These bakery-style pumpkin cupcakes remind me of all the fresh pastries I saw on display in Parisienne bakeries when I visited France this past summer. This recipe features a moist crumb and warm spices that serve as the perfect foil for a tangy cream cheese frosting. (You can catch up on my latest Europe travel stories & recipes here and here.)
While the pumpkin cupcakes that I’m sharing today are by no means Parisienne, making them transported me back instantly to the days that I spent in the heart of France at the end of July. Freshly-baked pastries filled every patisserie window that we passed: Shelves groaned under the weight of baguettes, macarons, petit fours, eclairs, and sometimes–yes–beautiful cupcakes of more assortments than I could dream up. We spent hours roaming the city this way, munching our way through the beautiful streets of Paris and bathing ourselves in an air that seemed soaked in the smell of fresh gateau.
I say “we” because even though I’d planned to explore Paris on my own, I was lucky enough to make a new friend (are you sensing a trend here yet? haha) on the front steps of Notre Dame during my first day in the city. Felipe and I met in a cathedral line that seemed to stretch for miles: Unsure whether I was in the right place, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he spoke English. Turned out that he did–and not only that, but he was traveling solo as well! As the line moved, we started chatting and he told me how he came from Mexico originally but was currently staying in Barcelona for research; it was one of his last weekends in Europe and he decided to visit Paris just for the day before heading back.… Read more
My friends and former co-workers have all declared this Chocolate Oreo Cake one of THE best cakes of all time. Made with a fail-proof, rich chocolate cake recipe and featuring an unbelievably delicious cream cheese Oreo frosting, this gorgeous dessert will become an instant hit for any occasion!
I am SO excited to share this Chocolate Oreo Cake recipe with all of you that I can’t even pester y’all with travel planning updates today. (Gasp–respite from my travel fever blabber, you say? I KNOW!)
This one-of-a-kind recipe features all of the hard hitters that you never knew you needed in a cake: an Oreo-crumb-infused layer of cream cheese frosting sandwiched between the most gloriously moist, fluffy layers of chocolate cake ever invented by mankind! (While I’m pretty sure that mankind is the only species to have invented chocolate cake, I am so irrationally smitten by this particular recipe–which I also feature in my beloved Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting–that no hyperbolic statement seems to do it enough justice.)
The cake: I can’t praise this chocolate cake recipe high enough to the skies! It’s fluffy, rich, slightly smoky (with undertones of espresso/coffee), and pretty much failproof. It’s also my favorite chocolate cake recipe to date: I ended up making four variations on this recipe in just one week!
The frosting: Imagine your taste buds wading in a cream cheese pool of tangy, slightly sweet frosting that’s been bathed in Oreo crumbs. The result is an explosion of cookies ‘n cream-esque flavors–perfect for offsetting the rich chocolatey goodness of your cake.
The verdict: Hands-down one of the best-received cakes that I have ever made, period. I brought this decadent cake in for a surprise birthday/farewell party at the old workplace and received so many compliments on it that I was nearly hammered down through the floor with them.… Read more
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CreateWithOil #CollectiveBias
Boy, what a week! End-of-year dinners, graduations, and hangouts have been happening non-stop since last Monday, though it hardly feels like six years have flown by since I first stepped foot into grad school. (More about that in next week’s post!) I also made the journey down to Anaheim to cover some live events at VidCon–and finally made my 90s kid self’s dreams come true by getting slimed at the Nickelodeon booth! In the midst of all the hubbub, though, I’m happy to report that my family has found the time to visit and soak up some real SoCal sunshine with me. You can tell that summer is in full swing here: we can barely stand outside for five minutes without finding ourselves completely drenched in sweat!
From the beach pier where we walked last week, we could smell the aroma of freshly fried foods wafting across the boardwalk, and I was momentarily transported back to our family’s summer travel days. County fairs have always held a special place in my heart–every time we visited a new state on some road trip or another, we would visit the local fairs and try out all of the unique fried foods tantalizing us at each booth. Any fellow funnel cake fans out there?
In the spirit of summer, this week I decided to try my hand at deep-frying something right from the comfort of our own kitchen. Of course, deep-frying can make even the most unpalatable foods taste amazing (have you TRIED deep-fried pickles?), but what happens when you make great life choices and deep-fry something as inherently delicious as cheesecake?
Pure bliss, folks. Utter and edible heavenly bliss!
These Deep-Fried Cheesecake Bites are, without exaggeration, possibly one of my favorite in-kitchen creations to date.… Read more
I know that I’ve been gone for forever, but before I apologize, I have BIG NEWS to share with all of you that I think you’ll love…
Guys, I’M DONE WITH MY PhD!!!
It’s hard to even begin describing these crazy past three months. Back in February, I still had a full chapter, an introduction, and a conclusion to write–not to mention tons of revisions to wrap up and a lot of theoretical reframing to slough through. (In other words: LOTS to do!) Days were spent hunkering down in my woman-cave, a bowl of half-eaten instant ramen on one side and a steaming pit of deep despair on the other. My friends and fam–bless their souls–were absolute troopers during these whirlwind months, bringing the party to me when I couldn’t go out on a Friday night and surprising me by stocking my pantry with essentials whenever I forgot to eat. I could go on and on here about how these amazing folks saved my sanity, but I’m dedicating an entire post to that later (so stay tuned!).
Speaking of sanity, it has been in short supply for the past six years a few months now, because a lot has been happening apart from pursuing this prodigal PhD! Since February, I have:
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!
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
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!)
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
There are no “foodies” in Italy–there’s simply food. As I quickly learned during my week-long stay in Putignano, food is a way of life, not simply a packaged bar of high fructose corn syrup that you snatch while dashing out the door for work. While food has always been a central part of my Chinese family and culture–think lazy Susan’s groaning under the weight of 15 or 20 dishes, chopstick wars over the last piece of fried tofu, literal battles between relatives over who is going to pay the bill–being in Italy felt like landing on an entirely different food planet altogether: one made of family friends, 10 o’clock dinners, and lots–I mean LOTS–of cheese.
Aside from enjoying homemade meals with Alessio’s family, I was invited to taste (quite literally) a whole sampling platter of Italian dining experiences throughout the week. One of my favorite meals happened on my second night in Putignano, when we drove over to the countryside home of one of their family friends for a pizza party. No, not a pizza party of 90’s Chuck E. Cheese glory–we’re talking 2 kilos of homemade pizza dough, dozens of fresh meats and vegetables, authentic brick oven right on the patio, the whole shebang. Better yet, we went through something like six courses (a crust “test run,” individual pizzas, dessert pizza with Nutella, gelato, fruit, and cake), so that by the end of the night I thought my stomach was going to burst straight through the too-snug button on my jeans. Seated along a long table that seated all 15 or 16 of us, everyone seemed content to sit and eat and chat as the early evening faded into evening proper, then late night. The pace of Italian life during the summer offers an incredible contrast to the hustle & bustle of American day-to-day, and as someone who spends half of her solo meals typing away at the computer, it was amazing to be granted this glimpse into a truly mindful culture of eating.… Read more
I can’t talk about my time in Ireland without talking about Guinness. I might as well have eaten at a Michelin-star seafood restaurant and told you all about the bread basket.
According to the friend I was visiting in Cork, there are two things you cannot visit Ireland without trying: the chocolate, and the stout. Now, I was all for the chocolate (obviously), but Guinness? Beer? Stout? Hops? Imperial pints in the UK/Ireland are huge and I had never drunk so much as a can of beer before visiting Europe (the taste of beer reminds me of that nasty Chinese herbal medicine we used to drink as kids), so I felt a bit nervous about what I’d do when faced with a whole glass of that dark, intimidating liquid. All the same, I certainly hadn’t come halfway across the world to sip on sparkling water–so when Alex proposed that we go out for a couple of rounds at the local pubs, I was ready to give Guinness my best shot.
Verdict: Turns out, I am actually a fan of the well-poured Guinness! Alex explained the process to me while we waited for our bartender to finish pouring,* then we found seats outside and enjoyed the live music wafting through the town streets while we sipped on glasses that were nearly overflowing with creamy white head. We later met up with a group of his school and university friends, who were probably the friendliest folks in the northern hemisphere and made me feel absolutely welcome. Of course, the second pint of Guinness probably helped! Best of all, Alex and I got home the first night at 1 AM, poured ourselves some cereal with milk, and watched Louis Theroux documentaries into the wee hours of the morning before we were too tired to stay up any longer.… Read more
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeGameTimeSaucy#CollectiveBias
Ha–I did it! After five years of avoiding the Rose Bowl like the plague, I finally hitched up my shorts two weeks ago and attended my first-ever grad school football game. Since our team was playing my alma mater’s rival, I was doubly invested and ready to shout as loudly as I could about “taking off that red shirt,” if ya know what I mean. Plus who doesn’t love a socially acceptable excuse to be obnoxious and rambunctious and generally just a tad madwomanish?
As it turns out, the weather on game day was insanely sweltering and, as our seats in the student section were full-blast under the sun, a few of us ended up spending the entire first quarter wandering around outside and looking for food instead of actually watching the game. This meant that we missed the only touchdown of the entire game, scored by yours truly–er, well, until the other team scored not one, but TWO touchdowns in the final 2 minutes of the game. Derp. My friend was majorly upset (it was her first-ever football game), and my dad texted me right after the game because he simply could not stop cracking up at our misery. “Heart broken loss,” his message read. Annnnd to me this is why food > football forever, hands down.
Speaking of food and football games, though, there is one reason why I still love the sport even though my team is a heartbreaking hot mess on the field this season sometimes disappoints me. In my book, you can never go wrong on any occasion where all sorrows can be drowned in food, food, food. To celebrate the start of a new season, I popped down to Walmart the following weekend for a few game day edibles and ended up snagging a bag of chips, some corn tortillas, a few blocks of cream cheese, and a bottle of mild Pace® Picante for that extra flavor kick.… Read more
You know those incredibly frustrating people walking around on the streets and into traffic and over cliffs and right smack dab on top of your newly-polished dress shoes because they’re too busy playing Pokémon GO?
I have a confession to make.
I am one of those incredibly frustrating peopleplaying Pokémon GO.
I apologize if I ever trampled over your dog in my haste to catch an Arcanine. It was (probably) an accident, unless you just happened to be in my way while a Squirtle is loose nearby and a mad, mob-mentality stampede that would make any Black Friday vet proud seized hold of me. Then it was probably deliberate. But I realize that being part of a cult(ural phenomenon) doesn’t make me any less of a Poké-jerk, so please excuse my trangresses…
There are many downsides to living in a college neighborhood. Blasting music at 3 in the morning, piss-drunk but holier-than-thou undergrads whom you hope to never see in your classes, zero parking…
But there are also upsides, one of which is that when geeky pastimes hit home, they hit hard. For the past 7 days or so, seriously over half of the people walking around campus are fueling up at Pokéstops, catching Pokémon, talking about Pokémon, dreaming Pokémon. We shuffle casually up to spots where those glorious purple lure modules have taken over our AR screens, grinning sheepishly around at the other folks around us who have stationed themselves on the same block as we swipe our fingers upward in an all-too familiar motion, swiping in harmony with every other index finger in a 30-foot radius, warmed by the knowledge that we are all part of the same cultural moment–that even though we are strangers, we are a community, too.
It’s easy to make fun of Poke-players as geeky eccentrics or even fanatics, but there is also something strangely democratizing about the game that should not be ignored, even at this early stage of the craze.… Read more