Same island, same season, different restaurants, different friend.
It’s been two years of blogging.
730 days, 15 loaves of bread, 114 cupcakes, 417 muffins, 2,786 cookies. And probably only 1 salad.*
*Statistics are an estimate.
Just like one year ago, I am not in the mood for traditional birthday cake. Just like last year, I am incredibly grateful for all of you who have hung around on this journey to see what we can create from butter, flour, sugar and eggs.
I’m humbled by the thought that people enjoy reading the random musings that go on in my head. I’m amused that this adventure has resulted in me carrying around a pound of butter in my purse on more than one occasion. I’m thrilled that this whole whatever-this-is will be moving into a new kitchen soon.
Yep. I bought a condo. I’m officially on my way to becoming an adult.
I have high hopes for this kitchen. I imagine it will host parties where I make way too many bite-sized desserts and squeal as I pop champagne. Parties where we start in fancy dresses and our nails done, and finish the night with our hair down and heels off, sprawled across my couch laughing so hard our mascara runs down our cheeks. I wish for quiet Sunday brunches of waffles and eggs and bacon, with the dogs asleep on the rug. I expect the occasional shouting match over doing the dishes that devolves into drinking wine off the kitchen floor and crying as we hold onto one another and promise each other the world. I dream of tired mac & cheese dinners, extravagant turkey dinners, and Indian dinners ordered from down the street.
I want this kitchen to be a place where we do the work. Where friends and family come together to share ideas and fight and laugh and cry and solve problems and talk for hours about nothing, and, above all, make our relationships stronger.
Thank you for hanging out with me for the past two years. Here’s to the next ten.
Frozen Mocha Cheesecake
A lifelong favourite from my second mom. Probably one of the first things I’ll make in my new place.
Lightly adapted from Eagle Brand
one and a quarter cups oreo cookie crumbs
quarter cup butter, melted
quarter cup sugar
one package (250 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
one can (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk
one cup chocolate chips, melted (I used semi-sweet)
two tablespoons espresso powder
half tablespoon hot water
one cup whipping cream, whipped
Grease a 9″ springform pan or baking pan (my Le Creuset one seems to be somewhere between an 8×8 and 9×13, but I would suggest trying a 9×13). Mix the oreo crumbs, butter and sugar and press into the base of whichever pan you’re using and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk on medium until well mixed. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in melted chocolate. Dissolve the espresso powder in hot water, and add into the cream cheese mixture. Mix it all really well until it looks even. Remove from the stand mixer and gently fold in whipped cream.
Scrape filling onto prepared crust, cover with saran wrap and freeze until solid – at least 4-6 hours. Serve frozen.
Every so often, I do something for which there is no excuse.
This time, I fed my friends insects under the guise of brownies.
Crickets, to be exact.
Instead of getting grossed out, can we have a super quick nerd moment together? Eating crickets is cool, and not just because I’m Asian and Asians like to sell deep fried insects on the street. Crickets, gram for gram, contain more protein, fibre, calcium, zinc, iron, and magnesium than beef sirloin, eggs, or whole milk. By a lot. I first read about them in Men’s Health (yes, I read Men’s Health. I digress, but if you’re bored and scouring the interwebs for fascinating reads, this is also worth checking out – as is the entire book) and immediately went and ordered some cricket flour from Bitty Foods.
Crickets are also way more sustainable in terms of water use and land space than, say, beef. You also don’t have to stick your hands into raw meat to prepare them for cooking (forgive me for that mental image, I’m still recovering from a cooking class in which I had to debone a chicken).
No, they don’t taste like the deliciousness that is perfect gluten-filled flour, but for a gluten-free option, they’re now my favourite. They’re slightly chewy and almost nutty and totally delicious.
And hey, worst case, they’re a protein vehicle for justifying eating mass amounts of chocolate. Can’t go wrong with that.
Side bar: if you’re not a huge baker but want to get in on the cricket action, I also tried these Exo protein bars and they are absolutely amazing.
Cricket Flour Brownies (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)
four teaspoons ground flax
three tablespoons water
three quarters cup almond meal
three quarters cup cricket flour
two tablespoons arrowroot powder
half cup cocoa powder
half teaspoon salt
quarter teaspoon baking soda
half cup milk or dark chocolate, melted
one third cup coconut oil, melted
one cup coconut sugar
quarter cup almond milk
one teaspoon vanilla
half cup pecan bits
two teaspoons cocoa nibs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8×8 square pan or line it with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small cup, vigorously mix flax and water. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk almond meal, cricket flour, arrowroot powder, salt, and baking soda. Make a well in the middle and add flax mixture, melted chocolate, coconut oil, coconut sugar, almond milk, and vanilla. Whisk away until everything is well combined and starting to come away from the edges of the bowl – no need to worry about over-mixing since there is no gluten!
Fold in pecan bits and cocoa nibs, and spoon into the prepared pan.
Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out with crumbs attached; about 40-50 minutes. I let mine cool and then drizzled additional chocolate on top – adding flaked sea salt to that would be a godsend.
Cut into squares once cool and store in an airtight container.
Note that people with shellfish allergies may be allergic to crickets.
As a wrap-up to the Whole Life Challenge, we were instructed to write ourselves a letter that would be delivered to our email inboxes after a self-determined amount of time. Knowing that I would be starting the Challenge again on May 2 and that this spring would be full of changes, I opted to have my letter delivered to me after only a month. Below is my letter.
Dear Future Me,
2015 is the year you made changes. You proved to yourself that you could do the nutrition aspect of the Whole Life Challenge without lying about it. You ended a safe and loving relationship that wasn’t enough for you – and that’s okay. You were figuring out what you needed to do next and I hope you’re on the path to doing those things.
I want you to remember what it feels like to commit to things and get them done. That you have the ability to improve yourself if you set your mind to it. Remember how your abs looked after six weeks of eating clean, and how awful it felt to eat sugar and drink alcohol. The nutrition aspect of the Challenge worked. The stretching aspect of the Challenge worked. Don’t give up on these.
I also want to remind you to be a better person. Don’t stop here.
Train hard for Ringmasters, continue to eat well, put energy into your relationships with friends and family, be more open. Take criticisms and learn from them. Be supportive, be empathetic, be brave, be magnanimous.
Read Tiny Beautiful Things often. Set goals. Accept compliments. Laugh hard. Revel in the small things. Be present at the dinner table. Most importantly, be kind.
You’ve got this, darling.
All my love.
Photography credit: Adam Menzies of Upsidedown Photography
I’ve been inadvertently trying this thing where I eat like the average American.
It started with the brilliant idea to make an Easter egg hunt, which quickly devolved into eating the extra eggs that I didn’t hide, and then eating the eggs that were found.
It escalated quickly.
(As a side note, it appears that I am an excellent egg-hider. To date, 40 of the 100 eggs and 2 of the 6 bunnies remain unfound. Tell all your friends.)
Then I decided that I should swear off sugar because I had been eating so much of it I made myself ill. Naturally, I decided I should instead stuff my face with Cheezies. But while I was at the grocery store, Easter chocolate was 50% off. So I had Cheezies and mini eggs for lunch.
We’re not counting this as one of my finest moments.
I need some vegetables in my life.
two ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes, quartered
half a red onion, peeled and diced
juice of one lime
guacamole seasoning or lime salt, to taste (I use Tajin)
Mash everything in a bowl with a fork (I like to leave a few chunks of avocado in mine). Garnish with cilantro if you’re feeling fancy. Serve with tortilla chips or eat it with a spoon.
Over the years I’ve written online dating profiles for a few friends of mine.
Each time I’ve done it, I’ve wondered what I would write if I had to create one for myself.
This probably sums it up:
I am a 25-year-old engineer by day, circus aerialist by night, and occasional life of the meticulously-planned and over-catered party (but frequent no-show to stay in bed reading). I miss every movie reference and abandon every tv show episode within ten minutes to bake cookies. I spend an unreasonable amount of time thinking about what my next six-course meal will be while simultaneously trying to develop six-pack abs. I fall in love at least three times a day and find the greatest happiness in the smallest acts of kindness.
Protein Pancakes (paleo, gluten free)
two bananas (pick ones on the riper side)
one scoop of your favourite protein powder (I used Vega french vanilla)
Mash bananas in a bowl, and beat in protein powder and egg until well mixed.
Grease and heat a cast-iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat.
I make my pancakes two at a time using half a cup of batter each. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on one side (or until the edges are drying and the middle is starting to bubble) and flip, cooking until golden brown on both sides (this took me about 3-4 more minutes on the second side). These don’t flip well, but give it your best shot.
I topped mine with a ridiculous amount of fruit and berries and whipped cream, because that’s how I roll.
Things I have learned writing this blog:
Baking is easy. Writing is hard.
Eight months of the year in Vancouver, daylight is terribly difficult to come by.
People like stories about life, not just about how delicious the cookie is going to be.
They do not like posts about circus.
I don’t really care what people like. I just blog-vomit whatever’s willing to be sucked out of my brain (see #1).
I might be in love with the Oxford comma.
I should always bake before getting dressed to go out, as I will inevitably end up with a light dusting of flour all over me.
Trampolines are scary (okay, that particular bit of knowledge may not have come from this blog).
Coconut and cupcakes are an underrated combination.
Adapted from the Food Network
three quarters of a pound butter, room temperature
two cups sugar
half tablespoon vanilla
half tablespoon almond extract
3 cups pastry flour
one teaspoon baking powder
half teaspoon baking soda
half teaspoon salt
one cup buttermilk (or one tablespoon of lemon juice and enough milk to make a cup)
three cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin pan and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Add vanilla and almond extract and mix until fully combined.
Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl and measure out the buttermilk (or lemon juice and milk). Alternate adding and gently folding one third of the dry ingredients with half the wet into the butter mixture, and then stir in the shredded coconut. Try not to overmix.
Spoon into prepared muffin pan and bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean; about 25 minutes. I didn’t frost mine, but if you’re into that I would suggest a coconut frosting like this one.