Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_2615Though much has changed since I attended lower school – babies adept at navigating iPads, kids playing video games instead of board games, and an increasing concern with eating healthy – one thing remains the same. School cafeterias still serve terrible food.

I have choked down my share of cardboard-crusted pizza, tortilla soup made using yesterday’s leftover tacos, and slimy and grey cold cut sandwiches. However, there was one thing my school got right: the chocolate chip cookies.

From a young age, I learned to love cookies, if only because they were the only food option at school that didn’t activate my gag reflex. Every day, I would take one or two bites of my meal, then relish my two chocolate chip cookies. I switched schools after middle school into a totally different environment – an all-girls high school – but the food quality remained the same, if not worse, and the only thing worth eating was, you guessed it, the chocolate chip cookies.

People often embark on somewhat quixotic pursuits of the “best” vanilla cupcake or the “best” yellow cake or the “best” chocolate chip cookies. I’m of the opinion that it’s all rather subjective, and for me, the best chocolate chip cookies will always be those soft, under-baked cookies served at my lower school cafeteria. They did not have sea salt sprinkled on top or fancy chocolate disks, but they were moist (hopefully with butter and not shortening or lard or some weird chemicals), sweet…and they were the only game in town.

But some childhood memories are better left unsullied by attempts to recreate them. And so, I turned to the New York Times best chocolate chip cookie recipe to see if I couldn’t achieve something a little more sophisticated. With two types of flour, neither of which are all-purpose, chocolate disks instead of chocolate chips, and refrigeration time of 24-36 hours, these are quite the project.

Whether they represent something more “adult” or is simply an overly involved variation on something that should really be quite simple, I’ll leave for others to decide. They came out quite good, with a chewy, slightly cakey texture at the center, and a crunchier edge. They don’t quite measure up to the chocolate chip cookies enshrined in the memories of my youth, but then again, I suspect that no recipe, even the original recipe used by my school, ever will.

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Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

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I can still remember the first time I ever made red velvet cheesecake brownies. I was home for spring break shortly after the Tohoku earthquake rocked Japan in 2011, and my sister needed some sweets for a fundraiser at her high school. I scrolled through recipes online, looking for something with a vague Japan theme.

For me and for many Americans steeped in the mainstream culture, red velvet conjures up images of Carrie and her posh friends enjoying red velvet cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, a scene that made Magnolia Bakery a major tourist attraction overnight and set off the cupcake craze. Just the name red velvet sounds luxurious to the point of being hedonistic. The color scheme of the classic red velvet cupcake topped with perfectly white cream cheese frosting is reminiscent of candy canes and valentines and winter festivities.

Red velvet and cream cheese are also the same colors as the Japanese flag. There’s no inspirational reason for why I chose this recipe, no deep rationale attaching the positive connotations of red velvet to a country in need of encouragement. At the time, I was glad to have found a recipe so superficially suited to a fundraiser for Japan. Even better, the recipe was super easy.

Well, my sister came home and said the brownies sold out the fastest out of everything at the bake sale. Everyone had loved them, even the teachers. And I was satisfied.

Every now and then, I would think back to the tsunami. Those pictures of entire villages washed away were terrifying, but the pictures of all the missing people, of all the flowers and alters and people praying for their close ones’ safe return, those were devastating. And yet, after a year, the public’s memory faded. And now that it’s been a whopping two and a half years, the tsunami has ceased to be seen as a massive human tragedy and instead has become a political weapon, with reports of dangerous levels of nuclear leakages from Fukushima, right as Japan was in the process of securing the honor of hosting the 2020 Olympics.

Not to downplay the severity of leakage of nuclear waste, but the timing struck me as suspicious. All these doomsday reports came out of nowhere, with the conclusion that Japan was too dangerous to host the Olympics.

First of all, Japan has done a fantastic job of returning to normalcy. Maybe fantastic is too strong of a word, so instead I’ll use a comparison: they did a significantly better job than our reaction to Katrina. Years after Katrina, parts of New Orleans still lie in shambles, while Japan as a country worked to return many of the hardest hit areas to some semblance of normalcy in just a year.

Secondly, when I first saw the reports, I was extremely concerned, as I’m sure basically everyone who read the articles was. Once nuclear waste gets into the water, it makes its rounds, leading to health and environmental repercussions that are still unknown. But then I got mad. I got mad that for important news events like the Tohoku earthquake and Hurricane Katrina, which ruined countless lives and took many more, we have such a short memory, but we still remember so-called iconic scenes from Sex and the City, which stopped airing in 2004, almost a decade ago.

What is it about pop culture that makes us remember it? Is it because we want to, while images of people huddling in temporary shelters that become flimsy semi-permanent homes, of cities decimated, whether by natural disasters or by war, are too terrible to remember? We can relate to our favorite characters, but we push away real life suffering as something that we cannot fathom unless we too have experienced something as traumatic. Or at least, that’s the excuse.

As for those who have seemingly forgotten the tragic human aspect of the tragedy and have instead chosen to politicize the aftermath to discredit Japan, I truly question their humanity. (They’re also saying this to a nation who created sushi. Trust me, the Japanese care about the health of sea creatures just as much as, if not more than, all the haters.) Just as the Japanese flag represents the rising sun, so have the Japanese risen above tragedy, rightfully earning the honor of hosting the 2020 Olympics.

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Hungry Like the Wolf

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This past weekend, I witnessed something truly terrifying.

My family is comprised of me, my little sister, my mom, and my dad, who eats less than my mom. As a result, I have rarely been around growing boys at dinnertime.

All the women( and my dad) were in the kitchen, preparing dinner, (yeah, yeah, let the misogynistic jokes begin) when the boys began to literally circle around the kitchen table, asking when the food would be ready. We put out the chicken wings early to placate them. 72 wings, gone in a matter of minutes.

The rest of the food, the salad, the ribs, the steak, the giant bowl of soup, the three pasta dishes, were devoured in a similar manner. I felt as if I’d stepped into the world of mythology where chimeras comprised of vultures, hyenas, and wolves ate everything in sight.

My father once asked his colleague, Ed, if he ever took his family out to dinner. Ed replied that his family could only go to buffets because he had two boys. I never understood how having two boys could be so different from having two girls until I saw six hungry boys eat and eat and still clamor for dessert.

This chocolate cake was one of the desserts served. I had planned to take a picture of a cake slice for this blog post, but people were clamoring at me to serve the cake. It’s a fantastic cake. Easy recipe, moist with a deep chocolatey flavor, finished off with light yet decadent chocolate frosting. Added bonus: since the cake is so dense, it succeeded in finally sating the appetites of six hungry boys.

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My Drunk Kitchen(whimsies) Pt. 2

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Before you say anything, why yes, it is a Monday night.

Why yes, it is finals week.

But you know what? I just finished the hardest final of my life. Literally, studied for three days, still felt unprepared. I’ve never felt more inadequate or unintelligent in my life. The name of the bane of my existence: Statistics.

I know, I know. Freshmen take Stats. It’s an intro-level course. And yet, I spent hours and hours on the homework, spent hours and hours reviewing for each test, spent hours and hours stressing and worrying and skipping my other classes just to study a little bit more. And when I wasn’t stressing, I was wondering why an intro-level class was so unbelievably difficult. There were days when I thought about dropping it, about just dropping the Econ major all together. But somehow, I fought through.

Every person has his uphill battle. For me, it was an intro-level Economics course. Some part of me still feels ridiculously stupid, but another part of me kind of can’t believe that somehow, I finished the course. That somehow, I was able to overcome my intellectual shortcomings and actually learn a lot more than I thought I could.

So whatever, a girl can drunk bake and celebrate if she wants. I might have accidentally burned myself on the oven door, but hey, if there’s one thing this semester has taught me, it’s that “no pain, no gain” isn’t just another trite cliché.

The star of tonight’s episode of Drunk Kitchen(whimsies) is a buttery, sweet, and fluffy chocolate chip scone recipe. Also, if I made them while drunk, you know it’s a ridiculously easy recipe. You use your hands, one bowl, and seven ingredients, and somehow, something delicious emerges from the oven. I prefer this recipe, but then again, I was drunk. Sometimes you double the salt, sometimes you double the butter, and sometimes you totally forget to put in the flour. (Yes, I have done all of these things while drunk.)

All right, it’s time for Dref to pass out, sleep for a few hours, then re-enter the vicious (and yet oddly gratifying) cycle of feverish studying and test-taking.

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Nutella-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I can still remember the first time I ever had Nutella.

I was in sixth grade, attending what amounted to summer school (what can I say, I’m Asian), and my French teacher brought in délicatesses françaises that she had purchased directly from France. It was my first time experiencing soft cheese spreads, real French chocolate, and of course, Nutella.

Believe it or not kids, when I was young, you couldn’t just buy Nutella from the supermarket. It was a specialty item. Only one girl had ever had it before. When she squealed with excitement, I wondered how some nut-based spread could inspire more reaction than the spread of pain chocolat and fruit tarts.

Anyways, I calmly spread a dollop of Nutella onto my baguette, placed it in my mouth, and experienced a revelation. Because of this one French class, because of that bite of Nutella, I began my delicious descent into food snobbery.

Okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But Nutella is worth the adulation. And so are these cookies, chewy chocolate chip cookies with a sprinkle of salt and a gooey Nutella center.

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I’m Back, Bitches.

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I thought I knew what busy was. I thought that stress was a familiar concept.

Oh how wrong I was. How woefully wrong.

It started this weekend when my friend found a white hair, and I realized that perhaps for the first time in my life, I felt truly stressed. Let me give you the rundown: 5 midterms in the next two weeks and 1 conference on sustainability that the garden club is hosting, which means calling just about every place in a 10-mile radius to make sure we have everything before this Saturday. It’s been tense.

There have been some silver linings along the way. I’ve discovered that I actually can be productive, as all this stress has guilted me out of even attempting to procrastinate. And miraculously, I’m now ahead of schedule.

So how did I use this extra time? Well I sat around for a bit, reveling in this completely foreign concept of being “ahead,” then I procrastinated, productively. I say productive because, well, now I have like three dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and this rambling blog post. And let me just say, these cookies are worth the fact that I’ll probably be up again past 3AM. I make these whenever I feel stressed because they are the perfect comfort cookie: chewy but not too dense, deliciously full of chocolate, but also healthy (or so I tell myself) because of the oatmeal.

So you can call it a relapse to my addiction to sweets, to my impressive capacity to not get work done, you can call it whatever you want. I prefer to see it as a positive evolution of a bad habit.

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My Drunk Kitchen(whimsies)

Chocolate Chip Cookie…Muffins?

As a 20-year old, I would like to think I’ve become a mature young adult. And just what exactly does that mean in real life? Well for one thing, after a few drinks, I no longer want to go out and dance until the sun comes up. No, I much prefer dancing until 2am, then pulling out my flour, sugar, and chocolate chips and baking some cookies.

Aren’t I mature?

A friend staying with us this weekend helped me in this endeavour, but had to leave halfway through. Not knowing what exactly he had already put in, I threw in some more salt and baking soda, just in case. I also don’t actually own a cookie sheet, so we ended up using a muffin tin.

We popped them in the oven and prayed that our efforts wouldn’t end in disaster. I could see it already: a puffy, gloppy mess of saltiness mixed with disappointment. But fifteen minutes passed and, with some trepidation, we pulled beautiful golden cookie-muffins out of the oven.

My Drunk Kitchen(whimsies) Episode 1: Success!

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