New Blog!

Hey readers!

A quick update on my life:

1. I’m about to graduate college in a month! (Only two weeks of classes left!?)

2. I’m staying in the Boston area for the next year!

3. I HAVE A NEW BLOG dedicated entirely to photography! I’ve been spending more time taking pictures than I have making food, so I thought it would be appropriate to have a separate site. Please go check it out: sydneychar.wordpress.com! And please contact me if you’d like to have me take portraits or event photos; it’s what I love, and I would more than love to help out my readers ;)

The site is still in the works, as I’m pretty new to WordPress still, but please visit often and refer friends!

4. I’ll still bake/cook, I promise, especially since I’ll have more time next year when I’m not studying all the time!

Happy Spring!

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syd

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Welcome to 2015!

Happy 2015!

It’s been a busy end of 2014/start of 2015. I spent some time with Nathan & his relatives in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Cambodia, and then I was home for a bit. I took way too many pictures (as usual).

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It was so exhilarating to travel, to see new places and meet new people. Experiencing beauty in all forms, in ways I couldn’t imagine, was breathtaking and awesome. My only regret was not having enough time to see more.

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We ate and walked so much! We tried some street food and also ate in some nice restaurants. Thankfully, the weather was good to us–it was much warmer than frigid Boston. Cambodia was super hot! I was too excited to break out the shorts and tank tops.

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As much as I love traveling, and as much as I was so happy to wander around Asia for a while, I was so relieved to finally return home. I hadn’t been home in 6 months! It was wonderful to see my family & my dog.

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We also love to eat and try new foods. We love to make Vietnamese Spring Rolls (my favorite food!) all the time, but this time, we tried to make a few different things…

Caramelized Bacon!

Apparently I missed this amazing caramelized bacon that my cousin made for Christmas dinner (I was in Asia still). My parents were raving about it still when I came back, so of course I had to attempt it! I Googled a recipe and found a winner. It’s modeled after the bacon featured at Sweet Maple in San Francisco, but this one has a bit of soy sauce tossed in.

It was surprisingly easy to make, and although it took a little longer than expected. We served it at a dinner party, and they were the talk of the town (at least for the night!). Warning: this is not a good food to make/eat if you’re trying to lose weight for your New Year’s resolution…

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mmm. bacon. (heavy breathing)

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We cut the strips into smaller, bite-size pieces for quick and easy consumption :)

Without further ado:

Five-Spice Glazed Caramelized Bacon

(From Simply So Good)

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs thin-cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3-4 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Cover large rimmed baking pans with aluminum foil. Place racks on each pan, and lay bacon on the racks.
  2. Mix soy sauce and five-spice together in a bowl and brush over bacon (only one side).
  3. In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar and red pepper flakes. Add as many red pepper flakes as desired, depending on desired spiciness. Sprinkle sugar mixture liberally over bacon, ensuring that the bacon is completely covered. (You may choose to add more brown sugar here if there isn’t enough.)
  4. Bake in preheated oven at 400F for 30 minutes, or until sugar is melted and bacon is brown and shiny. Let the bacon cool on the rack for 5 minutes, then use a metal spatula to move the bacon on the rack to unstick it from the rack. Let it cool for another 5 minutes. The bacon will become more crisp as it cools.
  5. Cut into smaller pieces with scissors and enjoy.

Dumplings!

I’ve made dumplings before with Nathan, and mom had made them also with her friend, but we tried on our own. These ones are pork dumplings, with a ton of veggies thrown in there, too! This picture was taken before they were boiled.

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It was surprisingly easy to make. We had 2lbs of pork, and we chopped green onions, leek, cabbage, and any other veggies we had lying around. We also mixed an egg into the mixture to make it fluffier.

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After that, we put a small tablespoonful of the mixture into the center of circular dumpling wrappers (we used the wrong ones here–get the white ones!), and folded the tops together. Lastly, we placed the dumplings in boiling water until they were completely cooked through.

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Super easy, and super delicious. I’m definitely making these at school and whenever I go home!

The holidays are for spending with family and friends to remember the love that has been shown to us. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to spend time with Nathan & his family, as well as my own, and seeing this beautiful world we live in. As the final semester of my college career begins, I look forward to new beginnings and more memories.

How did your New Year begin?

New Beginnings

This has been a semester of change… weird change.

Friends have graduated, new friends have appeared, and I feel like I’ve learned more about myself in ways both good and bad. One of the things that is very real for me right now is that one of my friends is going abroad next semester, which means I won’t see him… ever… (or at least for a while) unless I’m in Boston for work next year. (Fingers crossed!) It’s sad to think that immediate contact with someone can be cut off so quickly. And even in the age of Skype, Facebook, and ceaseless texts, it’s hard to keep in touch.

We threw him a little surprise sending-off party tonight, just to show him that we love him and are wishing him the best. I made a cake, of course. It’s been a while since I shared a recipe, so here’s one of my all-time-favorites: chocolate cake.

I made it because it’s his favorite, heh. The first time I made it for a group of friends, I think he ate like 3 or 4 pieces. Yup.

I could rave about this friend forever, but I think if he ended up reading this, it’d be disappointing because I couldn’t say enough in a short post. And it also might be embarrassing, but… meh, oh well. <3 <3 <3 I just know I’m going to miss him next semester.

OKAYY away from the mushy-gushy friendship stuff. Now, about this cake…

It’s a huge crowd pleaser. Seriously, everybody raves about this cake. I was lucky that I stumbled upon the recipe a long time ago and kept it! I whip this cake out when I haven’t had time to prepare anything too fancy, but it has never failed me.

The thing that makes this cake so good is the fact that it has a cup of boiling water in it to make it super moist, yet flavorful with that melt-in-your-mouth feeling. I’ve topped it before with store-bought chocolate frosting, chocolate buttercream frosting, and cream cheese frosting. Anything will do, really, because the cake can speak for itself.

I also love this recipe because it only takes ~45 minutes from start to finish, with only 35 minutes in the oven! So quick, so easy, so delicious. Seriously: try it, and tell me it’s not delicious. I dare you.

The only people who don’t like this cake are people who don’t like chocolate. Whatever, more for the rest of us.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 pan or two nine-inch cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pan(s).
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. EAT AND ENJOY

nom nom nom <3

Also–working on remodeling the blog a bit so it’s more functional and user-friendly.. but I first have to finish finals, and then figure out how to WordPress. SRSLY what is going on with all the buttons? (Help.) Anyways, I’m hoping to have more photography stuff on here, as well as a recipe index so it’s easier to find the recipes I’ve posted before. Hope it’ll be easier for you and me!

Here’s to friends and love and forever,

syd