Friday, November 11, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Where is 2011 going?!

When we were growing up, my dad would always tell my sister and me that "as you get older, time will fly by faster and faster." He wasn't kidding.

I think it's pretty accurate to say that I have been wishing for October to arrive since late July. I don't think I ever mentioned it here, but July was when I found out that my mom and I were going to be visiting our family in Japan for 3 magical weeks. Well, those 3 weeks finally came and went (hence the reason for my lack of updates) and now I'm back home, armed with tart pans, melon flavor extracts, and ALL KINDS OF POWDERS for delicious macarons!

Seriously, this is just a fraction of what I brought home.

I just came back from the land of the rising sun on Monday, and I didn't waste a second of baking time. I jumped into the kitchen headfirst and attempted a batch of Matcha macarons, but I guess 3 weeks was long enough for me to lose my touch. Maybe I thought the matcha was bad luck, but today I decided to use my egg custard powder, in hopes of avoiding macawrongs.

creme brûlée macarons

Hooray! Feet! When paired with my mom's top secret vanilla custard (I'm SO glad she finally shared her recipe), it tasted just like heavenly creme brûlée, one of my ALL TIME favorite desserts. It was so good that I had to eat two. Then I remembered that they'll taste better tomorrow after they've rested, and I miraculously found the will power to put them away. Sigh.

I'm hoping to put together a little post of all the delicious treats I ate while I was in Japan. I was ECSTATIC to run into a Lauderée while in Fukuoka, and that really deserves a post on it's own. Stay tuned, and happy baking!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

A time for reflection

It's hard to remember a world where words like "terrorist" and "terrorism" only existed in the movies.

Like so many other Americans, I remember September 11, 2001 very clearly. I was 13 years old, just barely going into my second week as a freshman in high school. I woke up early that morning to get ready for 0 period band, and by then my dad was already glued to the TV, watching reports about a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers. I didn't understand any of it then, but I remember thinking that it must have been some kind of awful freak accident. Watching footage of the burning building left me in utter disbelief. I had witnessed the glory of the Twin Towers only 5 months before, on a school trip to New York and Washington D.C. with my 8th grade class.

My dad had the day off, and so he took me and my friends to school. During the commute to one of my friend's house, we heard about the second plane crash.

"It's a terrorist attack," my dad said. And there it was. Terrorist. The word that caused me to feel completely confused, and very scared.

While 9/11 is painfully etched in many of our minds, I also remember the night of 9/10/01 very clearly. In my last conscious moments of the night, I remember sitting in bed and praying as I normally do. But that night, I just felt so sleepy that all I could muster was a "Dear God, please keep everyone safe and happy tomorrow."

This sleepy prayer was all I could think about as I sat through 0 period and listened to our band director talk to us, and it kept repeating in my head as my 1st period biology teacher made us watch the news before reluctantly clicking off the television to resume her lesson. It was all I could hear as the skies above my home were silenced and void of any aircrafts, and it was all I could hear as the news repeatedly showed footage of the Pentagon and falling towers for weeks, and months to come.

All I could do was feel guilty that maybe I just didn't pray hard enough for all the innocent people that lost their lives that day. I was so shaken by this thought that I couldn't even shed a tear.

Fastforward to this very moment, and I can't say that a decade's worth of knowledge has enabled me to completely understand it all. I still don't understand how some people can feel so heartless as to intentionally take away the lives of thousands, but I don't think any of us have an explanation for that.

I'll never forget that horrible day, and today I pay tribute to those who lost their lives in New York, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I'm praying for the broken families, for the children that lost their beloved parents, and those that will never know the parents that they've lost. I pray that words like "terrorism" and "hate" are forgotten and replaced with words like "Patriotism" and "love."

...and God knows that I'm praying harder now.

Taken in April 2001, on my 8th grade trip to New York

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Good morning!

I'm pretty sure I can blame all of my AP teachers from high school for ruining my circadian rhythm and sleep cycle, because I am NOT a morning person. Unlike most people, I don't need a steaming cup of coffee in my system to become an approachable and functional human being of our society. No, what I really need is about 5 more hours of sleep. Or 8.

(Most) Sunday mornings are an exception. My dad is a Lector at our church and he is usually assigned to read for Mass at 6:30 AM. This usually means that, if I'm not tip-toeing back inside my home at an unreasonable hour on a Saturday night, my bleary-eyed self is stumbling out of bed at 5:45 AM to join my dad in church. Promptly after coming home from mass at around 7:20 AM, I can be found face-planted in my pillow to add onto the 3+ hours of sleep I got the night before.

I know. Call me lazy, I can take it.

My favorite Sunday mornings, though, take a bit more effort. These mornings include breakfast with my parents at the table, and rummaging through the Sunday paper to find the Target ad and to attempt the crossword puzzle in the Arts and Books section of the LA Times. My mom usually has breakfast prepared for us when we get back from church. On the mornings she doesn't, my dad and I take the reigns in the kitchen.

This morning I was feeling a bit more awake than usual, and my dad wanted to make pancakes. Okay, here's a little known fact about me. I don't like pancakes. It might be because every personal attempt at making them has yielded crepes. They're delicious crepes, but my inability to make thick and fluffy pancakes has ingrained a distaste for them. Anyway, I'm pretty sure my dad was a bit disappointed when I crinkled my nose at the thought of pancakes on such a gorgeous Sunday morning.

But then I remembered this. Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. Thank goodness for StumbleUpon.

It took some convincing, but my dad gave in.

We added apple chunks in the batter and we didn't use the Cream Cheese frosting, so it was more of an Apple-Cinnamon Swirl Pancake. It was perfect. As my mom said, "apple and cinnamon are soulmates."

Serve warm and with no syrup. If you're like me, you'll love the contrasting fluffy/crispy textures.

This is a great reason to stay awake on a Sunday morning.

Baby pancake!

Scrambled eggs with tomato, ham, and cheese

A beautiful golden-brown :)

No...THIS is a great reason to stay awake on a Sunday morning.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Macaron Experiment

Can macarons be made with anything OTHER than almond flour?

Apologies for the low quality: taken with my ancient Palm Centro

Sort of. Above, you will find "Exhibit A," made with graham cracker powder. Smelled DELICIOUS. It even looks like a macaron...but it was SUPER crunchy/chewy. I imagine the equivalent to be chewing an old piece of gum, only after it's fallen in wet cement.

Judge's an imposter! MACAWRONG. Case closed.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Early Mactweets Challenge? GO ME!

Seriously, I can't remember the last time I submitted an entry for a Mactweets challenge early, let alone a few days after it's been posted.

Anyway, I'd like to start off by saying that I absolutely loved my years as an undergrad. I met and made friends that I know I'll have for life, I learned how to cook in my sorry excuse for a dorm kitchen, and I learned A LOT (both musically and personally speaking). The one thing college failed to teach me, however, was how to hold my liquor.

Sadly, I take after my mother's drinking genes.

Many people would think that being half Mexican and half Japanese would yield superhuman drinking powers (you would understand if you've ever been to a birthday party for a child hosted by Mexicans, or if you've ever been to a karaoke bar after work hours and seen Japanese business men...I know I'm being stereotypical, but it's TRUE)...but I am truly a cheap date. It doesn't take more than a neck of a Smirnoff® bottle to get me red purple. Thank you mom, for the Asian glow gene.

Rest assured, I will never be an alcoholic. As happy as I get with a drink, I don't like the feeling of my warm purple face and pulsating teeth (really).

As for liquor infused desserts? THAT is something that I can agree with.

This month's Mactweets challenge called for us to bake a macaron with some liquor! While I don't drink enough to have a "drink of choice", I do enjoy a (tiny) glass of Baileys® On the Rocks every once in a great while. This sweet and refreshing drink became my inspiration for this month!

Here it Chocolate-Kona Coffee Macarons with Baileys® Buttercream!

I <3 Macarons :)

My mom and I did sneak a taste of these sinfully delicious treats and we both enjoyed them, though a tablespoon of Baileys® might have been too much for the buttercream ("It's getting warm in here!" "Don't eat these and drive!")...or perhaps my mom really is that much of a lightweight. Either way, the rest of these babies are off-limits and are resting in the fridge, waiting to be enjoyed by my dear friends and me at the Hollywood Bowl tomorrow! Rodrigo y Gabriela AND macarons? I can't wait!


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Horchata Macarons

*WARNING: Reading this entry may make you crave Mexican food. :)

Have you ever wanted to try something seemingly radical in the kitchen, only to stop yourself and think, "Nahhh, that couldn't POSSIBLY taste good"? I must admit, I am completely guilty of having this mentality ALL THE TIME. Thanks to the lovely ladies over at Mactweets and this month's Macaron Challenge, my idea of combining ice cream with macarons has become a reality!

But first, a trip down memory lane.

My boyfriend and I are pretty big fans of a TV show called Man Vs. Food. We recently took a little trip to San Diego and tried the famous Lucha Libre Taco Shop, and ordered the Surfin' California...honestly, whoever thought of putting french fries in a burrito needs to be made a saint! It was amazing, but the best part of the meal was washing everything down with a nice big cup of Horchata.

Look at the size of this thing! Picture courtesy of my boyfriend and his beloved iPhone.

If you've never heard of horchata before, keep reading. Trust me, I'm doing you a favor.

Horchata is a cinnamon-rice milk drink, and it's easily found at most Mexican or "Mexican" restaurants here in Los Angeles. I've never been a fan of jamaica (hibiscus juice), but horchata...that's a different story. It's the subtle combination of flavors that really makes this drink delicious. In my opinion, the most refreshing glass of horchata isn't too sweet or cinnamony (I'm surprised spell check didn't flag me on this one). To be honest, any meal from King Taco - or any restaurant that serves horchata for that matter - is not complete without this refreshing drink.

So where am I going with this? Oh yes. I've always wanted to try making macaron ice cream sandwiches, but I've always felt that combining ice cream with a dainty macaron shell might ruin the texture, but this was heaven.

This...meaning THIS.


That, my friends, is homemade horchata ice cream sandwiched between cinnamon macaron shells. AMAZING.

Cinnamon shells...they came out horchata-colored!

I've never made ice cream before, but making this was easy, definitely a friendly introduction to making your own ice cream. This recipe is worthy of it's own blog entry. It's a lovely, creamy homage to horchata! I made sure to reduce the sugar, as many of you know that I'm not a fan of super sugary treats. I also cut back on the cinnamon, since there was PLENTY going in the macaron shells. After sandwiching the two, I was blessed with a match made in heaven.

The only bad thing about these is that they need to be eaten quickly (which is really NOT a problem. :) ). I was generous with the amount of filling I added, and the shells got softer...but at least it lasted for the picture!

Thank you, Jamie and Deeba! This month's challenge has allowed me to create a delicious ice cream flavor...and now I will never doubt the wonder of ice cream between two macaron shells ever again. :)


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Happy birthday, Jon :)

I used to be terrified of baking cakes.

My fear started when I attempted to bake a lemon cake for Jhonny's birthday a few years back. Being stuck in the confines of an inadequate dorm kitchen, (with less-than-favorable baking equipment) I ended up baking a glorified lemon pancake/cornbread hybrid inside a pie pan, definitely something more of a science experiment than an edible treat.

Fast-forward a few years later, and now I feel that baking layer cakes is the best thing on earth. I still have a lot to learn, though.

So what was the occasion for this layer cake? Earlier this week was Jonathan's birthday (a long time friend since elementary school). He loves chocolate, so I went with Ms. Humble's chocolate cake recipe, and threw in layers of banana buttercream, and surrounded the cake with Nutella whipped cream. The verdict? Delicious win. I have found my go-to basic chocolate cake recipe...not too sweet, not too chocolatey, and VERY moist. Ms. Humble is not one to be doubted, and if you haven't seen her blog/tried her recipes, what are you waiting for?!

Pardon my messy coating.

...and my messing piping.

...and no, he's not 42 :)

One thing the recipe is forgetting, though, is a nice tall glass of milk. Mmmm.

After devouring a slice, we headed out to Ashiya park and "vandalized" with light graffiti.

Happy birthday, Jon! Here's to many more.


P.S. Stay tuned for my first ever guest entry, which should be up in a few days :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Good Mistakes

I have ALWAYS wanted to make blue macarons.

My color bias is probably attributed to the fact that blue is my favorite color, and it's not everyday that I get to make blue desserts, or blue food for that matter. Blue food isn't exactly that common, and I actually remember reading somewhere that humans stay away from eating blue food. Blue usually means that something is uncooked or rotten, and it is within our vary nature to reject food with a blue hue.

But I don't care. I will never deny a macaron, especially if it's blue.

When Mactweets posted their June fruit challenge, I knew exactly what to do. BLUEBERRY MACARONS!!! I made my way to Whole Foods and bought this:

Courtesy of Eden Foods

Silly me. Just because the package says that they're Dried Blueberries, doesn't mean they're FREEZE-DRIED blueberries. My whole plan to add pulverized blueberries to get a beautiful blue macaron shell pretty much went down the drain. Nevertheless, this brand of dried blueberries would be wonderful in a bowl of yogurt or cornflakes!

Despite my mistake, I wasn't too depressed. Mactweets did say, afterall, that this month's challenge was a celebration of fruit. I don't know about you, but during these hot Southern California summer months, sometimes the only thing that I'll have an appetite for is a nice refreshing fruit salad. While cramming an array of fruit flavors into one macaron seemed a little much, a simple strawberry/blueberry combination was easy.

After rummaging through my pantry, I found an unopened bag of freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joes. I threw the strawberry powder into the batter, which (*sigh*) gave me a pink tint. After they came out of the oven (with feet!), I sandwiched them together with a simple vanilla buttercream with whole dried blueberries.

No, these macarons aren't blue. While pink is my least favorite color, I must say that this mixed berry macaron turned out to be pretty delicious. And of course, it's a reminder to me that sometimes things happen for a reason, and mistakes aren't always so horrible. We might get something good and delicious out of it in the end :)

Mixed Berry Macaron

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer is here!

Nothing brings people together like a table full of food.

Growing up, my parents always taught me the importance of dinner time. It brings a family together to share stories, laugh, and unwind from the day. As a child, I always took for granted what my parents were trying to do. Now that I'm older (and admittedly much more sentimental) and less likely to be home for dinner, I wish for the simpler days where I could run in from playing outside on a summer's day to sit down and enjoy dinner with the company of my family. Oh, the woes of a young adult's social life...

I missed family dinners the most when I moved out to live in the dorms at CSULA. This meant 10:30 PM (sometimes Not So) Easy Mac dinners by myself after 12 hours of classes. After a few months of this sort of pattern, my friends and I decided to get together once a month to test out recipes on each other so that we could learn how to cook and spend time with each other.

Fast forward almost 7 years later, my friends and I still get together on what we've endearingly called "Fat Fridays" (or the occasional "Tubby Tuesday", "Stuffed Saturday", etc.) Although I've since moved from CSULA and the location has changed, the idea is still the same. We still rotate dishes, experiment with different ingredients (sometimes a little too freely), and end up sharing A LOT of laughs. Our busy work schedules have sadly interfered with us meeting every month, but when we do get together I know that I'm in for a night of lots of fun.

Last night we had Krystal on main with lasagna (which was DELICIOUS). Since we had a sort of Italian theme, I decided to contribute an Italianesque appetizer and dessert.

A few days ago I StumbledUpon this delicious recipe of a Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart bread. I instantly thought of Cinnamon Monkey Bread when I saw it. It's pretty much the same idea, instead you get savory bite-sized pieces of garlic cheese bread instead! While it does take time to knead the dough and let it rise, let me tell you - with a side of marinara sauce, it is SO WORTH YOUR TIME.

My version of the Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart bread, half gone!

Of course, a meal isn't complete without dessert. I didn't have all the ingredients on hand to make actual Tiramisu, so I settled on making Tiramisu cupcakes. Since I was pressed for time, these aren't the same time-consuming Martha Stewart recipe that I blogged about awhile back. Instead I substituted the cake with the Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcake, and went ahead and followed Martha's Coffee-Marsala syrup and Mascarpone frosting recipes found here and here. The cupcakes were okay, but to be honest I was so excited on how well the bread turned out that it was kind of hard to outshine it :)

I've come a long way - from messing up Easy Mac to baking my own bread, and it's hard to believe that we've managed to keep this tradition alive for so long. I suppose I can thank the amazing power of a table full of food...and the life lesson that my parents taught me of sharing food with people you love.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hello Summer Vacation...

Classes are done!

Stay tuned for a post on 1-ingredient ice cream, cupcakes, and (hopefully) macarons :)


Saturday, April 30, 2011


My mom is awesome.

At first glance, my mom is a small and silent Japanese woman. In most social situations, she is very quiet. Maybe it's her lack of self-confidence in carrying on a conversation in English (even though she's lived in the United States for more than half of her life and she is perfectly capable), but either way she is usually observing and soaking in her surroundings.

For those that know my mother, she is quite a character. She's a wonderful cook, a fan of any baseball team with a Japanese player, a Tetris/old school Super Mario Bros. master (SERIOUSLY!), and an amazing mother. Oh, and she's beautiful.

My mom with my sister and me (I'm the baby!)

It wasn't until recently that I started thinking about how amazing my mom really is. You see, I'm 23 years old now, and I've been really thinking about how I'm such a homebody. I'm the type of person that could never leave my hometown of Montebello. My family is here, it's 7 minutes away from CSULA (my school), 15 minutes away from downtown Los's home. My whole life is here.

On the other hand, my mother left Japan at the age of 25 to marry my dad. They met while he was stationed in Japan in the Air Force, and they continued to write to each other even after he moved back home. She says that you can tell a lot about someone's character based on their words, and that's what she fell in love with. She fell in love with a man halfway across the world, and she left everything and everyone that she knew behind, all based on my dad's words. And here they are, married more than 30 years later and still going strong.

Sometimes it's easy to forget how brave and amazing my mom is. Her bravery is a quality that I wish I could have.

Anyway, today was her birthday (her 21st birthday, apparently), and since I've been in the baking mood recently, I decided to bake her a cake for her big day! I decided to bake a basic vanilla cake, with alternating layers of matcha cream cheese and banana buttercream in between. I finished it off by covering the cake with a simple whipped cream, strawberry halves and slices of banana.

It was delicious...

Vanilla Cake with Matcha Cream Cheese and Banana Buttercream

お誕生日おめでとう、お母さん <3

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Try, try, try, try...and try again.

It seems that during my 5 month hiatus from the kitchen, I forgot how to bake macarons.

Of course, the thought of pulling macawrongs from the oven flashed through my mind as I walked to the kitchen, but I had already baked nearly 20 batches - surely it would be like riding a bike for the first time in years?

All the motions felt right. Sifting the ingredients over and over still felt tedious. My wrist and shoulder still ached as I whipped my egg whites until they defied gravity. I still felt the anticipation as I skillfully succeeded in tried really hard to pipe perfect rounds of batter on my Silpat, followed by the embarrassment and defeat as I actually pulled not one, but four failed macaron batches out of the oven yesterday.

Well, fifth time's a charm...kind of. The trademark frilly feet were there fresh out of the oven, but they kind of disappeared over night. Either way, I had one ugly batch for every month I neglected my macaronage technique.

Unfortunately this semi-pretty batch only yielded 11 macarons, so I'll have to take some chocolate macawrongs to Easter lunch with me.

Strawberry and Chocolate Macarons with Rose Cream Cheese Filling

...hopefully, my family doesn't mind too much :)

Happy Easter, readers :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

To my Dad on his birthday

Oh hello, blogspot. I'm so glad I didn't forget my password to this.

Thankfully, life has been a little less crazy since I got into my accident, but it has also been really busy. I have a new car, I started and finished my student-teaching, and I'm on my way to clearing my preliminary Music teaching credential!!! I'm so thankful and blessed that I've been able to finish in a timely if only I can finish my Masters, find a teaching job and start my career... :)

Since I've been occupied with school and work, I've had virtually no time left for baking, but today was such a special day that I knew I needed to change that.

As you might have guessed by the title, today is my dad's birthday. Of course, all fathers are special, but mine is truly amazing. For starters, he has ALWAYS been there for both my sister and me. He's the man that snuck my sister and I a few extra bites of ice cream while mom wasn't looking; he's the one that read to me after tucking me in at night; he's the one that taught me how to play tennis; he's the one that volunteered countless hours as a die-hard band parent; he's the one that encouraged and inspired me to pursue a path in music...for all this and more, I am blessed.

The least I could do was to bake him a cake today. :)

He really loves carrot cake, so I decided to attempt my very first carrot cake - wait, my very first cake EVER.

I love you dad. Happy birthday, and here's to many more :)


Carrot Cake with Maple Buttercream Filling and Cream Cheese Frosting