This was another of the epic-dessert–baking-series that occurred after my oven-less stint in China. And this one, well, it’s going to happen again soon. Because people loved it. It got scooped up so fast not only did I not even get a bite, but I didn’t get picture either. But I’m thinking that nothing at a dessert buffet runs out that quickly unless it’s something to make again. And again. and again.
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So. I promised you some real Chinese food and here it is! This is a snacky-type-thing called zongzi (pronounced dzong-zuh..kind of..my pronunciation is horrible), and they are basically sticky rice and some kind of filling wrapped up in reed leaves and boiled. They are tastier than that description might sound. Zongzi is traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival which just so happens to be occuring the weekend after next. So you can make these and have your own little celebration at home! You can make them salty (usually with some kind of pork inside) or sweet (with red beans, or corn or nuts or whatever you like, really).
They are not at all difficult, but there is a certain technique to it, and they are rather time consuming. But I say, grab some friends, a bottle of wine (or disgustingly strong rice wine in our case.. mixed with orange juice because we’re classy like that..) and you’ll be amazed how fast it goes! These are one of my favorite things I’ve eaten so far in China, and I can’t wait to try all kinds of different combinations when I get home. Whoo!
I have a new obsession. Before I tell you what it is, just promise me you won’t judge me for it. Promise me you won’t think I’m obnoxious. Or pretentious. Or overly concerned with health. Because trust me, I am none of those things. Okay. Ready? I am currently obsessed with…Whole Wheat Flour
I know, I know, it’s annoying sounding and it’s one of those trendy food things that people are doing and blah blah blah. BUT WAIT, you promised you wouldn’t judge! Let me let you in on a little secret: it’s awesome. Look, let’s be honest here, one look around my recipes and you’ll know I’m not a health freak. However, I am in public health now and I feel that this field comes with certain responsibilities. I’m not about to give up cupcakes or ice cream or fried food (or a sausage mcmuffin when I’m hung over..) but I do find myself trying to get in some of those “daily recommended amounts” or whatever they’re called. Turns out, it’s not really all that difficult to eat healthy things if you just trick yourself. All you have to do is hide the healthy in something so delicious it can handle.
While we’re being honest, lord knows I don’t eat enough whole grains. And seriously, do you? (If you do, you impress me. You can stop reading now because clearly you are better than me. and I want to be like you.) Cmon.. white bread? Dosen’t count. White rice? Doesn’t count. Pasta? Doesn’t count. Sucks, doesn’t it? But white bread and pasta and rice is so…good. Yum. So I have decided to share with you some of my tricks. I have been very, very tricky lately. I’ve made whole wheat just-about-everything and let me tell you the best part: I can’t even tell!!
Wait!! I know that you’ve heard this before! I know that you don’t believe me! But have I ever lied to you before?? I promise you, people, I’m not a liar! And I take my baked goods very, very seriously. If it tastes like healthy I just plain won’t eat it. Unless it’s slathered in butter or cream cheese. So when I say “you won’t even notice the whole wheat flour” or “it’ll taste exactly the same as regular flour” please, trust me. I really mean it.
When my Grandma died, just under 3 years ago, I was literally on the other side of the globe and completely isolated from my family. I couldn’t go home to see her before she passed, and I couldn’t make it to her funeral. Luckily, Brett was visiting, and between him, a giant flower, the friends I had made there, and substantial amounts of ice cream, I got through it. I made a giant chocolate cake in remembrance of her, which I think she would have liked.
What I learned from that experience, is that losing the ones you love is extremely hard, but having family and friends that love you around can make it easier. My Grandpa passed away this past weekend. It was hard, and it’s still hard, to realize I’ll never see him sitting in his chair again, but I got to say goodbye to him, and I have a huge, amazing family, and the best friends the world has ever seen, so I know I’ll be okay eventually. I don’t know my Grandpa’s favorite kind of cake, so I don’t know what to make in his honor (Family: if you let me know what it is, I’ll make it pronto). But about a month ago for Brett’s birthday, I made angel food cake for the first time. And I feel it is an appropriate thing to share now. This cake is for you, G-Pa: I hope you’re eating some with real angels, and that G-Ma has a giant slice of double chocolate.
So, as I looked through the recipes page here, I realized something: the ratio of desserts to everything else on this site is extremely lopsided. So I looked through some of my most recent posts, and lo and behold, the last four were some type of cake. Hm, obsession much? Clearly, I have a sweet tooth and clearly, I am incapable of growing out of it. Not that I’ve tried very hard.
So, I figured I ought to do a post that wasn’t a dessert. But I couldn’t bring myself to go all the way. Sure, I’ve made some tasty dinners lately, but I’m sitting here watching law and order and I don’t feel like talking about gyoza or stuffed peppers. I’m sure I will eventually, but right now, I want to talk about muffins. Blueberry muffins.
It’s nearly the Fourth of July (in fact, in some parts of the country it already is fourth), a time for BBQs, raft races in the pool, sunburns, fireworks, and celebrating the good ol’ U.S. of A. So naturally, we’re having a BBQ in the park tomorrow with plenty of meat to grill.
And what better way end a celebratory BBQ than with American flag cupcakes? I mean, seriously, can you imagine anything more American than a kid with dirt on his knees, BBQ sauce all over his sunburned face, shoving his face full of a bite-sized-fully-artificially-colored-American-flag-adorned cupcake? Because I sure can’t. And, that will be Brett tomorrow, guaranteed.
do you love cranberries? I think I love cranberries. I’ve always been a fan of cranberry sauce, cranberry muffins, cranberry scones. Really that’s all the cranberry things I really remember eating a lot of. Then I found a recipe for cranberry upside down cake. And I realized I had every single ingredient it called for. In my house. already. (We bought a costco size bag of cranberries for thanksgiving and they were still in our freezer. and still delicious.) I didn’t have to buy anything. If that’s not enough of a reason to bake something, then I just don’t know what is.
So I made it. And I will probably make it again and again. The cake itself was just sweet enough to work with the super tart cranberries (especially if you slap a huge dollop of homemade whipped cream on top..mm..) and it was moist and yellow and yummy. I wish I were actually knowledgeable in food and food terms so that I could describe this cake “properly”. It was great. I feel like that’s enough.
We were invited to a birthday party! (there’s an exclamation mark included because this doesn’t happen very often…don’t feel bad for us. we’re perfectly happy eating baked goods without an excuse. and by ourselves.)
I know that normally, you don’t bring baked goods to a birthday party. But this was a party for a one year old. And it was a potluck bbq type thing. So we decided to make cupcakes! And yes, we made coffee and irish cream cupcakes… for a one year old… for her birthday. We figured the grownups might want cupcakes too? It was Brett’s idea. The booze. In the cupcakes. I wanted to do cupcakes. But to be honest, it totally worked. Everyone said they were amazing and they started disappearing so fast I almost forgot to grab one to try! (But I got one, and I have to admit, they were pretty dang delicious.)
Though this blog is meant to be like an online journal of sorts documenting my attempts to cook and bake…I do not treat this as my journal (luckily for you, actually because I start my journals “dearest journal” and I end with “love, erin” and that could get awkward.) What that means is, I don’t update as frequently or up-to-dately as I would a journal. This is what I do:
I hoard photos on my camera and I stockpile posts of the things I’ve hoarded photos of, and when I have enough photos to merit uploading them, I throw them all on my computer and slowly publish the posts. Is that weird? I feel like it is. Because I read so many other food blogs (wanna know which ones? check that sidebar over there—>) and they all say things like “yesterday I made this” or “Wednesday, for so-and-so’s birthday” when it’s Friday. And I think.. hm. all mine are at least two weeks old…
Well whatever, the food is still good, right? Right. I feel I’ve justified myself by being honest. Therefore this trend will probably continue. Just so you are aware.
So. If whoopie pies are in, cupcakes are.. they’re like…they’re.. super in. Wow. Wish I could have come up with a better term for that. But seriously, cupcakes are the new cool thing. Food Network has an entire show about them: Cupcake Wars. Yes, you read that correctly. Cupcake Wars–as in battling batters as in dueling desserts as in combating cupcakes–that kind of cupcake wars. Plus you have “cupcakeries” popping up all over the place (seriously, a cupcakery? like..you only make cupcakes? really?? yeah. no joke apparently.) Personally, I don’t love cupcakes. I mean I don’t hate them and if presented with a cupcake of just about any flavor I’m sure I’ll devour it in as little as two bites. But cakes in general are not my favorite. I like ice cream. and gelato. and pie. and creme brulee. and there-are-so-many-desserts-other-than-cake-so-why-limit-yourself?
But I will admit. I do love the portability, the ease of use (and of baking for that matter), the individual-portions-so-I-don’t-have-to-share-my-dessert, and the fact that let’s face it, cupcakes are just dang cute. And who doesn’t love shoving their face full of cuteness? And since I’ve already discussed my sugar problem.. clearly I’ll make and/or eat anything whose ingredient list contains “sugar” in any of its various forms. So I’m jumping on the cupcake bandwagon. Guess that’s just my thing. I’m not a trendsetter, I’m merely a sheep. I follow. If everyone else was walking off cliffs, I suppose I’d do it too. (Actually that is entirely untrue. I am not a sheep. But all these cupcake pictures and recipes I’m seeing make me want to try my hand. I’m not a blind follower. I’m just easily swayed to try anything with sugar involved…)
Plus the whole point of this blog and of all of my experiments in the kitchen is to master some simple techniques and some delicious stuff. SO I have to master cupcakes, right? because I figure I have to master cupcakes before I can master cakes. I realize they probably aren’t all that related, and that cake and cupcake snobs of the world would chastise me for comparing the two. But, really? I don’t care. Cupcakes are mini cakes. If I want to make big cakes, I should start by making little cakes. or something like that. Continue reading