Monday, December 24, 2012

It's Christmas Already? [Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies]

I hate and love the month of December. I hate the month of December, because it's the craziest time of the year for teachers. First of all, the month is only 3 weeks long, because we have winter break so I have to cram all the holiday surprises and crafts that I want to expose to the children. In addition to keeping up with the curriculum, I have to find time to go Christmas shopping and to use a weekend to make holiday cookies for the parents. Usually, that's enough craziness for me, but this year, my body decided to take a dive and get sick the week before the break. I was fighting a sore throat, a cough, and runny nose while trying to run class. Worst week ever.

However, I survived and I can finally enjoy the holiday spirit and desserts. My sweet tooth seriously gets out of hand this time of the year. I indulge in some chocolate, toffee, or some other form of sweets every single day.

In general,  I can't stand holiday sugar or butter cookies, but give me a chocolatey chewy cookie with the essence of peppermint and I'm there. This is my idea of a holiday cookie that warms the soul during the chilly winter months. These are so good that my sister devoured nearly a whole batch by herself and requested another batch to be made a couple weeks later.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

Note: For a classic double chocolate cookie, replace peppermint extract with 1 tsp vanilla extract and peppermint bark with dark chocolate chunks.

1 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 oz (1/3 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
1.85 oz (1/4 cup) butter
0.05 oz (1/2 TBSP) instant espresso
4 oz (1/2 cup + 2 TBSP) white granulated sugar
1 egg
0.25 oz (1 1/2 TBSP) cocoa powder
2.0 oz (1/2 cup) flour
0.05 oz (1/4 tsp) baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp peppermint extract
2.5 oz (1/2 cup) chopped peppermint bark

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Melt unsweetened chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips, and butter in 30 seconds intervals in the microwave. Remember to stir after every interval. Stop when smooth. Add espresso and set aside to cool down.
  3. Beat sugar and egg until thick and pale yellow.
  4. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture and peppermint extract.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and salt. 
  6. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet batter. Fold in peppermint bark.
  7. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until puffed and the top is cracked. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Simplicity [Oil and Vinegar Slaw]

Because of the holidays, I've been tweaking and looking forward to the weekends for baking fun and sharing my joy with friends and family. I finally figured out the path of this blog, which I didn't have when I first started. I'm going to go back to simplicity. Straight to the point without all the frills and mimicry I've been subjecting myself too. I don't need the DSLR that I thought I needed to be "popular."

I am a minimalist in life so why shouldn't I apply what I am to my online personality as well? The reason I loved to blog was to share what I learned from recipes and the happiness I felt from feeding others. For the last 2 and a half years, I spent more time taking photos trying to copy and match other popular food bloggers. My personality wasn't in it. I was simply replicating. Now I am ready to blog my way: the simple way without the bells and whistle. What better way to start than a simple oil and vinegar slaw.

Oil and Vinegar Slaw

Note: This is simple, but the flavor goes great in sandwiches. It cuts the grease in heavier meats. I made mine with a turkey patty seasoned with smokey BBQ spice rub and a bit of whole grain dijon mustard on toast.

1/2 head of a small cabbage, sliced thinly
4 TBSP white vinegar
1 TBSP canola oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt

  1. Mix white vinegar, oil, black pepper, sugar, and salt.
  2. Pour over sliced cabbage and mix.
  3. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Mix every 3 or 4 hours to redistribute the sauce.
  4. Enjoy! Feel free to add more pepper or salt to taste.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'm Back? [Honey Granola]

When I last posted, it was during a transition period at my job. The business was in a tough position and I was thrown in the mix to maintain order while my boss dealt with the paperwork to keep the business alive. Working through uncertainty isn't my strength and I was fairly stressed and tired. Eventually, everything settled down and I was promoted after 2 years of hard work.

It's been both an amazing, stressful, and tiresome journey, but I have finally discovered my footing. I feel more secure and I am falling into a pattern where I can complete my work duties while still creating time for hobbies. Since September, I have not baked or taken any gorgeous photos. I have just been grinding in and out of work trying to reach the high expectations I set for myself. I am learning to compromise what I want versus reality. A difficult pill to swallow for a perfectionist like me.

Now it's time to unwind with some homemade granola and yogurt. Yums.

Honey Granola
adapted from Baking Unplugged by Nicole Rees

Note: This isn't a very sweet granola, but feel free to increase the sugar up to 1/2 cup to suit your taste. I prefer my granola plain so I don't add any nuts or dried fruits, but you can always add up to 3 cups of nuts or dried fruits.

1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg white
3 TBSP oil
3 TBSP honey
2 TBSP water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
4 heaping cups old fashioned oats
3 cups of dried fruits or toasted nuts/seeds (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, egg, oil, honey, water, vanilla, and salt until combined.
  3. Stir in oats, coat evenly. 
  4. Spread out mixture in an even layer on the pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir granola and push the browned bits toward center of pan.
  5. Reduce heat to 250°F. Bake for 20 minutes. 
  6. Stir and back for another 20 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat. Stir and allow to cool completely.
  8. Stir in any desired dried fruits or nuts.
  9. Store at room temperature in an air tight container.

Monday, June 25, 2012

DAMN, Where have you been all my life? [Anzac Biscuits]

To preserve my sanity, I avoided foodgawker and reading my favorite blogs during my sugar challenge. It helped with my urge to bake sweets and once my month ended, I jumped right in and started browsing then this recipe caught my eye. I couldn't do anything, but rush out the door to buy coconut (by the way, it was a 12 block run -- round trip).

Oh my, did it feel GREAT to make a mess in the kitchen. I can't wait to do it again. These cookies are crispy on the edges, chewy, and caramel-ly on the inside. I'm normally not a fan of coconut, but the taste is faint and it adds to the chewy texture.

Anzac Biscuits
adapted from Martha Stewart/UseRealButter

Makes 16 cookies

140g flour
90g oats
165g sugar
45g shredded coconut (unsweetened)
pinch of salt
6 TBSP unsalted butter
10g honey
10g maple syrup
1/2 heaping tsp baking soda
3 TBSP boiling water

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine flour, oats, sugar, coconut, and salt.
  3. In a pot over low heat, melt butter, honey, and maple syrup.
  4. In a small bowl, mix baking soda and boiling water. Add to butter and combine.
  5. Add butter to dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated and moist.
  6. Use a tablespoon to scoop dough. Shape into a ball and flatten with palm of hands.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Let it cool for 3 minutes on baking sheet before moving to cooling rack.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dessert for Two #4 - [Caramel Chocolate Pudding]

How did the sugar challenge go?  I lasted until May 15th before I consumed sugar. The thing was that I didn't even want it. I ate it, because I paid for it (it came with my  meal) and the frugal side of me didn't want to waste it. I also cheated several times after that. After my challenge, I felt less inclined to binge on sugar. When I did have a cocktail to celebrate, I found it too sweet and didn't even want to finish it. Also, when I do have cravings, I will take a bit or two and I am satisfied.

During my challenge, I cooked plenty of savory dishes, but I never photographed any of it, because I found a new love that consumed my time. Photography wasn't a priority anymore, but I will definitely get back into the groove of things. The new love? Diablo 3. Well, time to get back to my lover...Oh & Enjoy the recipe!

Caramel Chocolate Pudding
adapted from BraveTart

Note: I originally made her chocolate pudding to bring back childhood memories. It did and I was smiling like the Chersire cat when I was devouring the pudding. The only issue was that I found it a tad too sweet. (I suppose that's a sign that my palate matured?) I decided that there was a way to fancy up the pudding and I present to you Caramel Chocolate Pudding. It's doesn't taste sickeningly sweet, because of the unsweetened cocoa and the bitterness from caramel. Also 4g of powdered gelatin works as well. You'll have a thicker pudding. This recipe works with skim milk, but it certainly tastes better with 2% or whole milk.

Servings: 2

3g powdered gelatin (knox)
35g 2% or whole milk
45g sugar
13g cocoa powder
large pinch of salt
170g 2% or whole milk
1 TBSP butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. In a medium bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 35g milk. Make sure the bowl is heat proof.
  2. Heat a pot with cocoa, salt, and milk over medium heat. Whisk constantly until milk bubbles around the edges and there are no more lumps of cocoa. Turn off heat and set aside with the lid on.
  3. In a skillet, sprinkle sugar evenly on the surface over medium heat. When the sugar liquefies, keep a close on the color. Swirl the pan if the sugar isn't melting evenly. When the color reaches a dark amber, turn off heat and add butter. Stir with a whisk and watch for splattering butter.
  4. When the caramel and butter is mixed together, drizzle in warmed cocoa/milk mixture while whisking. Turn heat to medium low. Constantly whisk until the milk bubbles form around the edges.
  5. Pour over the bloomed gelatin and whisk to combine. **When pouring the mixture, there may be a film of cocoa milk mixture that sticks to the skillet. Don't scrape into the gelatin or else lumps will develop in the final product.**
  6. Stir in vanilla.
  7. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Remove and stir. Then cover the surface with plastic wrap. Allow it to set for at least 4 hours.
  8. Prior to serving, whip with mixer (or by hand if you're strong!) until silky smooth. It'll take 2 minutes with a mixer and longer by hand. **You'll have to whip leftovers again, because it will solidify.**

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I am Skinny Fat [Rhubarb Raspberry Popsicle]

Beautiful Rhubarb

I told several friends about the Sugar Challenge before I started. Nearly all of them crackled with glee and announced that they will tempt me with sweet treats. Great friends, right? I did entice one friend to join me on my quest. However, in exchange she wanted to implement an exercise routine: badminton 1-2x a week and workout videos 1-2x a week for a total of 3 exercise days. On day 1, we played badminton. It was a crash course that revealed how out of shape I am. We played for 1 1/2 hours and I haven't had this much fun running about and smashing birdies. I paid the price today...aching buttocks, quads, upper-mid back, shoulder, and arms. Talk about motivation to get in shape again.

Sugar craving wise. I am doing awesome. No cravings yet, which is why I wanted to get this posted so I am not torturing myself later in the month.

Eaaat me!

You want me yet?

Rhubarb Raspberry Popsicles

Note: The combination of fresh seasonal rhubarb and raspberries bring out the essence of rhubarb. The amount of sugar in the recipe keeps the pops tart and fresh. However, if you prefer a sweeter rhubarb taste, increase the sugar to 1 heaping cup (200g) of sugar. Also, the raspberries can be omitted for a rhubarb only pop.

Servings: 8 - 10  pops

3/4 LB (330g) rhubarb
2/3 cup (130g) sugar
2/3 cup water
pinch of salt
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup (60g)  frozen raspberries, plus more for garnish

  1. Trim rhubarb and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
  2. Bring sugar and water to a boil.
  3. Add rhubarb and salt. Simmer until tender, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. Pour into a blender and add lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
  6. Reserve 1/2 cup of blended rhubarb and add frozen raspberries. Blend until smooth.
  7. In each popsicle mold, add enough raspberries so that 1/3 of the popsicle is filled. Add rhubarb mixture until nearly full and add a layer of the blended rhubarb and raspberries mixture.
  8. Freeze for 6 hours before consuming.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No Sugar Challenge

My Last Bite of Sugar. Nooooo!
Beginning today, May 1, I'll be starting my No Sugar Challenge. I don't know how I am going to fare since I am a sugar addict. I live and breathe sugar. At least it will force me to get creative with savory dishes, which is one of my weaknesses. I don't find savory dishes inherently pretty to photograph, but hopefully I'll develop skills in the next 31 days.

There's only one rule and it's very simple: Do not eat any dish or product with added sugar.
This includes white granulated sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar and honey in any food that I make or eat. This means I can't put sugar in my coffee or eat foods where sugar has been added.

  • I can eat foods with naturally occurring sugar such as fruits.
  • I can drink juice, but only 1 glass. Any more than that, I am essentially consuming sugar.
  • I can use a pinch of sugar to flavor savory dishes. However, I cannot consume sugar based sauces.
My last sweet recipe that I'll be posting tomorrow.

Rhubarb Raspberry Pops

Love the Rhubarb!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Sugar Journey is Ending Soon [Addicting Spicy Warm Egg & Nut Salad]

Recently, I've been consuming ice cream, cakes, cookies, and sweets throughout my week. My lowest point was eating a Nestle Drumstick for breakfast, which I didn't even enjoy. I only ate it, because it was in my refrigerator. It's time for a sugar intervention. Starting on May 1, I will be committing myself to a No Sugar Challenge for the month. I will be posting rules in another post closer to my start date.

I'm not sure how I will handle a month without sweets since my blog is 95% dessert based. It will be a challenge, but it will force me to practice photographing savory foods, which means more savory recipes for you! I can honestly say that JSB will be happy with that change, because she is always complaining that I make too many sweets. In honor of her, I finally wrote down the recipe for her favorite Warm Egg & Nut Salad.

Addicting Spicy Warm Egg & Nut Salad

Note: I love multipurpose recipes. As a salad, it's a great snack in the afternoon or an appetizer in a multiple course meal. When the egg is omitted, it turns into a lovely bowl of spicy nuts to munch on during the day. In the past, I have used mixed nuts (from Trader Joe's) and almonds. Any type of nuts work. I prefer my nuts chopped into smaller pieces, but feel free to keep them whole.

Serves 1

1/3 cup nuts
1 egg
1/8 tsp sea salt
pinch of sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 mustard powder
1/4 heaping tsp cheese powder
1/4 of a green onion, thinly sliced

  1. With an egg in a pot, fill it with water until the egg is submerged. Cover. Put over high heat until the water boils. Turn off the heat, leave the cover on, and set the timer for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add sea salt, sugar, garlic powder, cayenne, mustard powder, and cheese powder. Stir.
  3. In a skillet set over medium heat, add the nuts. Shake occasionally. When the nuts are hot to the touch and toasted, spray with olive or canola oil with an oil sprayer. Sprinkle seasoning onto the nuts and shake the skillet  until nuts are evenly coated. Turn off the heat when the nuts are dry to the touch.
  4. The egg should nearly be done. When the timer goes off, pour out the hot water and run cool water over it. Take the shell off the egg and cut into 6 - 8 chunks.
  5. In a bowl, toss the nuts and egg together until mixed. Taste and add more salt as needed. Enjoy while warm.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

For my Sis. [Fresh & Simple Guacamole]

The Ingredients + Cilantro

I was on the a roll in the kitchen today and boy does it feel good to be back! I made guacamole and had time to photograph it. Woah, right? I also made layered jello and lunch for tomorrow. Now that the fun part is over, it's time to get back to writing papers.

Fresh & Simple Guacamole

Servings: 1 to 2 people

1 ripe avocado, diced
1/2 of a small tomato (approx. 2.5 inches), diced
1/4 of a small red onion, diced
a small handful of cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
3 - 7 slices of jalapeno, depends on spice preference
salt to taste

  1. Put the diced avocado in a medium sized bowl and use a fork to gently mash until only some small chunks remain.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime, jalapeno, and salt. Mix and taste. Add more salt as necessary. Put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes so the flavors develop. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

I'm Back! [Caramel Cranberry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie]

What's my excuse for being gone this long? I have plenty. First, my computer took a dive for a week. Second, homework was piled up. Third, taxes. Fourth, birthday celebrations: hello 26 year old me and to one of my best buddies. Fifth, I'm engaged.

The truth is that I missed blogging and writing out what's been going on in my life. I attempted to write several times these past weeks, but the words wouldn't come. The cause of it is probably all the papers I had to write. I haven't been baking up a storm either. I've been doing repeats such as granola and Peanut Butter Bars.

Last week, JSB and I went on a bulk food binge. For $37, we bought 1 LB of Saigon Cinnamon, cheese powder, citric acid, sea salt kosher flakes, poppy seeds, and mustard powder AND 4 oz of white tea leaves. With an abundant of spices sitting in my cupboard, I've been experimenting with savory dishes in the kitchen. One of my winning dishes happened to be a warm egg & mixed nut salad that JSB and parents adored. She's been asking for the recipe...perhaps this week I'll have time to recreate it and post the recipe for her. LOVE YOU my YOUNGEST MOST ADORABLE sister. <3

In the mean time, enjoy these Caramel Cranberry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies. These cookies are special for the reason that fresh cranberries are used. The chewy caramel bites mixed with the crispy oatmeal and tart cranberry slices are a welcoming combination.

Caramel Cranberry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie

Note: This is my first time using fresh cranberries in cookies and I was impressed by the results. I was expecting mushy juicy bits, but it turned out to be moist with a bit of chew. Because it is a good deal juicer than dried cranberries, there is a longer bake time.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 TBSP whole wheat flour (or substitute all purpose)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup fresh cranberries, sliced
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup granulated sugar (for making caramel praline)

Making Praline

In a skillet, sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar evenly across the surface. Turn the heat to medium low. As the sugar starts melting and turning color, swirl the sugar around. If necessary, use a wooden spoon to stir in the stubborn sugar pieces that aren't melting. When it's the color of medium-dark amber, take it off the heat and pour onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Quickly tilt the cookie sheet so the praline spreads into a thin layer.

  1. Make caramel praline (above for directions).
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Cream butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth.
  4. Add egg and vanilla extract until blended.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir into creamed mixture until just blended.
  6. Break cooled caramel into tiny pieces, approximately 1/2 inch pieces or smaller.
  7. Fold oats, cranberries, chocolate chips, and caramel into dough.
  8. Drop teaspoon sized dough onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  9. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until browned around the edges and the surface of cookie is dry to the touch.
  10. Let the cookies cool down to room temperature before removing it from the parchment paper. The cookies will fall apart if they are moved while still warm. The cookies are the best enjoyed the day it is baked while the caramel is chewy and the oatmeal is crispy. Because fresh cranberries are quite moist, the cookies will lose the chewy crispy texture and turn into soft cookies that fall apart the next day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Breakfast on the Go [Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars]

My boyfriend doesn't eat breakfast. He can't remember to bring his lunch to work even when he packed it the night before. He might as well be a walking zombie every morning. I decided that I needed to improve his health and morning routine by creating healthy, all natural energy bars. In order to convince him to eat it, I needed to entice him with his favorite flavor combination: peanuts and chocolate. He was surprised that it didn't taste healthy, but a guilt-free version of a Snicker's bar. He enjoyed them so much that he requested the next one to include oats. Mission Accomplished.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
adapted from Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Larabar

Note: If using unsalted peanuts, add 1/8 tsp sea salt. In a pinch, chocolate chips may be used, but the final product may end up tasting like candy due to the sweetness.

Servings: 6 bars

105g (3/4 cup) salted peanuts
40g (1/4 cup) dark chocolate, grated
220g (1 cup) Medjool dates
2 TBSP peanut butter

  1. Put peanuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Remove and set aside. If using chocolate chips, pulse until coarsely chopped. Remove and set aside.
  2. Put dates in food processor and pulse until it's a sticky paste. When it's at the right consistency, it'll clump together and form a ball in the food processor .
  3. In a large bowl, mix peanuts, chocolate, dates, and peanut butter together with two spoons or hands. Stop when all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  4. Line a 8 by 4 inch pan with parchment paper and press the mixture firmly into the pan. Let it sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before cutting into bars. Cut into 6 bars and wrap with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Store in the refrigerator.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Want to make Jello Chocolate Pudding? Try this recipe!

I was brutally honest in a situation and laid out the facts and the emotions I was feeling. I told the truth, because I have respect for them and I wanted open communication. Now, my honesty is being misconstrued into me hiding something and blamed for being uncommitted. Highly annoying when being misunderstood is one of my pet peeves.

To make myself feel better, I indulged in some chocolate pudding. Childhood memories =  pure happiness. None of the complex issues of adulthood. Thanks to Stella/BraveTart, I was able to bring back a a moment of my simple childhood days. It's chocolatety and light and a smile is sure to appear after the first taste.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

There is no Pie. [Cherry Pie Bars]

"Stacey, dad has been looking for a cherry pie," stated my mom. I gave her a blank stare. "He noticed your notes on the table and it said, 'Cherry Pie' so he went looking for it.  He checked the refrigerator and the oven. He saw the Medjool dates on the table and noticed that it was listed as an ingredient on your notes."

Oh, my poor father. He shouldn't have been reading my notes, because there was no cherry pie. The recipe was referring to the Cherry Pie Larabar. I stumbled onto the recipe for it when I was reading Use Real Butter. It's the perfect solution for my after work snack while I commute back home.

Cherry Pie Bars
adapted from Use Real Butter

Servings: 6 bars

110g (3/4 cup) medjool dates, pitted
120g (3/4 cup) dried cherries (I used bing.)
95g (3/4 cup) unsalted dry roasted almonds

  1. Pulse cherries and dates until it turns into a gooey ball in the food processor. Put in a bowl.
  2. Pulse almonds into coarse bits. Add to the dried fruit and mix until ingredients are evenly distributed throughout. I mixed with a large metal spoon, but hands will work just as well.
  3. Press into an 8 by 4 inch pan and allow it to firm up in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Remove and cut  into 6 bars. Wrap with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

What? Parents know what they're talking about? [Aloe Vera Blueberry Green Tea]

Eggettes Fail.

During my teenage years, I reached a point where I stopped talking to my parents about problems and difficulties I had in my life. Of course, there was small talk and jokes, but nothing personal in nature. I think it's because I felt that they weren't on my side and were only telling me what to do instead of listening and offering guidance.

Now eight years later, I asked my parents for advice about a difficult choice that I have to make in a few days. To my shock, they provided valuable insight and never once pressured me to pick one choice over the other. Hrm, since when did my parents become so wise? (Yes yes...I know...they have always been wise, but the teenage me was stubborn and had false impressions.) It's a strange moment to realize that I always had two valuable resources around me, but I refused to see it. Thank goodness I discovered it before it was too late. It's time to celebrate with a light refreshing drink.

Swirling Colors

Aloe Vera Blueberry Green Tea

Refreshing Aloe Vera Blueberry Green Tea

Note: Lately I've been on a aloe vera craze. It's much more refreshing and light compared to boba.

Servings: 1 Drink

1 cup water
1 blueberry green tea bag
1 tsp honey
3 standard sized ice cubes
1/4 cup of aloe, chopped into quarter inched sized pieces
small handful of frozen blueberries

  1. Pour water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let it cool down for 5 minutes with the lid on.
  2. Place tea bag in a cup and pour cooled water over it. Let it sit for 2 minutes. Remove tea bag and stir in honey. Then add ice cubes. Allow ice cubes to dissolve. At this point, you can either prepare the drink or store tea in the refrigerator for later.
  3. In a large glass, add aloe, pour in tea, and garnish with blueberries. Use a large boba straw to drink.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Dreaded Wheat Bread Sandwiches [Mayonnaise Salad Dressing]

I used to hate sandwiches especially wheat ones with one layer of salami or ham and a thin spread of mayonnaise. I had that exact sandwich everyday from kindergarten until 8th grade. No changes in the type of bread or filling. Always a thin layer of mayonnaise and an over salted limp slice of cold cut. 

Then one day during 6th grade for some unknown reason, my mom expressed how much she loved me by making me macaroni salad for lunch. Once I found out she could make other meals besides sandwiches, I would beg and cry for ANYTHING, but the wheat bread sandwiches. You can imagine how much I salivated and ate with pleasure when I had macaroni salad. Sometimes the pasta was switched out for potatoes to make potato salad.

As I grew older, I realized that the macaroni salad weren't that special. It was elbow macaroni mixed with strips of cold cut and tossed in a light mayonnaise dressing. Now the dressing wasn't even that impressive. It was a mix of what we had in the cupboard: a scoop of mayonnaise, pinch of sugar and salt, heavy dose of pepper and garlic powder, and a dash of vinegar. When I started cooking in high school and I tried replicating the dressing, it tasted good, but it wasn't as memorable and pleasurable as my middle school days.


Mayonnaise Salad Dressing

Note: Compared to my memories, this dressing is much more flavorful. It has the right mixture of tang and sweetness.  Like my memories, this is meant to lightly coat a pasta salad (or potato salad) for one. Feel free to double the recipe for a heavier coating. In my salads, I generally have 1 cup of cooked pasta, 3/4 to 1/2 cup of carrots, raw onions, or celery, and 1/4 cup of protein.

Servings 1

1 garlic clove, pressed/crushed
1 heaping TBSP mayonnaise
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 to 5 shakes of black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp honey

  1. In a bowl, add all the ingredients and whisk to mix. 
  2. When all the pasta salad elements are prepared, toss the dressing with the pasta. 
  3. For best flavor, let the pasta sit with the dressing overnight in the refrigerator. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Appreciate Salt Now [Salted Caramel Ice Cream]

I heard about the salted caramel trend last year, but it didn't appeal to me until my sister insisted that it was the best thing ever after trying salted caramel ice cream from Bi-Rite. I asked her to describe why it was amazing, but all I got out of the conversation was her "mmmmms" and her om nom nom face. Yes, not helpful at all.

In typical youngest sister fashion, she pleaded and begged me to make her salted caramel ice cream. I ignored her for a bit (say couple of months...) and finally, I relented and made it for her (like a proper older sister). O.O. I have been deprived of a great combination of salty, sweet, and creamy that make my taste buds drool and cry from happiness. Each time I opened the freezer, I had to take a large spoonful of the creamy goodness. I'm pretty sure the electric bill increased that month.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes 1 pint

Note: This recipe very much belongs to David. I halved the ingredients based on what I had in my refrigerator. Since I didn't want to use 3 eggs, I used 2 and added two extra tablespoons of heavy cream to compensate. I personally found the custard quite sweet and flavorful without the addition of caramel pralines so I left it out. I didn't have salted butter so I used unsalted and increased the amount of sea salt. 

1 cup whole milk, divided
3/4 cups (150g) sugar
2 TBSP (30g) unsalted butter
1/2 heaping tsp sea salt
1/2 cup + 2 TBSP heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Make an ice bath: fill a bowl a third full of water and add a cup of ice cubes. Place a smaller metal bowl inside, pour 1/2 cup of milk into metal bowl, and rest strainer on top.
  2. In a saucepan, evenly distribute sugar and cook over medium heat until caramelized. (David wrote a fantastic tutorial on making caramel if you need additional clarification.)
  3. Once the proper color is achieved, remove from heat and stir in butter and salt. Once butter is completely melted, gradually whisk in cream. If caramel hardens, return to heat and stir over low heat until the hard caramel bits are melted. Stir in 1/2 cup of milk.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the yolks. Then gradually pour in some caramel mixture while whisking the yolks. Pour the warmed yolks back in the saucepan and cook the custard using a wooden spoon, stirring constantly. Cook until the custard thickens or until it reads 160 - 170°F (71-77°C).
  5. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath. Add vanilla and stir until mixture cools down. Refrigerate overnight (or at least 8 hours).
  6. Freeze the mixture according to your ice cream maker.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dessert for Two #3 - [Mini Mocha Cakes]

Looking for a simple dessert for Valentine's Day? I got you covered, but I won't be using it myself. Huh? No, it's not because the recipe isn't good, but my BF and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day. We believe that we should be showing how much we care and respect each other throughout the year. We'll surprise each other with random gifts or tiny acts of love. A couple of times, he has picked me up from work just because he wanted to put a smile on my face. When I stay over, he'll take the initiative to blow dry my hair because he knows I'll just go to bed with my hair wet. Seriously, that tiny gesture makes me melt. How many other ladies can share that their man dries their hair for them because he wants to?

Mini Mocha Cakes

Note: This is a firm cake so it pairs well with creamy textures. Drizzle with chocolate ganache or serve with a side of vanilla ice cream. 

Makes 5 standard cupcakes/2.5 inch ramekins

1/4 cup fresh brewed coffee
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
45g (1/4 cup) sugar
25g (1/4 cup) cake flour, sifted (can sub with all purpose flour)
30g (1/4 cup) all purpose flour, sifted
large pinch of salt
10g (2 TBSP) cocoa powder
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP condensed milk
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 egg, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking soda
5g (1 TBSP) grated dark chocolate
1/4 tsp instant coffee granules

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms and sides of cupcake tins or use cupcake liners. You can also grease 2.5 inch ramekins and line with parchment paper on bottom.
  2. Add coffee granules to coffee.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, flours, salt, and cocoa powder.
  4. Melt butter in a pot over medium-low heat and swirl until it browns. Add coffee, turn up the heat, and boil for 10 seconds. Turn off the heat and add condensed milk. Stir.
  5. In another dish, mix vegetable oil, yolk, vanilla, and baking soda until combined.
  6. Mix butter/coffee mixture with the flour. Add another 1/4 tsp of coffee granules and grated chocolate.
  7. Whip egg whites into soft peaks.
  8. Add egg yolk mixture into the rest of the batter. Mix. Fold in half of egg whites to light up batter, then fold in the rest of the egg whites. Divide batter equally into 5 cupcake tins or 2.5 inch ramekins.
  9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. If it comes out clean when toothpick is inserted, it's done.
  10. Run knife around the edge of the cake. Let it cool for 2 - 3 minutes in tin, then remove and allow cakes to cool on cooling rack.
  11. Prior to serving, dust with powdered sugar and chocolate shavings. Another option is serving it warm with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Light Winter Snack [Honey Wheat Pizza Dough]

A new year with new goals. After my trip from Hong Kong and Taiwan this past December, I am suddenly motivated to learn to read Chinese. My other goal is to engage in a healthier lifestyle, which includes more water intake, exercise, and a better diet.

On a different note, it's been cold in San Francisco. (Yes, it's not freezing temperatures, but us Franciscans have a low tolerance for "cold".) The best way to deal with it is to cook a dish that will keep me warm and warm up the kitchen as well. The idea: homemade pizza.

For my pizza, I made a honey wheat pizza dough. I used mozzarella cheese, fennel, fuyu persimmon, and Italian sausages for toppings. The lovely light licorice flavor flavor mingled with sweet ripen persimmon with spicy sausages was the perfect combination.

If a pizza stone isn't available, use a cast iron skillet to bake a pizza for the perfect crispy crust.

Note: The secret to a crispy crust without a pizza stone is to use a cast iron skillet. It handles the heat extremely well and is nonstick once seasoned so it's perfect for pizza making!

Honey Wheat Pizza Dough
Serves 1 for a meal or a snack for 2

1/4 cup water
1/2 heaping tsp active dry yeast
1/4 tsp honey
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

  1. Add honey into the water and microwave for 40 seconds. Dip a finger in and if it feels like a hot shower then it's at the correct temperature or 110°F if you're OCD about precision.
  2. Add yeast and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, add flour, olive oil, and salt. Make a hole in the middle and pour water in. Use a spoon and mix everything together.
  4. Knead by hand for 7 to 10 minutes until smooth. Grease a bowl, place dough in bowl, and cover with saran wrap. Let it rise for 1  to 1 1/2 hours until it doubles in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 500°F and place cast iron skillet in oven (pizza stone or baking sheet).
  6. Roll out dough and add desired toppings.
  7. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbling.

Light Winter Pizza

4-5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 persimmon, diced
half a fennel, sliced thinly
1 hot Italian sausage, cooked and sliced
olive oil
sea salt
Mozzarella cheese, grated

semolina flour

  1. Preheat oven to 500°F and place cast iron skillet in oven.
  2. Divide into 4 pieces, which will make 3.5 inch pizzas. Sprinkle semolina flour on counter to prevent dough sticking to the surface. Roll out dough.
  3. Brush with olive oil and a couple shakes of sea salt. Sprinkle on garlic, persimmon, fennel, and sausage evenly on pizza. (Remember: less is more. Too many toppings and the pizza will get soggy). Last step, sprinkle a thin layer of cheese.
  4. Transfer to cookie sheet with semolina flour to prevent sticking. Go to oven and tilt the cookie sheet so the pizza slides onto the heated cast iron skillet. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until crust is browned.  Use a metal spatula to retrieve the hot pizza. Slice and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Eek! Baking for Someone Else! [Apple Bars]

For the last three years, I've been experimenting and baking goodies for my loved ones and special family occasions. I didn't mind sharing the love even if the recipe didn't turn out the way I wanted. It was all a learning process. How else am I suppose to improve?

I suppose after three years, I have developed a reputation for myself. My boyfriend constantly praises me and always tells his coworkers and friends what I make and shares the goodies with them. My grandma and aunt make requests every couple of weeks for their favorite cake. My family is the hardest on me. They either like it or don't and they make it known to me about how they feel about my latest creation.

Since my sister started her full-time job at an accounting firm, she has been attending happy hours, office parties, and events. Earlier this month, she discovered that there was going to be a holiday dessert party and asked if I would be willing to make her something. I immediately said, "Yes" and came up with apple bars. I thought a dessert that wasn't too sweet and easy to handle with fingers would be a good choice, because I figured that most people would bring cookies and cakes.

I tested out the recipe and it was the hit with the family, but that didn't matter the night before the desert was due. I was nervous and anxious, because I wasn't sure if my sister's coworkers would enjoy it. I was also worried because it was my sister's reputation on the line not just mine! I didn't want her coworkers to think that she brought a crap dessert to the event. In the end, I over-worried and she told me that her coworkers enjoyed it and loved how it wasn't too sweet.

Apple Bars

Note: It's a multi-step process, but everything can be easily put together in a couple of hours. Most of the time is spent baking. I have organized the recipes in the order steps to complete. It starts with making the filling, then crust, praline, and the topping last. We make the filling first so it has time to cool down, then the crust. While it is in the oven, we make the praline and topping. Once the crust comes out of the oven, we break the praline into pieces and assemble all the components for the final bake.

adapted from Dorel

4 cups diced apples (approximately 4 apples), 1/2 to 3/4 inch sized pieces
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 TBSP granulated sugar
4 TBSP cornstarch
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup water

  1. Sprinkle lemon over apples in saucepan.
  2. Add sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Mix well.
  3. Microwave water for 2 minutes and add to pan. Turn heat to medium low. Stir mixture until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and cool.

adapted from Foodgal and Oishi Food

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup + 1 1/2 TBSP powdered sugar
8 TBSP butter, in pieces
1/8 tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
  2. Combine flour and sugar until mixed. Add butter and mix with fingers until crumbly.
  3. Press into a 9 inch square pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Increase oven temperature to 375° F.

[Optional] Praline Topping

Note: I highly recommend this step because it provides an additional layer of complexity.

1/4 cup sugar

  1. In a skillet, sprinkle sugar evenly across the surface. Turn the heat to medium low. As the sugar starts melting and turning color, swirl the sugar around. If necessary, use a wooden spoon to stir in the stubborn sugar pieces that aren't melting. 
  2. When it's the color of dark amber, take it off the heat and pour onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Quickly tilt the cookie sheet so the praline spreads into a thin layer. 

adapted from Joy of Baking

1/4 cup flour
1 TBSP granulated sugar
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 heaping tsp cinnamon
large pinch of salt
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3 TBSP butter, in pieces

  1. Add all the ingredients in the bowl except butter and mix with a spoon until evenly mixed. Add butter and pinch with fingers until crumbly.

  1. With the baked crust cooling, crack the praline into small crushed pieces with your hands and sprinkle praline on top of the crust. Add a layer of apple filling (about 3/4 inch thick). Sprinkle topping evenly over the surface.
  2. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  3. Allow it to cool to room temperature before cutting into bars.


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