New Friends

Wow, I’ve been slacking.

Sorry, guys…

Summer has been crazy so far, with summer school and starting work but, more importantly, spending time with relatives and meeting new people. Oh, did I mention that I’m in Hawaii?

Basically, I’m super blessed that I get to come to Hawaii more often than most, simply because we have so much family here. Sometimes I think I take it for granted, but I try not to, so I’ve been reading on the beach and jumping in the water and eating tons of good food (of course!). That being said… it’s still organic chemistry for the summer. Ick.

In the two weeks I was home before coming out here, I spent time with my family, but they forbade me to bake anything. “YOU NEED TO LEARN TO COOK,” said mom. “Don’t bake, Syd, you’re gonna get us all fat!” proclaimed dad. “….” commented Derek. So, I cooked jambalaya and chicken parm! Woo! ^_^ The recipes were from the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook, as was the recipe for the Dutch Apple Pie I baked. (Mom requested that one, though. The one exception.)

Apart from that, I’ve done little baking/cooking-wise since the last time I’ve posted. I have, however, done some DIY stuff!

For our first anniversary of dating-ship, I made some photo-canvases for him to use to decorate his bland walls. (Okay, one poster on your wall makes the walls look even more barren.) It was a simple craft I found searching Pinterest and the interwebs that only requires some printed pictures cut to size, canvases, mod podge, and black acrylic paint! I thought they turned out alright ^_^

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Photo on Canvas
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is very easy to do!
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Pretty and simple!

But apart from that, I didn’t do anything of interest…

EXCEPT WHEN I BAKED THIS WEEKEND WOOOOOOOO

Praise the Lord! I didn’t know my auntie (with whom i’m staying for the summer) had soooooooo much baking stuff! All the different pans and ingredients and ahhh *love* It made my nerdy baker self very happy, suffice to say.

I wanted to bake for my new friends at church. Some might call it bribery. Maybe it was. Heh. (“Here, eat this and be my friend!”) But really, it was just because I really like them and wanted to make them happy ^_^ And make me happy, too, because I didn’t realize how much I missed baking.

I had 1.5 hours to do everything because we were going to a Food and New Products Show in town, so I quickly narrowed my choices down to two things: Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies and Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake. Which to choose? Ahhh!

After much thought, I decided to combine them.

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My Messy Creation

Chocolate Chip Cookie! Brownie! Chocolate Chip Cookie! Cheesecake! All stacked on top of each other (in that order) to make a delicious, gooey mess of everybody’s favorites!

Of course, I could’ve used any cookie recipe (snickerdoodle, peanut butter, etc) and any brownie variation (oreos, blondies), but I stuck to the classics this time. Note to self: try variations next time. And yes, there will be a next time.

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Mmmm…

Here’s what I call the Best Friends Bar.

Best Friends Bar

Ingredients

For the Cookie Layer:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For the Brownie Layer:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

For the Cheesecake Layer:

  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

Directions

Grease 8×8 pan generously with oil. Preheat oven to 350F.

For the Cookie Layer:

1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth.

2. Add and beat in the eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.

3. Dissolve baking soda in hot water, add to bowl, and mix in salt.

4. Stir in flour and chocolate chips.

For the Brownie Layer:

1. Mix melted butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in another large bowl.

2. Beat in cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder.

For the Cheesecake Layer:

1. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and egg until smooth.

All together now:

1. Press a little more than half of the cookie dough into the bottom of the pan.

2. Pour all of brownie batter on top of cookie dough, spreading to make sure it’s an even layer over the cookie.

3. Carefully spread the rest of the cookie layer on top of the brownie layer. This part might be a bit tricky, but this layer doesn’t have to be very even. If desired, you can put more of the cookie layer on the bottom layer and simply sprinkle the rest on top of the brownie.

4. Pour cheesecake layer on top, spreading out for evenness.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cookie and brownie layers are solid and come out clean with a toothpick. The cheesecake layer will still be soft but will solidify when cool.

6. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. These can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple days in an airtight container.

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Bite me.

How did yours turn out? Did you try any variations?

PS-speaking of new friends, here’s one I found at Goodwill. No judgement please! He’s cute and loves you!

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Any name ideas?

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Whoop Whoop!

This weekend, all I did was bake. Basically. After my flourless chocolate cake resisted being served on plates, I decided to go with my backup plan for an event next weekend for all the boys in our Christian Fellowship to appreciate them! I can’t tell you what it is now, just in case they see, but I hope they like it :)

Anyways, the chocolate cake was DELICIOUS and a friend and I nommed about half of the small cake ourselves. In addition, I made poached pears! Dude, easiest thing ever. Forreal. I used this recipe from David Leibovitz, who is a pretty cool dude with amazing recipes, if you haven’t heard of him or checked out his site. We ate those too :) And be warned: you really need a sweet tooth to fully enjoy those, because they’re sooo sweet and delicious and amazing and incredible…

Anyways, to the real story. If you read my previous post, it was pretty apparent I was really inspired by this whole “whoopie pie” thing. They look delicious and pretty easy, like two cookies with some gooey yummy frosting in between. What could be better?? I wanted to make the French ones, but I have to muster up enough courage to attempt those hehe. For now, I just tried something that I’ve been craving for a while…

RED VELVET WHOOPIE PIES WITH CREAM CHEESE FILLING!!!!!!!!

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Not the most perfect looking ones, but the best tasting ones nonetheless!

Yeah, that’s right. These babies looked SOO good in pictures, but I wanted them for myself! I had a couple spare hours yesterday, so while the majority of my friends were doing homework and studying, like I probably should have been, I was making these. However, I didn’t want to make the entire recipe, which would make 24 whoopie pies, and also I didn’t have enough flour -___- oops. And since I didn’t have shortening either, I used some simple vegetable oil. I’m definitely not the most well-prepared baker out there, but we make do. At least they were YUMMY and pretty, too! I used pinkish red food coloring, and a lot of it!

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So pretty! And look at all that cream cheese goodness!

I brought them to the dining hall for my dinner dates so we could enjoy them with an ice cream sundae for dessert! Mmmmmmmm. Definitely making these again.

Tell me how yours turn out!

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Mmmm.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling

Makes about 2 dozen assembled whoopie pies.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons red food coloring
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the filling:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two baking sheets and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening and both sugars on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and the red food coloring and beat until just blended.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and remaining ½ cup buttermilk and beat until completely combined.
  5. Using a spoon (or a medium cookie scoop, which is what I used), drop a tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
  6. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the filling… In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat on low speed until combined. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high; beat until creamy and smooth, about 4 minutes.
  7. To assemble: Spread the filling onto the flat side of one cake using a knife of spoon. Alternatively, you can use a pastry bag with a round tip (I used a #12 Wilton tip) to pipe the filling onto the cake. Top it with another cake, flat-side down. Repeat with the rest of the cakes and filling.

These can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

 

ENJOY!

Healthy Makeover: Microwaved Mug Brownie

Unfortunately, the mug brownie I shared in a previous post isn’t the healthiest thing. Of course, who would expect a brownie to be healthy, right? Well, for all those health-conscious people out there, I found a healthier recipe with only 100 calories! DANG BRO.

I still haven’t tried this one yet, but it’s definitely worth a shot!

Healthy Mug Brownie

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 drop vanilla extract
  • 1 dash salt
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 pinch instant coffee (optional)

Directions

  1. In a 12 oz. coffee mug, mix water, oil, salt, vanilla, and coffee (if using). Whisk well.
  2. Add cocoa powder and mix well. Add sugar, then mix, and then flour, and mix. Stir until the batter is smooth.
  3. Microwave for 60-75 seconds, 60 for a molten bottom and 75 for uniformly done. This may vary depending on the strength of your microwave.
  4. Enjoy with some ice cream and no shame!

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Aww yeah. I’m definitely trying this the next time I’m craving chocolate. (Which is… like, now.)

Happy Friday!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Bring out all that Chinese food, because it’s time to celebrate! Woo!

Unfortunately, I don’t get all of my mom’s amazing Chinese cooking while here at school, but I’m sure I’ll celebrate in full force next week when we can go places… Because right now, Blizzard Nemo decided to lock us in! I’m not complaining, though–a snow day and a lot of fluffy powder to play in is fine by me!

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Over two feet of snow on the ground? Let’s play!

A day off gives me more time to do my work, and of course more time to have some fun! While other people were being studious, though, I decided to let loose and celebrate Chinese New Year by making some 年糕, which is Chinese New Year cake! For those who haven’t had it before, it has the consistency of mochi, and although it’s served unfried, you’re supposed to dip it in egg (though that’s optional) and pan-fry it! Mmmm :)

I haven’t had 年糕 in a really really really long time, partially because I wasn’t sure if I liked it. When I was little I didn’t, so I avoided it at all costs, but now my taste buds have woken up and are very happy! 

I thought 年糕 would be much harder to make, but it’s so simple! Just a few ingredients, an hour, and you’re golden. I found this recipe while browsing online. Instead of steaming it in a wok, my roommate and I decided to be creative and use our rice cooker! Handy, right? 

Later that night, we fried it and enjoyed it to our heart’s content! We still had some leftover (even though I only made half a batch!) so we gave it to some of our Chinese friends who know what good 年糕 is. I was so surprised and flattered when they RAVED over it! Looks like I’ll have to make this again!

Well, without further ado, here’s 年糕 for you! Enjoy!

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Golden and delicious, right out of the rice cooker!

Chinese New Year Cake (年糕)

Yields one 9″ pie plate. (The picture shown above is half the recipe)

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cups glutinous rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 hot water, plus 1 tablespoon

Directions

  1. Grease a 9″ pie pan and prepare a wok or pot for steaming. 
  2. Whisk brown sugar and water in a large bowl, adding water 3/4 cup at a time, until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Mix in glutinous rice flour until a smooth batter forms.
  4. Pour the batter into the pie pan. Steam in high heat for 1 hour or less, or until the cake has a sticky but firm consistency. Remove from steamer and let cool completely on a plate. You may eat after cooling or store in an air-tight container or wrapped in cling wrap for a few days.
  5. Optional: when ready to eat, cut into pieces and dip pieces in raw egg. Pan fry until outsides are dark and crispy. 

Let me know how yours turns out!

Easiest Brownie Ever. EVER.

It was one of those days.

You know, the days where you want chocolate IMMEDIATELY but don’t have any chocolate bars on hand and you RAGE. (Yeah, first world problems, right?)

But it was one of those days, and I wondered, “Hmm, I want cake fast. Or a brownie. What should I do?”

Lo and behold, I found a wonderful recipe for the quickest, easiest, MICROWAVED brownie ever! I whipped it up in 5 minutes tops (and that’s being pretty generous), and it was delicious! I even made it a couple more times to give as Secret Santa gifts, and they were a hit!

So no more of those sad days without a sweet fix; now to the days of chocolate goodness, microwaved in a mug!

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So easy!

Microwaved Brownie in a Mug

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt together in a microwave-safe mug. 
  2. Mix oil and water to the dry ingredients.
  3. Microwave on high for 1 minute and 20 seconds. (This might vary depending on the strength of your microwave.)

And that’s it!

IT’S SO EASY. AND SO DELICIOUS.

Teasers

Sooooo I’m pretty bad at this whole blogging thing. I’ve made so much food in the past week and a half that I haven’t had time to update you all! For now, I’ll list foods I’ve made that I’ll fill you all in on later. And, surprisingly, not all of these are baked goods! WHOA. 

Noms. (Listed in order by date made)

  1. Italian Style Monkey Bread
  2. Peppermint Sugar Cookies
  3. Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
  4. Mini Personal Pizzas
  5. Light Apple Cinnamon Cake
  6. Steamed Eggs
  7. Cinnamon Buns
  8. Microwave Chocolate Lava Cake
  9. Lemon Chicken Rice Soup
  10. Quick Calzones
  11. Microwave Mochi
  12. Char Siu Bao

TA DAAA!

More to come!

Merry Christmas and Monkeys!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas at the Char household is always full of people and food. And food. Last night we had a party where some delicious curry and steak was served. Mmm. And cookies, of course! None I made, but yummy nonetheless :) When we opened gifts this morning, I got even more cookies (Japanese ones!) and sweets. Goodness me. I’m supposed to be losing weight, not gaining it. Heh. (YOLO.)

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Stuff for curry. Look at the colors!
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Mmm steak.

To my delight, I received a KitchenAid Digital Hand Mixer (from William Sonoma)! Good thing too–my roomie and I were struggling as we stirred everything with spoons, forks, and chopsticks for much longer than we liked. I’ll let you know how it works once I get back to school and concoct something new ^_^

This morning we had people over for a huge breakfast. The menu? Creamed salmon, scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon bits, fried rice, Belgian waffles, Mahi Mahi, and Monkey Bread made by yours truly! Monkey bread has become a popular dish nowadays, and I recently discovered that there are many variations to it–caramel, peanut butter and chocolate, dinner rolls, and so many more. Some variations can be found here

As per my younger cousin’s request for tradition, I made Cinnamon Monkey Bread! I was flattered to be told that it was delicious and a hit, as almost all of it was quickly demolished. I had always used a bunt pan and entire biscuits, but this time I cut the biscuits into quarters and put them in shallower pans to make it easier to eat.

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Quartered biscuits for easy eating.

And as usual, I just guessed on how much cinnamon and sugar needed to be mixed together, as well as how much butter needed to be used. Eh, it’s all guesswork anyways. Keeps things interesting.

They turned out yummy and gooey with cinnamon and sugar! Yeeeeee! These make perfect breakfast meals/desserts. All meals should be desserts anyways. Hehe. 

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Stack ’em up!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans Pillsbury biscuits
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in a large bowl. Mix cinnamon and sugar in another bowl. Feel free to add more or less cinnamon if you want more or less cinnamon flavor!
  2. Quarter biscuits. Dip each one in butter to coat, then cover with the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat generously. Place in ungreased pan. Squish and stack the biscuits close together to fill all the space. (Any pan will do; usually it’s easier to bake with less layers of biscuits.)
  3. If you have extra butter and/or cinnamon-sugar goodness, feel free to spread it over the top of the biscuits in the pan!
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for at least 10 minutes. To eat, simply pull the pieces apart and enjoy!

Have fun! If you try any other variations, let me know which ones turn out well! I’ll have to try them sometime ^_^

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But all baking and sillies aside, let’s all remember the true meaning of Christmas. This day is to celebrate the birth of our amazing, glorious Lord who loves us all so much–how can we even imagine or understand anything He’s done? It’s just all too much. When I think of all the great things in life, from the blessings to the struggles, I get so overwhelmed with it all. He is so good to us, so much as to send His Son to die to save us. All because He loves us. How crazy is that? He’s the only reason we can enjoy great food and great friends and family. He’s the only reason we can smile and laugh and celebrate this glorious, joyful day. He gives us our joy and peace and hope, and there is no gift greater than that. Thanks, God. You’re the best. 

Hope you all had a great Christmas! Love you and happy baking ^_^

syd