Tag Archives: cream cheese

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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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Cakes & Cupcakes, Cheesecakes

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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Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

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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

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Cookies, Muffins

One-Pot Chocolate Guinness Cake with Chocolate & Cream Cheese Frosting

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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

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Brownies & Chocolates, Cakes & Cupcakes

Game Day Recipes: Easy Picante Cream Cheese Dip + Rollups

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeGameTimeSaucy #CollectiveBias

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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.

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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

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Filed under Appetizers, Dips/Spreads, Lunch & Dinner

Strawberries ‘n Cream Cookies {+ A Few Thoughts from a PokéTrainer}

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.

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I am one of those incredibly frustrating people playing 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…

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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.

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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

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Strawberry Cream Cheese Oat Bars

Happy middle of Jul–wait, what?

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I’m not sure how we’re already halfway through the summer–nobody ever consulted with me about this matter, or I would’ve veto’d it faster than you can say “pandas on a water slide”–but here we are, even so…and in spite of me, it seems!

These past two weeks have been unusually crazy ones…which is my way of excusing myself for the recent lack of updates. Whoops! Thankfully, we’ve finally hammered out our final plans for le big Europe trip, which is exciting because I hate travel planning with a passion, and more than one late evening ended with me simply drooping my head onto the table while the boy (bless his much more patient, level-headed penchant for these things) continued to click away at various online bookings and ticket listings, and basically making sure that the rest of the trip actually happened.

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Aside from that, there hasn’t been much time for baking or photography because apart from travel planning, we’ve been having a bit of fun around here! We spent this past long weekend moseying around town, attending various picnics and potlucks, and having an early surprise birthday day for him since he’ll be home when it happens later this month. We started the day by getting massages, watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople (a VERY good film–it earned 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and we both loved it for its wit, fast-paced humor, and general ability to tell a spot-on story), and then getting dressed up to see a play called Big Sky at the local playhouse (it was also VERY good–the perfect mix of humor and dramatic insight into the workings of a dysfunctional family). Needless to say, I’ve been playing a lot of blog catch-up since he left for home yesterday, and I can’t wait to share all of the other exciting developments happening around here lately!… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars, Fruit Desserts

Jack Skellington Oreo Pops

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that I cannot decorate desserts for shiz. On a scale of one to disaster, I am definitely the onset of the apocalypse.

Welcome to How Not to Decorate Your Oreo Pops for Halloween 101…

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For a non-decorator, though, I have to admit that these Oreo pops are pretty damn cute anyway. Sure, they’re not chef-d’ouevres by any stretch of the imagination–but considering that I made this batch at 4 AM within 60 minutes, that’s got to count for something, right?

I made these for an adorable Halloween party that my friends over in the education/IS department threw last week. They weren’t the only themed appearances, either: there were spooky eggs, kitty litter cake, witch’s brew, and props & costumes galore!

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Last Sunday, the BIG Halloween festivities continued when my fambam and I paid a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth–Disneyland at Halloweentime is inexplicably amazing. The Dapper Dans come out to sing their ghoulish quartet songs in minor keys; the scent of pumpkin and $4.25 churros wafts through the air; the Haunted Mansion is taken over by Jack Skellington and his crew of mischievous misfits. But I’ll let you in on the biggest secret of all that made this Halloween at Disneyland the best one ever:

We ate dinner at Club 33!!!!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this hidden gem, Club 33 is a members-only venue located in New Orleans Square, right above the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and the Blue Bayou restaurant. Membership is something like $10K per year, with a base fee of goodness-knows-how-much and an interminable waiting list.

We had been waiting to go in for two full years now. My brother’s friend, whose dad is a member, helped us secure a spot for my very belated birthday celebration, but renovations on the restaurant set us back a solid 24 months.… Read more

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Checkered Red & Blue Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Happy July 4th weekend to my folks in the States! For those of you who aren’t: howdy, and I hope you’re all enjoying the sudden onslaught of all things Red, White, and Blue that’s slamming your feed this week <3 guilty as charged.

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Growing up, I was never a huge fan of July 4th. As a non-meat-eating A/C comfort kind of gal, I just couldn’t see the appeal of a holiday where a) grilled meat popped up EVERYWHERE you turned, b) any and all outdoor activities promised to end in sticky, stinky sweat-bomb baths, and c) national levels of machismo bravado exploded by about tenfold.

And then I became a food blogger, and all of that changed overnight. Suddenly the choruses of the national anthem bellowed proudly overhead as I experimented with 4th of July-themed desserts; all around me, explosions of raspberries and blueberries on white cakes conspired to convert me to the grand old holiday. And hey, I ended up making this Checkered Red & Blue Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting for my team this week, so who’s to say it didn’t work, right?

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Ever since my dormmate told me what a checkered cake was in college, I’ve wanted to make one, and this year I thought July 4th was as good an excuse as any for the occasion. While the presentation could use some work, I was blown away by just how easy the process was once I decided to actually follow some instructions. On top of that, the red & blue velvet cake recipe I use here was hands down AMAZING: moist, rich, deep, and completely balanced by the sweet cream cheese frosting I slathered all around it. Trust me, it’s NOT just a chocolate cake or buttermilk cake with food coloring in it: it is so.… Read more

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Graham Cracker Crumb Cheesecake Bars with Golden Oreos: a recipe/post from your newest PhD candidate! (eep!)

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If it’s felt quiet around here lately, you’re completely right. But guys. Guys.

Guess who’s penning this post as a newly baptized English PhD candidate? (eeks!) Excuse me while I bust-a-move around the room a la old-school 90s arcade game.

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So for those of you who are just like, Ala you big nut what are you even talking about we have no idea please speak English okay, I have basically spent the past few months working furiously toward writing a dissertation proposal (called a “prospectus”) that I finally discussed with my entire exam committee on Monday. For a little shy of two hours, we sat in a room and questioned and brainstormed and pontificated about my ideas on the construction of children’s fantasy literature (and yes, that’s my dissertation topic–booyeah!).

Then they sent me out of the room and were all like GO STEW IN YOUR SWEATY INSECURITY and closed the door and deliberated.

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Okay, actually they sent me out at a really nice and comfortable point in our conversation, and basically everyone was grinning as I walked out and everyone was still grinning when I walked back in. I was honestly a little bit scared because I have never seen my advisor beaming so broadly before at me, and I expected a terrifying green imp to burst out of his skin at any second and shout, “NYAH NYAH, you failed!”

But thankfully, my advisor’s skin stayed intact and he actually shook me heartily by the hand as he said: “I am so happy to congratulate you on successfully passing your exam!”

I imagine there being a palpable exclamation mark at the end of that sentence. Like, never ever have I heard him use an exclamation mark and the word “you” in the same sentence before, so you know–pretty big deal!… Read more

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