Easy Crepes

Crepes are a delicious and fun way to eat a snack, meal, or dessert. I remember I had my first authentic crepe in Paris with buckwheat and an egg in the middle. I’ve tasted two types of crepes which were European or Japanese. I personally prefer the crispiness and texture of Japanese crepes while Chai prefers the European style crepes (maybe because he grew up in Europe?) One of the wonderful things about crepes is that they’re so versatile that they can either be savory or sweet! Chai always gets a sweet crepe while I always pick a savory crepe. You can make both or either one with this easy crepe recipe as your foundation below! 😊

Yield: 10 crepes
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 2 cups flour

Instructions

  1. In an electric mixer, mix eggs, sugar, sea salt, and milk until well combined. Slowly add flour while mixing. As an alternative, you can use a vitamix and blend until all the ingredients are well combined.
  2. Spray the bottom of a frying pan with oil over medium-high heat. Using a large ladle, pour the batter into the middle of the pan and swirl the pan around so the crepe gets spread out evenly.
  3. Once the crepe starts bubbling and 75% of the crepe turns into a golden color, use a spatula to flip the crepe over and let it cook on the other side for approximately 30 seconds to a minute or until it turns golden brown.
  4. Remove from heat and repeat the process until batter is used. Serve crepes with sweet or savory toppings.

Easy Caramel Sauce

Caramel has always been one of my favorite flavors in anything sweet or related to dessert. It’s also one of my favorite additions in coffee drinks. I have a hard time resisting caramel covered popcorn or caramel flavored snacks as well! If I had known how easy it was to make caramel sauce then I would have made it more often (which may not be the best for my waist though!) This home-made caramel sauce is healthier in the sense that it doesn’t contain any preservatives, artificial colors, or flavors. You can use this caramel sauce to add a bit more indulgence in your dessert or drinks!~

A personal serving of caramel sauce~

Yield: 8 servings
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine sugar and water in a pot over medium heat for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves and turns clear.
  2. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook the caramel for approximately 8 minutes or until a golden color.
  3. Take the pot off the heat and add heavy cream, butter, and vanilla extract. Stir until well combined.
  4. Let the caramel sauce cool until room temperature and store properly in a container and keep in a fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Lemon Semifreddo with Blueberries

This is the first ice cream I’ve ever made if you don’t count frozen popsicles and it’s way more delicious. It’s a rich treat that is bursting with lemon and sweet goodness. Lemon Semifreddo with Blueberries defines how to enjoy a frozen dessert during the hot summer with crisp lemons and fresh sweet blueberries. My family also loved it with Chai making “mm MMM” noises when he first tried it (music to a chef’s ears!) I hope you will also enjoy making eating this very tasty dessert this summer! 😊

Yield: 10 servings
Time: 20 minutes + 8 hours freezing time

Ingredients

  • ½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1 ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Finely grated peel of 1 lemon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ¾ cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 cups blueberries

Instructions

  1. Line a metal loaf pan (9x5x3 inches) with plastic wrap and leave enough wrap hanging outside the pan. Spread the walnuts on the bottom of the pan.
  2. Over a pot of simmering water on medium-low heat, set a metal bowl on top and whisk sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon peel, and sea salt inside for approximately 7 minutes or until the egg mixture turns thick and creamy.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to whisk egg mixture in an electric mixer for 6 minutes on medium-high speed or until double the volume. Set aside.
  4. In an electric mixer, whisk heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold heavy cream into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into the metal pan, cover the pan, and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  5. Using the plastic wrap that was hanging outside the pan, gently place the semifreddo upside down onto a large plate. Serve immediately decorated with blueberries.

Creamy Spicy Korean Udon Noodles

This is a creamy and savory noodle dish with a spicy Korean kick from the gochujang (Korean chili paste) and gochugaru (Korean chili flakes.) You can adjust the level of spiciness depending on how spicy the gochujang you use is. Although it sounds counterintuitive, a lot of people from around the world eat spicy foods during the hot summers. I think the logic behind that is to sweat a lot from eating spicy foods and then cool down from your sweat. Regardless, this is a great dish to fulfill your spicy or noodle needs!

Yield: 1 serving
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 udon package, cooked as per instructions and drained
  • 1 TBSP olive oil or cooking oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ onion, cubed
  • 2 mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1 egg, fried


Ingredients for the spicy sauce

  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • ½ tsp gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)

Instructions

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the spicy sauce together in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a frying pan, spread 1 TBSP of olive oil or cooking oil on the bottom of the pan and sauté garlic, onions, and mushrooms over medium-high heat for approximately 5 minutes or until the garlic starts to turn into a golden color.
  3. Lower the heat to low, add noodles, heavy cream, and spicy sauce mixture to the frying pan. Mix well and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat.
  4. Add parmesan cheese and mix well. Serve immediately with fried egg and scallions on top of noodles.

Matcha Coconut Tiramisu

Matcha coconut tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts because it’s so delicious!! It’s full of green tea flavor sweetened with mascarpone cream. This version of matcha tiramisu is especially special because of the coconut flakes which adds a tropical twist to the already delicious dessert! I really like tropical fruits and can’t resist the flavors (like mango, papaya, COCONUT, pineapple …etc!) when it comes to dessert or drinks. My family really enjoyed the matcha tiramisu that it was gone almost instantly! Chai even preferred this version over the espresso one!

Please read the tips on how to make tiramisu from my original tiramisu recipe made with espresso here.

Matcha is delicious and healthy! I drink or eat it daily and love it for very good and tasty benefits! For more delicious matcha recipes, please check out the recipes below!

Yield: 8 servings
Time: 25 minutes + 7 hours chilling time or overnight

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 2 TBSP good quality matcha powder + extra for decoration
  • 2 TBSP sweet Marsala wine
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 8.8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes + extra for decoration
  • 20 hard lady fingers/savoiardi biscuits

Instructions

  1. Gently whisk or mix matcha with hot water in a large bowl. Set aside and let it cool completely.
  2. Beat ½ cup of sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl until thick and well combined. Beat in mascarpone cheese until just combined.
  3. Whisk heavy cream with an electric mixer until it holds medium peaks. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt while slowly adding the remaining ¼ cup of sugar in an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  4. Fold cream into the mascarpone mixture gently. Then gently fold in the egg white mixture. Gently fold in coconut flakes.
  5. Add marsala wine to the bowl of matcha and mix well. Gently place 1 lady finger in the matcha mixture for 3 seconds on each side. Place the lady finger neatly onto the bottom of a large rectangular glass container (8 x 10 inches.) Repeat with more lady fingers until the bottom of the container is neatly covered. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture evenly on top of the lady fingers. Repeat the procedure with placing lady fingers in matcha and adding mascarpone mixture on top to make another layer. Cover and chill the tiramisu for at least 6 hours.
  6. Decorate with matcha powder and coconut flakes on top before serving. Enjoy!

Yogurt Cream Cheese with Strawberry Sauce

This is a very simple recipe with cream cheese and Greek yogurt topped with a delicious sweet strawberry sauce. The dish is creamier and feels more like a dessert than Greek yogurt by itself. It’s a good way to use up any extra cream cheese you may have in your fridge (especially if you shop from Costco!) I think it’s a nice and tart dessert to have during the sunny weather especially with other tropical fruits such as sweet mango and papaya! The strawberry sauce is also really enjoyable on almost any dessert topping~ (…or by itself! Nobody’s judging!) 😊

Yield: 8 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 14 oz strawberries, hulled and chopped into small squares
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • cut fruit (optional) I used papaya and mango.

Instructions

  1. Mix strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a pot and heat over high heat for 15 minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat earlier if strawberries lose their shape. Let the strawberry sauce cool completely.
  2. Whisk cream cheese and Greek yogurt together in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Divide cream cheese and yogurt mixture evenly into 8 bowls and top with the strawberry sauce and other desired fruit.

Japanese Macaroni Salad

I love Japanese mayonnaise. It is one of my favorite condiments and I highly recommend it over American or western mayonnaise. Japanese mayonnaise taste different because they use a different type of vinegar such as apple or rice vinegar. The mayonnaise is also prepared differently by eliminating water for a thicker consistency. There are also a lot of different types of Japanese mayonnaise including zero cholesterol but they all taste great to me. This is one of my favorite sides and I recently found out that Chai loves this dish! He couldn’t stop eating it because it was so addictingly good! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! It’s a perfect dish for home or to bring to a BBQ or summer party! 😊

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pasta (elbow or penne), cooked and drained according to instructions
  • 2 boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, cooked, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup sweet corn kernels
  • 4 slices of ham, cut into small rectangles
  • 1 cucumber, washed and thinly sliced (optional)
  • ½ cup Japanese mayonnaise
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except sea salt and pepper until the macaroni salad is mixed well. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Healthier Alfredo with Cottage Cheese

I’ve been making healthier versions of pasta dishes by replacing heavy cream with cottage cheese. You can find my other recipe of a Healthier Macaroni and Cheese here. Alfredo sauce is delicious but if you’re looking for a lighter and lower calorie version then try the recipe below! It’s also quick and extremely easy to make! 😊

Yield: 2 servings
Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 oz pasta, cooked and drained according to instructions
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • Freshly grinded pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp freshly chopped basil
  • ¼ tsp freshly chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. In a small pan, use enough olive oil to coat the pan and fry the sliced garlic over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until the edges start to become a golden color. Take the pan off the heat and put aside.
  2. In a blender, blend the cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, milk, cornstarch and sea salt until smooth.
  3. Pour sauce in a pot and cook over low heat for five minutes. Add cooked garlic, pepper, basil, and parsley after the sauce has been heated.
  4. Combine cooked pasta and sauce until it is mixed well and serve immediately.

Healthier Macaroni and Cheese with Cottage Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite dishes to indulge in! I’ve loved this dish and made it myself since I was a child. I started off with enjoying macaroni and cheese from Boston Market and usually enjoyed it around Thanksgiving. Then I started making the Kraft macaroni and cheese at home until I graduated to making this wonderful and cheesy dish from scratch. I still haven’t developed the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe because it’s so difficult to make a healthier version of this dish that doesn’t lose any of its cheesy and savory flavor. The following recipe is a nice substitute for the dish if you don’t want to use heavy cream and you’re watching your figure. Cottage cheese is also nutritious, full of protein and calcium, and helps make the dish creamy! I hope you enjoy it! 😊

Yield: 7 servings
Time: 1 hour 20 minutes


Ingredients

  • 4 oz penne or elbow pasta, uncooked
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • Small pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Small pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • Ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F with racks in the middle. Spray a large baking pan with oil. Place uncooked pasta in the pan.
  2. In a blender, blend cottage cheese, milk, dry mustard, ground nutmeg, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and ground pepper until well combined.
  3. Pour blended cheese mixture into the pan on top of the pasta and add the cheddar cheese and mix well.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Uncover the pan and bake for another 30 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Let it cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!

The Best Lactation Cookies

I had a rough start to breastfeeding as my child is a very fussy eater and still has trouble latching on. I wasn’t producing enough breast milk for the first week and now I’m behind on producing enough milk. I looked up various sources on how to increase milk supply because I was desperate to feed my child as much breast milk I could. I had heard of lactation cookies before I gave birth but hoped that I wouldn’t have to use it. After the first week I gave birth, I frantically sought all the key ingredients I needed for the lactation cookies that would help increase my milk supply such as rolled oats, brewer’s yeast powder, wheatgerm, and ground flaxseed meal. I’ve been eating these cookies everyday since I’ve made them. I’ve kept making more since I ran out of my first batch. These lactation cookies are super nutritious, addictive, taste great, and they’re part of my special diet to increase my milk supply. They’re also much more affordable then if you buy prepared lactation cookies or bars! I hope you enjoy them and here’s to good health for both mother and baby! 😊

Lactation cookies with chocolate chips.

Yield: 16 very large cookies
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup debittered and unsweetened brewer’s yeast powder
  • 1 TBSP wheat germ
  • 3 TBSP ground flaxseed meal
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips and/or
  • Raisins or unsweetened coconut flakes to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the middle.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together except the chocolate chips. (rolled oats, flour, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, flaxseed meal, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt)
  3. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar for about 2 minutes or until creamy. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just combined. Add chocolate chips and mix on stir mode until evenly distributed.
  5. Gently make golf sized balls from the dough and spread out the balls so they’re not too close to each other on the baking tray.
  6. Bake for 10-13 minutes until edges are golden brown. Wait for cookies to cool and enjoy!

10 Top Tips for a Healthy and Happy Pregnancy

I did it! I finally gave birth to a beautiful baby! She arrived right on the day of her due date which is rare for a first time mother! I had no complications throughout the pregnancy but struggled while giving birth as my water broke early and contractions were sporadic after 23+ hours of labor. Thankfully, I gave birth at a hospital where they were supportive of natural labor and had the best OBY/GYN. She was wonderful and inspired me to become a doctor like her one day. The doctor was skilled, patient, respectful towards everyone, was nearly always smiling and laughing but also knew when to be calm and professional. I also had the love and support of my husband and mother who tirelessly massaged me and stayed by my side as I cried out in pain from the contractions. I was so happy that my loved ones were there when I gave birth and they both cut the umbilical cord separately. It was a very emotional and happy moment as we all cried after my daughter was born.

My baby and me holding hands.



After giving birth, my mother wasted no time in making miyokgook (Korean seaweed soup) for me as it helps with blood circulation and breast milk production. I’ve been eating it everyday and sometimes three times a day with each meal and it still tastes delicious! Not only is it prepared with love daily but it is also nutritious and beneficial for my health. 😊 I hope to upload a recipe in the near future! I will upload my recipe for delicious lactation cookies very soon!

The following are the top 10 tips I have for a healthy and happy pregnancy from my own experience. The tips are not in any particular order. I hope they can help you but it’s important to follow what works for you!

  1. Exercise.
    I love to exercise because it’s the number one thing that makes me feel better both physically and mentally. I find that exercising helps me with headaches, puts me in a better and refreshed mood, and keeps my body strong. I’m a huge fan of martial arts and cardio. If I’m not able to attend martial arts classes then I rotate through my Insanity workout collection. (Insanity Max 30 is my favorite!) I did Insanity and Insanity Max 30 from the very beginning of my pregnancy and did it six days of the week until the very day I had to get admitted to the hospital. Always receive approval from your doctor before doing any intense workout. I believe that part of the reason I was able to continue working out was because I did it religiously before I got pregnant. I had to start modifying during my second trimester and knew when to listen to my body and stop when something didn’t feel right.

    Yes, there were days I didn’t feel like exercising (or even dreaded it) but I always felt better after getting up and just doing it. I might have felt tired and unmotivated in the beginning of a workout but I never regretted it and felt much better after finishing a workout. I also believe that exercising helped me not gain an excessive amount of weight and helped me give birth to a strong and healthy baby despite odds being against me. My baby was able to lift her head and tried to stand on her two feet the day after she was born!

  2. Eat healthy as much as possible.
    I always thought that I would relax my standards and pig out when I get pregnant for the first time. However, I really wanted to be healthy during my pregnancy for myself and my child. Gaining a lot of weight during pregnancy is also really uncomfortable. I can’t imagine how much it would negatively affect me both emotionally and physically if I really let myself go and ate everything I wanted. I tried to remind myself that I was in control of my cravings. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t indulge sometimes. I just tried to not over do it and eat healthy as much as possible with a lot of whole grain, fish, fruits, and vegetables. I also tried to avoid foods that were prone to listeria and kept up to date with news regarding listeria outbreaks on a regular basis.

  3. Drink a lot of water/fluids.
    I drank a lot of water before I even got pregnant but it’s so important to keep hydrated during pregnancy. At one point during my first trimester, water didn’t taste good to me anymore (yes, I can taste minerals and the difference between waters.) I had the hardest time drinking regular water which was one of the weirdest feelings. My doctor suggested Gatorade but I am not a huge fan since it contains dye, artificial flavors, etc. I ended up drinking a lot of barley tea to help keep myself hydrated. Barley tea also helped with my painful headaches that tended to come at nights. During my second trimester, I also drank coconut water and made mint and fruit infused water with lemon slices.I believe drinking a lot of water helped me cope with my headaches and promote blood circulation. I also never had an issue with overly swollen or puffy hands and feet throughout my pregnancy.

  4. Relax and take it easy.
    Unfortunately, most of pregnancy and giving birth is not really in your control. I’ve read several books, did a lot of research, and made plans but sometimes life doesn’t go the way you exactly hoped. Whenever I felt anxious or worried of all the things that could go wrong, I would pray and try to trust in God regardless of the outcome. I also meditated daily, did biofeedback, and exercised which helped release tension. I also recommend a nice warm soak in the bath with your favorite salts, aromatherapy, and music. Do any enjoyable and safe activity that helps you relax. You deserve it! 😊

  5. Enjoy the journey (as much as possible).
    During one point or another, I felt like I was looking forward to the future or missed the past. When I was in my first trimester, I was looking forward to the “golden” second trimester which was not that drastically better for me as people said it was. During my second trimester, I missed the first trimester where I had a slimmer figure and was able to sleep on my back. During my third trimester, I wanted this baby out because I was SO uncomfortable towards the end. After the baby was born, I missed being pregnant and able to sleep a little bit more. Even Chai recently said he can’t wait for the baby to be six years old and already at school. Right now, I’m letting go of all that and just enjoying the moment. As I write this, it’s been a little over two weeks after I gave birth but I can tell my baby has already grown so much compared to when she was at the hospital. Her personality is starting to really shine and she acts differently. She smiles a lot more and knows what she wants. I really want to stop looking to the past and future but just enjoy the present so I don’t miss out what’s happening right now whether it’s baby related or not. Studying and learning about mindfulness also really helped with being present in the moment.

  6. Know your body and limits. “Know when to say no.”
    If you’re the “A blood type” who tends to be a perfectionist and push themselves, then we have a lot in common. My mother advised me both during pregnancy and post-partum to rest well as much as possible and eat well for both my and the baby’s health. I wish I rested better during my pregnancy and didn’t push myself so hard. After giving birth and going home, I felt like a truck hit me several times over as I woke up every 2 hours to feed my baby. My baby was also fighting with me for 1-2 hours because she had difficulty latching for the first week. I never gave up but my body was at its limit on top of trying to recover from giving birth. Recently, I pushed myself into going out and running errands and my body gave me a huge wake up call. I needed to stop and rest even if there were so many things that needed to get done. I would say that I prioritized my health but didn’t really act on it. Deep down, I knew that I needed to get healthy first in order to take care of myself and my family. I am also blessed to have the support of my family to help me with everyday tasks so I can take a break or not push myself as hard.

  7. Know what works for you and drown out the rest of the noise.
    I feel like this is one of the most important key points. During my pregnancy, I tried nearly all the popular advice on what to do and eat for an easier birth. I drank raspberry tea leaf daily, tried to eat a lot of dates, ate a lot of eggplant with herbs towards the end of my pregnancy, etc. I felt like they honestly didn’t do much as I did not have an easy labor. The one thing that really worked for me was exercising nearly everyday and staying hydrated. I also ate well before I was in active labor to give myself the strength I needed as I went more than 24 hours without food. After giving birth, I was given so many contradicting advice from family members, nurses, doctors, and internet resources. It was overwhelming and discouraging at the same time. Medicine is not a perfect science and people are constantly researching and learning new things and overturning older advice. I would say to keep an open mind and make your and your baby’s health a priority. Try not to listen to advice that would compromise your baby’s health or weight gain. There is no one “right” way to do things and you have to find what works for you since everyone’s experiences are different.

  8. Sleep better at night.
    Sleep sleep sleep as much as you can! I suffered from insomnia during my pregnancy but do whatever you can to make yourself comfortable and rest well. What worked for me during pregnancy was using a long body pillow to put in between my legs when my hips hurt me and my feet fell asleep. I was contemplating on buying those special pregnancy pillows but they are really not necessary. I would meditate again at night that was specific to sleep or put on some meditation music that would help me doze off.

  9. Massages.
    Massages help you relax and, most importantly, they feel good! Massages helped me get through pregnancy and cope with the pain during active labor. If you get a professional massage during pregnancy, make sure to find out in advance whether they can accommodate pregnant people!  

  10. Babymoon & Going on Dates
    I highly suggest you and your partner go on a babymoon during your second trimester. It’s a wonderful way to relax and enjoy one last big vacation before the baby arrives. My husband and I went to Hawaii for our babymoon and it was one of our favorite trips so far. You can find out more about the trip and some tips and recommendations for travelling in Hawaii here. It doesn’t have to be a destination where it’s too far. As long as you both can enjoy the trip together, I believe that’s what matters! 😊 I also recommend that you continue to go on regular local dates even after the baby’s born to help re-connect with your partner. It’ll be easier if you have a babysitter or a family member who can help watch the baby during your date!

How was your pregnancy and what helped you get through it? Please let me know through your comments below!

Fudgy Matcha Brownies

On my quest to make more delicious matcha desserts, after several trials and errors which Chai so graciously helped me eat, I made the best recipe for matcha brownies! These matcha brownies were purposely made strong in matcha flavor so they’re also packed with antioxidants and health benefits. “Go big or go home. 😊” Especially when it comes to important things in life like good food! I remember my mother bought “green tea seaweed” but it had literally 0.5% of green tea in the whole product. Forget about tasting the green tea. We couldn’t even smell green tea in the product! 

Try these brownies instead! The brown sugar and chocolate chips help sweeten the matcha flavor so you can enjoy them with your favorite drinks during your tea or relaxing time.

My quest for more matcha recipes is still not finished yet! I’m excited to experiment with more matcha in the near future! 😉

You can find more delicious matcha recipes on this website by clicking on the following:
Matcha Latte
Matcha Bundt Cake
Matcha Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 6 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup canola oil or EVOO for even greater health benefits
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup good quality matcha
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the middle.
  2. Whisk canola oil and brown sugar in a large bowl for about a minute. Add eggs and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.
  3. Shift in flour, matcha, baking powder, and sea salt. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Do not over mix!
  4. Add and gently stir in chocolate chips. Pour mixture in a baking pan (4.5 x 8 inches) that has been sprayed with oil.
  5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes and let it cool before enjoying!

Simple Curry Udon

Udon is a classic Japanese dish that is very versatile. There’s the well known hot udon which warms you up during the winter and cold udon which is refreshing to eat during the summer. There’s also yakiudon (fried udon) find my recipe for yakiudon here!, kitsune udon (fox udon), nabeyaki udon (hotpot udon), curry udon and more! It’s easy for curry udon to come out poorly if it’s too watery. In my opinion, the tastiest curry udon has a thick soup with the right amount of salty and unami flavor! I’d like to share with you a simple but delicious curry udon that provides the right amount of soup consistency and flavor! I’d love for you to try it and share your experience below! 😊

My favorite udon restaurant was in Honolulu which you can read about here. I hope that I can make fresh udon noodles one day to amplify the fresh and tasty flavor!

Yield: 1 serving
Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP cooking oil
  • ¼ onion, sliced
  • ½ cup mentsuyu soup (noodle soup base which can be found in an Asian supermarket)
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ Japanese curry roux (I used “Golden Curry.”)
  • 1 pack udon noodles
  • 1 TBSP potato starch + ¼ cup water
  • Optional: Cooked thin beef slices, sliced leeks, Japanese hot spices (shichimi)

Instructions

  1. Cover the bottom of a pot with oil and place pot over high heat. Cook onion slices for about 2 minutes or until translucent while stirring well.
  2. Add mentsuyu soup and 1 cup of water. When it starts to boil, add curry roux and continue to stir well until the soup is well mixed.
  3. Add udon noodles and cook per instructions or until the noodles are cooked. Meanwhile, mix potato starch and ¼ cup of water in a small bowl until it becomes a slurry. If the slurry settles before the noodles are done then mix it well again before you add it to the curry.
  4. After the noodles are done, immediately add the slurry mixture and stir to combine well. Serve curry udon immediately. You can garnish with cooked thin beef slices, sliced leeks, or Japanese hot spices to taste.

Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve mentioned how much I love coconut desserts in my first coconut recipe here and I’m continuing to add more delicious coconut recipes! Another coconut favorite is coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting~ These coconut cupcakes are a delight to eat and lovely to share with loved ones or at parties. They’re easy to make and the cream cheese frosting is very addicting! 😊

Yield: 12 cupcakes
Time: 45 minutes


Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup sweetened dried coconut flakes

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • Dried coconut flakes to decorate

Cupcake Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the middle. Prepare cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and well mixed.
  4. Separate eggs and beat in egg yolks one at a time. Add vanilla and mix well.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add in half the flour and half the coconut milk alternatively twice.  Mix until smooth.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add in ¼ of the egg whites to the batter and then fold in the remaining egg whites carefully. Be careful not to over mix!
  7. Gently fold in coconut flakes.
  8. Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake pan where each cupcake should be about ¾ filled.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Let it cool

Frosting Instructions

  1. In an electric mixer, whisk cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, and vanilla extract until well mixed.
  2. Gradually add in confectioners’ sugar and brown sugar until smooth.
  3. Spread the frosting on cooled cupcakes equally. Decorate with coconut flakes on top.

Quinoa with Baby Spinach

Did you know that quinoa is a type of seed? It’s so nutritious and delicious! It’s also incredibly easy to make and cooks much faster than rice! There are many benefits to quinoa including it being high in protein, fiber, minerals, and containing sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids! It also has a low glycemic index which is good for blood sugar control. I like to cook quinoa with baby spinach to add even more nutrition to the dish!

Here’s to good health for you and your loved ones! 😊


Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 cup pre-rinsed quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups pre-rinsed baby spinach

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil in a pot and use high heat. Toast quinoa for about 1-2 minutes until you can hear a crackling noise or you can smell a sweet toasted aroma.
  2. Pour in chicken broth and allow to boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and allow it to cook for 12 minutes.
  3. Take the pot off the heat and add baby spinach and cover the pot for 5 minutes. Fork the quinoa and serve.

Pad See Ew

Thai food is one of our favorite cuisine for takeout. Our favorite dishes include Pad See Ew and Pad Kee Mao. There were times where I found that the quality of our dishes we ordered from our favorite Thai restaurant wasn’t consistent which was a bit of a disappointment. To my delight, I found that Pad See Ew was not difficult to make at all and I could make this dish with quality ingredients without the addition of MSG or other chemicals! Chai loves this dish and has recently made it with me so that he could make it for us in the near future as well! 😊

I hope you enjoy this dish with your loved ones when you have that craving for Thai food!

Yield: 3 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb wide rice noodles (fresh or dried)
  • 2 TBSP oil (EVOO (extra virigin olive oil) or avocado is recommended)
  • 3 cups of Chinese broccoli, washed well and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Pepper to taste

For the sauce:

  • 2 TBSP oyster sauce
  • 2 TBSP Thai black soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Boil water in a pot and cook noodles according to instructions but subtract 1 minute from the time. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the sauce and mix well.
  3. Place a large wok or frying pan on high heat until very hot. Add oil and spread around the pan. Add garlic and Chinese broccoli and cook for about 1 minute while stirring constantly.
  4. Continue to work quickly. Add and spread noodles. Then add sauce and combine gently and well.
  5. Move all the noodles and vegetables to one side of the pan. Add in beaten eggs to the empty side of the pan. Allow it to cook for about 30 seconds and then scramble all the ingredients together until well combined. Lower the heat and let the sauce caramelize with the rest of the ingredients by cooking and stirring for another 1-2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and serve while hot. You can season with pepper if you’d like.

Coconut Cookies

Coconut is one of my favorite tropical fruits! It’s a wonderful fruit where you can use almost every part of the coconut including the milk, water, and meat. I enjoy coconut water on a regular basis to stay hydrated or to replace Gatorade which contains unnatural chemicals. It’s a delight to drink coconut water directly from a fresh coconut which I’ve had the pleasure of trying at one of the Munich festivals!

Coconut is one of those flavors that I find very hard to resist in gelato, ice cream, or baked goods~ I love coconut cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and coconut sweets! I hope you’ll enjoy these coconut cookies! I plan to upload more recipes on coconut baked goods so be sure to check them out~

Yield: 9 cookies
Time: 20 min

Ingredients

  • ½ cup high quality butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the middle. Lay out enough parchment paper to cover the baking tray.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Cream butter and brown sugar in an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract until fluffy.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture until well mixed. Slowly blend in coconut flakes.
  5. Gently make golf sized balls from the dough and spread out the balls so they’re not too close to each other on the baking tray.
  6. Bake for 9-10 minutes. The edges should be a golden color. Let it cool and enjoy!

Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Blueberries

Who says you can’t enjoy gingerbread spices all year round? Especially when the weather is still a bit chilly in the mornings up here in the tristate area! I love this Gingerbread Bundt Cake mainly for two reasons. One is that it’s full of blueberries which is one of my favorite fruits! Another is that the combination of different spices really bring out a nice warm flavor to the cake. This is a nice cake to celebrate with any time of the year or to just enjoy with loved ones!

Make sure you use a large bundt cake pan with enough capacity for up to 15 cups. I used a bundt cake pan with a 10-15 cup capacity.

Yield: 1 large bundt cake with about 8 servings
Time: 80 min.

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 TBSP high quality butter
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream*
  • 3 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground bitter orange peel
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup blueberries


*Notes:
-For a lighter version of the cake, you can replace the heavy cream with milk.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the lower-middle.
  2. Spray the bundt cake pan with oil.
  3. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ginger, bitter orange peel, cardamom, and cloves in a large bowl.
  4. Beat eggs and sugar in an electric mixer until fluffy for about 3 minutes.
  5. Melt the butter in a small pot and mix in cream and milk.
  6. Add about 1/3 of dry ingredients to the egg mixture, mix, and add 1/3 of butter mixture to the egg mixture and mix well. Repeat until everything is well mixed and smooth.
  7. Stir in blueberries and pour batter into the bundt cake pan.
  8. Bake for about 55-60 minutes or until a clean toothpick comes out in the center of the cake. Let it cool and enjoy! You can decorate with powdered sugar after the cake is cooled if you’d like!

Banana Bread with Maple Syrup

I remember when I was in elementary school, I had a Japanese friend who was also my classmate and neighbor. Her mother was creative in origami and baking. She would give us banana bread on a regular basis. It was always soft, subtly sweet, and smelled deliciously like freshly baked bananas! I think the memory of enjoying her banana bread inspired me to bake my own years later.

I used extra virgin olive oil for a healthier banana bread in this recipe! It’s one of the healthiest and best oils to use for cooking and I feel that it doesn’t affect the taste of the banana bread while keeping it nice and moist!

This banana bread is not too sweet at all which my family prefers. If you’d like your banana bread to be a bit sweeter, you can drizzle honey on top of your cooled banana bread.

Banana bread drizzled with honey.

Yield: 7.5 x 9.5 inch loaf of bread
Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup maple syrup (grade A)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the middle.
  2. Mix dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg) in a separate bowl and set aside.
  3. Mix mashed bananas, maple syrup, olive oil, eggs, and vanilla extract in an electric mixer until well combined.
  4. Slowly stir in remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
  5. Spray baking pan with oil and pour batter in the pan. Even out the surface and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Let it cool and enjoy!

Matcha Latte

Drinking matcha latte is part of my daily morning routine. I used to drink Italian or Korean coffee but replaced it with matcha when I started feeling sick from the caffeine crash and was trying to avoid it during my first trimester of pregnancy.

The Benefits of Matcha
Matcha has more caffeine than regular green tea but less caffeine than coffee. 1 tsp of matcha powder has about 68 mg of caffeine. One of the benefits of matcha is that the caffeine in matcha doesn’t give you that sudden crash like coffee does but gradually tapers off. It has a wealth of benefits for your health including containing antioxidants, it’s high in EGCG which is believed to help fight off cancer, helps prevent heart disease and diabetes, being good for your teeth by helping fight off cavities, and can help with weight loss.

I strongly encourage you to buy higher quality and pure matcha powder that is sourced from Japan. These high quality matcha powder are usually sold in small air tight containers with a high price tag. I do not recommend culinary grade but at least latte or ceremonial grade. The matcha powder should be bright green in color not a muddy green-brown. High quality matcha tastes very smooth and delicate. In my opinion, I find that most cafes and coffee shops don’t use high quality matcha powder but culinary grade while charging a high price. I personally think it’s best to make your own matcha latte since you know what the quality of your ingredients are while also saving money in the long term.

To save time, I make my daily matcha latte in a milk frother. I’ve used Breville Milk Café for several years before it broke down. I recently tried using the Jura Milk Frother which I thought made better froth but it was inconvenient because you cannot wash the milk jug in the dishwasher and you can only make one serving at a time. I bought another Breville Milk Café for convenience and its larger size so I can make several servings of matcha latte or foam for the occasional cappuccinos for my family or guests. 😊

To make matcha in a more traditional Japanese way, you can use a bamboo whisk and tea bowl that are also sourced from Japan. Kyoto is a lovely traditional city that sells many tea wares and high quality matcha products.

Yield: 1 serving
Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp of high quality matcha powder
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 tsp of honey (adjust to taste)

Instructions with milk frother

  1. Pour in milk in milk frother and add matcha. Turn on milk frother to desired temperature.
  2. Add honey, mix well, and enjoy!

If you don’t have a milk frother:

  1. Place matcha in cup/tea bowl and add ¼ cup of boiling water. Mix with whisk or teaspoon.
  2. Slowly add warmed milk and honey while mixing well. Enjoy!

Mango Lassi

I tried mango lassi for the first time recently and have been drinking it everyday! It’s tasty, healthy, and extremely easy to make! I’ve also tried replacing fresh papaya with mango which was also very tasty! I highly recommend this drink as it’s nutritious, full of probiotics and calcium, and delicious! It’s a nice way to end a meal or drink as a snack~

Yield: 2 servings
Time: 5 min

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen mango or mango puree
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 TBSP honey or more to taste
  • A sprinkle of cardamom powder (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put all the ingredients except the cardamom powder in a blender and blend until ingredients are completely mixed well. You can sprinkle the cardamom powder at the end if you’d like.

Banana Pudding with Chessmen Cookies

Pudding has a sweet spot in the top as one of my favorite indulgences. I have a hard time resisting crème brulee or a delicious creamy pudding as dessert when we dine at a nice restaurant or are on vacation.

One of my favorite sweets to get was banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery in NYC. I remember I craved it SO much during my first trimester and wanted Chai to make a trip to NYC just to buy me various goodies that only the city has to offer. Luckily for Chai, I whipped up some delicious banana pudding that fulfilled my somewhat out-of-control cravings and he didn’t have to make that tiring trip.

I’ve made banana pudding in the past but this recipe really hits the spot and is both luscious and creamy. It hits all the notes of what I expect in a banana pudding and is not sickeningly sweet. I’ve tried to make banana pudding by using vanilla wafers like Nilla but it tastes really artificial to me and isn’t my top choice for a cookie. Instead, I used Pepperidge Chessmen cookies which has more density and depth in flavor. I also don’t like to use pudding from a box or instant pudding. Making pudding from scratch isn’t too difficult and tastes much more delicious!

I hope you enjoy this recipe and save yourself from a trip to NYC! 😊

 


Spring is almost here! The weather is getting warmer and the tulips will start blooming soon~

 

 

Yield: 9 servings
Time:  40 min + 4 hours of chilling time

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 cups milk*
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 2 packages of Pepperidge Chessmen cookies
  • 4 large ripe bananas, cut into ¼ inch slices

*Notes:
-I used non-fat milk but for more flavor, I suggest 2% or whole milk.

 

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, mix brown sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in the milk and cook over medium heat. Continue to stir until thickened for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir for 2 more minutes. Remove the pudding from heat.
  2. Whisk 3 large eggs in a small bowl.
  3. Add about 5 tablespoons of pudding mixture into the small bowl and mix well. Pour the egg mixture into the pudding mixture and whisk constantly. Cook the pudding mixture over medium heat until it you see bubbles while continuing to stir. Stir for 2 more minutes and remove from heat.
  4. Stir in vanilla extract and cool until room temperature while stirring occasionally.
  5. Whisk heavy cream in an electronic mixer until medium stiff peaks form. Slowly fold into the cooled pudding.
  6. In a large baking dish, layer Chessman cookies and then bananas. Add half the pudding. Repeat with another layer and use extra cookies to decorate the top of the pudding.
  7. Place a plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate for 4 hours. Enjoy!

Browned Butter Chocolate Cookies

This was my first time browning butter and using it to bake cookies. The browned butter adds a depth to the flavor of cookies in a tasty way. I’m glad that these cookies turned out so well despite it being my first time experimenting with them! I also recommend the walnut milk from Elmhurst in the photos. It’s very tasty without any artificial gums! Their oat milk is also delicious!~

These Browned Butter Chocolate Cookies were a gift to Chai as part of his Valentine’s day present. I created a personalized advent calendar for his Valentine’s day present and included these cookies as part of the treats for one of the days. Creating an advent calendar was a lot more work than I thought but it was worth it seeing the smile and joy on his face everyday! 😊

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Yield: 10 large cookies
Time: 45 min.

Ingredients

  • .75 cup or 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 ½ cup chocolate, chopped in large pieces

 

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the middle. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat while whisking frequently. When the butter starts to brown on the bottom of the pan, take it off the heat immediately.
  • Beat the brown butter and sugar until smooth in an electric mixer on low-medium. Add the eggs one at a time while continuing to beat the mixture. Add the vanilla extract and beat until well-mixed.
  • Add the flour, sea salt, baking soda, and cinnamon powder on mix on a low setting. Stir in the chopped chocolate.
  • Form balls of cookie dough about the size of golf balls onto the pan with enough space in between each cookie. You can place about 6 large cookie balls on each tray.
  • Bake for 12 minutes and allow cookies to cool before enjoying!

Tiramisu

This is a delicious Italian cake and one of my family’s favorite!
This tiramisu is creamy, not overly sweet, and has a lovely balance between the espresso flavor and creamy-sweet mascarpone filling. It’s also in harmony with the lady finger biscuits. I really recommend you try making this cake~
As far as making cakes, tiramisu takes a bit more time and effort but I think it’s worth it and not too difficult. It took me a few tries to really make this cake shine but here are a few tips to give you a head start!

-Make sure to use fresh ingredients as the eggs in this recipe are not cooked. If you’re worried, you can use pasteurized eggs which is what I used this time since I am pregnant.
-I highly recommend using good quality Italian espresso for an authentic and delicious flavor. I used the brand Illy.
-If you are re-using beaters or a mixing bowl, make sure they are completely washed with soap and free of any fat from the heavy cream. Otherwise, the egg whites may not form peaks.
-Use hard Italian lady finger biscuits and not the soft kind.
-Don’t leave the lady fingers in the espresso for too long on each side. It should be quickly soaked with 3 seconds on each side. The espresso should be completely cooled to room temperature and not hot!
-Tiramisu can be chilled up to one day. It’s best to finish it within the next day if you chill it overnight. If you leave it out any longer, it will get soggy, sad, and not as tasty. ☹

 

IMG_1759 (2)Tiramisu decorated with chocolate shavings, Ferraro Raffaello, and Giotto

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Yield: 8 servings
Time: 25 minutes + 7 hours chilling time or overnight

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
  • 2 TBSP sweet Marsala wine
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 20 hard lady fingers/savoiardi biscuits
  • Chocolate shavings for decoration

 

Instructions

  • Beat ½ cup of sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl until thick and well combined. Beat in mascarpone cheese until just combined.
  • Whisk heavy cream with an electric mixer until it holds medium peaks. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt while slowly adding the remaining ¼ cup of sugar in an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • Fold cream into the mascarpone mixture gently. Then gently fold in the egg whites mixture.
  • Pour espresso into a large bowl and add the marsala wine. Gently place 1 lady finger in the espresso mixture for 3 seconds on each side. Place the lady finger neatly onto the bottom of a large rectangular glass container (8 x 10 inches) Repeat with 9 more lady fingers or until the bottom of the container is neatly covered. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture evenly on top of the lady fingers. Repeat the procedure with placing lady fingers in espresso and adding mascarpone mixture on top to make another layer. Cover and chill the tiramisu for at least 6 hours.
  • Decorate with chocolate shavings on top before serving. Enjoy! 😊

 

 

 

SuJeongGwa (Korean Cinnamon Punch)

SuJeongGwa is a refreshing Korean cinnamon punch that can be served either hot or cold which means you can drink it both during the cold and hot seasons! My mother taught me this recipe and made it for me for its health benefits. Some of the benefits of SuJeongGwa includes helping digestion and making you feel better when you have a cold. I definitely feel more relaxed after enjoying a cup of SuJeongGwa~ We don’t like to add too much sugar because the sweetness of persimmons is enough but you can add more sugar if you’d like! The persimmon-walnut flowers are really cute and can be enjoyed by themselves as a snack if you made extra!

IMG_1731 (2)You can see how the dried persimmon is formed with the walnut in the center.

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Yield: about 7 servings
Time:  35 min

Ingredients

  • 7 cups of water
  • 5 cinnamon sticks, rinsed
  • 2 dried persimmons
  • walnuts
  • Brown sugar to taste (optional)
  • Pine nuts (optional)

 

Instructions

  • Boil water and cinnamon sticks until the liquid turns into a deep red or about 20 minutes. Lower the heat to low for another 15 minutes.
  • Put brown sugar in pot if using.
  • Meanwhile, cut the top of the dried persimmons and dispose.
  • Cut each persimmon horizontally into thirds. Open the persimmon and insert a line of walnuts across the inside of the persimmon and close firmly. Cut the persimmons vertically to create a flower shape with the walnuts inside.
  • Place a persimmon flower piece inside the cup and then pour the punch right before serving. You can also decorate with 1-2 pine nuts on top.

Hawaii Trip with tips and recommendations

I haven’t been updating on a weekly basis partly because Chai and I were away in Hawaii for a babymoon~ I plan to update this website on a bi-weekly basis. On top of being pregnant, I am working on an online masters degree which takes up most of my time. I want to make time to do more of what I enjoy including playing piano and working on this blog. I still plan to continue to update this website regularly.

Now onto Hawaii! 😀
This wasn’t my first trip to Hawaii. I think it’s my third or fourth time being there but the last time I’ve made a trip there was when I was in high school. We decided to choose Hawaii because Chai had never been there and we also needed a relaxing beach trip compared to our usual jam-packed/running to the next appointment schedule in Germany. It was also nice seeing Hawaii again with the perspective of moving there one day. I highly recommend renting a car when you’re visiting the islands so you can venture outside the cities. The exception would be if you’re only staying in and exploring Honolulu for a few days where public transportation (buses) would suffice. I recommend purchasing the day pass for the buses where it’s cash only and you need exact change. I heard and saw that they are building for a train transportation in Oahu but I’m not sure when that will be completed.

 

MAUI

We stayed in Maui first which is one my favorite islands at my friend’s house. Maui is really a beautiful place with nice beaches and landscapes. It seems to be the favorite island of most people I’ve talked with! The only downside is the prices/cost of living there. We spent the most on food and gas in Maui where dinners usually were around $150 for two people. Chai and I were able to drive through the Road of Hana and see the Twin falls and Waianapanapa State Park. I recommend the drive to Road of Hana for some nice scenery! The one thing that we weren’t able to do was see the sunrise at Mt. Haleakala. We didn’t know that you needed to register in advance and the government shutdown probably didn’t help our cause either. A tip from the locals is to bring a jacket because it’s freezing up there! I also heard that the sunset is almost just as lovely and you don’t need reservations to see the sunset. We weren’t able to catch the sunset because we made dinner reservations almost every night we were in Maui. My friend who grew up in Maui recommended the Keawakapu Beach which was nice. 😊

 

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Dinner at Laihana Grill.

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Twin Falls at Road to Hana.

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Road to Hana.

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Maui Landscape.

 

Most of the places we tried that were popular on yelp and online failed to meet our expectations. ☹ I guess it’s an issue of difference of tastes. I’ve only listed a fraction of the places we’ve tried but tried to list the most well-known or highly recommended places.

Maui Restaurants/Cafes/Places to eat:

Lahaina Grill: (****) This was our favorite restaurant in Maui! I had notified the restaurant in advance that we were celebrating our anniversary dinner and babymoon and they were kind enough to take a nice photo of us, give us a baby bib and cards, and provide a free yummy cake for dessert! Our waitress was kind and highly energetic. The food was very nice as well. The only big downside was the parking where you have to either find street parking which can be difficult since it’s located in a popular area or pay at a parking lot.

Island Vintage Coffee: (****) This is like the Starbucks of Hawaii where there are several stores in Maui and Oahu. I preferred their frozen kona coffee over Starbucks frozen drinks. The only other drink I tried was their matcha latte which I found a bit too sweet. I did not try any of their food but it seemed like a popular place for breakfast. I recommend signing up for their rewards card where you can get a free drink after at least 62? points.

Paia Bay Coffee & Bar (***): This was a cute hipster breakfast place. It’s in an open area so it’s perfect when the weather is nice which is most of the time in Hawaii.

Da Kitchen Café (**): We tried the Loco Moco and the kimchi crabcake. I loved how there was Korean food infused into some dishes in various of restaurants. The kimchi crabcake was sad and overpriced as we only received one piece. The main dishes here were huge so splitting the Loco Moco was more than enough. The food came out really quickly which made me question whether it was prepared freshly. The taste was below average.

Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice (**): This place has so many flavors to choose from but they taste artificial.

Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread (**): This food stand is located on Road to Hana. Their banana bread was warm when we received it which was a pleasant surprise but it wasn’t the best banana bread we’ve ever tried like most websites claim. It was pretty average and overpriced.

Mama’s Fish House (*): This place was highly recommended online and by my local friend. Unfortunately, it was a bust for us. The atmosphere was nice as the restaurant was located closely to the beach and the property area was big. The restaurants boasted of freshly prepared fish but I couldn’t really tell if our fish dishes were fresh or not which mean it probably wasn’t. For the price paid and quality received, it was not worth it. Our server was unfriendly and not helpful especially when a flying roach flew into my dish. That was really disgusting and put a downer on our moods.

 

OAHU

We stayed at Kapolei for a few nights before spending our last nights in Waikiki, Honolulu. We definitely enjoyed Kapolei more than Waikiki because of the scenery and nature. It’s also more quiet and peaceful. I recommend visiting the Pearl Harbor where there is no entrance fee and you learn a lot of interesting things about the tragic events that occurred. We were able to also watch a moving short film before riding a complementary boat ride to the USS Arizona memorial out by the ocean. We weren’t able to enter the memorial because they deemed the docking area too dangerous and needed to be fixed but we were still able to see a lot of great views from the boat. The whole visit was very informing and thought-invoking.

If you’re at Honolulu, I recommend the Ala Moana Center not only for shopping but to visit the three food courts. Hawaii has a big Japanese population so there are a lot of delicious Japanese treats and restaurants! It was like being in Japan sometimes or Okinawa because of the nice weather.

We didn’t get to visit as many beaches as we’d have liked to but I recommend the Ko’Olina Beach Park. The Kapolei beach park was also relaxing. I do NOT recommend the Waikiki beach as it’s covered in tourists and garbage. ☹ That was the only beach out of the ones we visited that had so much garbage in the sand. It was really sad.

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Pearl Harbor Visit.

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USS Arizona Memorial.

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Memorial with Oahu Landscape.

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Kapolei Beach Park which was nice and relaxing!

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Oahu Mountains.

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Beautiful Ko’olina Beach Park.

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The mountains near Ko’olina Beach Park.

 

Oahu Restaurants/Cafes/Places to eat:

La Cucina Ristorante Italiano (****): An Italian restaurant that had some very nice dishes. The food is made to order so it can take some time but it’s worth it! The bruschetta appetizer was the best we’ve ever had!

Senia (****): We went here for their pre-fix lunch course. The food was delicious and well-presented while the service was nice and professional. I highly recommend the butter mochi for dessert!

Marukame Udon (****): We liked this place so much that we visited here twice during our stay! It was also close to our hotel and a very good value. There’s usually a line but it goes by quickly. The udon noodles are prepared fresh and you can watch them being made.

Matcha Stand Maiko (***): This matcha place is located very close to Marukame Udon which makes it a nice place to go for dessert! Their hojicha latte was a bit strong but authentic. Their matcha softserve was delicious.

Leonard’s Bakery (***): Probably the best place to eat masaladas. The masaladas were given to us piping hot so it’s best to eat them right away~

Roy’s Ko Olina (**): Roy’s is a chain with several locations. The food didn’t seem fresh and the dishes weren’t great so a one time visit was enough for us.

 

 

 

Have you ever been to Hawaii? What are your recommendations? 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love matcha!
I love matcha drinks, baked goods, and snacks! You can find a little more information about matcha here in my Matcha Bundt Cake recipe. These matcha cookies are soft and delicate! They have the right amount of balance in sweetness and bitterness of matcha. You can be versatile with the type of chocolate in this recipe by replacing them with white chocolate or caramel chocolate chips. I recommend using matcha that is good quality, sourced from Japan, and from a reputable brand.  I hope you enjoy this delightful treat!

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Yield: 10 large cookies
Time: 25 min

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 TBSP matcha green tea powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 330°F with racks in the middle.
  2. Lay enough parchment paper to cover baking tray.
  3. Mix the butter and sugar together until well-blended.
  4. Add egg and salt and mix until just combined.
  5. Add flour, matcha, and baking soda and mix until smooth. Try not to over-mix.
  6. Slowly incorporate chocolate chips.
  7. Gently make golf sized balls from the dough and spread out the balls so they’re not too close to each other on the baking tray.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes and let the cookies cool before you enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread

This is one of my favorite breads to make because it’s easy and delicious!
There’s a lot of bread to go around with this recipe so it makes it easy to share with friends and bring to potlucks or parties! It’s a really moist and lovely bread that tastes even better the next day! I hope you enjoy it!

 

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Yield: 2 large breads
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the middle. Spray 2 bread/cake pans with oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients (pumpkin puree, milk, oil, and eggs) together until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients (sugar, flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger) and stir these dry ingredients into the large bowl with the wet ingredients until well combined.
  4. Pour evenly into the two pans and bake for 50 minutes.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies & Butterplätzchen (German Butter Cookies)

It’s nearly Christmas! My favorite holiday of the year!!!
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to bake Christmas cookies or baked goods. Our family also always gets a Christmas cake on Christmas Eve. We have too many Christmas related snacks and baked goods due to our recent trip from Germany including various stollen, lebkuchen, daily Lindt chocolates from our advent calendar, even more chocolates, and even more different German Christmas cookies! I don’t think I’ve eaten so much chocolate in my life especially on a daily basis thanks to the advent calendar! We also really didn’t need to bake cookies this year since we already have so many sweets to eat but I thought it would be nice to bake with Chai this year and continue what’s become a family tradition to me.

My favorite Christmas cookies to bake are Gingerbread cookies! I love this recipe because it’s not too sweet and the cookies are nice and soft! Chai chose Butterplätzchen for us to bake which turned out pretty yummy especially when it was still a little warm from the oven!

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We were working out at home doing Insanity while waiting for the Butterplätzchen dough and Chai made a comment that most Germans would be watching a movie or relaxing instead of working out while making Christmas cookies. I thought that was pretty funny and he may have a point but I need my daily exercise especially when I’m eating all these sweets and delicious foods! 😉 We ended up watching a movie later that night. It’s another Christmas tradition to watch a lot of movies together! 😊

What is your favorite sweets to make during Christmas? Do you also have Christmas traditions with family? I’d love to hear your comments below~

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Soft Gingerbread Cookies Recipe

Yield: 13 large gingerbread man cookies
Time: 2 hours 25 minutes (including 2 hours of letting dough stand)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 TBSP unsalted butter
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 TBSP ground ginger

Directions

  1. In a mixer, beat brown sugar, egg, and butter together on a low-medium speed until well blended.
  2. Add molasses and vanilla and mix until well blended.
  3. Gradually stir in dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger) and mix on low until a nice smooth dough forms.
  4. Divide the dough into two and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand for 2 hours at room temperature.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F with racks in the middle.
  6. Lay enough parchment paper to cover the baking tray.
  7. Place a dough on a flour-dusted surface and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough evenly to about ¼ inches thick.
  8. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out pieces and carefully place them on the baking tray with at least 1-inch space apart from each other.
  9. Form, roll out the dough, and cut pieces again until there is not enough dough left. Repeat the process with the second dough.
  10. Bake in the oven for 7 minutes and let the cookies cool before enjoying or decorating them!

 

Butterplätzchen (German Butter Cookies) Recipe

Yield: 8+ large cookies depending on the size
Time: 1 hr 25 min (including 1 hour of letting dough stand)

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces

Ingredients for Decorations

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 TBSP milk
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Sprinkles or Decorating gems (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Mix the flour, sugar, vanilla, egg yolks, and butter on medium speed until you get a crumbly mix.
  2. Use your hands to combine the mixture into a smooth dough.
  3. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and let it stand for 1 hour at room temperature.
  4. Preheat the oven to 355°F with racks in the middle.
  5. Lay enough parchment paper to cover the baking tray.
  6. Place the dough on a flour-dusted surface and roll out the dough evenly to a 4 mm thickness.
  7. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out pieces and carefully place them on the baking tray with some space between each cookie. You can also choose to make simple round cookies without any cookie cutters.
  8. For decoration: whisk the egg yolk and milk. Brush thinly onto the cookies and then decorate the cookies with sprinkles and/or turbinado sugar.
  9. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden. Let the cookies cool a little before enjoying them!

 

Easy Seitan and Vegan Seitan Wrap

I tried my first seitan or vegan doner when I was living in Munich near the Munich Central Station. I had my doubts, as I’ve tried tofu or veggie meat replacements in high school and being sorely disappointed. I remember being surprised by the texture of seitan and how similar it was to meat when I tried it at Munich. Even Chai was surprised that it wasn’t meat!

I’m not a vegetarian or vegan but I’ve been eating like one more and more these days. I think I was both influenced by making healthier decisions and Chai who can’t digest meat that well anymore. I used to pack him turkey slices for his sandwiches to work but now I’ve been packing him seitan wraps from time to time. My mother hasn’t been eating meat lately and started eating the seitan I’ve been making as well!

This seitan recipe is extremely easy to make! The only time-consuming part is the 50 minutes baking. Feel free to enjoy by itself, with your sauce of choice, or in a wrap/sandwich!

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Yield: 5 servings
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups vital wheat gluten
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ¼ medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 cup water

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with racks in the middle.
  2. Spray a loaf pan with oil.
  3. Place all ingredients except water in a large bowl and mix.
  4. Slowly add the water and combine but do not overmix until it becomes a spongy dough.
  5. Press and spread the dough into the pan and cover it with a foil. Bake for about 50 minutes.
  6. Cut into strips after the seitan has cooled.

Optional: For crispiness, fry lightly with a small amount of oil on a frying pan under low-medium heat for about 30-45 seconds on each side.

You can assemble your vegan gyro with pita bread, tomatoes, lettuce, and sauce!

Berlin & Dresden Christmas Markets

It’s already December!
It’s amazing how fast time flies by! There’s still a lot of exciting things happening in December before we welcome the start of the new year!

I wasn’t able to upload a post last weekend because I was away in Germany visiting Berlin and Dresden with Chai and Teddy. It was my first time visiting Germany around this season and I was super excited to see the famous German Christmas Markets!!! I did so much research about the markets in Berlin and Dresden and what food I wanted to try and bring back home. The majority of the souvenirs we bring back these days are food related. We brought back a nice WMF spätzle maker so we can now make authentic Käse (cheese) Spätzle which is my favorite German dish! There are two types of Spätzle makers but we chose the type that makes the shorter ones because it is Chai’s favorite, the device is a lot lighter, and less complicated (aka easier to clean.) It looks like this.

I did not visit as many Christmas markets in Berlin as I originally planned but the main Christmas market in Dresden made up for that! All the food that we tried in the Berlin Christmas markets was so disappointing. We tried a Bratwurst, Glühwein (mulled wine) for children (aka non-alcoholic), candied almonds, Baumstriezel (chimney cake), and Schneeball (a type of fried dough covered in chocolate with different flavors) in the Berlin Christmas Markets. I’ve had tastier food at the Spring Festival and Summer Tollwood Festival in Munich.

Another big reason why German Christmas Markets were a huge disappointment for us and we did not eat as much as we would have liked was because of the seriously unsanitary conditions these vendors were selling their food. The vendors would touch money and then touch the dough or whatever food they were preparing right away without wearing any gloves. I’ve seen vendors cough all over the food and eat their own food they were selling with their bare hands. I didn’t see a single person use hand sanitizer or wash their hands. It was a huge turnoff and we tried to keep eating at the markets to a minimum to avoid getting sick. I strongly recommend going to a stand that has a large enough team where there are designated food handlers and one person who only handles money. The only clean vendor I saw that had such a team was selling Handbrot (a delicious freshly made bread with cheese & Champagne mushrooms or ham inside topped with sour cream and chives) at the Dresdner Striezelmarkt.

I highly recommend the Dresdner Striezelmarkt over any Christmas Markets in Berlin if you are in the area. Dresden is about a 2 hour train ride away from Berlin. In any Christmas market, if you purchase a drink you can either keep the cup or return it to receive some euros back. The cups can make a good souvenir if you like the design. All markets sell knickknacks that are a bit overpriced and sold in multiple stands. If you really like something, I recommend trying to find the best price first before making your purchase.

Christmas is an amazing time for food and baked goods!
Chai grew up in Germany and really missed Stollen and Lebkuchen (German Christmas cookies full of warm spice.) We bought Dresdner Stollen and Nuremberg Lebkuchen from Kadewe. Chai mentioned that the Lebkuchen from Kadewe was more delicious and pricey than from the supermarket. Chai also bought me a Lindt Advent Calendar! I never knew about Advent Calendars in the US but apparently they’re big in Europe. This was my first time receiving an Advent Calendar and it’s really a simple yet fun treat to have. We look forward to opening a “window” of the Advent Calendar each day~ Some other food related souvenirs from Germany I recommend are: Speculaas (Christmas biscuits), various types of Stollen, various Ferrero chocolate, Leibniz crackers, candied and chocolate covered nuts, various gummies including vegan, pure European honey, Italian balsamic vinegar and/or olive oil, Händlmaier Bavarian sweet mustard, and European jam.

IMG_6812Christmas decoration inside Kadewe.

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Realistic looking potatoes made out of marzipan. Germans love their potatoes!

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A Korean monument in the middle of Berlin.

IMG_6958A part of the Berlin wall that had some Korean tribute to it.

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One of the smaller Dresden Christmas markets.

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This is what Handbrot looks like although we didn’t get it from this stand.

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Dresdner Frauenkirche.

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Inside the beautiful church.

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IMG_7063An amusing wooden piece from a souvenir shop.

IMG_6835Teddy joined us on this trip! We took her to many of the dog-friendly restaurants in Berlin.

IMG_6899Teddy received some water from Ottenthal.

IMG_6851Teddy tired from her trip and relaxing in the hotel.

IMG_6856She buried her face in my arm to shade herself from the sunlight.

Reviews and Ratings of Christmas Markets

Dresden

Dresden Striezelmarkt (4/5): Located in a beautiful city with wonderfully and uniquely decorated stands. Dresden is most well known for their Stollen (fruit bread.) We tried Handbrot as previously mentioned and white chocolate drink which was wonderfully warm and delicious to drink in the freezing weather.

IMG_7061Dresdner Striezelmarkt at night.

IMG_7030Ferris wheel and some market stands.

IMG_7032One of the many uniquely decorated stands.

IMG_7020German Christmas Pyramid.

IMG_7027Christmas decorations.

IMG_7034White hot chocolate drink.

IMG_7033The ovens at the Handbrot stand.

Berlin

Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt (3/5?): Chai visited this market on his own and he claimed that it was very similar to the market in Alexanderplatz but more scenic. It costs 1 Euro per person to enter after 2 PM.

Weihnachtsmarkt auf dem Alexanderplatz (2/5): The food here was not tasty and most vendors we saw were pretty unsanitary. I think it’s an okay market to visit if it’s your first time but I would recommend the Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt more if you want a nicer scenery.

Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz (1/5): A small market with a small tube riding as its main feature.

 

Reviews and Ratings of Restaurants

Berlin

Ottenthal (5/5):  Although I love trying new restaurants, this is our favorite restaurant to visit whenever we are in Berlin. It’s an Austrian restaurant with the best Käsespätzle and Schnitzel I’ve ever tried. I also highly recommend their Apfelstrudel for dessert. The restaurant provides great quality food with good service.

IMG_6896I always order Käsespätzle from Ottenthal.

IMG_6907Plumb dumplings for dessert.

Kadewe Café Black Forest (4/5): This coffee shop is one of the two coffee shops on one of the top floors in Kadewe which is a luxury department store. I recommend this café over the one next to it as the coffee quality is higher. It’s one of the best coffees I’ve had in Germany. I always make multiple visits every time I am in Berlin.

Taverna Ouisa (4/5): A large Greek restaurant with delicious moussaka. The waiters were friendly and nice which was a surprising change from the usual German service.

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Café Einstein Stammhaus (4/5): This restaurant is not really a café but more a restaurant. Chai and I visited here twice for breakfast. We both enjoyed the omelet with cheese on bread and the cappuccinos. I believe they also sell lunch and dinner which we haven’t tried yet.

IMG_6836Omelette with cheese on bread and Apfelstrudel.

IMG_6935Tasty cappuccino.

Benedict (3/5): This place is attached to a hotel and sells breakfast 24 hours. We also visited here twice for breakfast. It’s popular with both locals and tourists. I recommend coming here before 9:30 AM during the weekday if you don’t want to be waitlisted. Most breakfast dishes come with a warm beverage or mimosa. I highly recommend the avocado and egg on a bagel.

IMG_6949Avocado and egg on a bagel.

Standard Pizza (3/5): This is an Austrian owned Italian pizza place. The pizza was baked in a stone oven by two Italian gentlemen. It’s a decent place to grab lunch but not the best pizza I’ve ever tried.

IMG_6858Spicy pizza from Standard.

Zeit fur Brot (3/5): A bakery that bakes their own fresh bread and has one of the best cinnamon buns I’ve ever had. They offer various of flavors including cherry! The bun was light, fluffy, and delicious.

Backermann (3/5): We visited this place on our last day because it opened early enough and was somewhat close by to our hotel. The bakery bakes their own bread but the service was lacking.

Coure Di Vetro (3/5): I recommend this place if you’re in the area and looking for gelato! I tried the pistachio but the White Duke was more tasty. It’s freshly made on site and cash only.

Bocca Di Bacco (2/5): I was very much looking forward to this Italian restaurant. The food was good, restaurant in a nice area, and there were even ambassadors visiting the same night. However, the service was unexpectedly lacking. Maybe I would give it another chance in the future but not any time soon.

IMG_6978Sea Bream with vegetables.

Bakery Backwerk (2/5): An average and common bakery chain. I questioned whether the baked goods were freshly prepared on site or arrived frozen and just heated in the oven.

Caras (2/5): We tried the cappuccino here and were not impressed at all.

 

Dresden

Kastenmeirs (3/5): A famous seafood restaurant with lots of space. I tried the lobster and leek soup which was too salty for my taste. I recommend the fish risotto.

IMG_7055Compliments from the chef.

IMG_7056Lobster and leek soup.

Dresdener Kaffeestubchen (3/5): A very small café that is well known for its Eierschecke cake. I recommend trying the cake but the cappuccino was really not good so avoid the drinks.

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Eierschecke cake.

IMG_7001The Lion King soundtrack collection in the cafe.

IMG_6991The Titanic collection in the cafe.

Roasted Turkey Drumsticks

How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? I hope you enjoyed a wonderful time with your family and loved ones! We had an early lunch for Thanksgiving this year but it was quite a feast with too much food like always~ I wasn’t able to eat as much macaroni and cheese as I would have liked because I was so full from all the food. The fresh organic cranberry sauce, gravy, green beans and turkey drumsticks were really delicious. The stuffing this year was a flop despite having used wheat bread and trying to cook it from scratch. Perhaps I overbaked it while I was trying to dry the bread out?

My family is a cozy number of people and everyone doesn’t like turkey as much as I do. They prefer chicken over turkey so we have replaced turkey with chicken or kalbi during the past years. This year, I insisted on turkey but nobody wanted a huge turkey so we decided on delicious drumsticks. I am really glad we chose to do just drumsticks this year as I wasn’t feel well enough to prepare and cook everything Wednesday night and Thursday. Thankfully, Chai helped a lot with making the dishes this year! Turkey drumsticks are also the most delicious part of the turkey! I hope you can enjoy this recipe for next Thanksgiving or any time of the year! It’s especially delicious with fresh cranberry sauce or gravy!

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Yield: 4 medium Turkey Drumsticks
Time: 1 hour 10 minutes + brining overnight

Ingredients

  • 9 cups of water
  • 9 TBSP of salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 medium turkey drumsticks
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced

Instructions

  1. Combine the water, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a large pot over medium heat. Stir and bring to a boil until sugar is well dissolved. Remove the brine from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  2. Place turkey drumsticks in a large container and add brine. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 450°F with racks in the middle.
  4. Spray racks on a baking tray with oil.
  5. Remove turkey drumsticks from brine and place them on racks. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
  6. Cut slits into both sides of each drumstick and spread garlic on top of the drumsticks.
  7. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
  8. Cover the drumsticks with foil and cook in oven for another 30 minutes. The instant thermometer should read 165°F in the thickest part of each turkey.
  9. Remove the turkey drumsticks from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes with the foil for juicy drumsticks.
  10. Serve with gravy and cranberry sauce on the side!

Yaki Udon with Gochujang

Udon is one of my favorite Japanese noodles. I am especially fond of the thick noodles or pasta for some reason. There are all sorts of dishes made with udon so it’s pretty versatile. Another great reason to enjoy udon is that most dishes are very simple and easy to prepare! This dish only took about 10 minutes to cook and yet it’s a delicious comfort food. It also has a spicy kick to it due to the gochujang. The level of spiciness can be adjusted depending on how spicy your gochujang is. The gochujang I used in this recipe happened to be homemade so it was extra delicious!

My family really enjoys this dish whether it’s for lunch or dinner and I hope you enjoy it too!

 

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Yield: 1 serving
Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 serving of Udon noodles, cooked according to package instructions, drained, & rinsed with cold water
  • 1 Egg, fried
  • 1 TBSP Olive oil
  • ¼ large Bell pepper, sliced
  • ½ medium Onion, sliced
  • ¼ cup of sliced Carrots
  • 1 TBSP Gochujang
  • 3 TBSP Okonomiyaki sauce by Otafuku
  • 1 tsp Sesame oil
  • Japanese mayonnaise (optional)

 

Instructions

  1. Mix the Gochujang, Okonomiyaki sauce, and sesame oil together in a small bowl until smooth.
  2. Add olive oil to a medium frying pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add bell pepper, onion, and carrots to the frying pan and stir fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Lower the heat to medium.
  4. Add udon noodles and sauce and mix well until the sauce is well incorporated for about 2 minutes.
  5. Put everything on a plate and top with fried egg. Serve with Japanese mayonnaise on top if desired.

 

Crab and Scallop Crepe with Curry Mango Sauce

I love crepes! I tend to choose savory over sweet crepes. I’ve tried crepes in Paris, France and many different styles of crepes in NYC. My favorite are Japanese styled crepes where they tend to be on the crispier side and full of delicious fillings. This crepe is more European style but is still savory and has a tasty blend of flavors especially with the Curry Mango Sauce and cheesy filling. These crepes are great for appetizers or main course. I hope you enjoy them!

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Ingredients
Crepe

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt

Crab & Scallop Filling

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh bay scallops
  • 3 cups of cooked and shredded crabmeat
  • 1 cup of curry mango sauce. You can find the recipe here.
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • 1 cup grated swiss cheese*
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • parsley for garnish

*Notes
You may need a little bit more cheese depending on your preference.

Yield: 5-8 crepes
Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Directions

Crepes (15 minutes)
1) Put eggs, milk, flour, olive oil, and salt in a blender and blend on low speed until combined. Increase blender speed to high until smooth.
2) Heat a nonstick pan on medium heat. Spray with oil.
3) Pour about ¼ cup of batter into pan and swirl pan until the batter covers the bottom of the pan evenly.
4) Cook until bubbles form or the edges start to curl and flip crepe by lifting the edge of the crepe. Cook for another 10 seconds or until a lightly golden color. Cool the crepe after laying it flat and continue to make crepes until batter is completely used.

5) Preheat oven to 350°F with racks placed in the middle.
6) Put olive oil on a medium sized pan on medium heat and fry bay scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side or until opaque and firm.
7) Combine scallops, crabmeat, curry mango sauce, salt, and lemon juice in a large bowl and gently mix with a wooden spoon.
8) Fill each crepe with 3-4 Tbsp of scallop and crab filling and sprinkle top with cheese. Fold the crepe with the seam side down onto a large glass baking tray.
9) Top with tomato sauce and remaining cheese (you can add more cheese if you’d like.) And heat crepes for 4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with parsley and enjoy!

 

Authentic Japanese Curry Rice from Scratch

I love to indulge in Japanese style Curry Rice from time to time!
I have warm memories of my mother making it for our family with carrots, potatoes, and beef since I was a child. It was an easy but filling dish that was perfect for lunch or dinner. There were always leftovers which sometimes tasted even better the next day. I liked Japanese Curry sauce so much that I would always put a disproportionate amount of sauce more than rice or get second helpings of the sauce.

I grew up with the brand “S&B GOLDEN Curry Sauce Mix” which comes in different levels of spiciness. These curry cubes are easy to use but ever since I made my own curry from scratch, the instant mix lacks in flavor. What’s so great about making curry roux from scratch is that it really doesn’t require that much additional work! There’s so much more depth to the flavor and spices in this curry! My family enjoy this curry so much that they don’t need to buy the instant kind anymore. I hope you’ll enjoy this delicious Japanese Curry Rice!

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Yield: 5 servings
Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb stew beef, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped rangiri style
  • 1 TBSP grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 large apple, peeled and grated
  • 1-2 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 5 cups stock
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • 2 TBSP curry powder
  • 1 TBSP garam masala
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce (optional)

 

Instructions

  1. Season the beef with 1 tsp of salt and pepper.
  2. Put 2 TBSP of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add beef and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes until the meat browns.
  3. Add the onion and cook stirring constantly for about 5 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent.
  4. On medium heat, add carrots, ginger and garlic and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the apple, stock and remaining tsp of salt. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
  5. Melt the butter into a small saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and stir constantly for 3 minutes. The mixture should look like large bread crumbs. Add the curry powder and garam masala and stir for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  7. Scoop a ladleful of liquid from the pot and add it to the roux, mixing together to create a paste. Add the roux paste to the large pot and mix well. You can add the soy sauce if you want. Stir frequently so that the curry does not burn at the bottom of the pot on low heat until the curry becomes thick.
  8. Serve with rice.

British Baked Beans

One of my favorite foods from Britain is baked beans. I love to eat it when it’s available when I’m eating breakfast throughout Europe. I particularly enjoyed it every morning at our hotel breakfast buffet during one of my honeymoons in Santorini, Greece. I like how it’s not too sweet compared to the American version and that it’s a healthy way to add a serving of your legumes. Navy beans are particularly full of fiber, vitamin B and minerals! I’ve never toured Britain but have stayed at the airport during the infamous time American Airline pilots were on strike about 5 years ago. That’s when I discovered one of my favorite tea brands “Fortnum & Mason.” I would love to visit one day and explore the many food options they have available there!

These beans can be used as part of a full English breakfast, simply on toasted bread, or by themselves!

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Yield: 5 servings
Time: 1 hour 40 minutes + overnight for beans to soak

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried navy beans, rinsed
  • 1 TBSP sea salt
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • ½ large carrot, chopped
  • ½ large sweet onion, chopped
  • ½ celery, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ cup freshly made tomato sauce or store-bought tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBSP ketchup

Instructions

  1. Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with enough water that there is at least 2 inches of water above the beans. Let the beans soak overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans. Add 3 cups of water to a large pot on high heat until boiling. Then reduce heat to low. Add the beans and cover the pot. Allow the beans to simmer for 45 minutes and stir occasionally.
  3. Add sea salt to the pot and cook for 15 more minutes.
  4. While the beans are cooking, spread olive oil on a large frying pan on medium heat.
  5. Add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add the tomato sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup to the pan. Lower the heat to low. Stir and combine well.
  6. Allow the sauce to simmer for 15 minutes and season with salt if needed.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 320°F with racks in the middle.
  8. Drain the cooked beans, add the sauce and combine well. Transfer to a glass pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes uncovered.

Fruitful Summer Gardens

There’s something really special about keeping your own garden.

Summer has already ended and it’s already well into Fall! Time really flies! I wanted to create a post about my mother’s summer gardens before it was too late!

I remember we had our first garden when I was in middle school. We had purchased a house with a small plot of land in Scarsdale, NY. There was really not much of a backyard at this house compared to all the other houses we’ve lived in. However, my mom turned this small plot of land to a garden where we could enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. I fondly remember she grew tomatoes whenever she had a garden. It was part of a foundation in keeping her gardens and may be related to her Italian history.

The house we are currently living in has a much bigger backyard which meant more gardens and delicious things to eat! My mother has set up at least 4 gardens and a vineyard in our backyard. I’ve gifted her several rose plants in the past but they never managed to survive. I would joke that my mother has a green thumb only when it comes to food. However, we do have beautiful peonies, tulips and other flowers blooming in the Spring and Summer. She grows various tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, all kinds of pumpkins, squash, eggplants, parsley, basil, rosemary, lettuce, perilla leaves, shiso leaves, mustard leaves, kale, and more every year! There was even a summer where she grew corn but we didn’t get to try any because the wild animals ate them all before we could. My mother never uses pesticides or any kind of treatment so all the produce is organic, fresh, and delicious. There’s nothing more delicious than eating freshly picked and washed vegetables and fruits from my mother’s gardens. My mother’s Italian tomato sauce is also much more delicious when made with the tomatoes from her garden! There is a small downside to keeping an organic garden with no treatments which is getting bit by mosquitoes and all sorts of bugs. I’ve gotten bit at least twice while trying to take photos of her garden earlier this Summer and my mother gets bit every time she goes out to pick anything.

IMG_0495 (2)Unripe tomatoes and cucumbers earlier this Summer.

IMG_0498 (2)We enjoyed a lot of fresh tomatoes this year!

IMG_0500 (2)This poor sakura tree was overwhelmed by all the cucumbers and pumpkins!

IMG_0501 (2)The sakura tree has become a cucumber tree during the Summer!

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Some of the cucumbers were too high to reach!

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We also enjoyed a lot of various pumpkins this Summer!

IMG_0508 (2)There’s even more tomatoes in her other gardens.

IMG_0510 (2)This is the vineyard my mother set up many years ago.

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You can see some grapes!

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We always have too many perilla and shiso leaves. We never have to buy any during the Summer and give a lot of them away to friends.

IMG_0521 (2)This is another large garden which I nicknamed, “The Mini Jungle.” It’s also where we get bit the most by bugs.

IMG_0523 (2)There’s so many vegetables growing here, it’s hard to pick a place to start!

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IMG_0526 (2)These gardens have overflown even more since I took these photos in the early Summer. Now that it’s Fall, they’ve calmed down a lot.

The greatest happiness of keeping a garden is really seeing the joy on my mother’s face when she picks the fruits of her labor after all her hard work in maintaining the gardens! What’s also great about my mother and her gardens is that she always shares her fruits and vegetables with her friends and guitar students!

Do you keep a garden? I hope you have fond memories of warm Summers with loved ones and eating fresh produce as well!

 

 

Grain Free Cupcakes for Dogs & Happy Birthday to Teddy!

October 12th was Teddy’s birthday!!! This precious Pomeranian turned 13 years old yesterday!
She is an irreplaceable member of our family. Teddy is always by my side in the house and is the perfect dog. I really can’t express how much I love her and how blessed I feel to have her by my side for all these years. Teddy has unfortunately been diagnosed with Chronic Heart Failure earlier this year and visited the Emergency Animal Hospital and vets multiple times. Thankfully, she’s been doing well these days. I really pray that my family and I can enjoy a few more blissful years with Teddy!

These cupcakes for dogs are super easy to make and are on a much healthier side! I used unsweetened and unsalted ingredients as any excess sugar or salt is not good for my dogs or any other pet. I also didn’t have to worry about any grains or flour for this recipe! Teddy and Sophie really enjoyed these cupcakes and gobbled them up! I had to be careful that Teddy didn’t eat the cupcake liner as she was really trying to get every last piece of her cupcake! For more information about Teddy and Sophie, please click here!

Happy Birthday Teddy!
You are so loved!!!

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Yummy Almond Butter Apple Cupcakes for Dogs!

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IMG_1215 (2)Teddy is all dressed up in her hanbok (Korean traditional clothes) for her birthday!

Capture2Happy Birthday Teddy~

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Teddy already started licking her cupcakes!

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She’s so eager to have one!

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Teddy’s first bite of her cupcake!

CaptureYou can tell she really enjoyed it!

Capture6My favorite photo!! Teddy looks so ecstatic!

photoShe is almost done with her cupcake!

IMG_1232 (2)Another favorite photo! Teddy’s content chubby look! 🙂

 

 

Yield: 4 Cupcakes
Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP almond butter (unsweetened & unsalted)
  • 1 small pack of unsweetened apple sauce (3.9 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp baking powder

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with racks placed in the middle of the oven.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined.
  3. Place batter in cupcake liners inside a cupcake tray or spray the cupcake tray with oil until it is ¾ full.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and let it completely cool.

Ramen Marinated Eggs

Soft boiled eggs with a slightly runny texture are one of the simple pleasures in life! They’re also amazingly delicious when marinated and in a delicious bowl of Japanese ramen! Most Japanese restaurants charge extra for that delectable marinated egg. I’m happy to share this recipe with you so that you can make your own marinated eggs. The best part is that it’s so incredibly easy to make!

Marinated eggs are delicious not only in ramen but also with rice dishes, udon and many other noodle dishes, and just simply by themselves! My family and friends say these eggs are dangerous because it’s hard to stop at one! I hope you enjoy them and use the eggs in your favorite dishes as well!

 

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Yield: 4 Marinated Eggs
Time: 15 min prep time and 1-2 days of marinating

Ingredients

  • 4 Eggs
  • ½ cup of Soy sauce
  • ¼ cup of Mirin
  • ¼ cup of Cooking rice wine
  • 1 TBSP Brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • ¼ of Scallion, chopped

You can find Mirin and Cooking rice wine in your local Asian supermarket.

Instructions

  1. Boil enough water to cover the eggs and gently put in the eggs one at a time with a straining ladle. Boil for at least 6 minutes or 8 minutes depending on how runny you like the yolk. I recommend 8 minutes for eggs with a partially gooey texture like in the photos.
  2. In the meantime, put the soy sauce, mirin, cooking rice wine, sugar, and garlic in a small pot and bring it to a boil. Let the mixture boil for 3 minutes and then let it cool.
  3. As soon as the eggs are finished cooking, run them under cool water and peel immediately.
  4. Put the soy sauce marinade in a clean jar where all the eggs can also fit in and put in the scallion. Put the eggs in the soy sauce marinade. The marinade should cover all the eggs. Cover the jar and place in the fridge. Allow it to marinate for 1 to 2 days depending on how strong you like the flavor.

 

After 2 days, if you haven’t eaten all of them yet, take the eggs out of the marinade and place them in a separate container. It’s best to consume them within 2 days and you can re-use the marinade to make more eggs if you’d like or use it to make some teriyaki sauce!

Turkey Sloppy Joes

The first time I saw sloppy joes was when I was watching a movie during my Elementary school years. The sandwich looked messy, gooey, and delicious. However, my mother rarely ever made American food. It wouldn’t be until years later I tried sloppy joes for the first time when I made them myself. I really liked the yummy balance between meat and ketchup sauce. I don’t make sloppy joes often but I usually make them with ground turkey meat for a healthier alternative.

It was Chai’s first time eating sloppy joes recently since he’s from Germany. He really enjoyed it and said it reminded him of Bolognese sauce. Chai’s favorite condiment is ketchup so I was pretty confident that he would enjoy them. These turkey sloppy joes are so easy to make and are perfect for a weekday meal when there’s not much time to cook! I hope you enjoy them as well!

 

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Yield: 4 Sloppy Joes
Time: 36 minutes
Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Sea salt and ground pepper for seasoning
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce or Okonomi sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp brown sugar or sugar in the raw
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup white cheddar cheese, shredded (may add more if needed)
  • 4 Kaiser or Vienna rolls, halved

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with racks placed on the middle of the oven.
  2. Mix ketchup, Worcestershire sauce or Okonomi sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
  3. Put olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until onion becomes translucent and garlic is fragrant or about 5 minutes. Season with sea salt and ground pepper.
  4. Add ground turkey and cold water to the frying pan with the onions. Break up the meat and stir well for about 2 minutes. Season again with sea salt and pepper. Add the ketchup sauce mixture into the pan and stir frequently until the meat is completely cooked and the sauce thickens for about 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to let it overcook and the meat become too dry.
  5. In the last 4-5 minutes before the meat is done, toast the Kaiser or Vienna rolls in the oven for 4 minutes.
  6. Place a good amount of the turkey meat mixture onto the bottom half of the roll and top with a generous amount of cheese and then place the other half of the roll to complete the sandwich.

Lemon Madeleines

Madeleines are delicious French mini cakes in the shape of seashells. They’re delectable and go perfectly well with your coffee or tea! I’ve been making these madeleines since I was in college and they’re always a hit at parties and potluck. My first madeleine mold was a petite/mini size so it took a lot of hard work and time to use up all the batter. They were pretty and cute but it was really inefficient with one mold. Thankfully, I’ve bought a full-size madeleine mold since then and now can mix up my sizes of madeleine cakes! You can purchase the petite madeleine molds here and the full-size madeleine molds here.

I especially love these madeleines as they have a hint of lemon from the lemon zest. I used my Microplane Premium Zester Grater which I highly recommend as it finely grates lemon, cheese, spices and more! I especially use it to grate cheese and lemon and the end result is always fluffy, light, and delicate. I really enjoy baking these madeleines since they made my house smell like a divine French pastry shop! My family really enjoyed these madeleines and I hope you will love them as well! Happy baking!

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On a side note, sweet Chai brought these home for me from work. These are one of my favorite gummies from Germany but in a mini package full of mini sized gummies! How adorable is this? I had a lot of fun admiring how tiny they were before eating them! I usually buy a pack every time I visit Germany but you can also buy the imported regular sized gummies on amazon.

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IMG_1100Look how tiny!

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Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar or sugar in the raw
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour; need extra flour to dust molds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 8 TBSP of unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • Zest of one lemon

 

Yield: 28 large madeleines
Time: 1 hr 30 minutes

Instructions

  1. Spray the madeleine mold with cooking oil. Dust the mold with extra flour and shake off the excess. Place the mold in the freezer. This is an important step to prevent the madeleines from browning too much.
  2. Whisk the eggs, sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thick.
  3. Fold the flour and baking powder into the wet mixture a large spoonful at a time.
  4. Drizzle the melted butter very slowly into the batter while folding at the same time. Try not to add too much butter at once and take a break in between the butter additions to fold the batter and completely incorporate the butter.
  5. Add the lemon zest and gently fold.
  6. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 425°F with racks placed in the middle of the oven.
  8. Spoon batter into the middle of the madeleine mold so that it fills up ¾ of each individual cake mold. Do not spread it.
  9. If using a large madeleine mold, bake for 8 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
    If using a petite/mini madeleine mold, bake for 5 minutes.
  10. Take all the madeleines out to a cooling rack immediately after baking. Let them cool completely before dusting them with powdered sugar which is optional. Enjoy!

Dogs’ Introduction

I would love to introduce the dogs in my household. They are a huge part of our lives and bring us joy everyday with their cute and quirky behaviors! You may have seen photos of them throughout the website!

I’ve loved dogs since I was a child and remember begging my parents for one. I would look up tons of dog books and how to care for them. I remember the Golden Retriever being a favorite but was turned down by my parents as they thought it was too big. I was thrilled when we finally moved to a house that allowed small dogs. I eagerly looked through photos and photos of different breeds in large book with my family before purchasing my first dog the next day. I’ve had a total of 5 dogs since then and they’ve always been a part of my family.

Chai wasn’t as lucky and didn’t grow up with dogs. In fact, he was very fearful of dogs from a young age. He was terrified of even small dogs when we first met. Chai was even scared of Teddy! However, he overcame his fear of dogs while we were dating and now loves random dogs more than I do. Teddy is his first dog ever owned and Chai has a special bond with Sophie.

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Teddy enjoying the backyard.

Teddy Bear
Teddy Bear is a Pomeranian and is turning 13 next month! She has a beautiful Autumn color coat which is very fitting since her birthday is in October. Teddy’s name also fits her well as she will calmly sleep in my arms just like a stuffed bear! She has been inseparable from my side since I’ve had her and has become very clingy lately. She usually starts barking nearly every time I leave the room without her. Teddy is so affectionate and loving! She is considered a princess by many others and is well mannered. I consider her as one of my best friends and family member.

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Teddy has one of the cutest faces!

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Teddy enjoying the pool.

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This dog loves to sunbathe!

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She will take advantage of any sunlight to take a nap!

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I call this her “bugging out” face. She will usually “bug out” and start tilting her head backwards slowly when there’s food that she’s interested in. It’s like she’s trying to hypnotize us to give her food. This face never fails to make us laugh!

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Teddy wearing her summer yukata!
Sophie
Sophie is a Coton de Tulear which is a somewhat rare breed in the United States. She was my first dog that wasn’t a Pomeranian. I originally purchased her because of her hypoallergenic coat and lack of shedding. Sophie’s fur really does feel like cotton which is fitting to her breed! Pomeranians tend to shed heavily at least twice a year and it can get gross. Sophie’s fur can grow quite long so we shave her ourselves from time to time. She is the biggest troublemaker in our family and has her loyalty to my mother. Coton de Tulears are very smart and can learn a lot of different tricks. Sophie loves to walk on her hindlegs for us and surprised us by singing (howling) along to my mother’s harmonica playing. Sophie doesn’t bark without reason which makes her a good watchdog. Coton de Tulears also have sturdy legs and can run fast. Sophie loves to run in circles in our big backyard at top speed.

2_28_16 016Sophie as a puppy

2_12 029Here comes the troublemaker! She will sleep in any position possible.

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Sophie loves attention! She has a summer cut in this photo.

IMG_3643Sophie with her fur growing a bit longer.

The dogs have been to Germany and Italy with us. They really loved Europe! They loved the European food (just like their owners!) and running around in parks. I loved how pet-friendly Germany was as the dogs were allowed on public transportation without any fees and in the malls.

Europe 2016 401The pups in our home in Germany.

Japanese Milk Bread

Delicious and freshly baked goods are one of my favorite foods to eat and one of my callings in life. My favorite breads come from France, Japan and Korea. French breads are on another tier and a must try when you visit. I highly recommend purchasing a warm baguette in the morning and making a sandwich or eating it with French preserves for breakfast. I also love French pastries and am lucky enough to live somewhat close to one of the best French bakeries in the tristate area.

Japanese and Korean bread are another close favorite as they tend to be the fluffiest and softest breads you’ll try. These baked goods tend to have either sweet or savory delicious fillings or toppings.

This is a recipe that I’ve consistently made on a weekly/biweekly basis for the past few years. I used to buy my Japanese milk bread in local Asian bakeries but found that baking the bread is not difficult at all and it’s much more delicious when you make it fresh at home! It’s also easier on the wallet since I can just use the ingredients at home. Another great thing about this bread is that it freezes well for future use. I make sandwiches from the milk bread nearly everyday for Chai to enjoy when he goes to work. Ironically, I’ve also been making sandwiches for my mother when she was attending classes everyday during the summer. Her sandwiches are still much tastier than mine though so I’ve still got a lot to learn! As you can see, I’ve made a lot of bread especially this past summer! I really didn’t mind though because the recipe is simple to make and the house smells like a delicious bakery!

I used to have a Zoujirushi bread machine but found that it is really unnecessary if you have bread pans, Kitchinaid mixer, and a functional oven. I’ve sold it years ago and never missed it. The two bread pans that I use are USA Pan Bakeware Pullman Loaf Pan With Cover, 9 x 4 inch.

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These breads were made with whole wheat flour.

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Toasted slices of bread.

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Toasted slices of bread.

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Sandwich made with butter lettuce, cucumbers from our garden, cheese, egg, turkey slices, kewpie mayonnaise, and dijon mustard.

 

Yield: 2 loaves of bread
Time: 3 hours & 20 minutes

Ingredients

Roux Starter
1 cup milk*
1/3 cup bread flour

Dough
5 cups bread flour*
½ cup brown sugar or sugar in the raw
4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup warm milk*
8 TBSP cut into pieces and at room temperature, unsalted butter

*Notes
-I like to mix my flours by using 3 cups of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of bread flour to make a healthier bread.
-You can use whole milk for a better taste but I’ve successfully made bread with skim milk for a lighter diet.

To prepare the starter
1) Whisk the milk and flour constantly in a small pot placed over a medium heat.
2) The roux should become smooth and thicken within a few minutes. Place it off the heat when the whisk starts to leave noticeable tracks on the bottom of the pot. Let it completely cool.

To prepare the dough
1) Mix all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, salt) in a large mixer bowl.
2) Add the eggs, warm milk, and all of the starter.
3) Turn the mixer with the dough hook on the lowest speed and knead for 5 minutes. Alternately, you can also knead by hand.
4) Add the soft butter and knead for another 10 minutes at the next lowest speed on the mixer until it’s completely combined. The dough should be smooth and springy.
5) Shape the dough into a large ball and cover with a kitchen or paper towel. Let it rise in a warm place for 60 minutes or until it’s nearly double its size.
6) Lightly grease the inside of the two bread pans with butter. Cut the dough into four equal pieces and shape the dough into another ball using light to medium pressure. Place two balls on each end of the bread pan and cover again with a towel.
7) Let the dough rest for at least another 40-60 minutes or until the dough starts to slightly come out of the pan.
8) Heat the oven to 350°F with racks placed on lower bottom of the oven.
9) You can brush the top of the dough with some milk if you’d like but this is optional. Cover the bread pans with their covers.
10) Bake for 35 minutes. Let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then cool it outside the pan for at least an hour. Do not cut it until an hour has passed otherwise the bread may deflate.

Top 10 Tips for your Yellowstone Trip and More

Top 10 Tips for your Yellowstone Trip
1) Bring snacks from home! Food is very overpriced in Yellowstone and your family will likely get hungry during the long car rides. There may be limited stops where you cannot purchase anything.
2) Buy enough water at Salt Lake City if that’s your departure point. We bought water at a good price from “Winco Foods.”
3) Buy prepared food outside the park for lunch. If you’re staying at West Yellowstone, I highly recommend “Ernie’s Bakery & Deli” for sandwiches.
4) If able, purchase a senior pass for $20 which will cover your car, last for a year, and can be used to visit ANY national park throughout the U.S.
5) Bring a jacket that can keep you warm. It can get really chilly in the morning especially in August.
6) Yellowstone is not really dog-friendly. Dogs are only allowed on leash in parking lot areas. I’ve seen small dogs being carried around in the inside of tourist spots but I don’t think the tourists were supposed to do that.
7) I recommend going in August where there isn’t as much traffic but you can still see everything you want to.
8) Fill up on gas outside of Yellowstone (such as West Yellowstone) for cheaper prices.
9) Do your research in advance on the top places you want to visit and plan a route accordingly so you can manage your time efficiently.
10) Bring hiking boots, bug spray, and bear spray if you’re planning on doing some hiking.

Travelling is a big part of my life especially in the recent years. I’ve been visiting Europe (especially Germany, Italy, and Switzerland yearly) and other countries (Canada, Japan, South Korea, Jamaica, Spain, and Portugal in 2017 alone.) Although I’ve lived in the U.S. for majority of my life, I still haven’t visited all the hot spots in this vast country. I was finally able to visit the Yellowstone National Park last week with my family including my Pomeranian named “Teddy.” It’s a place that my mother has been wanting to go to for a long time so I was happy that she could finally visit.

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The whole trip took about 5 days where we landed in and rented a car at Salt Lake City, Utah. We left early the next day and made our first stop at Grand Teton National Park’s Visitor Center. I highly recommend purchasing a senior pass if you are travelling with someone who is at least 62 years old and is a U.S. Citizen. It’s only $20, lasts for a whole year, and covers the entire car. We were running behind schedule by the time we arrived at Jenny Lake so we didn’t get to ride a shuttle boat and visit Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. We also briefly stopped by Jackson Lake where we got to see a bear cub from far away before heading to West Yellowstone to our second hotel. I recommend trying to get to your hotel before night falls as there is no light inside the park. We had takeout for dinner from “Firehole Bar-B-Que.”

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Jenny Lake

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Jenny Lake

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The bear cub on the left side of the road

The next day, we visited the southern part of the park where Old Faithful was our first stop. I highly recommend leaving early (around 8 AM) and checking online to see when Old Faithful will erupt. Old Faithful was nice to see as it was the highest geyser eruption I’ve seen so far! We then visited Grand Prismatic Spring where traffic started to really pile up. I can’t imagine the traffic during the really busy season! Afterwards, we drove to “Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room” for lunch where we got to also view Lake Yellowstone. We made a stop at Hayden Valley where we finally got to see herds and herds of bison! Apparently one of the differences between bison and buffalo is that bison have beards while buffalo don’t. Prepare for a lot of traffic in this area. After making a stop at our hotel, we went to “Gallatin Riverhouse Grill” for dinner. It’s a pretty far drive from West Yellowstone so I recommend visiting there for dinner after you visit the northern part of Yellowstone. It was the best restaurant out of the whole trip. There were barely any tourists, full of locals, and live music. I highly recommend the pork ribs as the well-seasoned meat fell off the bone and was tender. I am not a fan of BBQ sauce but their BBQ sauce was so addicting that I ate way too much of it and felt sick afterwards. I forgot the important principle to keep/eat everything in moderation. The drive to and from the restaurant was really scenic and nice. I had fun blasting music and singing along with my family during the drive.

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Welcome to Yellowstone

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Yellowstone Fields

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Old Faithful Eruption

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Grand Prismatic Spring

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Grand Prismatic Spring

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Hayden Valley

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Bison at Hayden Valley

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Bison at Hayden Valley

The fourth day, we visited the northern spots of Yellowstone by first visiting Norris Geyser Basin. Like most popular spots, I highly recommend going there early! It got so packed later in the day that people were parking on the outer streets since the parking lot was completely packed. We then visited the Grand Canyon which was one of my favorite spots in Yellowstone. The Grand Canyon has two gorgeous waterfalls where you can visit the top of the lower waterfall and have an amazing view of the canyon. It’s quite a hike but worth the trip! We then visited the Mammoth Hot Springs which was also wonderful to see with all its rock formations and clear waters! We took a stop at Fort Yellowstone to have lunch on a picnic table with a great view of the Mammoth Hot Springs. Our last stop was at Boiling River which was another favorite! I recommend wearing your swimsuit the morning of, bringing a towel and swimming shoes that do not easily slip off, and wearing your sneakers for the trail. We thought the part of the river where people can go in would be close to the parking lot which it wasn’t. The trail was pretty uncomfortable with sandals. The river is a one in a lifetime experience where some parts of the river are cold but the part right near it can be very hot! It’s such a treasure in Yellowstone where you get to enjoy the waters and the amazing view. On our way back to the car we encountered a small snake and laughed a lot at Chai’s adorable reaction of shock. We went back to the hotel and had an early dinner since we needed to wake up at 3 AM next day to make it to our flight back.

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Norris Geyser Basin

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Norris Geyser Basin

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Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

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The waterfall at Grand Canyon

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The waterfall at Grand Canyon

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Mammoth Hot Springs

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Mammoth Hot Springs

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Mammoth Hot Springs

On the last day, we arrived in Salt Lake City in the morning and stopped by “Gourmandise – The Bakery” for breakfast and “Rosie’s Deli” for sandwiches to eat for our flight back home. The trip was only 5 days long but it seemed much longer than that. The only thing I missed out was not being able to see the stars at night since it was a bit cloudy. It wasn’t a very food-oriented trip but it was a very enjoyable trip with family! There was some scenery that reminded of beautiful New Zealand.

The best part of the trip was spending quality time with my family in beautiful nature. We don’t get to talk to each other this much on an average day but when you’re stuck in a car for hours you can really talk and laugh about various things.

Did you visit Yellowstone recently? I’d love to hear about your experiences in comments below!

Reviews and Ratings of Restaurants

Ernie’s Bakery & Deli (4/5): I really enjoyed their breakfast sandwiches! Our family also enjoyed the vegetarian sandwiches that we brought for lunch. It’s overpriced but so are all the restaurants in or near Yellowstone.

Gallatin Riverhouse Grill (4/5): A MUST if you’re in the area! I highly recommend the pork ribs and trying the spicy-sweet BBQ sauce!

Lake Yellowstone Hotel Dining Room (3/5): I think it’s worth a one-time visit. We originally had dinner reservations in advance but decided to visit for lunch instead because of schedule changes. I have to agree with other online reviews that it’s really overpriced for the quality of food. However, the lunch prices are more reasonable and don’t usually require reservations in advance.

Las Palmitas (3/5): It’s a food truck that sells Mexican food. We ordered quesadillas to go that also came with yellow rice. It’s cheaper than eating out at a restaurant and held me over well until the next day.

Firehole Bar-B-Que (2/5): We ordered 1 lb of brisket and bean side dish and paid over $30. The bean side dish was not that great and the brisket gave off a really unappetizing smell. I could only eat a few bites of the brisket due to the smell. I do not recommend it.

Espresso West (2/5): I came here for a cappuccino and do not recommend it. The consistency was weird and the flavor was off. Perhaps the other flavored drinks are better but I personally think that the basics are important. There’s not many choices in Yellowstone for quality coffee though.

Gourmandise – The Bakery (3/5): They have multiple locations in Salt Lake City but we visited the downtown location where you can sit down and eat. The food and cappuccino were average, but the server was friendly. I do not recommend the “Roasted Asparagus Benedict” because the salami was the saltiest meat I’ve tried in my life. My family could not finish it. Chai got “Eggs and Polenta Benedict” which was the better choice out of the Egg Benedict dishes.

Rosie’s Deli (2/5): We got decent vegetable sandwiches here for our flight back home. It’s located inside a small supermarket.

Reviews and Ratings of Hotels

Gray Wolf Inn & Suites (3/5):
This was our hotel in West Yellowstone and I think it’s one of the best options if you’re travelling with pets. The hotel offers free breakfast (very basic) and parking. The front desk was accommodating and treated us well.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Salt Lake City Airport (2/5): I have mixed feelings about this hotel. It was convenient that it was close to the airport and provided a free shuttle service to the airport but the front desk was rude and charged my credit card multiple times. We were also first given a room that was not cleaned and the second room had cigarette smells despite it being a nonsmoking room. The only saving grace was a worker there who provided us free breakfast and coffee at the Starbucks there for all our troubles.

Organic Cacao Brownies

I think the three things I love bringing to potlucks or gatherings are cookies, Bundt cakes, and brownies. They’re all simple to make, don’t take up too much time, and delicious to eat. Having said that, they’re naturally my go-to recipes if I’m craving baked goods or something sweet. The first time I made brownies was with my sister when I was in elementary school. I remember the brownies were more burnt than anything but have fond memories of picking off the burnt parts and eating whatever tiny amount of good parts were left. Thankfully, I’ve become a much better baker throughout the years. My next attempt at brownies were using those pre-packaged mixes from Costco and bringing them to gatherings when I was a college student. They were easy to make and hard to mess up but not the healthiest.
My mother bought a big bag of organic cacao powder for its antioxidant properties. We are a health-conscious family and like to eat fresh and wholesome foods (while indulging from time to time.) I have a difficult time thinking of ways to consume all this cacao powder though as I mentioned previously in my first post that I am not fond of chocolate. It turned out to be my problem on how to cook and eat all this cacao powder despite the fact it was my mother who ordered the bag… These brownies are one of the best ways to use up the cacao powder and get a healthy serving of antioxidants while indulging. The brownies have a moderately sweet fudgy texture and it’s hard to stop eating after one! I’d love to hear from visitors to comment below and share how they use their bottomless bag of cacao powder!

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Yield: 8 Brownies
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup of all-purpose flour
½ cup of unsweetened organic cacao powder
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
Optional: Add up to 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, or small pieces of dried fruits

Instructions
1) Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the middle.
2) Lightly grease a 4 x 8 inch pan with cooking oil spray
3) Mix oil and sugar together. Then add eggs and vanilla extract and combine well.
4) Add flour, cacao powder, sea salt, and baking powder and mix until just combined. Do not over-mix. Top with optional add-ins if desired.
5) Bake for 20-25 minutes and let brownies cool to room temperature before serving.