Roasted Maple Brussel Sprouts

“I’ve never met a brussel sprout I didn’t like!”

…said nobody ever.

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My first encounter with the infamous brussel sprout didn’t happen until grad school. While kids around the Western world were crinkling their noses at piles of mushy, oversteamed sprouts, I was gobbling up perfectly stir-fried bok choy and steamed gai lan at home. Naturally, I was curious about the villainized vegetable when my friend finally served it at a potluck, and I brought the fork to my lips with a hint of trepidation before taking a nibble. But surprise surprise: it was delicious!

Of course, I’ve had tons of terrible encounters with poorly-made sprouts since then: ranging from the could-not-be-pierced-with-a-spear variety to the steam-the-crap-out-of-it-boogery-mash kind, brussel sprouts admittedly live up to their bad reputation more often than not.

Thankfully, there’s an easy solution, and it lies in these Roasted Maple Brussel Sprouts! The key to the perfect roast is a fairly high temperature (for those crispy burnt outer leaves) and plenty of oil. I tossed my brussel sprouts in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasted them on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes before drizzling a heap of maple syrup over them. Then back in the oven they went for another 15 minutes–and voila! The perfect side dish or appetizer for any party–I’ve made these on at least five different occasions and they’re always the first dish to go!

It’s been freezing here lately–um, and I mean that metaphorically because a) I live in California and b) the temperature is actually only 52 degrees F outside, but that’s COLD here–so I’m super excited to turn on my oven soon and get roasting again. May these sprouts keep your body warm and your belly super satisfied!

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STOP STEAMING, start roasting!

Ala

Roasted Maple Brussel Sprouts

These easy roasted maple brussel sprouts are perfectly crispy on the outside, tender and filled with maple flavor on the inside.

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Creamy Caramel Flan

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Happy new year! Can I interest you in this creamy caramel flan?

While others are making big resolutions for 2017, I’ve been happily whiling away my hours in my fuzziest pair of snowflake pajamas and scarfing down the last of the shortbread cookies that I bought from Scotland. And making flan, apparently. I guess my resolution is to undo all of my hard fitness work from last year completely (for various reasons, I also haven’t been to the gym in a month). Hooray!

Just kidding. While I’m not a big fan of making lists based on Earth’s revolution around the sun, I do love the idea of new beginnings. So my five biggest goals this year are: to graduate with my PhD (!!!), travel like a crazy boss after I do, get a spanking awesome job that makes me happy (but hopefully also pays the bill), publish something, and give this blog an awesome facelift. Oh, and do something completely outside of my comfort zone that I have never, ever ever imagined doing before. So I guess that makes six!

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Since every set of New Year’s resolutions deserves to be commemorated with amazing food–you know, to keep you fueled and focused!–I’m sharing my favorite caramel flan recipe of all time with you. It’s dense, creamy, and rich: think a cross between traditional flan and a really bomb cheesecake. Plus that glossy caramel coating on top is to die for (and super easy to make)!

All you’ll need for this recipe are six ingredients: sugar, cream cheese, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Beat them together (except the sugar, which you’ll be melting to create that caramel), and you’re just a few hours away from your resolution of ETERNAL FLAN-INSPIRED HAPPINESS! Muahahaha.

Because if that’s not on your to-do list this year, we really need to talk about your priorities.… Read more

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Top 10 Recipes of 2016

A few weeks ago, I posted some of my very favorite photos from this year. Now that it’s the last Thursday of 2016, I’m throwing back to some of this year’s most popular and viewed recipes!

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10. Copycat Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

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If you secretly make trips to Red Lobster just so you can stuff your with their famous, melt-in-your-mouth buttery Cheddar Bay Biscuits, here’s some good news for the new year: now you can make (and enjoy) them in your own home! (Recipe here.)

9. Slutty Cheesecake Bars

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A thick layer of chocolate chip blondie, rich cheesecake on top, and whole Oreos crammed all throughout give these infamous bars their name. One of the very first recipes that I posted on Wallflour Girl (note the tacky rainbow wrapping paper backdrop) and still one of the most popular after five years! (Recipe here.)

8. Extra-Fudgy Kahlua Brownies with Kahlua Icing

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I’m not a booze kind of girl…usually. But put a plate of these extremely fudgy Kahlua brownies (and maybe a White Russian!) in front of me and they’ll be gone before you can say “boozy.” (Recipe here.)

7. The Very BEST Tiramisu (from America’s Test Kitchen)

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 My shortlist for best recipe sources is, well, short–but I would trust America’s Test Kitchen with my first-born baby. This simple but authentic tiramisu recipe is the best that I’ve ever made and constantly requested at family functions! (Recipe here.)

6. Idiot-Proof Healthy Chocolate Chip Bars

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Here’s an idiot-proof recipe that you can hand off to even the most baking-illiterate of your friends! These one-bowl, dump-and-stir chocolate chip oat bars are healthy, too, making them perfect for kicking off a brand new year. (Recipe here.)

5. Hawaiian Chantilly Layer Cheesecake Cake

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This recipe holds a special place in my heart: inspired by one late-night, post-movie dinner conversation at Lenny’s Deli, my ex shared his fond memories of a dessert known as Chantilly cake.… Read more

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Super Chewy Molasses Ginger Cookie Bars with Cheesecake Filling

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Growing up in California, my Christmases were never filled with real snowdrifts and cups of hot cocoa over a crackling log fire. Christmases were thin flyaway scarves on nippy sun-soaked mornings and Chinese sticky rice served in a large rice cooker. They were elaborate piles of wrapped presents under a tree, but they were also eggnog-free, booze-free, cookie-free celebrations of time together with family. Until a few years ago, I never even considered what it meant to have a conventionally Western Christmas: to build floppy houses made of real gingerbread, to squeeze into an abhorrently amusing ugly holiday sweater for the evening with your friends, to stroll down snow-lined lanes and eat fruitcake and sing (slightly drunken) Christmas carols all season long. I think I tried making chocolate chip cookies for Santa once when I was eight, but I was so offended by the fact that he only ate half of the twenty-something cookies that I never baked for him again.

Living in LA for the past five years means that a lot of that has changed. While I still haven’t had my first white Christmas–though it’s on the bucket list!–I’ve proudly donned my inaugural ugly gingerbread man sweater, hosted themed holiday parties, and made my first-ever Christmas-inspired treats, which include these Super Chewy Molasses Ginger Cookie Bars.  These bars, by the way, may be new to my life, but I am most definitely and madly in love with them already. (Update: my mom just tried a bite and said rather matter-of-factly, “You don’t have to give all of these away” before whisking a few of the squares away for herself. High praise indeed!)

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I’ve only ever baked with molasses once, when my ex and I had a Harry Potter-themed cooking night a couple of years ago and decided to try making treacle tarts…with blackstrap molasses, because apparently we didn’t know that there was a difference between different types of treacle.… Read more

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The Perfect Muffin for Chocolate Lovers

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The holidays are here! Sorry for the shortage of posts lately: I spent the last few weeks braving REAL winter and cavorting through the chilly climes of Cancun…

Just kidding! Cancun, as you can probably imagine, was amazing, winter weather included. We spent our early December days simply basking under the tropical sun at our seaside resort, dipping our feet in the warm Caribbean waters, and trekking through some of the gorgeous intra-cavern rivers that wound their way through the old Mayan ruins in Xcaret. Needless to say, I was spoiled silly and am making a rather graceless transition back to my California reality even as I type.

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The beachfront view from our resort in downtown Cancun.

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Now that I’m back and bundled up again in this nippy weather, though (yes, east coast folks, you may now roll your eyes), nothing sounds better than curling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. Nothing, that is, except maybe freshly-baked chocolate muffins in the wee cold hours of the wintry morning, which is exactly what I’m sharing with all of you today. What I love most about this recipe is that it skips all of the tedious separate-and-mix steps required in most muffin recipes: all you need to do here is whisk together dry ingredients, whisk together wet ingredients, fold them all together, and throw that batter into the hot piping oven!

As if simple baking couldn’t get any better, these muffins are perfect for the chocolate lover in your life.  The unique combination of yogurt AND milk in this recipe keeps the muffin absolutely moist and fudgy with a hint of cakiness, while the extra chocolate chips that you toss in right before baking add morsels of molten chocolate richness in every bite. Not bad for an innocuous-looking breakfast food!… Read more

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Holiday Fundraiser: Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that provides aid to people in some 60 countries whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. You can learn more about its work by visiting their website here.

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Image Source: MSF Canada

So instead of asking for letters or cards this year for Christmas, I’ve decided to fundraise for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) donations. I was motivated in large part by recent events in Aleppo, but it’s also part of a larger personal story that I’m a bit nervous about sharing. Even so, I’m including it below because it explains a lot of things, including why I finally decided to make this page. If you do choose to read it (full disclosure: I wrote a full-on, literal essay!), you have my crazy appreciation and love. Alternatively, feel free to skip straight to the fundraising page and donate here. Either way, thank you!!

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Image Source: The Tower

In 1759, economist and philosopher Adam Smith wrote “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” an excerpt of which I read in my English 45B class during my first semester at Cal. Smith’s point, in short, is this: If there was a massive earthquake one day that swallowed up the inhabitants of an entire country halfway around the world—a man would grieve, naturally—lament the loss, cry, ruminate over his own morality, perhaps. At the end of the night, however, he would go to bed, distraught, perhaps, but satisfied with his outpouring of humane sentiment for millions of abstract lives lost abroad.

Now take this same man—and chop off his little finger. Then send him to bed with his new misfortune. He will not sleep.… Read more

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Gratitude Notes: 2016 in 100 Words

2016 has been a crazy year: a year of new friends, a year of relationships come and gone, a year of travel and adventure, a year of smiles and tears and lots of heartfelt laughter. Here’s to sharing some of my favorite moments with all of you in photos and 100 words (per category, of course!).

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Dapper Day, Disneyland! (November)

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Challenge Ropes Course with last year’s Global Sibs (January)

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Sweet times at the LA Cookie Convention (February)

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Spanning four generations of wonderful on Chinese New Year’s (February)

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Swim meet with some of my favorite swim club alumni <3 (March) 

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 Guess who works for Nickelodeon now??? (July)

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Graduation celebrations with one of the coolest kids I know (June)

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A pic with this guy before going off to visit him in Bari, Italy in August! (June)

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 Meeting Peter Pan for the first time in Kensington Gardens, London, UK (August)

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Swim club end-of-year banquet (June)

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Our Global Sibs’ big victory celebration at the end-of-year bonfire (June)

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My first big outdoor rock climb! (October)

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The usual order at Disneyland: double-scoop chocolate-dipped sprinkle waffle cone with cookies ‘n cream and cookie dough (October)

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The bright group of Peruvian high school students who came up one day and wanted to chat all about American culture! (October)

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The best Disneyland adventures partner ever (April)

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 Hanging out at the Hollywood Bowl with one of the most amazing friends and confidantes a girl could ask for (May)

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Remember Pokemon GO? Yeah, we were pretty cool with our water Pokemon raids (July)

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The best 48 hours ever in Cork, Ireland with an amazing friend (August)

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When you couldn’t ask for a better partner-in-crime and ice cream adventures at Disneyland (November)

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This year’s AMAZING new Global Sibs family! (November)

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We didn’t really run the city, but they gave us medals anyway so…and we accept.Read more

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Chocolate Souffle Custard Cake, a.k.a. Chocolate Magic Cake

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So remember how last week I wouldn’t shut up about this Vanilla Souffle Custard Cake (a.k.a. “Magic Cake”) that I made, and then some of you tried making it right away and it was a total hit?

This week I made the chocolate version (AGAIN–yes, this is a repeat recipe, it’s that friggin’ good) and nobody else who tried it will shut up about it, either. So really, I’m just the messenger here, and all chocolate lovers in your life will thank you for it. Cue the Chocolate Souffle Custard Cake choirs!

For those of you who are wondering why this recipe is called “Chocolate Magic Cake,” let me sum it up for you: one simple batter -> pan -> magic happens in oven -> three-layered dessert. Cake on the bottom, creamy chocolate custard in the middle, and a pillowy chocolate souffle on top! If that isn’t science magic, I really don’t know what is.

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This Chocolate Magic Cake, which I also adapted from the wonderful Jo Cooks, holds a particularly dear spot in my recipe file. The first time I made it, I shared it at a friend’s farewell party before she left the States and headed home for Spain. The second time was this past weekend, when a huge group of us gathered for a Friendsgiving party filled with dance battles, a wooden table groaning under dessert dishes, and one very boozed-up Mannequin challenge. And now I’m making it for our Thanksgiving family dinner, alongside the original Magic Cake that will forevermore remain in my top 10 favorite desserts.

What makes each of these experiences so beautiful for me (besides the obvious fact that they involve a chocolate dessert!) are the incredibly mixed feelings of love that I associate with them. I miss the old days when I would bake the same recipe over and over again because it was a significant other’s or close friend’s favorite dessert everbut sharing this single cake with so many amazing people in my life recently has been a whole new kind of blessing: it has been a reminder to me that as we grow older, we continue to love in new and even bigger ways than we ever imagined possible when we were young.… Read more

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Vanilla Souffle Custard Cake, a.k.a. “Magic Cake”

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This week more than ever, we all need a little magic in our lives. I’ll be the first to admit that while writing and talking with friends has helped me process last week’s election results, the tension and atmosphere on campus, coupled with the flood of frankly terrifying news this week, have led to more than one late-night baking session on my part this week.

But kindness begets good, and that’s how I ended up in my kitchen making this Vanilla Souffle Custard Cake at 2 AM one night. I first stumbled across the recipe at Jo Cooks, where the promise of cake, custard, and souffle all wrapped up in one snuggly pan reached out through the screen to me. The name magic cake comes from the fact that even though the dessert consists of three clearly defined layers, it only requires one batter: magic!

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I’m making this cake again for both Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving this year–and if you’re a blogger, you know that repeating a recipe just because it’s so darn delicious is kinda a BIG deal. (I’m also making and sharing a CHOCOLATE version of this magic cake next week: stay tuned!) My favorite part of this dessert is the contrast in textures: the creamy, custard-y filling in the middle offers the perfect foil for an airy, light souffle layer that simply melts in your mouth. Just make sure when you make this not to completely fold in or whisk away the egg whites: the lightness of those whites, coupled with the denseness of the rest of the batter, is the key factor that will turn an ordinary cake into a magical three-layer cake (with minimal effort)!

Sending best wishes to my friends all across this country and the world round. May your Thanksgivings and holiday season be filled with love, laughter, and lots of magic cake!… Read more

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Love When It Is Difficult: Moving Forward After Election Night

I still remember the worn paper sign that hung in the corner of my old tenth-grade English classroom, behind our teacher’s desk by the window. The half-faded words stamped across it that looked like they had been coughed out of an inkjet printer in its dying breath, but their message was nonetheless clear:

Why do we kill people to show people who kill people that killing people is wrong?

When I think about what happened last night during the election, I think back to that sign. It’s true that this is a “historic moment” in every sense of the term, though my heart aches to type those words: for the first time in the history of the United States, we have elected a president-to-be who has never held public office or served in the military. We have elected an individual who has demonstrated repeatedly his fundamental lack of respect for women, minorities, the LGBT community, the list goes on–as well as his inability to comprehend the importance of international cooperation in a post-sovereignty world, to understand that united with the world we stand, divided from it in aggressive assertion of our superiority–we fall.

But the hate, the misogyny, the racism, and the ignorance that has spewed forth from the now president-elect’s campaign are only part of the problem here. What has been clear from the start of this very strange election cycle was that both sides built their campaigns around a foundation based on suspicion, mistrust, finger-pointing, and othering the opposition. One critical question, however, that for me has unpinned this grueling months-long process remains unasked, and so I ask it now:

Why do we hate people who hate people to show that hating people is wrong?

I am under no delusion that scapegoating and mudslinging are “new” concepts in the political arena.… Read more

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