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Love is in the air–and so is the aroma of these adorable slice-and-bake heart sugar cookies!
Last weekend, about 20 of us squished into my tiny apartment to eat dinner and bake Valentine’s Day cookies together. Since we needed a lot of dough (but had very little to spare from our wallets), I nipped over to 99 Cents Only to pick up flour, sugar, and all that jazz that I needed that night for our baking/dinner party! They have my favorite name brands at student-friendly prices, so shopping there really is a one-stop shop kind of deal for lucky me
While I was there, though, I also found these super cute V-day cards (for under a dollar! Whoo!) and just couldn’t resist snatching up a few for my friends. Guess you never know what you’ll find when you shop at the 99, eh? I’ll be writing them next week, so if you’re lucky one might just be headed your way soon!
The best part of this whole experience–shopping at the 99, making messy heart shapes out of red cookie dough and wrapping them in even more sugar cookie dough, and eating merrily at my place–was just spending time with some of my favorite people in the world. Best of all, since these dough logs needed to be chilled overnight before baking, we had an impromptu picnic the following Wednesday to enjoy the fruits (or hearts) of our labor!
So as you can see, this V-Day I have tons to celebrate: friends, cookies, and just about everything I need at unbeatable prices for a day filled with love. Wishing all of you the very same! (Hint: making these adorable cookies for loved ones are a great start–learn how to make your own in the recipe below!)
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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.
The beachfront view from our resort in downtown Cancun.
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
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.
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 ever, but 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
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!
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
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
Of all the places I visited in Europe, my favorite place by far was Edinburgh, Scotland. A buzz of excitement radiated through the city, palpable from the moment our 2-hour train from York pulled into the old station. We had timed our visit to coincide with The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest art festival where thousands of artists converge every year to perform, sing, dance, make you laugh, make you cry. During our five days in the city, my sides split with laughing at the sketch troupe Daphne’s Second Show, a Cambridge trio that wove together hard-hitting humor with physical comedy, seamlessly transitioned sketches, and surprisingly impressive three-part harmonies. My heartstrings wavered and melted at I Love You Because, a loosely Pride-and-Prejudice-based modern musical about two couples who learn to love another not in spite of their flaws, but because of them. On our last night there, my heart both broke and mended at Liam Williams’ Travesty, a stunningly executed, intimate play about two people who learn to navigate the murky path through love, relationships, expectations, and commitment.
Art, like food, has always resonated with me differently at different times in my life. While I’ve shared some of the best moments from my vacation in the UK so far, not all of the trip went smoothly. I arrived in England to a welcoming household, and a partner who felt strangely distant; as the days went on, the sense of disconnect and aloofness only intensified, especially when I saw how warm and animated he could be with his family and friends from school. By the time we reached Cambridge on our fifth night together, I was crying on the bench outside a banquet afterparty while trying to book a last-minute room at the London Travelodge (we didn’t have anywhere convenient to stay the next night) and wondering what on Earth I was doing in England at all.… Read more