Cookbook Review & Giveaway: The Hello Kitty® Baking Book

In honor of Hello Kitty's 40th anniversary, blogger, Michele Chen Chock partnered with Quirk Books to release the first-ever licensed Sanrio cookbook! See how you can win a copy of this adorable-y sweet book at the bottom of this post. 

The Hello Kitty Baking Book: Recipes for Cookies, Cupcakes, Pies and More is the perfect book for the Hello Kitty and Sanrio-obsessed. I may have been one of those obsessed collectors of all things Sanrio as a tween. Everything from Keroppi notepads to Pochacco tote bags and Pekkle pencil cases. Those three were my favorite Sanrio characters. For some reason, I wanted to be different and ignored Hello Kitty even though she's the most iconic character, recognized all around the world and loved by children and adults alike. 

The cookbook obviously focuses on Hello Kitty sweets but a few other Sanrio characters also join the fun as templates are included at the back of the book. Templates, that would have been quite helpful to me four years ago when I embarked on a crazy baking project for a friend's daughter's 4th birthday. Yep, it was a Hello Kitty themed birthday and I thought, hey, it shouldn't be that hard to make 24 Hello Kitty-topped cupcakes, 24 HK-shaped cake pops, AND a large HK-shaped sheet cake. Riiiight.  

(Sorry for the unedited photos, this was before I started blogging seriously)

This book would have come in handy while I frantically tried making cake pops look like Hello Kitty, only to have them come out looking like little piggies - I can't bring myself to post the photos of those poor guys. Want to try your hand at Hello Kitty cake pops? Please use this book as your guide - it includes a 4-page spread with instructions and gorgeous photos on how to make a few of your favorite Sanrio friends, look super cute in the form of cake pops. 

Not only are there cake pop how-to's, this cookbook is broken into three categories of cuteness including cookies (Hello Kitty macarons!), cakes & cupcakes and a section on pies, party treats, and more! There are easy-to-make treats such as Hello Kitty brownies where you'll just simply need a template and powdered sugar to create a quick Hello Kitty image atop each slice of brownie. Impressive, yet painless.

Needless to say, this book will be a huge resource for moms (& friends) looking to DIY their sweet little girl's birthday party treats as well as for experienced bakers looking for new and unique ideas to celebrate all things Hello Kitty!

PS. In case you were wondering how I created the cupcake toppers - this was before I was brave enough to work with royal icing so I used what I was familiar with - melted chocolate/candy wafers. Poured into piping bags and traced a HK template (printed from a random image found online) placed under waxed paper (white chocolate for face, dark chocolate for whiskers).  I don't really recommend this method as it was such a hassle to keep warming up the chocolate (not to mention, messy), and the chocolate doesn't dry very smoothly. My original plan was to find a HK cookie cutter and cut out fondant shapes, but I was never able to find one. Of course, now, you can find them with one easy Google search.

Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary review book by Quirk Books but was not compensated or obligated to write this post. All opinions (and Hello Kitty cupcake/cake photos) are my own. 

Thanks to the generous folks at Quirk Books, one of you can win your very own Hello Kitty Baking Book! This book would make a wonderful gift for the Hello Kitty lover in your life, even if they're not a baker - it's a great collector's item to celebrate Hello Kitty's 40th anniversary! 

To enter, please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below - be sure to complete the first mandatory entry [Leave a Blog Comment] by leaving a comment at the bottom of the post answering the question, "Who's your favorite Sanrio character?". The remaining steps are optional. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lil' Sweet (Instagram) Summer

Once again, it's time to bid farewell to summer. I'm always left wondering how the months zipped by when September comes along. The brisk, cool air is upon us and autumn seems to spark change - for me, at least. Maybe it's because September always marks a brand new school year (for students), filled with possibilities. Maybe it's the changing colors of the leaves - always so glorious and awe-inspiring. Maybe it's just the right season to slow down, sip those hot fall-inspired drinks...a time for us to take a breather before the craziness of the holidays.

There were many moments I wanted to share on this blog from my summer, but alas, Instagram takes over again. By now, if you're still a loyal reader, you know that anything goes here. I thought I'd share some highlights from this summer - scenes and eats from New York City, to a little weekend trip the hubs and I took to Rhode Island to celebrate my birthday. I've hashtagged it, #lilsweetsummer. Even if you don't have an account, you can still click on the photos to find out more details and see a larger version on Instagram.

I hope summer has treated you all well!

Product Review: 9th & Elm Hand-Stamped Initial Leaf Necklace + #Giveaway

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to enter the giveaway for this lovely hand-stamped initial leaf necklace from 9th & Elm!

Happy August! It's hard to believe we're halfway into summer and in some parts of the country, it's almost back-to-school time. When I was younger, I used to get excited when August rolled around because it meant my birthday was coming up; but I also got a bit sad because it meant summer would soon be ending. But no need to be sad today, I've got a fun little giveaway for you in celebration of summer and my upcoming birthday!

It's no secret that I love all things handmade and am a big fan of independent designers. In fact, many of the products I've featured in the past through my Lil' Sweet Bites series are from handmade businesses. I'm always on the lookout for unique gifts for family and friends. So when 9th & Elm reached out and introduced themselves, I eagerly explored their site featuring fabulous gifts curated from handmade and independent designers. They have something for everyone - from jewelry, clothing, and accessories to personalized items perfect for wedding and bridal shower gifts!

9th & Elm provided me with a generous $70 credit to shop their site and after searching for a while, I decided on this whimsical hand-stamped initial leaf necklace by designer, Bella Joo. Hand-stamped jewelry seem to be quite trendy these days and I've been eyeing initial necklaces for a while. The pretty mint-colored drop also caught my eye along with the gold leaf - the three elements just complement each other so well. I love the delicately stamped "L" - it's subtle, just the way I like my jewelry. Simple, elegant, yet so gorgeous! I've been wearing it with a simple t-shirt and jeans, as well with a summer dress and cardigan.

I am no fashionista - not in the least, but 9th & Elm makes it easy by hand-picking the best of handmade fashion so you really can't go wrong! [Don't forget to check out the giveaway below]

I decided to share the wealth and gift this fabulous necklace ($34 value, details here) to one lucky reader - to enter, please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below (US residents only, please): a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was provided with shop credit for this product review and I chose to use a portion of the credit to fund this giveaway. All opinions are my own. See my full disclosure policy here.

Recipe: Matcha Ice Cream

Has it really been three years since I first made green tea ice cream (eek, excuse the poor photos!)? That recipe was quite simple and pretty satisfying but recently, I was introduced to Jeni's Ice Creams here in NYC and well, you can say I became a bit obsessed.

Jeni's ice cream does not use eggs and I've made ice creams without but they always turned out a bit melty/watery and not as creamy. Jeni's ice cream base uses cornstarch and cream cheese to hold everything together and creates a dreamy creamy ice cream that is not overly rich as yolk-based ice creams. And, Jeni's is not too sweet - I didn't even have to add extra sugar to balance out the bitter flavor of this matcha ice cream. All this to say, I could indulge in endless scoops of this ice cream compared to others that leave that unpleasant film-y mouth feel.

So, if you've never had Jeni's I suggest you make a beeline to one of their scoop shops, seek out one of their delightful pints, or make some to enjoy at home!

Matcha Ice Cream 
adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home 

I like my green tea strong, but if you like yours less bitter, use 2 tablespoons of matcha powder. Remember, the flavor will dull a bit once it is cold. Omit the matcha if you'd prefer to experiment with Jeni's basic ice cream base. Please take note of the extra steps below if using non-homogenized milk and cream. 

2 cups whole milk*
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) cream cheese, softened
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (30 ml)
2 1/2 tablespoons matcha (green tea) powder

In a small bowl, make a slurry by mixing 2 tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch.

In a medium heat-safe bowl, whisk together cream cheese and salt until smooth.

Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water. Prepare a 1-gallon plastic freezer bag.

In a medium 4-quart saucepan, combine the rest of the milk, heavy cream, sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue boiling over medium heat for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in matcha powder (if possible, sift the powder into milk mixture), then the cornstarch slurry.

Return the mixture to medium-heat and continue cooking until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and carefully pour into the heat-safe bowl containing the cream cheese. Whisk until smooth.

*At this point, if using non-homogenized milk & cream, carefully pour the mixture to a food processor or blender and process for 2 minutes. This process must be repeated after the mixture is chilled, before pouring into the ice cream machine in order to fully homogenize the milk.

Pour mixture into freezer bag, over prepared ice bath. Seal and submerge bag to chill until cold - about 30 minutes, adding more ice if necessary.

Transfer chilled ice cream mixture into ice cream machine/bowl attachment and churn according to manufacturer's instructions, about 20-25 minutes. Store churned ice cream in an airtight container and freeze until firm, about 3-4 hours.

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