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

Surprise!

Happy Birthday, Kathy! :) 

For those who need a break from chocolate (or just don’t like chocolate to begin with), here’s a delicious recipe, courtesy of this website!

If you don’t know me, I really enjoy surprises. Not being surprised, but surprising other people. So I surprised Kathy tonight with a whole big batch of these blondies to celebrate!

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm <3 <3 <3

I’m definitely going to make more of these in the future! But up next is Chinese New Year edition… (teaserrrrrr)

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The best part about these is that you can add ANYTHING into them! 

White chocolate chips, chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, cinnamon chips… OH the possibilities!

Let me know how they turn out!

Blonde Brownies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease an 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Melt butter and stir in sugar, egg and vanilla in a large bowl; mix until completely incorporated.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients. The mixture will be thick. Spread in greased baking dish. Bake 20-25 minutes in preheated oven.
  4. Cut when moderately cooled. Serve warm or cold. 

Good Morning!

Hello and happy (belated) 2014 to all you out there!

It’s been a cozy 10 degrees (F) for the past few days here in Boston to welcome in the start of the new semester. All I want to do is stay inside for the entire day with piles of blankets, stuffed animals, Christmas lights, and a nice warm mug of hot chocolate.

Alas, I cannot. #class

Regardless, I’ve been drinking mass amounts of hot chocolate and tea to warm my frozen body.

(Speaking of Frozen… o.O :-O !!!! <3 <3 <3 …amirite?)

I’ve also been trying to be healthier, in light of the New Year’s resolutions season. Being healthy can be pretty fun, though! Yesterday I made a salmon salad in the dining hall with some corn, feta cheese, dried cranberries, and dijon mustard dressing. MMM.

Baking healthily can be pretty difficult, though, given the heaps of flour, sugar, butter, and chocolatey things that go into most baked goods. They taste so good, but given enough indulging, it can feel pretty heavy on my self-confidence and stomach.

A couple weeks ago I made some brown sugar snickerdoodles!

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I used this recipe, but after the cookie balls were molded, I dipped them in a mix of cinnamon and sugar (1:2 ratio, I eyeballed).

Mmm they were good. We snacked on them in my suite while we watched Despicable Me 2… my favorite! A Christmas present from my brother ^_^

Though those cookies were scrumptious, I felt pretty sugared up…. so I tried to find healthier recipes I could use…

and found this one!

Behold, Banana Muffins!

(For those of my suitemates who are still asleep right now and are checking Facebook to see this… surprise!)

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What a deliciously healthy start to the morning! These little babies are vegan–no egg, no butter! Glorious, isn’t it?

They feel light and fluffy and oh so tasty with bananas!

I cooked these up in my Babycakes cupcake maker, so they only took 5 minutes in the oven since they’re so small. (whoa.) You can definitely do these in a normal oven, though it’ll take a little longer for normal sized muffins!

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Feel free to indulge and enjoy :)

Eggless Banana Muffins

  • Very ripe bananas – 4 medium
  • Margarine or butter – 2 tablespoon **Notes
  • Oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Pure vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • Granulated sugar – ½ cup
  • Light brown sugar – ¼ cup
  • All purpose flour (Maida) – 1 ½ cup
  • Baking soda – 1 teaspoon
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Cinnamon powder – 1 teaspoon

**Notes: For vegan muffins, use vegan butter or replace with oil.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Place the oven rack in center of the oven
  2. Line a muffin tray with muffin liners.
  3. In a bowl take all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon powder. Mix well and put aside.
  4. Mash the bananas using fork and put them in a bowl.
  5. Add margarine, oil, and vanilla extract to the bananas and mix well. Mix in both sugars.
  6. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Don’t overmix! You can also add chocolate chips or walnuts here if you’d like!
  7. Spoon batter into muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then let them cool on wire rack or serve them warm. These can be stored in a refrigerator or in an air-tight container for 2-3 days.

For a small muffin (like the ones in the pictures), they only clock in at 105 calories!

How’d yours turn out? YUMMY

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Recovery

Hullo!

Updates:

1. 1st semester is done!!!

2. Vacationed for the weekend in Maui!

3. And to celebrate the 4th, I got to do two things I haven’t had the time to enjoy lately: photography and baking!

I’m no photographer by any means, and I’m definitely envious of my cousin’s photography skills with his fancy new(ish) Canon T3i while I have my (still fancy) Canon Rebel XT… that I don’t know how to use. Hmmm. Well, that could be a problem.

For the Fourth, I was charged with supplying dessert when we went to our auntie’s house to watch the fireworks after a yummy dinner. We thought that we’d only have a party of like, 7 or 8, but SURPRISE there were a few other families invited! There ended up being two potato salads, two salads, two watermelons, and a whole lot of desserts. Oops. Bad communication. 

Regardless, it was enjoyable and relaxing, especially for me, since I’ve been “studying” for the past… well, 6 weeks! Baking is most definitely one of my therapies, so it was no trouble for me to take a break from the books and concoct something hopefully delicious. 

In the spirit of Fourth of July, I decided to do something a little patriotic and very classic. Ta da!

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Sorry for the bad picture. As I said, I don’t know how to use my camera yet…

Anyways, this is Patriotic Red Velvet Cake! Mmm. Everybody loves red velvet, right? Surely a crowd-pleaser. 

I’m usually more inclined to make cupcakes, since they’re more fun to decorate, but since I haven’t made a cake in a while… well, why not?

Before I get to the recipe, explanation of my updates: first semester of summer school is done and luckily I did not too shabby overall! Today I started second semester, nervous because of the new (and allegedly more difficult) professor and content, but ready to go after a weekend in Maui with relatives and their friends! We got to snorkel in the most beautiful waters I’ve ever seen and see the sunset ABOVE THE CLOUDS from a peak overlooking the surrounding island and waters. 

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We got to eat good food, see amazing sights, and, best of all, simply hang out with some wonderful people. I know that I came off antisocial and isolated, which was obviously my mistake and something I regret so so much, but it was definitely the break I needed. I think I ended up getting out of my silent groove after a day or so, anyhow. #introvertproblems

And now that school has restarted, I find myself reminiscing on the good times had last week… especially the Star-Spangled (ish) cake! I don’t think this needs an introduction, so without further ado…

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Red Velvet “Open Layer” Cake

For the cake

  •  2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder + 1-2 tsp
  • 2 oz red food coloring
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp white vinegar

 For the cream cheese frosting

*Note: This batch produced enough for a thin layer in the middle of the cake layers and  enough to cover the top layer. If you really like cream cheese frosting on your red velvet cake, you might want to multiply this recipe by 1.5.

  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1. Grease two 9-inch round pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring. Set aside.

 2. Combine the buttermilk, salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the oil and 1 ½ cups sugar until light and fluffy. (This will look kind of slushy, but it should be well-mixed.) Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the cocoa mixture. Beat in the buttermilk mixture alternately with the flour, mixing until just incorporated. Stir together baking soda and vinegar then gently fold into the cake batter.

3. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

4. While waiting for the cake to bake, in a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioner’s sugar. Spoon half into another bowl and mix in as much blue food coloring as desired. (I added ~10 drops.) 

5. Once cakes are cool, transfer bottom layer onto serving platter. Spread either blue or white frosting on top, but not too close to the edges, as it will spread out when the top layer is added. Place second cake layer on top of middle frosting. Use other frosting to cover top. Garnish cake with blueberries, sprinkles, or other decorations. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. 

Happy belated 4th of July! What did you make?

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?

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!