Scone Experimentation

IMG_2657Over the past week, the number of dreary, grey days has increased as the number of leaves on trees has decreased. Though I love apple cider doughnuts, loose and comfy chunky sweaters, snuggling into my winter comforter, and all other cozy autumn activities, it is always sad to feel the warmth of summer fade.

But autumn brings its own vibrancy, with leaves like flames and multicolored fruits and vegetables ripe for harvest. I had always associated pomegranate seeds with summer because of their “tropical” fuchsia hue and the exoticness of a fruit whose seeds shone like edible jewels embedded in bitter white pith. However, after I discovered they were in fact a fall fruit, pomegranates became a favorite fall time treat (though of course, apple cider doughnuts will now and forever be the best part of fall).

After a week of drab, depressing days drained of color, I needed something delicious, sweet, and visually striking, even borderline garish. Enter my favorite breakfast pastry, the scone, combined with my favorite exotic flavors, green tea and pomegranate seeds. Matcha imparts an earthy, slightly bitter taste, while the pomegranate seeds provide small sparks of juicy sweetness. Paired with a mug of hot tea, these scones are rays of light on rainy fall days.

Continue reading

Backlog Pt. 1

IMG_1765
Well, it certainly has been a while. But fret not, not much has changed – my food photography skills remain as questionable as ever.

So first off, I suppose it’s worth addressing the elephant in the room. Why did I stop posting, and why am I now returning?

For me, this past school year can generally be divided into a “before” and “after.” A before when I was still pretty okay, and an after when everything seemed to be imploding in an almost-comical tweenage “end of the world” kind of way.

In the beginning, I would start to write posts, then realize they were freaking depressing, and while great food is metaphorically made with “blood, sweat, and tears,” no one really wants to read a sob story when all they were looking for was a cookie recipe. So I’d delete and start again and the post would take another down and dispirited route. I tried to write about movies I’d seen, places I’d gone, about my friends and my family. I discovered that it’s surprisingly difficult to write about superficial joys – and not-so-surprisingly difficult to write about people when you’re ignoring their calls (sorry family members!). Every post I tried to write sounded artificially saccharine and after a while, I stopped trying.

Eventually, I reached the elusive “rock bottom.” At that point, I’d been living off almonds and dried cranberries and packages of dried seaweed and not much else. I felt as if I had lost everything that had been my identifiers – my innocence (which is the nice way of saying gullibility), my deep connection to classical music, my love for food, my confidence in my intellectual capabilities, my tendency to be easily excitable and inspired.

While this was all happening, I’d sometimes wish that I could just “wake up,” that I could sleep off the weariness and the insecurities and the nothingness. Looking back, I have no idea why I thought waking up was easy – the number of times I’ve slept through really important alarms (e.g. that one time I was five hours late for my flight) is, well, alarming. I finally recognized that I could not just wait to wake up one day and feel fine.

I am returning now to this blog, and to the life that I put on hold during these lost months, as part of my reclamation of my ‘self.’ I refuse to ever again fall victim to the names I have been called and the rumors that have been spread behind my back.

I’ve chosen to post this recipes because first of all, it is one of my favorites – an airy, ricotta-based lemon cheesecake that is delicately sweet with a tangy kick. It’s also my dad’s favorite dessert that I make, and if there’s one thing I’ve (re)learned from all of this, it is that my family unconditionally loves me, which I somehow forgot along the way. Finally, spring took it’s sweet time arriving in New England, but I can finally pack away the sweaters and proudly display my lingering “insulation” from the winter in tank tops and shorts, and what better way to celebrate than eat lots of (kind of healthy) cheesecake?

Continue reading

A Little Late for Pumpkins?

IMG_1637I’ve always found it interesting that people associate pumpkins with autumn when really, pumpkins are available all year round. People associate corn with summer, yet have less of an aversion to enjoying some canned corn in the winter than munching on some pumpkin in not-autumn.

…it’s only been a year or so and I fear I’m already starting to get repetitive.

But hear me out here. Pumpkins are native to North America. The Native Americans first introduced settlers to pumpkins and apples and corn. And we repaid them with, uh, diseases (sometimes intentionally inflicted) and forced hikes and their very own fertile, highly desirable parcels of land.

Anyways, pumpkin has become a staple in American culture – what would Thanksgiving be without some kind of pumpkin-based dessert? Or Halloween with no carved pumpkins?

Things that become staples in American culture tend to become overexposed, like Cold Stone and cupcakes. (Or as my dad just suggested most sinisterly, the American dream of a suburban house with two cars.) We burn through popular things in a never-ending, ferociously turning cycle of fads.

And yet, some things endure because they somehow become enshrined, become something that we voluntarily enjoy only infrequently. Like Thanksgiving turkey, strawberry shortcakes, and pumpkin pie. Last I checked, turkey, strawberries, and canned pumpkin are sold in supermarkets all year round (and in the case of strawberries, at surprisingly high quality even in the winter), and yet, we save them for the right moment. We imbue them with special value.

Back to pumpkin – it’s interesting, the Native Americans just ate them roasted, as a staple part of their diet. But in those early years, cold-resistant crops must have seemed like some kind of godsend to the early settlers, something to be celebrated.

Guess we’re not so ‘native’ to this land after all.

Personally, I would make this cheesecake all the time, I love it that much. It might be my favorite new recipe of 2013. But my mom, who actually is an immigrant from Hong Kong, was shocked (and maybe even a little appalled) that I’d suggest such blasphemy. Spoken like a true American, mom. Guess I’ll just have to wait (with baited breath) for the next holiday season.

IMG_1622

Continue reading

The Lost Month

IMG_1619Here’s a recipe that I made over Thanksgiving…a month ago. I was actually super-excited to post this recipe because it turned out so great that I made it twice, once for Friendsgiving with my friends at school, and once with my family for Thanksgiving dinner.

And then things got crazy. So crazy, I started making all these new habits that I haven’t ever had before. Here are a few:

1. Making it my mission to ruin my cholesterol levels by eating 3+ eggs a day. That’s what happens when you have no time for food. Scrambled eggs or fried eggs or really any eggs that can be made in 5 minutes or less becomes your staple diet.

2. Speaking of no time for food, skipping lunch and getting hunger pangs around 3pm. Fun fact: after an hour, the pangs turn into hunger ‘euphoria’. Or you faint.

3. Listening to music while walking because time between classes/the library/bed is the only time you have for any leisurely enjoyment of anything.

4. Hanging out with no one but people from class. Bonding through trauma. (Ever had to work with Stata before? After one semester of Stata hell in cold computer labs full of miserable people, you really empathize with your sullen and unforgiving statistics professors.)

5. Going to bed at a reasonable hour. In my youth, I used to like hanging out with people, so I’d pull crazy all-nighters all the time, which obviously led to a whole host of sleep deprivation problems. In my wise old age, I’ve realized that sleep is what gets you through hell week after hell week. (Food probably ranks pretty high on the list too, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from International Finance, life is like the trilemma. You can’t have it all.)

And yet, despite the death of my social life, there were times when I felt like I had no time to even catch my breath. The amount I’ve learned is astounding, but even more astounding was how quickly quality of life can deteriorate in just a month. I’m forever scarred by the one day I was so out of it, I started eating some old lasagna with a layer of what was cheese, but was actually mold.

But it’s finally over, and I’m finally home. Never before I have I appreciated being home so much.

So uh, happy Thanksgiving guys? And happy holidays! :)

Continue reading

Chai Tea Cookies

Image

I’m a tea girl all the way.

This is partially because coffee makes me go legitimately insane: I experienced coffee for the first time at a Starbucks in Times Square. I subsequently couldn’t stop laughing and collapsed in the middle of the square. Oh and basically my entire grade, many tour groups of Asians, and annoyed native New Yorkers were there to witness it. Definitely ranks in the top ten most embarrassing moments of my life.

I also just absolutely love tea. When I was a kid, my mom would make me a mug of chamomile tea, then read to me until I fell asleep. And because I was sick so often, I was able to explore life on the frontier with Laura Ingalls Wilder, explore secret gardens and beautiful moors, and journey through Narnia with a magician’s nephew, English children, and a cast of awesome fantasy creatures as my guides. Despite the sore throats and fevers, it made being sick worth it.

So today after going to bed at 4:30am, I had to wake up at 8am for work. It was hell amplified by a terrible sore throat. After hours of teaching small children piano (aka texting aka passing out quietly in the corner), I hiked to the supermarket to buy granola bars and ended up buying all the ingredients for chai tea cookies.

Obviously, it was meant to be. These cookies are thick, soft, and spiced deliciousness crusted in cinnamon sugar. And best of all, they do taste like chai tea :)

Continue reading

Pumpkin Pie, Not From Concentrate

Image

A few days ago, I took an online quiz and discovered that I’m apparently 2/3 of the way to being a psychopath. Honestly, I think I (and everyone around me) took this news as an affirmation of what they already had suspected to be true.

But then again, this was an online quiz. Its results may be completely wrong and I might just be 100% psychopathic.

Anyways, before I go completely insane and cause a mass incident in my Economic Development class, I’ll leave this pumpkin pie recipe for you. This was not your regular pumpkin pie made out of a can. This was made with real sugar pumpkin roasted in the oven and puréed with…my hands. (Just practicing for when I mash other more gory substances.)

I was more than a little daunted by the thought of making a pumpkin pie completely from scratch, so I called in my super-talented baker friend, G, to help me out. Thank god I did. She somehow managed to cut open the pumpkin with a butter knife and had the brilliant thought to use the leftover crust and filling to make pumpkin bars.

It’s definitely worth skipping canned purée and roasting your own – the flavor becomes more about the pumpkin, less about the spice, and the texture is less mushy and more springy. Just make sure you mash it well to break the pumpkin into a smooth purée. (Dare I say, its stringy, chunky features should be…unrecognizable by the time you’re done with it.)

So when I’ve fallen into the practice of conning people because they deserve it and cheating on my multiple partners because it’s OK as long as you don’t get caught, just remember this: make sure you buy sugar pumpkins if you’re going to make your own pumpkin purée, otherwise your pumpkin pie will turn out stringy.

And remember that once, I was a lovely girl who made even lovelier pies, like this absolutely amazing made-completely-from-scratch pumpkin pie.

Continue reading