. Mix cocoa powder with vodka/gin. Use a toothpick to dip the color and draw eyes and mouth carefully.  Dilute the color by adding more vodka/gin and brush it on the body to make it looks more real.

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Be creative of baby posing! :-)IMG_2894

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My Malaysian friends said that they looked really scary and would cause them nightmares, while my Finnish friends loved them and said: ‘How cute! How cute!’ You see, cultural differences. But hey, it will work for Halloween too! Be prepared! ;-)1383184_10151896756977840_2083112697_n