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.

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Two Years

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It must be serendipity: last year, I posted a tomato tart recipe to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my blog, and this year, without even planning to do so, I have another tomato tart recipe!

…Or maybe September is tomato season, and I’m deeply unoriginal.

Well, it’s a certainly at least a little comforting that despite the difficulties of the past year, there are parts of me that remain unchanged. I still love tomatoes, I still adore pastries and butter and learning to cook, and I am still writing about it all.

It’s been two years of discovering that my love for food extends beyond desserts and sweets, and that I may not be as useless in the kitchen as I first thought. Two years of learning family recipes from my dad, exploring new cuisines, gaining confidence with each success, and learning from failures.

Well this is a horribly cliché post, but honestly, I (and everyone else I know) never thought Kitchen Whimsies would make it past its first year. In ancient times, if a baby lived past two years old, parents could begin to believe that their child might actually make it to adulthood, or at least adolescence. I don’t know how to measure the lifespan of a blog – in dog years? In blog years? – but hey, what matters is that somehow, we’re still alive.

I think this year’s tomato tart turned out a little better than last year’s, and I certainly had fun trying out a totally new and totally easy way to make tart crust. Enjoy :)

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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.

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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! :)

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Snickerdoodle Pumpkin Bars

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Autumn has always been a fickle season. With autumn comes fresh-picked apples and butternut squash and trees swathed in beautiful fiery colors, but then there’s also sweltering days and frigid nights and those weird indian summers that fool you into thinking maybe this year, winter won’t be so cold.

Alas, in Boston, the winters are always cold.

Autumn this year has been particularly confusing. One day it was so incredibly hot that not even the professors couldn’t last until the end of class, another day, so cold, we had to turn on the heater. Just today, I was wearing shorts to the supermarket, but by nighttime, I had to change into jeans and a sweater because the temperature had dropped to 40 degrees.

In between the constant wardrobe changes and the insane amount of schoolwork, I’ve been savoring one of the quintessential symbols of autumn – pumpkins. A couple weeks ago, I made pumpkin lasagna, which came out delicious, but massively unphotogenic. And yesterday night, I made some fantastic, super easy snickerdoodle pumpkin bars. They’re sweet and soft and completely satisfying.

Speaking of pumpkin, it’s funny, canning has really made traditionally seasonal vegetables easily accessible at all times of the year, and yet, I rarely think to use pumpkin unless it’s autumn. I love pumpkin – it’s savory and sweet and hearty – but eating a pumpkin pie in spring just does not bring the same joy as a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Trust me, I tried last year. It felt almost sacrilegious.

Despite it all, I still love autumn. If I had to sum up my affection for autumn in two words, I’d probably have to go with “apple cider.” But in all seriousness, despite the few days of intense heat and the many days of dead brown leaves and biting cold wind, those few beautiful days with the cool breeze and the red-orange trees make it all worth it.

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