Peanut Butter Miso Cookies

Folks – it is a CRAZY world out there! I’ve been struggling to make sense of my own thoughts and emotions during this tumultuous time. COVID-19, such a short little name with a monumental impact. I saw it creep slowly throughout the world, talking with my family in Taiwan as they watched their country struggle to get the virus under control. It seemed as if we were safe for awhile, but now, even in my state of Minnesota, there are over a hundred cases (and that’s only the confirmed ones!).

I guess I say this not to add to the chaos, but as a gentle reminder that the best thing that we can be doing is to stay home. Trust me, as a twenty-five year old who loves to explore, that’s the last thing I want to be doing either, but staying home WILL save lives. It’ll help keep your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even your pets (!!) safe. Why, you ask? Well, diseases can only be transmitted if there are people to transmit it to. When contagious people stay home and don’t have anyone to spread it to, then we help prevent the spread of the disease. The scary thing about this is that you can totally be contagious and not know it… so bottom line- STAY HOME PLEASE!

And while I’m on this little public health rant (sorry, I can’t help it, in my other life, I work at the Department of Health!), can I just throw in a small plug for baking? It is absolutely wonderful for getting your mind off things just for a small while, and I find it helps with my anxiety. My favorite thing to bake right now is peanut butter miso cookies.

If you did a double take, don’t worry, most people are totally caught off guard by the combination! But if you love salty-sweet desserts, this one is totally for you. And if you don’t, well, give them a try anyway, you might be surprised! My only suggestion for this recipe is to let them sit overnight. Something magical happens in the refrigerator and the flavors blend so seamlessly after sitting for awhile. That being said, I’ve also baked them right after making the dough and they were terrific as well.

Bake well, stay well, and take care ❤

Peanut Butter Miso Cookies | Makes about a dozen

difficulty level – easy

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted or at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar*
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/8 cup (a.k.a. 2 tbsp) red miso paste (you can usually purchase at an Asian grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter (this is super important for texture! If you only have smooth pb, it wil work, but the texture will be off)
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

*If you want a chewier peanut butter cookie, add in 1 full cup of brown sugar.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (F).
  2. Combine coconut oil, light brown sugar, white sugar, miso paste, peanut butter, egg and vanilla in a bowl. Mix well with a whisk.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
  4. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix until just combined. It is important not to over mix, otherwise the cookie will be tough. I like to use a spatula for this part.
  5. Roll into walnut sized balls (think a little smaller than a golf ball)
  6. Bake at 350 (F) for 10-12 mins or until edges are just starting to brown.
  7. Cool on a cookie rack, or eat while hot!
  8. Cookie dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, and will keep for a couple months in the freezer (I like to roll the dough into individual balls and then freeze. When you’re ready to bake, no need to defrost, just bake them a little bit longer.)

Enjoy!

Fluffy and Moist Dairy-Free Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Scones

Not going to lie, I’ve been on a Great British Baking binge – not the new show without Mary Berry, but like the old reruns with the original gang.  There is just something so absolutely stress-relieving and home-y about watching home bakers bake their hearts out.  I guess I should mention that I’ve been on a little bit of a baking kick lately as well, oops. I’m typing this as I have a banana bread going in the oven (I’m going to blame my overripe bananas) and a frozen loaf of zucchini bread in my fridge (I couldn’t let those go bad either, right?). 


Anyways, maybe you can guess, but I’m stressed.  It’s job hunting season and I swear there isn’t anything worse than pouring your heart into a cover letter and resume only to hear a big fat no.  Seriously, if anyone has any job hunting tips, please let me know!  I think that the transition from school to being a working full-time adult is always a little bit different.  Not only do you have loans, but the added stress of having to look for a job that pays a living wage and also the prospect of having to relocate and start making new friends kind of makes the whole deal a little bit of a downer.  Don’t get me wrong, I am suuupppperrr excited to be done with school (goodbye homework!), but transitions are hard, and I’m just acknowledging that.  


I guess for me, when things get hard, I always tend to gravitate towards ideas and things that remind me of home or warmth/hugs.  This was definitely the inspiration behind these cinnamon chocolate scones.  I happen to love the combination of cinnamon and chocolate.  Cinnamon provides warmth, while the melt-y pools of chocolate add lots of richness.  I definitely don’t recommend skipping out on the chocolate, especially since the chocolate I’m using here is dark chocolate and dairy-free (practically healthy!).  While I’m lecturing on what else not to leave out, I’ll take the time to mention, don’t leave out the cinnamon butter spread on top either! OMG it’s legitimately the most delicious thing ever.  Once its baked, it turns into this crackly, cinnamon-y, crunchy topping.  SO GOOD.  Growing up, my sisters and I always tried to make scones every weekend, so these goodies definitely hold a lot of nostalgia for me. 


Hey, if you’re having a hard week or day (and I’m sending hugs to you if you are) take some time for yourself tonight, or maybe this weekend and make these scones.  Or if cinnamon/chocolate isn’t your thing, check out these blueberry and cream ones, or raspberry white chocolate scones.  Hopefully the warmth and home-y-ness will remind you of good memories and the fact that good times are coming. And hey, I know for a fact that good times are coming, because who doesn’t love summer?

DAIRY-FREE CINNAMON CHOCOLATE SCONES | Makes 8 scones

INGREDIENTS

for the scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (omit if your dairy-free butter is salted)
  • 6 tbsp dairy-free butter – chilled in the fridge before using
  • 3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut cream
  • 1 egg

for the cinnamon spread

  • 2 tbsp dairy-free butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sugar 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 (F).
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Add in dairy-free butter and using hands a knife/pastry cutter incorporate butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse sand (butter should be pea-sized).
  4. Add in chocolate pieces making sure to coat each chocolate piece in flour (this will make sure they don’t sink to the bottom of the scone batter during baking)
  5. In a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine coconut cream, vanilla extract and egg, mixing thoroughly.
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour three-fourths of wet ingredients into the well.
  7. Using spatula, fold wet and dry ingredients together.  Continue adding in remaining wet ingredients until a shaggy dough forms.  uDO NOT overwork dough.
  8. Place dough on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pat into an 8″ circle.
  9. In a small bowl, mix room temperature butter, sugar and cinnamon until a paste forms.
  10. Spread the cinnamon butter paste on top of the scone, making sure to cover the whole circle (see picture above)
  11. Cut circle into 8 pieces to help scones rise more easily in oven.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are just starting to turn golden brown and the tips of the scones feel firm to the touch.

Enjoy!!

Flaky Apple Hand Pies

 Happy 2019! 2018 brought a whirlwind of changes – new moves, new jobs, new friends, in fact, it’s almost overwhelming to think of them all!  It’s simultaneously been the hardest year, but the happiest year.  Isn’t it funny that life can be like that sometimes (and it seems, almost all the time?). I hope that for you, 2019 brings all the happiness that was in 2018, and only keeps getting better 😊


On the topic of better, I’ve been aspiring to be better about staying home and cooking with what I have, instead of falling prey to the wonderful app that is Grubhub.  Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking and being in the kitchen, but after 8 hours of school and a seemingly endless pile of homework, the thought of even sautéing some veggies makes my head spin.  So, creating the simplest and fastest recipes are always at the forefront of my mind when I’m creating something new.


The recipe is actually from awhile back, but I’m finally getting to blogging about it now (talk about being behind! Haha, I’m just a year late).  Anyway, one of my bestest friends from my work came over to my itty bitty apartment this past Thanksgiving to make some apple hand pies.  We had originally set out to make cherry almond croissants, but upon realizing the both of us had no tools and barely any ingredients, we had to quickly change plans.  She brought some honeycrisp apples (shoutout to Minnesota for creating them!), and I supplied the puff pastry, voila! We had all the ingredients necessary for apple hand pies.  It’s that easy, I promise!  And it will bring smiles to anyone you serve them to, cause really, who can resist some pipping hot, cinnamony sugar and buttery pastries? 


So let’s ring in 2019 with some flaky apple hand pies, maybe a glass of champagne, and if you’re me, some R&R with my faithful buddy, netflix (lol).  Back to reality though, I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions, and I really only have two this year, okay, maybe three, but the first is the most important.  I want to be kinder to others, because you can always be kinder and you never, ever know another stranger’s full story.  So often I find myself quickly jumping to conclusions and judging others harshly before I even take a moment to put myself in their shoes.  What are the other two? You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.  In the mean time, grab some apples, some puff pastry and sit down with a hand pie (or two). 

FLAKY APPLE HAND PIES | Makes 8-10 hand pies 

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 honeycrisp apples (or any other baking apple) – cored and diced into small pieces 
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp butter – melted 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (I get mine from Trader Joes) 
  • 1 beaten egg (for egg wash) 
  • 1 tbsp milk*
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar*

DIRECTIONS 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 (F)
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, mix together diced apples, white sugar, melted butter and cinnamon.  Combine together and set aside. 
  3. Take thawed puff pastry and cut sheet into 8-10 rectangles, depending on how big you want your hand pies to be (remember, your hand pies will be half the size you cut your rectangles into, because you’ll be folding them in half to seal in the apple). 
  4. Take each piece of puff pastry and spoon in about 1-2 tablespoons of apple into the middle of the puff pastry. Make sure to leave out the juices that have pooled to the bottom of the bowl with the apples, this will make your hand pie extremely soggy. 
  5. Brush edges of the puff pastry with the beaten egg and seal together.  
  6. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (you’ll want the parchment paper since the apples tend to leak their juices a little bit, it makes clean up easier). 
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes.  Remove once the top is golden brown and puff pastry has puffed!
  8. Once cooled, create an icing by combining milk and powdered sugar together.  Drizzle over hand pies for just the slightest hint of sweetness to complement the apples.  
  9. Hand pies will stay fresh for just a couple of days.  To extend their shelf life, simply freeze and reheat in the toaster! 

Enjoy! 

Healthier Cherry, Almond and Cashew Bark

Let’s talk about two dreaded words “eating healthy”.  If you’re like any normal person, you probably cringe at the word and it sorta terrifies you (at least, it did for me!).  I think society these days has made the concept of eating healthy so much more difficult and confusing with changes in dietary recommendations every couple years and new research on diabetes, heart disease and other chronic disease always coming out.  It’s hard to keep up with all of it!
A couple ways to make it easier to eat healthy is to remember these recommendations:

  • keep it simple – try to stay away from foods with a lot of ingredients and especially those that you don’t recognize.
  • keep it fresh – fresh foods, are always better than processed food! Fresh foods are lower in sodium, sugar, and free of preservatives.
  • homemade is best – when you eat out, or buy already packaged foods, you can’t control the ingredients that go in there.  By making things yourself at home, you can control the salt, sugar, and contact with other ingredients that aren’t good for you.

Now, I agree, homemade is not always the easiest, and sometimes you have to pick your battles. For me, if I’ve worked a 12 hour work day and the only thing I’m craving is Chinese takeout, I just go for it. But if I’m home on a Saturday and find free time on my hands, I love to meal prep and bulk make snacks.  Eating healthy is all about finding what works for you, whether it is home cooking everyday, or just starting a weekend meal prep that’ll last you a couple days. 


One of my favorite snacks to make is this dark chocolate, cherry, almond, and cashew bark.  It was born out of wanting a more even distribution of chocolate whenever I ate trail mix.  I hated having a handful of just dried fruit, or too many almond or just not enough chocolate.  This recipe is made with only 4 squares of chocolate (think like half a Hershey’s chocolate bar) and will last you the whole week! I grew up with people always telling me that chocolate was terrible for you and would give you acne and so on and so forth.  The truth is, it all depends on the type of chocolate! Dark chocolate is actually really good for you (in moderation, as everything is, haha), the key is just to choose a brand that is low in sugar. The cherries, or any dried fruit in general help give the bark some natural sweetness and are a good source of fiber; make sure to only buy dry fruit that hasn’t been sweetened (it will usually say if there’s been extra sugar added on the packing, so keep a look out for it!).  I know cherries and almonds are the classic combination, but I love the addition of cashews.  They’re heart healthy and help give a creaminess to the bark that makes it that much more delicious. I am addicted to the salty-sweet combination, so the final finishing touch to this bark is just a sprinkle of sea salt on top.  If you’re sensitive to salt, need to avoid it, or just don’t like salty snacks, leave it out!


This bark is perfect in every way.  It keeps well, it’s healthy for you with no refined sugars, and is pretty much as minimally processed as foods get.  It also takes only 20 minutes and is legitimately 3 steps. I’ve included photos to help guide you, I find that it’s always less daunting to try out a new recipe when you’ve got photos to compare your product to at every step!


First thing, gather up your nuts and dried fruit and roughly chop them.  I cut the cherries into quarters and the nuts in half.  You can go as large or as small as you want, but I find that these sized pieces are best to make sure you get at least a good amount of cherries, almonds and cashews in one bite.

 Then, melt your chocolate in the microwave and sprinkle your nuts on top.  It’s going to be a pretty densely packed bark, just because I’m trying to keep the chocolate at a minimum and make the majority of the bark nuts and dried fruit. Don’t forget that last sprinkle of sea salt!

Then, just pop in the fridge for 15 minutes.  When the chocolate has solidified, break into large pieces and you’re ready to devour. Seriously, it’s that simple!

HEALTHIER CHERRY, ALMOND, CASHEW BARK | Makes 3-4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup roasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup pitted dried cherries (no added sugar)
  • 4 oz dark chocolate (I look for the one with the lowest amount of sugar)
  • A pinch of sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Roughly chop up almond, cashews, and cherries. They should be chopped into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Heat dark chocolate in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time and taking out before all the chocolate is melted.  Let the residual heat of the already melted chocolate melt the remaining chocolate.  This will ensure a smooth and luscious chocolate texture.
  3. Pour melted chocolate on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.  Spread the chocolate out as thin as you can get it (I picked up the sheet pan and tilted it side to side to help the chocolate spread, it’s the easiest way!). It should be spread out very thin (almost paper-thin).
  4. Sprinkle chopped nuts and cherries over the melted dark chocolate and then press the nuts and fruit into the chocolate.  This will make sure everything stays inside the melted chocolate and doesn’t fall out when you try and eat it. It should be pretty densely packed! Sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Pop into the fridge for 15-20 minutes until bark is solidified. 
  6. Once bark is solidified, break into large pieces and you’re ready to eat!
  7. Store bark in an airtight container in the fridge and it will pretty much keep indefinitely.

*Recipe can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled to meet your needs.

Enjoy!

Healthy Zucchini Bread

 Zucchini is one of those funny vegetables that either tastes amazing or super gross.  Unfortunately for me, growing up, I only ever had my share of yucky tasting zucchini.  This pretty much meant that I would try and feed my mom’s zucchini to my baby sister, or hide it under the rest of my food.  I did this for years until I went over to a friends house and they served zucchini bread for dinner. AND BOOM, just like that, my life was completely changed.  What made zucchini watery and gross, made the moist-est and sweet bread, and hey, it was a serving of vegetable too, technically.  
I went home and gushed to my mom about this amazing bread that I had eaten at my friend’s house, and how it was made from zucchini.  My mom, of course, was not impressed and wanted to actually taste this thing I was talking about for herself.  So, I went online and clicked on the first recipe I found (I’m pretty sure it was Allrecipes) and made my family some zucchini bread.   Needless to say, they fell in love with zucchini bread, just like me, and since then, it’s been one of our favorite after school snacks and the perfect dessert to complement a meal.


The zucchini bread recipe that I found that first day, has been modified and tweaked for over so many years, that I’m not even sure it resembles the same recipe that we started out with. I find that zucchini bread tends to be very sweet, and in some cases, just wayyy too sweet for my diabetic family.  During the period in which I was trying to create a healthier zucchini bread, my dad became lactose intolerant, and I figured that I should probably make a dairy-free zucchini bread recipe.  Luckily, oil based breads are actually more moist than breads made with butter since the oil is liquid and has an easier time encasing the flour particles (this is what prevents gluten formation, and tough baked goods).  So, this zucchini bread recipe is not only dairy-free, it is also low sugar, uses more zucchini than what would normally be called for a higher dose of veggies, and is still pretty much the most delicious bread ever.


I would recommend definitely keeping this recipe as a bread and baking it in a loaf pan, instead of a cake tin or muffin tins.  What makes this recipe over-the-top amazing is the delicious, golden crust that forms on top of the zucchini bread.  This crust only forms if its been baked for awhile, which wouldn’t be the case for cake layers or muffins. One thing that I can’t stress more than enough is DO NOT drain the shredded zucchini!  The water in the zucchini is what creates a moist and fluffy bread.  I made zucchini bread with my friend once and we were both curious as to what would happen if we squeezed all the water out of the zucchini before we put it into the batter.  Oh man, we were eating rock hard zucchini bread for days after. Haha, so please, learn from my mistake!

The key to good zucchini bread is all in the eggs.  You want to make sure to beat as much air as you can into the eggs before combining it with the rest of the wet ingredients!

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy TIME: 20 min prep + 1 hour cook time


HEALTHY ZUCCHINI BREAD | Makes 1 loaf (8-10 slices, depending on how thin you slice them)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 2/3 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (or any other neutral tasting oil)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup grated zucchini (do not drain!)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325 (F).
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  3. Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk until air bubbles appear on the surface and eggs are well beaten.
  4. Then, add in vanilla extract, vegetable oil, and sugar.  Mix well.
  5. Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients a little bit at a time.  This mixture should be thick and hard to mix.
  6. Finally, add in grated zucchini and mix well.  At this point, the mixture should be much easier to mix because of the moisture from the zucchini.
  7. Bake for 1 hour and then check to see if bread is done.  If not, keep adding an extra 5 minutes of baking time.  In my experience, depending on humidity and oven circulation, bread can take between 60 minutes and 75 minutes to bake.
  8. Cool bread before slicing.
  9. Zucchini bread will keep fresh for up to 4 days in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Taiwanese Cucumbers with Sesame Oil

“Pickled” cucumbers have always been one of my favorite summertime foods.  The moment it hits 80 degrees, I’m at the grocery store searching for the nearest display of cucumbers. When it comes to buying cucumbers, I prefer Persian cucumbers over English ones.  Persian ones tend to be less seedy and also less watery.  I also find them crunchier and overall just cuter, because who doesn’t like mini cucumbers? If English cucumbers are the only thing you have on hand, the recipe works just as well, but I’d definitely recommend trying to make them with Persian cucumbers one day!


These cucumbers were a staple of my household growing up.  My grandma used to grow them in her garden, and even after we moved away from her and her weekly cucumber ration, my mom continued to serve these every summer.  There’s just something so refreshing about cucumbers. When I started helping out in the kitchen, this dish was one of the first dishes I was allowed to help out with.  Looking back, I guess it makes sense cause these cucumbers are so soft, I was able to use a butter knife to slice through them, ha!


If the “pickles” title makes you think of sour, dill-flavored pickles, you’re in for a (nice) surprise! These ones are flavored with soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper and topped with sesame seeds.  They also happen to be ready to eat in 15 minutes. The combination of these three ingredients, seriously make for the most umami-packed and crisp cucumbers.  If you’ve noticed that I’ve left garlic out from these cucumbers and are wondering why, the Taiwanese cucumbers that I’ve ever had, never included garlic, so I’m going with the taste that I know.  If you’re dying to include some chopped garlic, go for it! Just beware that raw garlic packs a more spicy and pungent flavor, so use sparingly. The best way to eat these “pickles” are chilled and marinated for about 30 minutes or so, but they’re delicious right off the bat as well. 


Alright, well let’s get straight to it! One platter of crisp, savory “pickles” coming right up.

QUICK NOTE: If you don’t have white pepper, simply leave it out! Do not try and substitute it with black pepper.  White pepper and black pepper have distinct tastes, and while white pepper is much milder, adding in black pepper into these “pickles” will make it overwhelmingly peppery.

TAIWANESE CUCUMBERS WITH SESAME OIL | Makes 1 large plate, feeds 3-4 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 7 Persian cucumbers (generally how many that come in a pack)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS

  1. Slice Persian cucumbers into 1/4 inch slices and toss in large bowl
  2. Add in soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated
  3. Place in fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.
  4. Before serving sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top of “pickles”
  5. Consume immediately (and relish in the refreshing taste)

Enjoy!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Not quite sure that there’s anything better than chocolate in this world.  I mean, chocolate is up there along with surprise snow days, long walks on the beach and lazy Sundays. Anyone that said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend clearly never had these double chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate ganache.  Yep, I said it, the “g” word, gasp! Laden with butter, it used to be one of my favorite things to eat before I became lactose intolerant.  These days, I make do with dark chocolate squares after dinner, close my eyes and pretend like I’m licking the chocolate ganache off a spoon.

This chocolate cupcake and ganache recipe stems back to my bakery days, when I worked at one bakery in Minnesota. They served the best cupcakes, and this recipe is inspired by the light and fluffy, but still intensely chocolate-y cupcakes I would make. The key to these chocolate cupcakes is fresh baking soda.  I’m not even joking, one time, I had baking soda left over from who knows when, and my cupcakes ended up flatter than Flat Stanley. It was a sad day for all of us in the Chung household craving cupcakes. Lesson learned: always use fresh baking soda!


Okay, maybe I lied, the frosting is more of a buttercream frosting with an identity crisis.  It tastes just like a chocolate ganache, but way easier to make than ganache.  The problem with ganache is that you can so easily burn the chocolate, or overcook the cream, or even worse, the ganache might not even come together after all the effort you spent perfectly heating up that cream and chopping your chocolate into slivers. This one just requires room temperature butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar and an arm looking for a good workout.


For my cupcakes, I chose to pipe the frosting on, but you can dip, whip, or spoon the frosting on in any way you would like.  Heck, you could probably skip the frosting altogether and just eat a bite of cupcake and lick the spoon you used to make the frosting.  This is really a whatever-you-want type of recipe.  Since baking is always such a precise measurement, I think that there’s a sort of beauty in decorating something that suits your taste and style.  There’s nothing better than taking a step back from your finished masterpiece and feeling utterly accomplished and satisfied.


As I’m nearing the completion of my first month of work, I can tell you its been an uphill battle the whole way.  Some days, all I can do is relish in the small victories of the day, and secretly wish I had a time machine to make time pass faster. Once I’m in the kitchen though, the stress and worries of the day melt away.  I guess the whole point that I’m making is, don’t forget to take some time for yourself! And also, eat a chocolate cupcake or two 🙂

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES | Makes 12 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS
cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp baking soda (FRESH)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil, or any other neutral tasting oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup hot coffee (instant is fine)

frosting:

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (F)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Whisk together.
  3. Add egg, sugar, vegetable oil and buttermilk together into another large mixing bowl and mix well.
  4. Alternate adding hot coffee and dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, starting first with the dry ingredients.
  5. Line cupcake tins with liners and fill each tin 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when poked in the center of a cupcake.
  7. Let cupcakes cool before frosting.

frosting:

  1. Beat butter until creamy (usually 5-8 minutes for me by hand).
  2. Add in cocoa powder and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Alternate adding in powdered sugar and milk and whisk until a fluffy frosting is achieved.  If mixture looks try, at additional milk 1/2 tsp at a time. If mixture looks wet, add additional 1 tbsp powdered sugar at a time.
  4. Either spoon chocolate frosting on, or pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.
  5. Frosted cupcakes will stay fresh for up to 5 days covered a room temperature.

Happy Eating!

Puppy Chow Ferrero Rocher Truffles

I say Ferrero, you say Rocher.  I say Puppy, you say chow! Now, imagine those two decadent treats fused together into one amazing, can’t contain myself, need to eat the whole bowl, chocolate truffle.  They’re addicting, they really are.  I brought them to work yesterday and they were gone before lunch time (who says dessert can’t come first?).


These “Ferrero Rocher” truffles were made with ingredients I have lying around in my pantry and I promise are in your pantry too. It comes together in less than 15 minutes, which basically means that if you’re in a pinch and need a sweet fix or a dessert to bring to that potluck, it’s your lucky day. I’m not sure if anything else can top a 15-minute dessert, but these babies are also vegan and gluten-free! No, you don’t have to make them vegan or gluten-free, mine just happened to be, and they were delicious.  No one complained, in fact, everyone was too busy trying to hide extras up their sleeves. 


I’ve been pretty busy lately, which I guess, when you’re working two jobs, that can happen, so I apologize for the lack of new posts!  I really can’t complain though because I get to learn about non-profits, and also write fun environmental health articles (check them out here!).  I am always so happy and humbled when I think about the field that I’m in, there really isn’t anything better than being able to improve public health. Sometimes it does get stressful and I always find myself running back to the kitchen.  There’s just something so calming about having flour up to your arms or fingers coated in melted chocolate (anyone else with me?). 


Speaking of stress, with all the awful stuff that’s happening right now about separating children from their families, it’s hard to remember the good.  But, we can’t forget that we each have a voice and there are things that we can do to help, starting from just a phone call.  I can’t imagine the pain that these families are feeling, and if you’re also needing a little sweetness to help get you through the day, these truffles will definitely help!  Make them tonight, you don’t regret it, and then share them tomorrow to help bring a smile to everyone  🙂 

A word about melting chocolate: Chocolate is finicky, especially when melted.  Here’s a pro-tip when it comes to melting chocolate, never zap it in the microwave for more than 30 seconds at a time. ALWAYS stop microwaving before all the chocolate has melted, otherwise you risk burning your chocolate and having to throw it all away. Instead, use the residual heat from the already melted chips to melt the rest of the chips just by stirring for a minute or so.

PUPPY CHOW FERRERO ROCHER TRUFFLES | Makes 12-15 truffles 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks*
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ cup rice Chex – roughly crushed*  
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate – melted*
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch reserved separately
  • 2 tbsp cashews – crushed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place peanut butter and chocolate pieces into a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30 second intervals until chips are just beginning to melt. Mix together and let residual heat melt remaining chips
  2. Pour crushed rice Chex into melted peanut butter chocolate mixture and mix until evenly coated
  3. Add in powdered sugar and a dash or cinnamon into the Chex mixture.  Mix until mixture starts to clump
  4. Roll Chex pieces into 1 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Freeze for 5 minutes.
  5. Mix 1/8 tsp cinnamon with melted chocolate
  6. Roll frozen balls into melted chocolate, place on parchment paper and sprinkle with crushed cashews
  7. Place in fridge until truffles are solidified, about 15-20 minutes
  8. Store in an airtight container in fridge for up to a week (if they last that long!)

*Both the melted chocolate and chocolate pieces can easily be substituted for your chocolate of choice (milk, dark, vegan). While I used rice Chex, regular Chex will work just as well, but keep in mind that the treat will no longer be gluten-free without the rice Chex! 

Enjoy!

Summer-y Shrimp Wontons

I say “summer-y” because the addition of fresh corn makes these shrimp wontons absolutely pop with flavor and adds just a hint of sweetness to balance out the spice of the white pepper.  Being from Minnesota (a.k.a. the breadbasket of America), I’m pretty proud of the corn we grow. During the summer, there’s nothing better than roasting some fresh corn out on the grill and then my family will brush each piece with a soy dressing. SO incredibly good!


Since I’m currently in a 12×12 foot teeny, tiny, grill-less apartment, roasting summer corn is pretty much out of the question. Luckily, there are about a bajillion other ways to enjoy fresh corn. One of my favorite ways is in dumplings or wontons.  If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between dumplings and wontons are, your search ends here! Wontons are generally wrapped in the shape that is shown in the pictures above, the wrapper is square (unlike dumpling wrappers which are round) and thinner, for a faster cooking time than dumplings.  Wontons are also usually filled less, since they are often accompanied by noodles or some sort of soup and aren’t supposed to be a main dish (although I often eat them for an entire meal haha).


Though it may seem daunting, making wontons is actually the simplest process ever. I was able to make about 50 wontons in less than 1 hour, which is pretty great considering you can easily freeze wontons and reheat them later for a delicious snack or meal. I know that some people like to make their own wonton wrappers, but to be honest, store-bought ones are actually just as delicious and way more convenient. Growing up in a Taiwanese-American household, frozen wonton wrappers were a common sight in my fridge. You can easily get wonton wrappers at any sort of Asian grocery store that might be around you, or visit a store similar to Whole Foods that carries an ethnic food section.


This recipe does call for some ingredients that might be out of the ordinary if you aren’t a hoarder of Asian spices like me. You’ll need soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, shallots, white pepper, and green onion (a.k.a. scallions). The first two you might also need to visit a specialty store to find, but the rest should be carried by whatever local grocery store you like to go to. If you’ve got a food processor, amazing! You can go pour yourself a glass of celebratory wine or juice because your work just got cut in half. If you don’t, well, you can join the club. Luckily, there isn’t too much to chop 🙂
Let’s get started!

SUMMER-Y SHRIMP WONTONS | Makes 48 medium sized wontons

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 lb of raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 stalk of scallion, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp of minced ginger
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1 pack of 48 wonton wrappers (usually one package of those will do!)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine scallion, ginger, corn and shallots together into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Sprinkle in salt and mix thoroughly with the aromatics.
  3. Finely chop raw shrimp until pieces are small and begin to stick with each other (this is necessary so the filling will hold together and not break apart in the wontons).
  4. Add chopped shrimp in with the aromatics and mix well.
  5. Pour in soy sauce, sesame oil and sprinkle in white pepper, mix again.
  6. Fill a small bowl with cold water to use as “glue” to help the wonton wrappers stay closed
  7. Hold the wonton wrapper so that it looks like a diamond, and not a square in your hand.
  8. Add about 1/2-1 tsp of filling to the center of the wonton wrapper.
  9. Dip your finger into the cold water and dab water along the edges of the wrapper.
  10. Then, fold wrapper in half and press down on edges to seal. You should now have a shape that resembles some sort of triangle.
  11. Take the two corners that make up the base of the triangle and fold them towards you until they are able to meet in the middle, seal with more water.
  12. At this point, you can freeze all the wontons by placing them on a baking tray and freezing until solid before transferring them to a pyrex or gallon freezer bag.
  13. Alternately, you can bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook wontons for eating immediately. Since they are lightly filled, they should take only 8-10 minutes to cook, but every stove is different, so make sure to check if wontons are cooked fully before eating.

Enjoy!

Avocado Chickpea and Roasted Vegetable Sandwich

 Let’s talk sandwiches.  I’ll get straight to the point, I love them. There’s just something so satisfying about biting through two pieces of bread stuffed full of yummy deliciousness. During kindergarten, I would bring an fried-egg sandwich every day, doused in soy-sauce and nestled between two pieces of white bread.  Probably the first fusion cuisine I encountered, to be honest.  Obviously there was the classic peanut butter and jelly combo, which then quickly turned into peanut butter and Nutella (my mom put an end to that one after I came back from the dentist with too many cavities..oops). Pannini’s were the jam in college, so quick, so fast, and I could literally throw anything I had in the fridge on them (and I did). 


I’ll admit, I’m a little bit more health conscious now then I was a few years back, but I guess that happens when you become lactose intolerant.  Anyways, since I don’t eat meat anymore due to sustainability reasons, one of the things that I’ve really missed and sometimes do secretly crave is a meaty, satisfying sandwich. All the sandwiches that I’ve encountered without some sort of deli meat have been sad, limpy lettuce, wilty spinach, and dry bread.  And even if they are delicious (shout out dairy-free pesto!), they never really satisfy me.


This sandwich is my dream sandwich.  If I could eat it everyday, I probably would. It’s creamy, it’s meaty, it’s flavorful and the pretzel bun pretty much makes the cake. I found a majority of my ingredients at whole foods, but I’m pretty sure you could go to any specialty store and pick up the required items. My favorite mock deli meat is made from chickpeas, but I know from experience that there are many different varieties, so chose a flavor that calls out to you.  If you’re not sure where to start, Tofurkey and Lightlife are two brands that I usually purchase and love. So, if you’ve been hesitant to try out the meatless-Monday idea, this would be a great recipe to start off with! It comes together in under 30 minutes and will definitely keep you full for the night.


Let’s get to it!

AVOCADO CHICKPEA & ROASTED VEGGIE SANDWICH | Makes 2 full sandwiches

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ripe avocado sliced thinly
  • 2 Pretzel buns (mine were vegan and about 6″)
  • 2 tbsp of olive tapenade
  • 6 slices of “deli meat”
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thick wedges (think potato wedges)
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 (F)
  2. Toss sliced zucchini and red bell pepper with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (I do 1/4 tsp of each, but it’s really personal preference!)
  3. Roast vegetables for 20-25 minutes until golden
  4. Slice open your pretzel buns length-wise and place it on a baking tray so the inside of the bun is in direct contact with the pan.
  5. Toast buns for 5 minutes (I usually just stick it into the oven with the veggies)
  6. Once buns are toasted, spread each bun with 1 tbsp olive tapenade
  7. Place 3 slices of “deli meat” onto each bun and top with avocado slices (I usually just give each person half an avocado)
  8. Once your veggies are done roasting, top each sandwich off with roasted veggies
  9. Devour and wish you had more!

Enjoy!