February 26, 2015

black bean + kabocha chili

black bean + kabocha chili

The past few days have been good days for chili in Austin, with temps dropping below 32 in a city that does not know how to handle the cold. I figured I better take advantage of the fleeting cold weather the only way I know how – cook up a bubbling pot of hearty, warming goodness.

black bean + kabocha chili

I’ve also eaten more bacon in the past month living in Austin than I have in my entire life. Bacon is not something I’d particularly like to be eating more of, but when the smell of bacon floods your house every time you walk in the door, it’s pretty irresistible…

This is thanks to my new flatmate, who enjoys bacon as his main food group, along with an avocado and sweet potato here and there. Continue reading

February 10, 2015

almond + blackberry tarts, and living in Texas

almond + blackberry mini tart

I know, last year was a rough one for me and blogging. I apologize, and am determined to get back into the groove now that I’m settled in a new home for at least a year. (!)

The past year was about getting some more travel out of my system, going to school and figuring out where to go and what to make of my adult life. Turns out my next chapter begins with a move to Austin, TX, more on a whim than any real specific reason, but I think it was a good choice.

I brought my big furry beast with me and we moved in with a little furry beast and his human into a small home with a big back yard in south Austin. The house, pretty neglected and dirty looking when we first moved in, is really starting to grow on me. We broke it in with a delicious meal and bonfire with friends on a warm, starry night, and since then it’s really starting to feel like home.

home sweet home - austin, tx

happy ingredients

So, what other important activity must I do when breaking my new house in? Bake. Something chocolatey, something nuttty, something healthy…(ish).

I’m a big fan of using nut flours and butters in baking for the rich, buttery texture it gives, and, obviously, the nutty flavor. I’m also a big fan of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and even more so, what I call the grown-up version: almond butter & blackberry sandwiches. Today I decided to convert this combination into little bite-sized desserts – or snacks, because they’re healthy :)

blackberries + almonds Continue reading

November 3, 2014

flavor of fall

winter squash

Working at a pumpkin market down the street this fall, I’ve had a chance to taste my share of different pumpkin and squash varieties (the farmer grows over 30). They range in color – from steel blue to burning hot orange – size, shape, ugliness, skin type – pimply and lumpy to smooth as plastic – and of course the taste and texture of their nutritious flesh. I did a taste test of a few that I had never tried, but my preference still goes back to my all-along favorite: the kabocha type.

Kabocha or Japanese pumpkins have a dense, dry yet silky texture and sweet but mild taste, resembling to me a pumpkin and sweet potato combined. They make the creamiest hearty soups when pureed and melt in your mouth when roasted or baked in chunks. My favorite way to enjoy it remains the simplest: chunks of baked squash drizzled in good olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. As simple as possible to let the flavor and texture of the squash shine.

pumpkin varieties

When talking pumpkin recipes with David (the farmer), he said he likes to stuff acorn squash with mac n’ cheese and bake it. Uh, why hadn’t I ever thought of that? Homemade macaroni + cheese is something I allllways look forward to in the fall (but secretly wish included more vegetables :), and I can never get enough of winter squash. So combine the two? Done.

mac n cheese ready for the oven Continue reading

May 31, 2014

wholesome cookie dough bites

wholesome cookie dough bites

It’s been two weeks since I’ve been home in the US and I already miss making treats. Cookies, bars, cakes, granola, cobblers… there was always something to be concocted and it was a breeze, or should I say piece of cake ;) in our—thanks to my lovely mother—well-stocked pantry and well-equipped kitchen. How I took that all for granted! Whipping up a batch of after dinner peanut butter cookies isn’t quite as simple when my current pantry has zero ingredients, and my kitchen not a spatula, mixing bowl nor cookie sheet. I know, poor poor me… :) Continue reading

May 26, 2014

me in Melbourne

wrapped in a blanket of sunshine <3

Well friends, I made it to a new continent and a new country I’ve been wanting to visit for most of my life – Australia! I’m all settled in my apartment in Melbourne, and trying hard not to think about having to leave in four short months.

So I knew the coffee culture was big here, but no one informed me of the FOOD! I want to eat everything I see on the street, in the markets and at every cute café… and I probably would were it not so expensive. One of the best features of my apartment is that it is right next to the Queen Victoria Market, a huge (takes up 2 city blocks!) farmers & artisans market where I can score some great deals on the typically pricey produce. The indoor portion of the market is filled with artisan made yogurts, cheeses, breads, pestos, dips, cereals, pastries, chocolates… you name it. They seem very into quality and fresh foods here and I love it.

Some other things my food-obsessed self has noticed since being here…

  • The overwhelming amount and variety of Asian food, especially Malaysian and Indonesian and Korean which I’ve never experienced much of.. but it looks and smells so so good….
  • Australians (or maybe just Melbournians, not sure) are big on brekkie and brunch, in particular something including avo[cado], sourdough and poached eggs. I’m very ok with this.
  • I’m still trying to get the coffee lingo straight (flat whites, long blacks, etc..) and being made fun of for carrying around my ‘huge’—but normal in the US—to-go mug, since no coffee you order here would fill that entire thing.
  • Everything pumpkin. Pumpkin hummus, pumpkin pizza, pumpkin-ricotta-rocket salads… yuuuuumm
  • Turkish cafes and my new favorite food: gözleme. Have you had it? It’s made of a dough rolled out super thin, topped with spinach + feta, folded over and cooked on a griddle to produce a warm, doughy melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. More on this later.
a very Melbourne brunch with Nora at Common Ground, a cafe just down the street from our apartment.

a very Melbourne brunch with Nora at Common Ground, a cafe just down the street from our apartment.

@ Common Ground coffee

Continue reading

April 21, 2014

springtime sunshine smoothie

sunshine smoothie

Happy spring! Happy Easter! Happy sunshine, happy blooming flowers, happy chirping birds, happy sprouting seeds. It’s a happy time of year, a time for breathing in that fresh air, stretching those legs, planting that garden, and celebrating life.

Springtime always evokes in me a desire to eat cleanly and cleanse my body from all the heavy comfort foods of winter. I get excited for all the vegetables and fruits to grow and ripen in the next several months, and vow to take full advantage. In the midst of this inspired mood, though, is Easter and all its sweet temptations.

This year we decided to have a low-key brunch with our “neighborhood family.” Lots of yummy indulgent food was planned, prepared, shared and eaten. And although we try to avoid the highly processed Easter candy, it somehow sneaks its way into our house and we are left to fall to its seductions. Needless to say I (and probably everyone but I’ll speak for myself ;) indulged too much over the course of the day and went to bed feeling like a stuffed roly-poly.

It was the most fun Easter I’ve had since I was a wee little egg hunter at Grandma’s house though, and I do not regret a single moment or bite of chocolate cake. The day started with licking my chocolate torte batter from the bowl and ended by plopping into bed, exhausted like a child who played outside all day long. In between there was lots of cooking, brunch enjoying, hiding easter eggs in the woods, a walk on the farm which ended in an long dog chase, and yard games and honey wine up on “the hill.” Most importantly, it was all in wonderful company. Continue reading

April 15, 2014

Cooking in the land of smiles (and MSG)

preparing papaya salad :)

First of all, many apologies for abandoning the blog and you wonderful readers these past few months! I have no excuse except that I was having lots of fun exploring the southeast of Asia. And as much as I would have liked to write some posts, blogging from a phone without all my photos was just never that appealing…

So now here I am, back in my home with a much-too-quickly fading tan and an inspired spirit that always lingers after being in another culture for a while. And more wanderlust, which seems to grow exponentially with each trip I take. Luckily, this was only part 1 of my grand adventures of 2014, with moving to Australia coming up in merely a month!

But let’s talk about Southeast Asia. Without doing much research beforehand, I had few expectations for this 2-month backpack adventure except to be able to travel cheaply and eat some good food. I was not disappointed :)

(And, having few expectations helps me appreciate every place I go so much more — a key to happy travels I’ve learned throughout the past).

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Flower Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our first stop was Thailand, where I was eager to take a cooking class and learn what authentic Thai food is all about. I found our first tastes of Thai fare in Bangkok to be quite heavy and rich, and much smaller portions than we’re used to – which was a good thing! Along with the sweltering humidity, cramped city feel, and bad traffic made horrendous due to ongoing political protests, I was ready to get my massage on the street and get outta there.

A (long) train ride later Forrest and I breathed a sigh of relief and fresh air as we stepped into Chiang Mai. Our songthaew (pick-up taxi) ride from the train station drove us to the moated old city where flower-coated parade floats lined the streets and a colorful, neon-lighted concert was blasting its music to the whole city. We arrived in this super cultural northern city smack in the middle of the annual flower festival – lucky us!

The laid-back, down-to-earth city of Chiang Mai has all the Thai culture your senses could care to soak up. And more. It was such a relief to be there after overwhelming Bangkok, especially at a time of such celebration and blooming flowers galore! Forrest and I had fun trying to navigate through the narrow alleys fringed with tropical plants and quaint cafes to find majestic temple after temple, each with their own style and color and peaceful aura. We’d pick up a street food snack and a Thai iced coffee (the best) and continue our day of exploring or people-watching in the park until it was time to experience the craziness that is the night market.

Then the day came to indulge our tastebuds, stuff our stomachs and learn what it is that makes Thai fare so rich and flavorful. We were recommended a school called Smart Cook Thai Cookery School, and the full day involved browsing the morning market to learn about essential Thai ingredients and then heading to the open-air kitchen to learn how to prepare six different dishes. (Yes, that’s a lot of eating!) Continue reading

January 23, 2014

nanatella muffins

banana nutella muffins

I can’t think of a single person who actually dislikes banana bread. And I dare you to find someone who doesn’t like that oh so dreamy creamy cocoa hazelnut spread (aka nutella). They’re two very lovable things, and when combined will put a smile on anyone’s face.

So what happens when you mix banana bread with nutella? Well, there could be many outcomes, but mine just happened to be these banana-nutella swirl muffins. And given 98% of our population’s fondness of the two components, these muffins are the perfect treat to bring to a party, a potluck, or a very special friend’s birthday… as I did for my very special friend Corey. Continue reading

January 10, 2014

the best all-purpose yogurt sauce + a warm winter salad

sweet potato-carrot-apple cake with sweet chili cilantro yogurt sauce

You know you’re doing alright with healthy eating when you open the fridge and your leftovers consist of cooked quinoa, chickpeas, and extra batter from these sweet potato-carrot-apple cakes. I’m lucky enough to naturally enjoy eating (and taking the time to cook) all these foods over the processed, fried and fast foods inundating our supermarkets and restaurants. But where I don’t have such an easy time is my unrelenting sweet tooth…. will it ever go away?!

Healthy eating is also much easier when you already have prepared foods on hand – like leftover quinoa, chickpeas, and veggies that are ready to be tossed into a salad the minute you decide you are starving for lunch. Sounds a bit like me today! Sometimes my leftover concoctions turn out to be not as appetizing as I’d hoped, but this was one that magically combined so nicely that I had to write up the recipe to share with you – and so that I can make it again!

a warm winter 'leftovers' salad

Sometimes I find it hard to eat salads as often in the winter. Cold and crunchy just doesn’t do it for me when it’s 14 degrees out! This salad was nice because I put a warm pan-fried veggie cake on top of spinach and arugula (rather than lettuce which does not stand up well under something hot) along with reheated quinoa and chickpeas and some fresh veggies. A warm, hearty and filling wintertime salad – perfect. Continue reading

January 6, 2014

New Year Soup

very green lentil soup for the new year

Happiest new year to everyone! Hope you are staying warm and happy and healthy and are ready to enjoy everything 2014 brings…. I have some pretty big ventures planned this year so I sure am :]

I know I didn’t post any holiday treats this season, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t indulging in them the whole month of december (see christmas cookies below….) Continue reading

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