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Easy, Breezy…

8 Jun

Two weeks ago, I took a quick trip back to California. Despite the ridiculous flight delay that had me grounded at JFK for 6 hours (on the runway! 6 hours!), I am so glad I went. A little dose of sunshine and a whole lot of love welcomed me and I spent my 5-day vacation catching up with family + friends.

Being away from my loves for 5 months really took its toll on me. Once home, I started questioning my decision to live in New York.

California is so easy. No subway, no evil characters. All my loved ones here. People who I have known for decades live here. How can I be away from them?

It didn’t help that once I got back to the city, I had to deal with a possible bug problem that left me in a hotel, depleting my impending vacation savings for Australia. Suffice to say, I was NOT a happy camper.

But these past few days I made sure to catch up with my friends here who matter most. Just talking with them and hearing their own troubles makes me feel like what I am going through is normal.

Let me be frank: New York is hard. Crazy hard. It’s dirty, rude, gritty, and challenging. But it can also be magical, rewarding, astounding, and exciting.

You could say I am in a love/hate relationship with NYC. Like a typical girl, I keep coming back for me ;)

Anyways, while home, I made this simply Strawberry Cake. Can I tell you a secret? I cheated and used Trader Joes Vanilla Bean Cake Mix. I often hesitate to buy cake mix because the flavors are muted and it tastes like cardboard. However, this mix was steller. Moist and natural, I would gladly use it again. For the frosting, I used this one that I love so much. Since you are using real strawberry preserves, you can actually taste the real bits of strawberry in the frosting.  I can’t wait to buy this mix again and pair it with other frostings and flavors. Anybody up for a funfetti cake?!

 

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Coffee Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce

1 Mar

Sometimes I crave cheese. In a major way. Which wouldn’t be so out-of-the ordinary if I wasn’t lactose-intolerant. Yes, my little stomach can’t process those cheesy enzymes. I blame my asian DNA since it is pretty common for Asian people to have some form of lactose intolerance. While everyone runs for milk when eating warm cookies, I shudder at the thought.

However, once in a blue moon, I get a craving for something rich, decadent, and cheesy. Case in point, last week I went with a friend to S’Mac, a small Mac and Cheese hotspot that serves the main dish anyway you like it. Tummy ache be damned, I said, I want a skillet of hot mac and cheese and I want it now. Cut to me, rolling in a ball on my bead, quivering in pain. Not my finest moment but it was worth every bite. Today, I have another craving, but for that sinfully delicious dessert known as Cheesecake. Not just any cheesecake but one right up my alley: Coffee Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce.

I’d like to eat this everyday. I’d like to eat this everyday with maybe a side of mac and cheese.

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What meets the eye…

22 Feb

Raised in the buckle-down-and-bear-it environment, I am a fighter at heart. Trust me, I’ve got the battle scars to prove it. However, in some situations, I’ve learned that it is perfectly appropriate to throw in the towel. Sometimes, fighting is too hard and takes too much effort. Stubborn and prideful, it kills me to have to walk away from something because it means I’ve given up. But there are some aspects in my current life that leave me in tears some days. Ripped to shreds. Because I am a fighter. Because I am a vocal, passionate person.

With all this commotion going on, I’ve left this little space quiet. A tad bit preoccupied and uninspired, I apologize for my silence. I have some great ideas and posts in the works but getting down to business can be tedious. Especially when your heart is somewhere else and your mind is focused on a challenge that might swallow you whole.

Instead of showing you a perfectly pleasing recipe, I’m going to show you these disastrous cookies. Why?  Because, despite the fact that the recipe was utterly flawed, they sure looked pretty. Plus, not everything goes right in my kitchen and I like to show my mistakes as they happen more frequently than one can guess.

To anyone else they might have been a success. But I knew better. The shortbread was unevenly baked, and lacked flavor. Cutting the actual cookies was a test of my patience since they started crumbling the minute I touched them. I’m providing you the link to the basic shortbread recipe. Maybe you will have better luck than me? I added two cups of reduced-sugar raspberry preserves and baked them according to the regular instructions.

If you have a better recipe for shortbread cookies, leave them in the comment section. I am looking for a real winner!

Devil’s Food Cake with Angel Frosting

31 Jan

When I think of moving in to my dream apartment, I imagine hosting intimate, cozy dinner parties. The kind of dinner parties where the wine is flowing, the food is delicious, and the laughs can be heard down the hallway. When I lived in my own little abode, I didn’t have enough room to host these kinds of dinner parties, which was unfortunate because my friends and I were eager and willing to have those kinds of parties.

Menu-planning is a skill I don’t really have and I tend to just throw things together. I know how different flavors and ingredients work together but I am not an expert here. A summer menu would obviously rotate around a hot grill, but dinner requires more thought. I would serve a colorful salad, some fresh dinner rolls, and a hearty, warm main dish. As for dessert, I can imagine all kinds of delicious cakes and cookies. However, nothing stuns a crowd like a glorious chocolate cake.

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Winter Pie

18 Jan

The month after Christmas is always the hardest. Sugar has lots its appeal as your jeans have gotten tighter. The sky, once bright blue, has turned gray. Piles of slushy snow sit on the curb, with litter and cigarette butts scattered all over. Leaving your bed has become an everyday struggle.

However, life goes on and soon you start realizing the beauty of winter. The way it makes you more motivated to plow through your library pile. The way it makes you crave hearty soups and piping hot tea. The way the lights twinkle amidst the falling snow. And, last but not least, the way the kitchen and oven become the center of your house.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies, yet again

11 Jan

chocolate chip cookies

If there is one thing that I could bake over and over again, it would be the chocolate chip cookie. You’d think after four posted recipes, I’d be over these little morsels. However, you are mistaken.

chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookies

It’s a simple mix- chocolate, butter, sugar, and flour. Yet the results are so satisfying, so perfect in their simple nature that I can’t help but keep trying recipes from different authors. First, there was the classic from Martha Stewart, which I swore by when I was younger. Then, I added some liqueur to the mix a la Giada de Laurentiis. Finally, I settled on the most amazing recipe from my mother of another brother… Wait that didn’t make sense. Anyways, it was from Dorie Greenspan and it sill hails as the best cookie recipe around. But I had to try just one more.

I know, bear with me.

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Grand Raspberry Trifle

5 Jan

I’m all for resolutions but some of these diet-oriented ones make me depressed. Pre-packaged meals filled with god knows what? No thanks. No carbs? SERIOUSLY? Have you gone a day without carbs? let me tell you, you become a cranky mess. My daily food habits stay on the pretty healthy side with my plate full of whole grains and vegetables. But if anyone tried to tell me to live 12 months sans dessert I might go postal.

A life without dessert is simply a life not worth living.

That being said, dessert has its time and place. Moderation plays a big role and downing ice cream sundaes and cookies every day will probably not do your heart a whole heck of a lot. Instead, make a gorgeous dessert weekly, one that makes you smile and swoon at the same time. You’ll feel better physically AND mentally.

For this past Christmas, I decided to make a simple, fruit dessert. Enter Martha Stewart’s Grand Raspberry Trifle. Can you hear the angels singing? Because this dessert is truly heavenly. Pound cake soaked with lemon syrup, raspberry jelly, and soft whipped peaks of cream. AMEN.

You could buy the pound cake from the store but if you ask me, the store-bought pound cakes taste dry and dull. Since everyone AND their mom has a favorite pound cake recipe, I’ll leave you to it. I made my pound cake a the night before, wrapped it tight, and then sliced it as I was assembling the trifle. I ended up having some cake leftover but that wasn’t a problem since I had some family members who love scraps.

The only problem with this recipe is that it is not leftover-friendly. The cream gets clumpy and the cakes get soggy. But, if you have a trifle-loving family like mine, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Grand Raspberry Trifle
Attribution: MarthaStewart.com
Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Inactive Prep Time: At least one hour to chill

Ingredients:
½ cup Plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar
¼ cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1 cup Seedless Raspberry Jam
4 cups Raspberries
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 ½ pounds Favorite Pound Cake

Directions:
In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, and lemon juice to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool.

In a small bowl, combine jam with 3 cups of raspberries, stirring until mostly combined. It’s okay if the raspberries are mashed slightly.

In a large bowl, whip cream and 2 tablespoons sugar to stiff peaks, about 4-5 minutes. (Optional: I added ½ tsp of vanilla to sweeten the cream.)

Slice pound cake ¾ inch thick; brush both sides of slices with lemon syrup.

Fit ⅓ of slices snugly in the bottom of a 4-quart trifle dish or other glass bowl, trimming edges if necessary. Gently spread top of layer with ⅓ of raspberry mixture, and then ⅓ of whipped cream. Repeat to make two more layers; garnish with remaining cup raspberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 24 hours.

Christmas Confessions

27 Dec

I must confess my Christmas sins.

Instead of logging in the appropriate running miles, I slovenly sat on the couch. All weekend.

I may have watched six (SIX!) movies in two days. (Nightmare Before Christmas, The Fighter, The Town, Easy A, Nine, Salt)

I plowed through Dexter Season 5 in less than 24 hours.

That tasty gravy for the potatoes? FROM A CAN.

I had at least 4 servings of that Grand Raspberry Trifle I made.

My breakfast for the past three days has consisted of cookies.

I asked and received the latest Twilight movie. DON’T JUDGE ME.

I didn’t feel guilty at all for soaking up the mild California winter while my NYC mates are digging themselves outta snow.

Phew, I feel all better.

Got any confessions? Go ahead and spill. Trust me, your secret is safe with me :)

Home is good for the heart

20 Dec

I was on edge all day last Thursday. An antsy traveler, I couldn’t wait to get on the plane and be home. Although, if I may be fair, I was a little sad to leave New York. In only a few months, my heart has opened to New York, to all its little folies and fun quirks. Especially now, during the holidays and chilly weather, the city is bursting with energy. However, with my bags packed, I boarded my JetBlue flight, cocktail in hand, ready to grace my hometown.

I can’t put in to words how happy I was driving through my little neighborhood. Even though the weather was gloomy, everything looked bright and luminous to me. The first thing I did was collapse on my GIANT queen bed, fully clothed and observed the silence. Not one horn, siren, or angry shout could be heard. And it was lovely. The next thing I did was smother my oven in kisses. Crazy, yes, but true.

After a deep and refreshing night’s sleep, I woke up with a sudden craving for biscuits. Humble and savory, it made for a good partner with my steaming cup of coffee. I am not a traditional biscuit gal; I prefer muffins or scones. But, on this morning, I couldn’t quell my desire for a buttery biscuit.

I chose this baking powder biscuit recipe from my beloved “Baking Handbook” by Martha Stewart. Instead of the traditional whole milk, I used buttermilk as it provided a little tang with each bite. Without yeast, they aren’t as fluffy as I’d like but that was to be expected. If you are still planning your Christmas menu, I would recommend these biscuits because of their basic ingredients and quick preparation. Next time, I’d add some rosemary or perhaps cheddar cheese. Nothing like some cheesy goodness!

You can find the original recipe here.

Christmas Treats

16 Dec

In the past, this little space of mine becomes decked out with the Christmas sweets. Cookies in every shape and flavor are featured on every page. Pies, oh the pies! Let’s not forget about the cakes too. Sadly, as you can see, I’ve posted NADA on Christmas sweets. However, I’d like to take a trip down memory lane and maybe give you some ideas for your holiday parties.

Chocolate bread pudding.

This would be a smart dish to make for a party since it can be made the night before hand and requires almost no day-of prepping. Use old eggy bread, soak it in the chocolate custard overnight, and bake it the day off.

Mini Lemon Curd Cheesecakes

For that big party you have planned, give these mini cheesecakes a shot. You can make them the night before, chill them overnight, and bring them to room temperature before your party starts. Plus, I guarantee your partygoers will be happy to see some citrus on the overly chocolate buffet table.

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Dark chocolate, sweet condensed milk, and lots of butter. From the geniuses behind the famed Baked bakery, I present to you an addicting bar cookie.

Triple Chocolate Scones

Scones are a lovely way to start your morning. Why not kick it up a notch by adding in three different kinds of chocolate? I totally just made you drool, didn’t I?

Icebox Butter Cookies

Nothing says Merry Christmas like butter cookies, especially those dipped in festive sprinkles. What I love the most about this recipe is how easy it is. Slice and bake. It can’t be any easier, right?

Hope these Christmas treats help you out! They are some of my favorite recipes and have helped me in a pinch. Are there other recipes that you turn to annually? I’m curious to hear about your holiday staples.

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