The author (left) with her brother Mario and his birthday cake, and sister Mariella

Ever since I was 6 years old, I have always loved to help out in the kitchen. Whether it was to wash the plates or to help mix ingredients, I enjoyed it all.

Some of my earliest memories in the kitchen are with my older sister, Brielle. She and I would have scrambled egg-making contests to see who could make the yummiest eggs. We also used our egg-making skills to prepare breakfast in bed for special events like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and even birthdays.

I went from making eggs to pancakes, to cookies, to savory meals and now to my favorite, cakes.

As the lockdown gave my family more and more time together in the kitchen, we became more adventurous in our cooking. Since we stopped eating out completely, my mom and I took the initiative to recreate some of our favorite restaurant dishes at home. We even added our own twists to the recipes.

Together, we’ve made crepes, stews, pies, roasts, cakes and much more. For us, new recipes and new ingredients are like new adventures. While some are delicious, others sadly don’t turn out as planned, but we learn along the way.

Of all the things to cook, I like baking cakes the most. Even before the lockdown, I would make birthday cakes for my family members. For my brother Mario’s recent fourth birthday, I made a three-layered vanilla cake with a yummy buttercream frosting. I put rainbow sprinkles and a fire truck on top, his favorites, to make it extra special.

I also like cooking because it’s a cool way to learn about math, science and art. Plus, it helps me develop patience and perseverance. Many times, the recipes don’t turn out the way I would like them to. The challenge then becomes to find out why, so I can improve. Yes, it can be disappointing, but it can also be very rewarding because when I get it right, I get to share what I make.

With all the good food and the challenging experiments, the kitchen—my classroom and more this pandemic—will always be a happy place for me.

Chicken Lickin’ Noodle Soup

Chicken Lickin’ Noodle Soup

(Because it makes you want to lick the bowl clean!)1 whole chicken

1 Majestic ham bone or 1 pack pork bone broth (the one for Chinese hot pot)

1 pack Korean Bibigo chicken soup or chicken bouillon

About 8 c water

2 Tbsp butter

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 big onion, finely chopped

1 c carrots, chopped

1 c celery, chopped

Egg noodles

1 c milk

Salt and pepper

¾ c fresh parsley, chopped

Put the whole chicken, ham bone and Korean Bibigo chicken soup pack in a large stockpot with about 6-8 cups of water and bring to a steady boil.

Remove the chicken, let cool and discard the ham bone.

Shred the chicken meat and save for later. Save the soup base.Melt butter in a large stockpot. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery, and saute until tender. Pour the soup base and add shredded chicken meat. Add milk. Add egg noodles and cook. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve hot and enjoy.

Ooey-Gooey Carbonara

(Because the cream and the yolk make it gooey)

500 g pancetta or bacon, cut into bits

2 c cooking cream

Chicken bouillon

3 Tbsp Parmesan

Pepper

3 egg yolks

Fresh parsley

½ c pasta water

Spaghetti

Fry the pancetta/bacon bits (no oil). Add the cooking cream and then reduce to half. Add chicken bouillon, to taste. Add Parmesan. Add pepper, to taste, then remove from heat source.

In a separate pot, cook the spaghetti al dente. Once cooked, combine the sauce with pasta noodles and pasta water. Add yolks and mix. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley. Serve hot and enjoy.

Mario’s Vanilla Birthday Cake with Buttercream Frosting

For the cake:

3⅔ c cake flour, sifted

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

1½ c softened butter

2 c granulated sugar

3 large eggs, plus 2 additional egg whites

1 Tbsp of pure vanilla extract

1½ c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F or 177°C. Grease three 9-inch cake pans and line with greased parchment paper.

Whisk cake flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together. Set aside.

With a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together for about 3 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs, egg whites and vanilla extract on high speed until combined. Add the dry ingredients, then add buttermilk and mix. Make sure there are no lumps.

Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans and bake for around 20 minutes or until no batter sticks to a fork when inserted into the cakes.

When the cakes are done, let them cool off completely on a wire rack. The cakes need to be completely cool before frosting and assembling.

For the buttercream frosting:

1½ c softened butter

5½ c confectioners’ sugar

⅓ c whole milk

1½ tsp pure vanilla extract

⅛ tsp salt

Using a mixer, beat the butter until creamy, then add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla extract and salt.

You can add more confectioners’ sugar if the frosting is too thin, more milk if frosting is too thick, and an extra pinch of salt if the frosting is too sweet.

Assembly: Use a large serrated knife to slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to flatten them out. Place a cake layer on a stand and frost one layer at a time. Refrigerate the cake for at least one hour before slicing. Top with strawberries or sprinkles and enjoy.

Cooking is an art and baking is a science, so please make sure all your measurements for the cake are precise.

—CONTRIBUTED

The author, 11, is in grade 6. She likes to cook, read books about animals, ride her horses Magnus and Chestnut, and play with her dog Bruno. In her spare time, she also likes making all sorts of slime and cardboard vending machines.

Are you also a passionate home cook and want to be featured? Share with us your story and recipes, along with mouthwatering photos. Send them to [email protected]

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