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

Blurrrrberries

Man.

Life’s been a blur. As in, the past week has been insane. Not in terms of what I’m doing, though; it’s more like what I’m experiencing. 

Like I posted in New Friends, I’ve met some people at church and it’s been great hanging out with them! It’s also really nice to have a friend or two at school, even if I only see them for a little bit while we’re in class or studying… and then we go home. Regardless, it’s nice having someone there to laugh with, complain with, walk with; just BE with. 

There have been blurs of visiting a new church, meeting new people, trying new things, and starting new projects, as well as the somewhat-stressed blurs of schoolwork and studies.

But something that is constant throughout this chaos is…

FRUIT.

(and God, and family, and friends. But…)

FRUIT IS AMAZING and, although it’s not California fruit, Hawaii fruit is so… delicious. And everywhere! As my auntie said, “You don’t eat fruit, Syd. You INHALE FRUIT.” 

I’ve been eating apples every day, mangoes when I can, fruit flavored yogurt, pears, pineapple (I pretty much ate the whole pineapple myself… oops! Sorry, not sorry.) and any other fruit thing I can get my hands on. Is it possible to get diabetes from all that fruit sugar? Naw. 

So, as the title of this post suggests, I was charged with bringing a dessert for the family’s Father’s Day dinner at my cousins’ house. (Happy belated Father’s Day to any dads reading this!) Hmm… well… I wonder what to make… 

I knew one thing for sure: It must include fruit. 

And lucky me! Blueberries were on sale at the store! (WHAT!? INCONCEIVABLE.) So my auntie bought three, and I thought, “Well, if they’re there, I guess I have to use them!”

From there, and with the help of Ji-Sun and her wonderful suggestions, I present to you…

Blueberry Crumb Bars!

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Aw yeah. 

So light and delicious and fruity, they’re the perfect dessert served with ice cream or plain on any type of day!

The original recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, a delightful blog that looks oh-so-classy. Y’all should bookmark that, by the way. 

When I got all my stuff together to start baking an hour and a half before dinnertime, I realized… “Oh hey, we don’t have a lemon… or lemon juice!” Oops, poor planning on my part. In the recipe, lemon adds the tartness that is desired in crumb bars and is usually paired with blueberries to even out the flavor. Without that, what should I use?

Good news! We still have some pineapple!

I used the juice from that to sub for the lemon juice, and for the lemon zest that was originally called for, I used a teensy tiny bit of lemon extract. Worked like a charm!

And I was so flattered when everybody loved them at dinner! I only made half a batch to fill an 8×8 pan, but I should’ve made the full recipe (below) because almost all of it was gone by the end of dinner. This one’s a keeper!

Without further ado….

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Blueberry Crumb Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon; OR 5-6 tbsp fresh pineapple juice and 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest/lemon extract. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice/pineapple juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown.

How’d yours turn out?

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!

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

Traveling & Brownies

Oh hello again!

I’ve been traveling and packing and traveling, so I haven’t been able to update as of late! It feels good to be home again after four to five months at school ^^ Actually, it’s just nice to be back in warm weather. (A.k.a. above 40 degrees) 

And now I’m heading on a plane again to visit more family! Most of whom I don’t remember how we’re related. Too many cousins, aunts, uncles, second cousins, aunts once removed, etc. Mmm another long plane ride! More time to relax, draw, sleep, watch boring TV, sleep, draw on my brother’s face…

A little more about me: I’m a Tufts University student studying biomedical engineering and a doctor hopeful! My favorite dessert might be cheesecake. It might also be snickerdoodle cookies. Or mango lassi. Or pumpkin pie. Or or or… -_______- too many options!

Yes. I like to travel. We have a family friend who sends us cookies from afar, and they’re always delicious! We got them yesterday, though, so we didn’t have time to enjoy that. Maybe I will do that, too, (Send cookies, I mean) so I have an excuse to bake, since I don’t eat a lot of my own baked goods anyway heh. 

Anywho, I mentioned that I was going to share my s’more brownie recipe! This one is courtesy of allrecipes.com (nothing fancy, but always reliable)! 

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This one was for the freshmen in my Freshmen Small Group Bible study that I co-lead at school! It was quickly devoured, though with some difficulty because of the gooey mess it creates. But that’s the best type of mess, right?

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I usually use pretty easy recipes, and this one’s no exception: it uses brownie mix! You just plop that in, put some ‘mallows and chocolate and graham cracker goodness on top, and you’re ready to nom nom nom ALL THE DELICIOUS

Ingredients:

  • 1 box brownie mix (I used one for a 9×13 pan)
  • 6 graham crackers
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshamallows
  • 8 (1.5 oz) bars milk chocolate or chocolate chips (I used the chips since that’s what I had on me!)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare brownie mix according to box directions and spread in greased 9×13 inch pan. Make sure it’s generously greased, or it’ll be hard to remove the brownies when they’re done!
  2. In a medium bowl, break the graham crackers into smaller pieces and toss with 1 cup of the mini marshmallows and chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bar. Mix so everything is well distributed and set aside.
  3. Bake brownies for 25-30 minutes. Then take them out of the oven and spread the s’mores mixture over them. Bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the marshmallows start to get to dark before the brownies are done, place a piece of aluminium foil over the pan for the remaining time. Let the brownies cool before cutting them into squares. 

The original recipe said to bake the brownies for 15 minutes and then with the s’mores mixture for an additional 15-20 minutes, but other reviews said it worked better if the s’mores mixture was baked for less time.

Feel free to use more marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers as desired! I think I should’ve put more graham crackers, and maybe even done a graham cracker crust, either on the bottom of the brownies or in between the brownies and marshmallow layer. Regardless, the brownies were delicious and tasted like a fresh, delectable s’more straight from a campfire! Now to sing kumbaya and all that jazz ^_^ Enjoy!

syd