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HEC 88

One of the great traditions of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration (story of how I got here soon to come) is our annual showcase weekend, Hotel Ezra Cornell. Undoubtedly one of the great things that sets us apart (and made us an official school), HEC allows us as students the opportunity to put everything that we’ve learned in application. This year, I worked back of house (BOH). In a nutshell: Crazy sleepless nights. Teamwork. CORNER!!! Achy feet. DRAAAAAAAAMA. Dirty dishees. Hypertension. Industry leaders. CORNER!!! Fun times. Dirty dishes. WHERE IS THE RASPBERRY POWDER. Hours of chopping chives. Head to tail pig tasting. Less sleep. Did you taste the…? Liquid nitrogen. CORNER!!! Dirty dishes. HOT HOT HOT COMING THROUGH. I need a tofu on the fly! black garlic mashed potatoes. Family meal. Foodie lovin. EGBOK. You just met who? Congratulations! Success? Success.

chef

Appetizer plates! Poached gulf shrimp with halved caper berries, fresh ramps, chevre with a tarragon-beet reduction, beet leather with lemon zest, and a croissant curl with foie gras mousse, topped with truffle.

lobster

Poached lobster with curry and basil oil, (bisque served tableside)vegVeggie appetizer: watercress and beet puree, fire roasted corn, shaved candy stripe beets and micro greenssomtamGinger-caramel glazed short ribs with spicy papaya/mango/carrot salad and tomato caviar.

bohboh

Back of the Back of House (counterclockwise from top right): SO MUCH LAUNDRY. too many dishes scrubbed.. MSLC is creepy after hours. medical infirmary Statler rollaway beds for tired me HEC volunteers.

afterparty

As always, hotelies keep it classy with an after party spread of truffle infused greens, duck breast, smoked salmon, manchego, and raspberries.


4.2.

The meaning of life.

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I used to think the meaning of my life lay entirely in my accomplishments and achievements. What was the legacy I’d leave behind—what would people remember me for? What great things would I do for mankind? But I also believed that life was bigger than me, extending out farther and wider than the scope of the universe. Human existence, human touch, human relation, all colliding in different forces, impacting and shaping the lives of strangers and subsequently, the world around us.

But already in the brevity of my nineteen years, the innocent joy found in simplicity still escapes me. I don’t trust your smile as much as I don’t trust mine. Who’s right is it to be an optimist when your reality is mundane? Does altruism actually exist, or is the whole point of “doing unto others” so that you in return will receive?

Who can know what one’s purpose is? The Buddhists say that you can, when you reach Nirvana. The Nihilists say there is none. The Lutherans say to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But on a day-to-day basis, what can one even do to “discover your life purpose”? The simplest answer: Love. Love what you’re doing. Love where you’ve come from. Love the culture in which you were raised. Love the field that you’re working in. Love your work. Love your friends. Love your brother, your sister, your mother, your father. Love your God.

And yet, my questioning remains unceasing. The most cliché question for centuries, millennia, and for as long as human existence: What is love?

The greatest joy. The most impossible frustration. The unknowable force. The avoidance of bringing sorrow to another. The increase of self-sacrifice. The decrease of personal gain. The solace of a simple “Good morning.” The rest of a simple “Good night.” The ebb and flow of conversation. The stifled silence of conflict. The search for words of apology. The acceptance of forgiveness. The steady anchor at the end of an impossible day. Love is life.

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It’s been a while…

…and to say that many things have changed wouldn’t even begin to cover it. In between my last post and now, I’ve crossed a couple things of the to do list:

#1: found myself a boy ;) (you might recognize him from here)

dimsum

#2: graduated from high school

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#3: worked my first job ever (and subsequently discovered that aeronautical and aerospace engineering is not for me)

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#4: completed my first semester of college (and subsequently discovered that chemistry is not for me either)

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So here I am, a year and a half later. A year and a half more self-discovered. A year and a half in denial that growing up is a reality. A year and a half more nervous, anxious, and generally excited about the future. Documentation starts now.


In the meantime..

I am putting together some recap posts for my entire summer, but I really don’t understand this thing called motivation. Haha. Oh well. Currently working on some light reading- you know: Plato, Aristotle, etc. etc. but I think it can wait for a little. After all, there are things to talk about like these little desserts I made for all of my teachers for a “Happy First Day of School!” gift (and perhaps a bit of pre-gratitude for all of the letters of rec I’ll be needing eheh). So here was my first day of school, one week(ish) ago:


It’s weird being a senior. Everyone before you tells you that the time is going to go fast and though you know it in your heart as a freshman, it doesn’t really hit you until you’re here- in the moment. Honestly, much of this year feels like an extension of last year- we’ve all (basically) settled into our friend groups. We all share some classes together. Lunchtime is spent with the same motley crew. It’s just that there isn’t anyone bigger and now the hallways seem to be swarming with beings that leave us wondering– “Was I ever that small?!”

So the Greek letters for our senior class are Δ X Σ- dedication, Christ, service. It’s really cool how this reflects our lives: Christ (X) is at the center of our lives and because of this, there is a difference (Δ). The sum (Σ) total of this difference is a life of service to those who are older, younger, and less fortunate. I know I’m probably butchering this somehow, but that’s the gist of it. And one more thought while I’m at it:  Δ is kind of where we’re at now as seniors. It’s where the river meets the ocean- for us, where dependence meets self-sufficiency. So anyways, for one final beginning-of-the-year thank you to my teachers, I present:

Chocolate Torte: chocolate cake filled with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting and topped with chocolate buttercream
Lemon-Lime Passionfruit Curd Tart (in a from-scratch graham cracker crust based on this recipe)
Caramel Blondie with Caramel Swirl/Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (recipe to come soon. probably. maybe.)

Oh and as for the giveaway…well. Check out these diagrams first. Then you’ll understand what I mean when I say this.

Expectation: get post submitted to foodgawker, thus bringing more readers (and more entries for giveaway?)
Reality: epic fail. haha. so according to my two person entry random pick, the winner is Lindsey! woop. Look for your package in the mail soon girlie! :)


Passionfruit Angel Food Cake (and first ever giveaway!)

So I still have a lot of catching up to do from all of my summer travels, but in the meantime, I figured I’d do a little post about cake because it’s pretty fantastic. But anyways, have you ever spent hours doing virtually nothing? I have! Whilst waiting in the mornings or afternoons or evenings at my grandparents’ home in Taiwan, my young(er) cousin passed time by playing fruit ninja on her super fancy iPad 2 (and no, sorry. that’s not the giveaway hahaha). Before I left, she asked me, “Do you think about fruit ninja randomly sometimes?” And I said that yes, I did occasionally. To which she responded, “Okay good. Because I do. I think about it a lot. Especially passionfruit. It’s so yummy!”

Now a few days earlier, I had gone with my grandpa to the street market and bought a bag of passionfruit. Upon bringing it home, we scooped out the flesh and my grandpa suggested that we eat it straight up. But what with my grandpa, grandma, aunt, uncle, cousin, and I all in the house, I knew that we’d want to stretch it as far as we could. So my cousin and I ran down to the FamilyMart (think 7/11) and bought a bottle of Taiwanese Sprite. We mixed it up with the passionfruit and everyone loved it.

I wish it was possible to bring back passionfruit, but alas, Customs and Border Security would throw it into their bin of “international waste” (sniffle, sniffle). But! I’ve got the next best thing:

passionfruit/apricot preserves and passionfruit extract (purchased in an international mart in Taiwan)

So. Secret’s out! If I’ve recently made you a passionfruit cake, I did not in fact pluck passionfruit off of my nonexistent lilikoi tree in the back yard. Disappointed? Don’t be! Just leave a comment, any comment below and you will be eligible to win a bottle of passionfruit extract(!), thereby enabling you to also flavor your cakes and cookies with the addicting flavor that is passionfruit.


The passionfruit extract is pretty iridescent as you can see:


…and it smells pretty amazing, if  I do say so myself.

Limit one entry per person and U.S. residents only. We’ll see how many nibbles there are, but for now, I’ma leave this giveaway open until 12:00 AM EST on Friday, August 26 2011.

Want another entry? Like us on Facebook and comment back here saying you did!

Angel Food Cake

(very lightly adapted from here)

1 cup (3 oz) sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups + 2 Tbls egg whites (I used the whites from 12 large eggs)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp passionfruit extract

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Have ready an ungreased large tube pan (9-inch diameter 16-cup capacity), preferably with removable bottom.  If the pan bottom is not removable, line it with parchment or wax paper.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with 3/4 cup sugar.  Place remaining 3/4 cup sugar in another small bowl next to the mixer.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer beat egg whites at low speed until just broken up and beginning to froth.  Add cream of tartar and salt and beat at medium speed until whites form very soft, billowy mounds.  With the mixer still at medium speed, beat in 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added and whites are shiny and form soft peaks.  Add passionfruit extract and beat until just blended.
4. Place flour-sugar mixture in a sifter set over waxed paper.  Sift flour-sugar mixture over egg whites about 3 tablespoons at a time, and gently fold it in, using a large rubber spatula.
5. Sift any flour-sugar mixture that falls onto the paper back into the bowl with the whites.
6. Gently scrape batter into pan, smooth the top, and give pan a couple of raps on the counter to release any large air bubbles.
7. Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back with pressed firmly, about 1 hour.
8. If cake pan has prongs around the rim for elevating the cake, invert pan onto them.  If not, invert pan over the neck of a bottle or funnel so that air can circulate all around it.  Let the cake cool completely. To unmold, run a knife around edges, being careful not to separate the golden crust from the cake.  Slide cake out of pan and cut the same way around removable bottom to release, or peel off parchment or wax paper, if used.
9.Place the cake, bottom-side up, on a platter.  Cut slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife.

passionfruit angel food cake featured with raspberry whipped cream and passionfruit gelée.


I promise…

…I’m still alive! So basically, I was at Cornell for 3 weeks (for summer college) and it was simply fantastic. I have a million and one photos to blog here in a couple of weeks when I get time (you’ll see why below), but quick summary so you know what to look forward to- think gorges, farmer’s markets, antiquing, and amazing architecture. 

Now, I’m in Taiwan at a juvenile correction facility- if you can even call it that. It is absolutely breathtaking here in the mountains, and the children just melt my heart away. Quick summary so you know what to look forward to- think laughter, native Taiwanese handicrafts (which are surprisingly much like Native American work), sunshine, mountains, and unicycles. Yes. There is so much to say and not enough words with which I can describe how incredible everything about this summer has been so far. And it’s not even over yet! To tide you over, I leave you with this picture from sunset last night:

 
Until next time!


4th of Jell-O!

Happy Independence Day, America! How are you celebrating? Backyard grill-out? Picnic? Watching your town parade and fireworks? All of the above? Good. I kind of wish I could be home to attend all the local festivities, but I won’t really complain since I’ll be swimming at Buttermilk Falls, NY and enjoying a day off of classes. (But all of you back home had better attend those festivities for me!)

As if you didn’t have enough flag related desserts to choose from, here’s another one! Layered jell-o is always a hit with the kiddies (and adults too). This one’s kind of tricky, but you look smart. So let’s get to it.

First, you’ll want to pour your first layer of red jell-o, refrigerate for 30 minutes, follow with a white layer and repeat 2 more times. Then, you can wrap a few rulers in foil and build yourself a little construct like this:

Then, you’ll want to carefully make the rest of the red and white layers, as such:


and…


Then, when you’re finished with the red and white layers, very carefully remove the rulers and pour in the blue jell-o.


Chill for at least 3-4 hours before slicing and serving.


Ta-da! So cute.

Flag Jell-O:
1 3 oz. boxes of blue jell-o
3 3 oz. boxes of red jell-o
6 packets of gelatin
1 16oz. can sweetened condensed milk

For red layers:
1. Boil 1 1/4 c water and add 1 packet of gelatin with a box of red jell-o. Stir and let it cool before using.

For blue layer:
2. Boil 1 1/4 c water and add 1 packet of gelatin with a box of blue jell-o. Stir and let it cool before using.

For white layers:
3. Let gelatin soften in 1/4 c of water.
4. Boil 1 c of water; add gelatin and sweetened condensed milk.
5. Separate equally into 6 bowls (1 for each white layer). You will need to microwave the bowl for about 13 seconds before using it.

If you have any questions, shoot me a question in the comments and I’ll answer it! The weekend is calling and I must answer.


Foodie Birthday Party!

Birthdays, birthdays are so fun. Birthdays are for everyone! I know; my poetry and observation skills are just incredible. And I know everyone always says that each birthday was better than the last, but I really can’t lie; this birthday was by far the most fun (or delicious at the very least). It’s kind of a given when you get teenage girls (especially two foodie birthday pals!) together though, so ya know. It was destined to happen. Below, the feastings:

Strawberries&Brie

Rosemary Focaccia&Baguettes

Spanakopita

Thai-Italian Rolls (!)

Strawberry Pie! This deserves it's own post. And I imagine it will get it someday.

Liz's (birthday bud!) awesome habanero cheesecake with chocolate crisps/candied cranberries/orchids (so fluffy!)

Featured Friends(top left, clockwise): the happy one, the capture-the-moment-one, the hiker one, the hippie one


Happy birthday to us! And p.s. happy birthday to this hsunamisweets blog! I posted my first post over here exactly one year ago yesterday. Whoop!


Summer Photo Journal #1: New Orleans, LA

Preface: I went to New Orleans to visit the people that I’ll be going to Taiwan with later this summer. If you’ve never been, do yourself a favor and GO. It is awesome. Go to Cafe du Monde for some beignets and cafe au lait, any one of the many seafood places, get some crawfish, and go to the French Quarter/Riverwalk for your fill of touristy fun.  So anyways, I got there on Friday but unfortunately didn’t happen to have my camera on me when we went for beignets and etouffee. Nothing particularly eventful happened on Monday, so no photos from then either. But there were Saturday and Sunday happenings!

Saturday: I visited the Riverwalk and French Quarter with some family friends.

BBQ Shrimp with a baguette for dipping in the butter that the shrimp was swimming (haha!) in. Did I mention butter? Yeah.

1/2 platter of fried seafood: catfish, oysters, softshell crab, hush puppies, steak cut fries (This was shared by 4, and we couldn't finish it. But then at the table next to us, each person ordered a platter apiece.)

Riverview

The Fudgery: where you discover that making fudge is surprisingly entertaining.

Beignets! omg. EAT THEM. If you get them at Cafe du Monde, they'll come to you already powder sugared. But if you go to Morning Call, they'll serve 'em to ya plain so that you can either put on your own powdered sugar or dip them in something savory (such as crawfish etouffee, which is, by the way, amazing).

Lake Pontchartrain...

...would be even more gorgeous at sunset.

…and as for my lack of photos from the French Quarter, I will hereby justify myself by saying that we ended up driving through instead of walking due to the intense heat/humidity. (Next time!)

Sunday: Went to church with church buddies for Father’s Day/baking day in the afternoon.

making lunch for church peeps with Stefan, Bo, and Daisy!

Snowballs: ice, (probably) high fructose corn syrup, raspberry color/flavor. Yes. Yum.

Daisy+Me making ladyfingers (insert emo hair.)

ladyfinger batter, mascarpone creme, egg whites, sugar, etc.

Finished: Imprompt(iramis)u!

Unpictured in this post: family friends, gumbo, Taiwan team members- all of whom/which I hope to/will be revisit(ing) shortly!

Stay tuned for Summer Photo Journal #2: Ithaca, NY and other random spammings!


Hailstorm: A Photo Essay



Cinnamon Caramel Churro Cupcakes

Having a birthday on Cinco de Mayo is pretty fantastic, especially if you are a high schooler in Spanish 4 porque hay una fiesta just for you! However, this does usually require that one bring their own specialized birthday treat. As the title of this post indicates, I made cinnamon caramel churro cupcakes! Here’s how:

Get some tortillas (white, whole wheat, whatever) and a cute mini cookie cutter…

…and stamp away!


Fry in 1/4-1/2″ or so of oil in a medium skillet.


And let them cool a bit before dumping them into a bowl of cinnamon sugar to coat.

You’re going to need cupcakes and a bit of thick caramel (dulce de leche!). I used the back of a chopstick to perforate my cupcakes and fill them, but I’m sure the back of a spoon handle/spoon would work equally well.


And when you’ve finished filling them, pipe a bit of cinnamon cream cheese frosting, place your churro star on top and you’re done!

Idea inspiration from The Curvy Carrot!


Strawberry Explosion

Happy Strawberry Month/Season/whatever this is! In honor of the seasonal strawberry boom, I chose to make this Japanese cheesecake. Having not actually baked much of anything (especially involving whipping egg whites), I am happy to say that this was a success! Lately, I’ve seen Japanese cheesecakes all around the blogosphere. There are yummy loaves (look at the crumb! so perfect), cute green tea versions, and swirly patriotic/psychedelic ones. In the end though, I decided to go with the one I first found here a couple years ago. Since I first saw that post, I’ve been meaning to make one, but I’ve just never gotten around to it.

In case you aren’t familiar with this style of cheesecake, it’s lighter than your traditional NY cheesecake and fluffier too, thanks to the whipped egg whites. The way I see it, you get all the fat without the feeling of guilt!  ;)


Ingredients!



As you can tell from the top left square, I was having some issues with my melted cream cheese. It was kinda clumpy and frustrating to deal with. Same with the addition of the flour mixture (even though it was sifted). It all worked out though with the addition of the egg yolks.


Yay fluffy egg whites!

Here’s the decorating process. Lightly sweetened whipped cream and sliced strawberries only!

Boom, strawberry explosion.


Japanese Cheesecake
Makes a 9×13″
280g sugar
12 egg whites
12 egg yolks
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
100g butter (approx. 1 stick)
500g cream cheese (approx 2 1/8 bars)
200 ml milk (I used 2%)
120g cake flour
40g cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt

1. Cube the butter and cream cheese. Add to a saucepan with the milk and place over medium heat, stirring constantly until the butter and cream cheese are melted. Allow this to cool before adding in the egg yolks, one at a time. At this point, preheat the oven to 375F or 160C.
2. Sift the cake flour and cornstarch together over the cream cheese mixture in 3 additions, stirring well after each.
3. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and whip on medium speed, gradually pouring in the sugar. When the sugar has been added, turn the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form.
4. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the cream cheese mixture until incorporated. (Check for streaks!)
5. Line a 9×13″ springform (or regular) pan with parchment paper and pour the mixture in.
6. Place your water bath* on the bottom rack of the oven and slide your cheesecake on the top rack.
7. Bake for about 1 hour (you may need more or less time depending on your oven) or until golden and set.

Note: Do not immediately remove the cheesecake. Let the cheesecake stand in the oven with the door ajar for about an hour. This will help prevent cracks and such. Also, I made this the night before, and after letting it sit covered and refrigerated overnight, it was easier to handle.

*I boil water for the water bath as the batter is being made so that there is a sufficient amount of steam circulating throughout the oven.

*disclaimer to those who know me in real life: no, I did not eat this cheesecake as it is comprised pretty much solely of dairy products. But everyone who did eat this enjoyed it immensely, and there were no leftovers.


Prom Recap

I’ve been meaning to get around to this earlier, but life, school, etc. have gotten in the way. But! It happened, and a good time was had by all.  And how could we not? What with seahorses, exotic fish, penguins and shark-petting, we were bound to enjoy ourselves.

Student Government Girls!

Centerpieces! (water beads, electric blue orchids, ceramic starfishes)

view from below of a petri-dish like tank

Tiger Barbs and Water Snake

Turtles!

Jellyfish Room! (in which dessert was served)

Jellies!

Free-Spirited Friends. Yes.

If you’re ever in need of an event location around the Cincinnati area, definitely check out the Newport Aquarium! And Funky’s Catering is boss. For those of you interested, the menu consisted of:

Mela Verde Salad- Mixed Greens, Dried Cran/Blueberries, Walnuts, Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette, Gorgonzola and Diced Green Apples
Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes
Bow Tie Pasta with Spinach, Mushroom and Artichokes in a Pesto Cream Sauce (This was by far the biggest hit!)
Sauteed Baby Vegetables and Haricot Verts in a Basil Oil

…and there was a chicken dish, but that held no interest for me. (Though everyone else loved it!)


Sweet 16

…and never been kissed. (To all my Asian relatives; don’t freak out- it’s just a saying.) And while I may not be 16 anymore, I won’t deny the latter. Go ahead, label me. I don’t mind. The way I see it, I still have all of me and no regrets (which puts me way ahead of the charts, statistically speaking). I came across a list the other day that  I made in 8th grade labeled “Expectations for High School.” Though it’s only been three years, I was still interested in what my (more) naive self had believed and wanted. In rather large script at the top was: #1: I will stay single throughout high school. While visiting my aunt in LA this past summer, she commented on how wise my choice was not to date. I didn’t really realize until then how much I actually believed in the idea of not dating. Sure, I’ve had middle school interests and a even somewhat serious (haha, don’t laugh) freshman fling, but in general, a boyfriend hasn’t been at the top of my priorities. Don’t get me wrong- there’s nothing bad (necessarily) about teenage “love” (though I may or may not question its validity), and I don’t really mind the relationships going on around. But in this time of single-ness, I like the solitude that comes with not having to be responsible with the details of another person’s life. So now I’m at the end of my sixteenth year, at the cusp of my seventeenth, and call me delusional or what have you, but I have to say that I couldn’t be more happy with the way things are.

May 5, 2010



Prom…

…is going green! From dress to jewelry to shoes, I am doing what  I can to be environmentally/economically friendly/fair trade-conscious. Oh yes. And because my student government girls and I are snazzy, prom is going to be here this year!

So! Here is my bamboo dress from EcoSkin:

My fair-trade tagua seed necklace, bracelet, and earrings from Knots&Stones:

My hair clip from a little mom+pop stand down the street from my grandparents’ home in Taiwan (yay small businesses!):

And last, my shoes. TOMS are the way to go! I love their one for one cause. I’m definitely looking forward to wearing these this summer also.


Eats Shoots and Leaves

I haven’t done much this spring break. Sleep? Check. Eat? Check. Watch movies (every. single. night!)? Check. Do unspeakable amounts of catch-up bio homework? Check. It’s been a nice me-time kind of break. And when I’m around myself for extended periods of time, random happens. Behold the progression:
So maybe they have nothing in common. So maybe I have superglue.

I traced and trimmed a ukulele design onto the cardboard (it’s approximately 2″) and superglued the little strip onto the base.

Protractor used to create a hole which was then enlarged by the various paintbrushes.

Random acrylic paints that I found around the house! yay! The orange worked out nicely.

Random silver thread that I found in my sewing basket=another fortunate find!

AND BEHOLD, THE FINISHED PRODUCT:

Panda with ukulele, hello. Adventures await.

(On an semi-(not really)related note, this has kept me entertained for hours of spring break.)


He is Risen!

He is risen, indeed.


Dinner Deconstructed: Eggplant Parmigiana

Life has been crazy lately, to say the least. They say that junior year will do that to you though, so I suppose it’s to be expected. AP’s, PSAT, SAT I’s and II’s, ACT, college visits have all been done amidst the chaos that is high school. But it’s great; I love this insanity (kind of, mostly). One thing that I have missed however, is cooking. Not even baking necessarily, as is to be expected of one who has often found her identity as a baker. But cooking. I’ve never really classified myself as a chef. I mean, honestly, if I’m left to my own devices, I’ll likely resort to munchies (case in point: I just ate a handful of gluten-free crackers for lunch out of laziness). But when I feel inspired, it’s totally different.

A couple weeks ago, I went on a college visit to Case Western. The visit itself was blase; yet another college visit after which I left feeling neither more nor less fulfilled.

But on the way up, we stopped in Columbus for dinner at my favorite Japanese restaurant (in America), Akai Hana. While waiting for a table, my dad and I went for a walk around the plaza and visited Tensuke Market. It’s a tiny little Japanese grocery, but I love everything about it; I love how the vegetables are so neatly packaged. I love how the unblemished kabocha are nicely sliced into halves and wrapped. I love that there are umeboshi plums and an entire refrigerated case dedicated to miso. But I digress. Back to my inspiration: the vegetables. Japanese Eggplants, to be specific. As a kid, I always hated eggplant. It was mushy and generally gross. Having somewhat grown up since then, I have found an extreme happiness in the refinery that is a Japanese eggplant.

They aren’t tough and gross as the ones found in American grocery stores can be. Instead, they cook up silky smooth without a single hint of the typical bitterness. For another, they’re only about 1.5-2″ in diameter which means really adorable rounds! And with that in mind, I created this baby eggplant parmigiana.

Baby Eggplant Parmigiana
Serves 2 or 1
1 Japanese Eggplant
1 egg white, whipped till frothy
1/2 c Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 t oregano, basil, garlic powder, black pepper
salt, if desired
Oil

1. Slice the eggplant very thinly- approximately 1/2 cm. This will give you super crispy-tender results.
2. Add herbs/salt/pepper to panko crumbs.
3. Dip the slices in egg white and then in panko crumbs, coating well.
4. In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat up 1/2″ or less of oil (these don’t need much; 1/2″ is really pushing it.)
5. When a small crumb of panko dropped into the oil begins to sizzle, place the rounds in, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.
6. Let the rounds simmer until golden brown; then remove and drain.


Serve with a crusty baguette, homemade tomato sauce, and a balsamic-laced spinach salad topped with a parmesan crisp.


日本

Though my family is of Taiwanese descent, I still feel a deep connection to a deep sorrow for all that has happened in the past month in Japan. It’s not just the fact that my grandparents and cousins speak Japanese or that I (up to one month ago) had family members in Japan; it’s a deep, inward hurt. One of knowing that there is nothing to stop these earthquakes and tsunamis. One of knowing that there is much pain and much sorrow. One of feeling unable to really help, here in America, thousands of miles away. But with all my heart, 我為你們禱告.

Family at Mt. Fuji, 2004

Mom and I at a hot spring, 2004

brother and I fascinated by high-speed trains, 2004

Family at Hiroshima, 2004


Jars of Happiness

…or CakeJars. Also known as my new favorite gift to give! To get everyone’s favorite flavors, I had them initial this sheet:

Needless to say, this sheet became my life. I thought I’d lost it on several different occasions, and panic attacks were my constant companion.

In the end, all went well, and the jars were made without a single problem (which was also a relief considering the fact that things are never as simple as they seem). To begin, I washed the (48) jars in the dishwasher.

Then, I baked various flavors of cake (vanilla, chocolate, vanilla-lemon, cinnamon, butter) in a 14″ cake pan, let it cool and then cut out circles:


I had made all of the fillings prior to the assembly process in order to speed up the actual assembly time.

There were lemons for lemon curd and raspberries for the Lemon Raspberry variety:



Cinnamon apples and vanilla bean cream cheese frosting for the Apple Spice variety:


Coffee cream for the Tiramisu and Toffee Mocha variety:

Coffee for Tiramisu:


Toffee for Toffee Mocha:


…and various other fillings/frostings that I forgot to take pictures of.

Assembly looked something like this:


I did birthday cakejars first, so  I didn’t mind taking pictures of every step, but after that I kinda gave up and just concentrated on finishing all of them.

From left to right:
Tiramisu: coffee-soaked vanilla cake, coffee cream, whipped cream, cocoa
Toffee Mocha: chocolate cake, coffee cream, toffee pieces
Lemon Raspberry: lemon-vanilla cake, fresh raspberries, lemon curd, raspberry preserves
Apple Spice: cinnamon cake, cinnamon spiced apples, vanilla bean cream cheese frosting
Birthday: butter cake, buttercream, chocolate frosting, sprinkles

This ended up being a really successful idea, I think. While traditionalists are still giving cookie mixes in jars, you could be giving portable cakes- which is totally amazing because, let’s face it: at the end of the day during the holiday season, the last thing you want to do is dirty up another bowl for baking cookies. So many of the recipients mentioned curling up on the couch by the fire. How nice is that? (The other half of the recipients consumed them moments within receiving the cakejars.) Give them to teachers, give them to friends- give them to all as the year slowly ends.


Quick Fix

Here’s a quick dinner for busy weeknights- a homemade take on a certain cheesecake franchise’s “Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta.” I found the dish (at the restaurant) to be a bit lacking- it was pretty dry and bland. It had potential though- what with “Broccoli,  Oven-Dried Tomato, Roasted Eggplant, Peppers, Artichoke, Kalamata Olives, Garlic, Pine Nuts and Parmesan.” Sorry if the recipe is a bit vague; I don’t really take notes on what I’ve added and such. On the plus side, it’s an excellent refrigerator-cleaning dish.

 

Serves 2
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c broccoli, chopped into small pieces
1/4 c roasted red peppers, sliced or diced
1/2 c eggplant, cubed and roasted (or sauteed)
1/2 of a 7oz. jar marinated artichokes, halved/chopped/left whole (per your preference)
3 sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), drained and chopped
2 T tomato paste
2 c whole wheat penne pasta, cooked and drained (reserve some of the pasta water)
2 T pesto paste
salt+pepper
3 T roasted pine nuts

In a saucepan over med-high heat, saute the garlic in 2T olive oil until fragrant. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring constantly. Add in the rest of the veggies and stir until heated through. Stir in the tomato paste and reserved pasta water before tossing in the pasta. Remove from heat and stir in pesto. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with roasted pine nuts and serve.


Thanksgiving

There was much of this.


Oh to be a hobbit…

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

“It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle.”


Foolproof way to an easy A

School has been in session for about a month now. (Gosh. Only a month?!) The older I get, the more I believe that each day is like a year and each year is but a day. I remember beginning kindergarten so vividly. I woke up, watched some tv, ate breakfast, and got dressed like usual. My mom hoisted me up into the car seat for my less-than-40-pound body in our 1994 red nissan quest. 90.3 CDR Christian radio was broadcasting the old timey tunes of the ‘theme song’ to Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. The car ride was short; in mere moments, I had to say goodbye to all that was familiar. I cried as my mom walked out the door.

My crying was stopped a moment later as two pleasant looking ladies brought me a tissue and led me to the circle of likewise apprehensive tots. I, along with the rest of my classmates, quickly learned to like my teachers, Miss Susie and Miss Kim. That was the beginning of a lifetime of appreciation.

11 years later, I wake up, complete some homework, eat a quick breafast, and dash out the door. I no longer cry as I leave the house. I drive to school in our 2005 red sienna le by myself. A CD mix of indie/pop plays as I tap my fingers in time with the morning traffic jams. I walk into my classrooms now, observing and appreciating the effort extended by teachers who continually breach the generation gap. Good teachers are hard to come by. Their patience, compassion, and awareness of students’ lives make them one of the rarest breed of humans. When found, they ought to be thanked and celebrated in the most sincere way: food. We aren’t talking run of the mill apples here; give teachers something they can be thankful for on the first day of school when the last bell finally rings. A soft brownie enveloped by a chewy chocolate chip cookie; a pillowy cinnamon mini-bundt cake with a sumptuous caramel glaze; a lovely lemon curd tart in a crisp graham cracker crust-topped off with glazed raspberries.   

Even so, this is worth but a fraction of their efforts. So thank you, teachers, for touching the lives that you do while continually shaping the future.

 

Chocolate Chip Brownie Bombs and Lemon Curd Raspberry Tarts can be found here and here, respectively.

Mini Cinnamon Buttermilk Bundt Cakes with Caramel Glaze

For the Cake:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ t vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken

For the Glaze:
¼ cup butter
½ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
¼ t salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a mini Bundt pan.

2. Sift the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon together into a small bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Add the flour and the buttermilk alternately, beating well after each addition, until thoroughly incorporated.  The batter will be thick. Using an ice cream scoop or two spoons, fill each tin about 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes until a tester comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.

Glaze:
The cakes must be completely cool, or the glaze will not adhere.  Place a piece of wax paper under the cooling rack to catch any drips.

1.Cut the butter into cubes and place in a saucepan with the brown sugar, cream and salt.  After everything melts together, bring to a full, rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  When it begins to boil, let it continue for 1 minute, then pull it off the heat.  Leave the pan to cool for about 5 minutes, then vigorously beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.

2. Immediately spoon the glaze over the cakes, but do so slowly and evenly to cover as much surface as possible.  Leave the glaze to set, then enjoy.  Covered tightly, this cake will last a few days.


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