Oh Sweet Day!

To Ethan – Six years old

October 22, 2014 by Fanny | 1 Comment

Dear Ethan,

Today you turn six years old.

So let’s start there. School. AND SO IT BEGINS. Grade one! I remember the last exam I took in college and the feeling afterward – like I’d just been let out of a prison I had been in since I was five years old. So welcome to that prison. Except it’s worse! You have to take tests and earn good grades. At least in prison you can write on the walls and hit people!


You know, when your father and I thought about having kids, I never really considered that I was going to have to live through school all over again. But here I am getting up early with you, making sure you’re there on time, worried about whether or not you’re meeting your goals, and preemptively throwing up at the thought of the physics exam you are going to take in eleventh grade.

Maybe because you are a lot like me, you like to perform things well. I remember when you were still learning to write letters, if you accidentally wrote an S backwards you would tear up the piece of paper, pull out a fistful of hair, and declare that you’d never write S again, because S IS BAD! Now if you answer 12 x 5 = 50 instead of 60 because you miss the tenth by mistake, you will break that pencil in half and declare that you’ll never be able to do math ever in the rest of your life. I SO UNDERSTAND. Because I know exactly how you are feeling. It’s called the We Are All Going To Die Homeless And Alone. I am pretty familiar about how it feels.


So you are doing 12 x 5, 365 + 499, 1/5 + 2/5… It’s true. Your math skills are at a level that no one is quite prepared to deal with. You are thriving at math. Sometimes you can’t wait to get up in the morning and start doing your workbooks. You are so focused that when you are thinking how to solve that formula, you will subconsciously scratch your head and touch your nose and eyes until you get the answer. Such a geek! Our little geek loves math! And I say that with all the love and pride a geek mother can muster. Just this week you have been begging, pleading, dropping to the floor and wrapping your arms around your father’s leg, “PLEASE! PLEASE WRITE ME SOME MATH ON THIS PAPER!” There is so much math to solve and those 400 workbooks are not even challenging enough!

Last week at school I came across another mom who was bragging about how good his son was at math. For a moment I thought, “Right, so all the boys are geeks!” Until you came up and announced, “But I can do division and multiplication!”

“Really?” that mom feeling suspicious.

“YES! I know 3 times 2 is…is…….6! And 12 divided by 6 is……2!”

“What about 10 times 4?”

“40! Because 10 times 5 is 50. 10 times 6 is 60. 10 times 7 is 70. EASY!”

“His teacher said maybe he should go to Grade 3.” I said causally yet matter-of-factly, maybe a bit proudly.

I didn’t really care about how that mom had reacted. But it was definitely one of those moments when I sit back and high five the decision to become a parent.


When sometimes you look too smart, your innocence is magical. You are still unweathered by all the crap that life will eventually dump on your head, and that is another thing I never factored in when deciding to have kids. That I would get to see the world through that innocence again, because I don’t really remember what it was like. It’s something I have to remind myself to bask in at times when I am frustrated and seriously, CAN YOU PLEASE JUST GET IN THE DAMN CAR. Because you are not thinking about the crazy traffic behind you or why the gas prices never go down or how come Ebola is killing people. You are thinking, I can’t wait to get to school and show my friends these new Pokemom cards!


Sometimes you don’t stop screaming because I don’t let you have that third piece of candy. Sometimes you are angry that you can’t figure out which Pokemon cards to take to school. And you yell IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT! Well, maybe it is because I gave you life, and now you have no choice but to live it. But you know what, Ethan. Turns out you are the one who can do math at a third grade level when you are only five. I guess that’s what they call a trade-off.


Ethan, you’ve grown up so much this last year. Your arms are longer, your feet are bigger, there is no baby fat left in your face. You are no longer an infant or a toddler or a preschooler. And even the label First Grader doesn’t quite do you justice. You are a full on kid. A kid who have too many principles in his head. A kid who is never easy.



I realized that whenever I am in an inconsolable state, all I want your father to do is shut up and listen to me. He needs to let me enumerate on every other issues that my frustration is bringing to the surface.

Sometimes my instinct with you is to plug my ears, but I am learning to take your frustrations much more seriously. Your fear of Maya eating your popsicle when you are at school is significant in that it represents something larger, or perhaps the perception that we don’t take care about your popsicle, or maybe you think we pay more attention to Maya than you. Whatever the case, I stopped banging my head against the wall and really listened to what you were saying. As family we owe each other that. I let you wail about how you’d never be able to sleep again because Maya eating your popsicle was making you too tired to sleep (YOU ACTUALLY SAID THAT), and then let you work through your emotions like I try to do, like your father always waits for me to do. And when we got home, you ran over to the freezer to check your popsicle. The blue one that was still sitting there. And you slowly swallowed all the tears that you had loaded up on the way home.

I am right there with you, Ethan. Sometimes the path to victory is paved with a lot of crying. I will be there offering tissues.



Halloween Monster Cake

October 21, 2014 by Fanny | 5 Comments


This year was my kids’ first time having their birthday party with their friends. We used to celebrate their birthday with our family. We fully understand how tiring it is to throw a kids birthday party. And we didn’t do it until this year was because one, we are lazy parents. Two, I don’t seem to remember anything before I was six, and I concluded that six is a good age to start remember things, like birthday parties, starting grade one….all the good stuff. Yes, only good stuff, because my six-year-old son still seems to have a hard time remember what I say although it’s said two seconds ago, like FINISH YOUR DINNER NOW! or GET IN THE DAMN CAR!


I’ve always wanted to throw a backyard pool party for my kids. Except they weren’t born in summer. They are October kids. October in Vancouver is notoriously known as cold and rainy. This year we were lucky to have an abnormally warm October, and we were able to move the party to our backyard. No pool. No water. But we had costumes and monsters thanks to the Halloween theme.



Ingredients (8-inch 3-layer cake):

Vanilla Cake

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
4 sticks unsalted butter, soften
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons whole cream
4 to 6 drops of orange food coloring paste
1/2 cup white candy melts
1/2 black candy melts
5 orange cake pops


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease three 8-inch cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a bowl of standing mixer with a paddle attachment, mix buttermilk, egg, oil, vanilla and vinegar on medium speed until well combined.

Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared cake pans and spread evenly.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for about 10 minutes before inverting on rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

To prepare the frosting, beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.  Add powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar has incorporated with the butter.  Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract and cream. Then beat for another 3 minutes. Add color, one drop at a time, and continue mixing and adding color until it reaches the preferred color.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on your serving plate and spread with 1/3 cup frosting. Place another cake layer on top, and gently press down a little bit. Spread with another 1/3 cup frosting. Place the last layer of cake on top, smear a thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake.

Use an open star tip, close star tip or hair tip to pipe the rest frosting on cake. Starting from the bottom, and move up to the top of the cake.

To prepare the monster face, melt white and black candy melts in two separate microwavable piping bags.

Use the white candy melts to pipe small triangles on a parchment paper for teeths.

Use the black candy melts to pipe a long and thick line on a parchment paper for mouth.

For the cake pops, pipe a solid white circle on each of them. Let it dry, then pipe a black dot on.

Cover and refrigerate the cake. Remove from refrigerator an hour before serving. Place cake pop eyes, mouth and teeth on top of the cake.

To Maya – Four Years Old

October 18, 2014 by Fanny | 4 Comments

Dear Maya,

Today you turn four years old. You had been asking me if you were going to be four the next morning you woke up. So the first thing out of your mouth as I walked into your room this morning was a jarring “AM I FOUR YET?”  I whispered yes, and before I could even reach your bed you screamed, “YAY! I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE FOUR!” Dude, look at you tearing through your bucket list.


You are much more into dressing up now. You don’t want to wear anything unless it’s a dress. Every morning you will refuse to change if I take out a pair of pants. You will moan and tear up about the fact that I don’t let you wear your summer dress because it’s not summer anymore. And you don’t care. You will request to have that strapless floral dress paired with your pink flip flops. But it’s cold outside, Maya! Then you beg, “I will put on my jacket. The one for snowing, maybe? Please! Pretty Please!”

The moment you see some new clothes we bought you, you will strip off what you are wearing at the time and jump right into them and start posing in front of the mirror. I don’t have any idea where you learned how to do this. Maybe because you are pretty well trained with the plastic high-heels and pink lacey pajamas that your aunt Karin has been lavishing you with, and you are very capable to show off the beauty of it. But what I can only imagine is that the 50-year-old of you won’t walk to the mailbox without wearing five-inch heels and at least two clashing animals prints in blinding colors.



You gave up baby swing at the park long time ago, and you’ve started to go on a regular swing. You’d watched your brother do it and demanded to have a go. This didn’t surprise me given your personality, but I thought that once you got really high and experienced the weightlessness of it you’d be all STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!

Now I will note right here that I don’t think it will ever happen in your life.

The first time I pushed you on a swing, I took it very cautiously. But then you saw Ethan flying next to you, and you started to scream, “HIGHER!” So I pushed harder. As you started to feel that you were flying in the air, up to the top of the tree you just giggled and squealed. I got a little dizzy just watching you.


Ethan is flying, you want to fly with him. He is going through a ring of fire, you are ready to join him. You go along for all his rides. That’s how I would explain your personality to people. You are up for anything, except you hope those rides are bumpy, turn upside down, shoot across the valley, and are being chased by cannibals.

Your personality is, “Who’s up for committing a felony?”

Yet your personality is also running around the house with a doll in your hand, stopping in front of me and shout-whispering, “Hold Hello Kitty. If you drop her, I won’t talk to you.”

You are the child people envision when they think about what it might be like to have a family. You are the kid sitting on my shoulders, your head thrown back in laughter, an expression of eternal joy. You cuddle with your whole body, your arms and legs wrapped around my torso, your head burrowed deep under my arm, an unspoken love filtered down into a fleeting embrace. You can clap and squeal when confronted with good news. You make funny faces, you attempt to make crude noises, you run and hug every human being you see whether or not they want to be hugged. You tell everyone to be quiet so that you can tell a funny joke. It’s funny, yes, but the best part is that no one finds it funnier than you do.


Some people are puzzled about the size of your eyes when compared with your brother’s. They go, “Such a handsome boy, Ethan! Look at your big eyes!” Then go, “Oh Maya, so cute! But where are yours?!” And they are entitled to be confused because I can’t explain it neither. They can have their outrage if they are only into sizes. But they don’t live with you and do not understand how mesmerizing your eyes can be. You smile with your eyes. Your eyes are as much a part of who you are as how you giggle with your body thrown way back into joy, and your eyes giggle along with your whole body. And it is fundamental to your spirit – your cheerful, hilarious and carefree spirit that brightens everyone around you.


Maya, you are one of those kids that would even make the most cynical, most snooty “it’s no way I will have kids” kind of person stop and go, “Oh my god I wish I had a daughter like yours.” When they are around you and witness the delight you get from being alive, they seriously want to own you. I know it’s just a matter of time before you know how to fly on your own. And I really cherish the moment now when I still own you.  You make me feel like I’ve been locked inside a dark tunnel and you are the light bursting inside to reach in and lift me out. I want to follow you around and soak in your joy.

What a gift, Maya. Thank you.



Apple Shortbread Pie

October 13, 2014 by Fanny | 14 Comments

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Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

I am thankful that I have the best family in the whole universe.  My best family consists of my family in Hong Kong, my husband’s family, and the family that we both created. Yes, 400 members of them! And I’d never appreciated how fun it was to have a huge family until I have one now. And oh my god, I just wish I could have the energy it requires to reproduce and raise more kids of  my own!


I am also thankful that I have the patience and skills to cook and bake. It’s become a life skill for me now, weights way more than the ability to drive or swim! I think I would properly just sit there and scratch my butt if I couldn’t do anything in my kitchen. And it would be aimlessly sad.


Ingredients (9-inch pie):

Shortbread Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Apple Filling
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cubed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


To prepare crust, sift the flour and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and powdered sugar in a bowl of a standing mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla.

Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

Gather dough and form a dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to chill.

To prepare apple filling, put apples, butter, sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon in a skillet. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very soft and almost fall apart into a puree. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a pie pan with a removable bottom.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Line the prepared pan with the rolled dough. Leave a tiny overhand of dough. Use a small kitchen knife to trim the excess and to score the tops of the tart.

Reroll the rest of the dough. Cut star-shaped doughs using a cookie cutter.

Pour the cooled apple filling in the prepared pie dough. Cover with the stars.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the crust is slightly brown on the edges.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Donut Macaron

October 6, 2014 by Fanny | 14 Comments


How my life has changed after my kids went back to school! If you are thinking because of the amount of Game of Thrones that I’ve watched or the number of times that I’ve read 50 Shades of Grey, I am telling you NO! It’s nothing about my sex life!

It’s about the larger chunk of time that I have for myself now. And that absolutely allows me to finish a lot of things that I wasn’t able to, like pooping. Sorry! I am being gross, but I am also being factual. You just have no idea!


So to celebrate my new life, I came up with these adorable macarons. My approach to making macarons now are either with spectacular flavour or with special design. Either way, it requires time. And here we have these cuties!


They are bigger than regular sized macarons, yet almost the same size as mini donuts. The reason why they have to be bigger is because when you pipe the batter in O shapes so they have little holes in the middle, the batter will spread out and the holes will disappear if the O is not big enough. A little trick!


Ingredients (around 12 sandwich cookies):

1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup filling of your choice
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
food coloring paste of your choice
sprinkles of your choice


Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Process powdered sugar and almond flour in a food processor until finely ground. Sift the mixture through a sieve. If there are more than 2 tablespoons of large chunks left in the sieve, grind them and sift again. Set the mixture aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium speed until frothy. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high and beat until very stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.

Sift the almond flour mixture over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the almond flour mixture into the egg whites until the mixture loosens and falls in a ribbon from the spatula.

Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round tip and fill the bag with the batter. Pipe Os to create donut shapes onto the parchment papers, leaving at least one inch apart.

Tap the bottom of each sheet on the work surface to release trapped air bubbles. Let the cookies stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to develop their crusts.

Preheat oven to 320F. Bake the macarons for 10 to 12 minutes, until set but not browned.

Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the macarons to cool completely on the pans. Once cooled, gently lift half of the cookies from the parchment paper and turn them upside down.

Pipe a teaspoon of filling onto each of the upside-down cookies.

To prepare the glaze, whisk sugar, milk and vanilla slowly until slightly thickened. Add more milk or sugar to get the right consistency. Add coloring paste, one drop at a time, and mix until color is evenly distributed.

Dip the top of each of the remaining cookies in the glaze and set on a rack placed over a baking sheet. Decorate with sprinkles immediately. Let dry completely, about 10 minutes. Place it on top of the filled cookie.

Easy Cherry Puff Pastry Tart

September 29, 2014 by Fanny | 10 Comments


Cherries are one of the fruits that we’ve had way too many this summer. They were incredibly sweet, juicy and cheap this season. Right after we bought a pound or so, we would get another pound from a friend who came over for dinner, then another pound from my mother-in-law who has a crave to fill up my refrigerator no matter how full it already is! Quiet often we had loads of cherries at home. And it’s simply too crude to watch them ripen and get moldy.


Freezing is the best way to deal with them apparently, although they require more work. I rinse the cherries, halve and pit them before freezing. All messy and time-consuming, I know! But this way, I am able to use them whenever I want without being deflated by the need of pitting them.

This tart is a quick weekday dessert that you can easily put together. Or weekend party food, or game day dessert, because the tart really looks and tastes way more than how you make it! After all, who doesn’t love puff pastry?!


Ingredients (one 6″ x 10″ tart):

2 cup cherries, pitted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 piece thawed puff pastry, around 6 x 10 inches
1 egg, lightly beaten


To prepare filling, combine the cherries, sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium-low heat and cook for 10 minutes.

Mix cornstarch and a tablespoon of water into paste. Add the mixture to the cherries. Keep cooking until it thickens. Allow the cherry filling to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Roll the puff pastry to enlarge it a little bit. Spoon the cherry mixture on top of the puff pastry sheet, leaving one inch boarder. Roll the boarders inward to create a dent.

Brush the pie with the beaten egg.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until pastry puffs up and turns golden brown.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Or sprinkle some icing sugar and serve it plain.

Chocolate Espresso Meringue Cookies

September 22, 2014 by Fanny | 12 Comments


Like making macarons, meringue cookies are good to make when the weather is dry and airy. Although you can totally do it on a hot and humid day, my advise is to do it fast and get them in the oven right away. Once the egg whites are whipped, it’s a bad idea to let it sit around for too long because it will flop. And you will start crying.


Once you get a hang of making meringues, you will start loving to make it over and over again. Because it’s genuinely easy, and it only requires a few ingredients that you will normally have in your kitchen. Sugar, egg whites and vinegar are the key things. Anything additional is totally your improvisation.

I put a little Espresso powder in my meringue cookies here. And they are awesome. Just a taste of Espresso, but not over-powering the chocolate flavour. Simply perfect!


Ingredients (around 25 cookies):

3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon Espresso powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
100 grams dark chocolate, melted and cooled


Preheat oven to 275F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in Espresso powder, cocoa powder, both sugars and vinegar. Increase speed and continue whipping until stiff and glossy peaks form.

Pipe or spoon mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the bases of the meringues are firm and are easily peeled away from the parchment paper. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Drizzle melted chocolate on top of the meringues before serving.

To Ethan and Maya – Forty

September 17, 2014 by Fanny | 12 Comments

Dear Ethan and Maya,

Today I turn 40. Don’t worry, I am not going to get all weird about age or wax nostalgic or try to say something profound about getting older. I will say that when I came across someone who would drive very slowly on highways or wait too long at a stop sign, I used to have a tendency to cut him off, roll down my window and yell, “Get off the road, Granny!” That was before I had kids. Now I drive very slowly on highways and wait too long at a stop sign. Ok, here, let me wax nostalgic: I miss the days when I looked all cool and ass-kicking.

Now I have a natural ability to stay calm in really chaotic situations, whereas when I was in my 20s, if the wind changed direction my entire head would burst into flames. I think my reckless yet unregrettable 20s and 30s have made my upcoming 40s wiser, and believe it or not, younger. I know my being 40 means catching breath running laps with you both, but it doesn’t affect the fact that I enjoyed Ed Sheeran’s show with an ocean of teenagers.


That show was a rare yet very pleasant surprise from your father who would normally get me a giftcard for my birthday. He was paying very close attention this year and took me to see one of my recent favourite artists. I had no idea until we got to the park. When I knew we were going to see Ed Sheeran, I was floored. It was a perfect summer afternoon. We were lying on the bed of grass, breathing deeply to the smell of green. There were almost no clouds in the sky, and the air felt like a warm bath complete with a foot rub and French fries. Ed Sheeran played all the fan favourites. Thousands of voices singing the words he wrote, all of his fans pumping their arms and fists in the air to emphasize how much they loved being there listening to him. I was one of them.


That night, most of the blood in my body pooled into my calves thanks to the 3-hour standing. And the insidious teens blowing weed smoke in my face. And the eye-rolling I had to do over the beach ball throwing around in the crowd. We didn’t get to bed until after 2am. But when I look back at that Saturday evening the thing I remember most, the thing that stands out so vividly and what I will carry with me is the astonishment of one of my favourite artists who looked out at the sea of people gathering around the stage and singing along to every word in total disbelief. Surprisingly wonderful and totally unhip disbelief.






I used to love seeing artists performing music. Now I love them more for recognizing and validating that connection with their fans. I love being a witness to that emotion, that success. Music makes me so happy in a new perspective.

Kids, being 40 is not old. Being 40 is how you look back your 20s and realize that you are as young but more fulfilled.



Easy Nutella Cheesecake Square

September 15, 2014 by Fanny | 18 Comments


Another easy-breezy dessert to serve on a weekday dinner, bring over to a friend or potluck party. It’s a fun yet very simple way to dress up your cheesecake base – pop out a jar of Nutella, swirl a little on top, and bake!


Of course there are tons of other options. Swirl in some dark chocolate instead. Or you can go fancy and do salted caramel or strawberry basil sauce.

But never give up the crust. The nutty, crumbly and buttery shortbread crust is my go-to crust for cheesecake now. Way tastier and more decadent than graham cracker crust.


Ingredients (about 16 2-inch sqaures):

Shortbread Crust
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages of Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Nutella


Preheat oven at 350F. Grease and line an 8-inch square baking tin.

Make the crust by mixing all the crust ingredients in a food processor, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake crust for 15 to 18 minutes. Set aside to cool. Turn down oven temperature to 300F.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, mix cream cheese and sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time. Then add vanilla and salt. Blend until well combined.

Pour the filling in the prepare pan. Tap the pan on counter a few times to release all the air in the batter.

Warm Nutella in microwave on high for 10 to 20 seconds. Spoon Nutella on top of the batter, and gently swirl with a toothpick.

Bake the cheesecake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the edge of the cheesecake is puffed but the center is still wobbly and wet looking.

Turn off the oven with the door slightly opened, let the cheesecake sit in the oven to cool completely, at least an hour.

Remove from the oven. Chill for overnight.

When ready to serve, cut into squares using a sharp knife dipped in hot water.