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Vanilla Crème Brioche

Because oh my lord this brioche is absolutely delicious.

Because it’s buttery and flaky and soft and pillowy and golden and aromatic.

Because vanilla cream is more delicious when it’s spelled vanilla crème.

The bottom line is, this is so so so good.

Don’t be afraid of the butter. This is French cooking, and you know the French are all about two things: pastries and moderation. That being said, enjoy this delicious brioche bite by sweet bite. Don’t rush, there’s no need to.

It’s Sunday morning and it’s just you and the brioche, together, alone, united, as one.

Mmm.

Vanilla Crème Brioche

You can omit the vanilla pastry cream, although it’s fairly easy and it adds so much to the brioche. Serve fresh and warm, or reheat in the oven, covered, at 200°F for 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

Brioche

  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp warm water
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature

Egg Wash

  • 1/2 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cold water

Vanilla Crème

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Steps:

Stir together yeast and warm water, let it rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, white sugar, and salt. Pour the wet yeast/water mixture into the dry flour/sugar/salt mixture. Then add the 2 eggs to form a dry dough.

When the butter is the same consistency as the dough, mix it into the dough one chunk at a time. Your dough will come apart—don’t worry! Keep kneading until it comes back together. (Warning: this is sticky business.)

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Place dough in a warm place and let it rise for 1 hour or until doubled.

Meanwhile, make the vanilla crème. In a saucepan, boil together milk and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, cornstarch, and sugar. Take milk/sugar off of the stove, and very very slowly (so the egg doesn’t cook and curdle) drizzle the egg/cornstarch/sugar into the milk/sugar, stirring all the while. Place saucepan back onto the heat and cook to thicken.

Deflate the dough and shape it: split the dough into two halves and twist them around each other. Fill the vanilla crème in between the ridges of the double helix. Place the dough into a greased and floured pan.

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Let the dough rise for a 2nd time. For this 2nd rise, you can leave it in the fridge overnight, or place it in a warm place for another 1 hour. Right before you bake, whisk together egg and water, and preheat the oven. Brush the egg wash over the loaf and bake at 400°F for about 30 minutes.

Oh. My. Goodness. The buttery flakiness, the warmth, the golden glow, the subtle sweetness.

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Serve as part of a healthy wealthy breakfast.

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Question of the day: What’s your favorite bread? 

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Savory Oatmeal

You’ve probably figured out by now that I like switching things up. So when the idea came to me to rethink one of my breakfast favorites — oatmeal — I jumped on it. 

Literally. And I instantly regretted it.

Anyway, savory oatmeal. 

What? You might ask. What is this madness?

But think about it. Sometimes you wake up and don’t want sugary toast, sweet berries, or even syrup-n-waffles. Yep, crazy mornings like those do exist. 

(But not really.)

You wake up and you want something savory, something filling and satisfying, something umami and sizzling and salty.

Something comfortable and warm like oatmeal. But… savory.

Savory Oatmeal

This is a Chinese-inspired dish, inspired by warm bowls of rice porridge and mixed with salty vegetables — a delicious breakfast classic. Feel free to add in any type of food your early morning heart desires: sausages, bacon, cheese, green onions, literally anything but the kitchen sink. Because apparently steel-cut oats has nothing to do with stainless steel.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup eggplant
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce

Steps

Add oil in a hot pan and then the garlic. (Pause to smell the beautiful aroma.) Then, add in the mushrooms, eggplant, and soy sauce. Sauté everything together until cooked through. Mix in the vegetables with the cooked oatmeal. (Try my Gloriously Fluffy Oatmeal trick!)

For that extra something somethin’, I love to top it off with a quick dash of sesame seed oil and a sprinkling of parsley and freshly ground pepper. It’s positively irresistible. Don’t even try.

 

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What’s your favorite breakfast dish? 

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20-Minute Lentil Soup

Ah, is there a food as comforting as soup? Warm, savory, aromatic. The perfect adieu dish for a cold cold winter that is soon to be over (tomorrow, in fact!). 

The problem with soup is that it’s often unhealthy. Now, I’m certainly not opposed to the occasional splurge on cheese and butter and sugar, but soup is one of those foods for which a serving size less than a large bowl is simply not socially acceptable here in America.

And after you’ve been raised by your mother to finish all of your soup and mop up the bowl with a crunchy baguette, any sort of ridiculously unhealthy soup is like holding your health hostage.

The solution? Adding plenty of lentils, one of my favorite proteinaceous and fibrous vegetables. They’re unobtrusive in terms of taste and they lend a great deal of heartiness.

And they even look kind of cute.

20-Minute Lentil Soup

One of the best things about soup is its versatility. Add in whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand: cilantro, parsley, etc. You can also throw in any meats you might need…think chicken lentil soup—yum!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 1 cup carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cups water or broth

Steps

1. Soak lentils overnight. This will save you so much time when it comes to cooking them.

Soaked lentils

Trust me, I’m a doctor kind of not really.

2. Chop up the veggies.

Chopped vegetables

Roughly does it.

3. Sauté together garlic, carrots, and onion. Add whatever meats or other veggies you have on hand. 

Saute vegetables

If you give up here, you have a delicious stir fry, so you really can’t lose.

4. Add in the water and soaked lentils, and then add a tsp of salt. Keep at a low boil until the lentils and veggies are soft, about 15 minutes.

Lentil soup

This is the part where you praise cheeses for giving you the wisdom to soak lentils overnight.

Now for my favorite step: enjoy in your favorite red ramekin…

Lentil soup

with a few saltine crackers.

Lentil soup

So healthy I need a good dose of Dark Chocolate Ganache. Oh wait that’s healthy too.

*sigh*

QOTD: What’s your favorite kind of soup?

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Crunchy Chewy Kitchen Sink Cookies

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Oh wow. 

These turned out way better than I had anticipated, and I couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you! 

These cookies ate the perfect balance between crunch and munch: they’re crispy and golden brown on the edges, and melty-gooey in the center. Absolutely stunning, and absolutely killer with a glass of cold milk.

But of course, a texture explosion is nothing if it isn’t accompanied by an equally amazing flavor explosion. The beauty of kitchen sink cookies is the balance of flavors: there’s that indulgent chocolate, yes, but also a light tang of cranberries, the nutty aroma of walnuts, and that warm hint of cinnamon.

And if that weren’t enough to convince you, you can also substitute in basically anything your heart desires: caramel, almonds, dried blueberries, butterscotch chips, honey, etc etc. Just throw in your entire pantry.

Make a huge batch and share (with me). And if your 5-gallon mixing bowl isn’t big enough, use your kitchen sink.

*badum-chh*

Crunchy Chewy Kitchen Sink Cookies

Ingredients:

Dry:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash of cinnamon

Wet:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 egg
  • dash of vanilla extract

Steps:

1. Mix together all of the dry ingredients.

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2. Cream together sugar and butter, then add an egg and some vanilla extract.

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3. Stir together wet and dry ingredients, and manhandle extensively into a thick cookie dough.

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4. Shape into cookies and bake at 375°F for approximately 15 minutes, until golden brown on edges and top. (Alternatively, make giant pizookies or a cookie cake or cookie bars!)

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Magic? There is no magic. Just my secret weapon, the kitchen sink.

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The ooey gooey kitchen sink.

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What would you put in your dream kitchen sink cookie?

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Two-Ingredient Microwave Fudge

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Seriously, if this isn’t the simplest fudge you have ever encountered, I don’t know how I can help you. 

This one recipe inspired me to think about starting up a new section of this blog, called Kitchen Easy. 

Ha. Ha. Ha. It rhymes and it sounds like Kitchen Cici! Heehee. Oh come on, don’t be stingy with your applause.

Anyway, fudge: the characteristic aroma, the silky smoothness, and the perfect 50-50 balance of sugar and guilt. It’s one of my favorite chocolate delectables.

My other favorites include all of the other chocolate delectables.

But see, the problem is that fudge is often overcomplicated: you’ll find various recipes calling for magical ingredients such as marshmallow creme, this thing called evaporated milk, a probably illegal dose of corn syrup, and a significant and scary amount of butter, leading you to wonder how this will affect your heart, your health, and your life, and making you wonder what other questionable choices you’ve made.

That’s a dangerous road on a slippery slope. Let’s not descend to the lair of midnight snacks and guilty pleasures.

Instead, let’s sit here with this fudge recipe in one hand and a ready spoon in the other.

Two-Ingredient Microwave Fudge

An easy fudge recipe. Super super easy. The definition of easy. Basically the easiest recipe ever. 

Ingredients:

1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts (optional)

Steps:

1. Pour all ingredients into a microwave-safe bowl.

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2. Microwave until the chips melt, about 1 minute. Stir until smooth.

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3. Set in fridge. After about 2 hours of solidifying, take out and cut into the geometric shape of your choice.

Alternatively, skip the last step. Save time and energy by using an acceptable eating utensil and eating the entire thing by yourself.

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Everyone has guilty pleasures. Mine happens to involve chocolate.

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Rosemary Cheese Bread

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Carbs are delicious. Especially when they’re in the form of an imperfectly-formed, warm loaf of bread, inside of a crinkly and obnoxious paper bag fresh from the bakery. When it’s crispy and chewy on the outside, and moist and fluffy on the inside. When the dough has been aged just the right amount, giving it that soft bread-y aroma.

Or, you know, when you roll together some dough in your home kitchen and throw in handfuls of cheese.

I’m no master baker, but I know this 8-oz. bag of golden dairy product will cover any deficiencies

Also: rosemary. Because I received a cute little jar of dried organic rosemary from my friend for Christmas, and I like to wave around the fact that I have better friends than you do.

Don’t give me that look.

Easy Rosemary Cheese Bread

If you have a loaf pan (unlike me), I HIGHLY suggest using it! This would be amazing in the form of sliced and toasted sandwich bread, because it is a little confusing when you have cheese balls that aren’t, you know, actual gooey cheese-filled balls of golden goodness.

But while this is probably not going to satisfy your late-night cravings for indulgence, all is not lost! If you’re in the mood for extra cheesy bread, go ahead and just add more cheese to the bread. What, cooking is logical sometimes. Mull that over as I sit here mourning my lack of a loaf pan by eating my emotions (aka these cheese bread balls).

Ingredients

makes 1 loaf or 9″ pan of bread balls

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • dash of rosemary

Steps

1. Mix together water and sugar. Sprinkle in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes. Then, stir in the salt, vegetable oil, and flour. Form a nice dough.

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2. Let it rise until doubled. Then roll out into a rectangle…

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…Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese on it…

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…Roll into a log…

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If you’re using a loaf pan like you should, give this log a few twists and turns and kneads to incorporate the cheese, shape it into a loaf, and place in loaf pan.

If you’re being a rebel without a loaf pan, cut into little pieces to form into balls…

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…And roll the balls in some more cheese, plus some rosemary for that delicious flavor boost. (If you’re using a loaf pan, sprinkle cheese and rosemary on top!)

3. Now let it sit outside for 1-2 hours. Or if you’re making this the night before like I did, just put it in the fridge; in the morning, let it sit in a warm place for about 30 minutes. Either way, it should be nice and puffy.

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4. Bake at 375F for 25 minutes.

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Can you smell that? Such a delicious blend of cheese and rosemary. 

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Cheese and rosemary. 

IMG_6790Beautiful outside and inside. 

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Easy One-Step Pumpkin Cake

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It’s perfect timing, really. Now that Thanksgiving and the holidays are over, it’s high time to load up on some of those delicious grocery store sales.

You know: the $1 festive cake mix, the 50¢ box of candy canes. This time, though, it was the $1.24 canned pumpkin that caught my eye.

Veni vidi vici, suckers.

Veni vidi vici, suckers.

And then I wondered what exactly I could do with pumpkin.

I tried making a mousse, consisting of just pumpkin and marshmallows.

It was awful.

I tried eating it straight from the can.

It was worse.

I tried freezing it into a pumpkin ice cream.

It was actually worse than eating it straight, and I’m still absolutely confounded as to how that was possible.

So I threw some cake ingredients in a pan, stirred a little, and baked the thing.

It was… Wow.

Easy One-Step Pumpkin Cake

This cake is so moist and the flavors melt together in your mouth so smoothly. It’s deliciously sweet and wonderfully warm with the powerful pumpkin and cinnamon duo. The best part is that this cake forms a sort of crust on the outside, a dark crunchy layer of caramelized sugar and pumpkin, that gets better with every passing day. It’s simply delightful.

Ingredients:

Makes one 9″ cake

  • 1/2 7-oz. can pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Step:

Mix together wet ingredients (the first 3), then mix in the dry. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350°F.

Beautiful!

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What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe?

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Actually Healthy Potato Salad

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What’s the secret ingredient in this little potato salad? Well, sit down, kids, and let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there lived a Potato. Now, this Potato was a kind and easy-going fellow, and he easily made friends with some other little foods.

Some of his friends were bad apples, though. In particular, that Hot Oil kid was a mean one. But Potato also hung out with some other troublesome characters, like Cheese, Sour Cream, Ranch and literally everything good in life.

Even chocolate. God, literally everything. We can't win.

Even chocolate. God, literally everything. We just can’t win.

One day, as Potato was sitting on the couch, he decided to turn his life around. He realized that his friends were bringing him down, that he was actually good and wholesome at heart. 

A phone call came. It was Mayonnaise on the other line. “Hey, Tato,” the creamy voice said. “Buttermilk and I are playing Salad today. You wanna join?”

This was the pivotal moment. Potato refused, citing eye issues. “No,” he said. “But you guys go ahead.”

Once Mayonnaise hung up, Potato nodded to himself. It was time to change. He picked up the directory and looked up a fellow he had never spoken to before…

Greek Yogurt Potato Salad

Note: This tastes amazingly similar to a regular old potato salad, and it’s just as versatile. You can add in any veggies you’d like—celery, parsley, etc. Make it your own!

Ingredients:

  • 4 (medium or large) Russet potatoes
  • 1 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • pepper + parsley + seasonings of choice

Steps:

Cut the potatoes into reasonably-sized chunks.

Boil them for about 15 minutes or until translucent and tender.

Mmm I love it uh huh uh huh

Keeping the potatoes on the stove, add in the other ingredients. If it’s a little bit liquidy, just keep it on the stove until the extra moisture evaporates.

This baby is perfect for a side dish, a healthy snack, or your contribution to the annual office potluck.

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I could live on potatoes. Well not literally live on potatoes; that would be weird.

Although Spongebob did live in a pineapple under the sea. So maybe I could live in a potato on a cloud of cotton candy.

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There’s hope yet.

 

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Baked Honey & Soy Sauce Chicken Thighs

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Astoundingly tender. Sweet like warm honey, yet dangerous like an addiction.

I can’t even describe it. I just can’t. I can’t even. I have lost the ability to can.

If you have chicken thighs in the freezer, thaw them now. Break out the honey left over from the No-Oven Honey Roasted Almonds. If you don’t have soy sauce, go buy some right now. If you’re going to try one main dish from anything on this blog, let this be it. Seriously. 

This is insanity. Delicious, sweet, dangerous insanity.

Baked Honey & Soy Sauce Chicken Thighs

Sweet honey, balanced with savory soy sauce and aromatic garlic. This recipe doesn’t involve any oil and is completely baked and awesomely healthy. Also, these things are amazingly tender—so tender that I doubted their doneness for quite a few minutes. The perfect light lunch dish or so-good dinner entrée. I freaking love chickin’.

You’ll Need:

  • 6 skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • for the sauce:
  • pan juices from the chicken
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • dash of salt

Steps:

Marinate the chicken in soy sauce anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. I personally prefer overnight, but marinating isn’t an exact science and I’m not going to tell you how to live right now.

When you’re ready come and get it nah nah nah nah preheat the oven to 400°F. Add the garlic and drizzle the honey over the chicken.

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Now pop it in the oven for 35 minutes, turning halfway through.

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Now for the sauce! Pour the pan juices from the baking dish into a skillet, and mix in the other sauce ingredients. Heat on Medium High until it’s thickened to a nice sauce-y consistency. (You can also add 1/2 tsp cornstarch to help make it thicker without having to evaporate off all the water.)

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If you’re feeling awesome, serve with some rice and veggies…

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And if you’re feeling hungry, forget veggies and just pair with your favorite carb.

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But I like veggies.

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Scrumptious Oatmeal Carrot Muffins

Do you fear the muffin man? I used to.

But these simple little muffins changed everything.

Now, you might recall that in the Kitchen Cici episode “Seriously Amazing Blueberry Muffins,” there were quite a few careful steps. I mean, those amazing blueberry muffins took some real deep-seafood-fried cooking patience.

I have no idea what I just said.

Don’t get me wrong—I love my pretty, perfect, delicious muffins. I just don’t want to go through 11 steps of salivating torture while I’m hungry, tired, and dressed in my fuzzy farm-animal pajama pants.

For some reason bacon-and-pancake pajamas don't make the morning hunger much better

For some reason bacon-and-pancake pajamas don’t make the morning hunger much better either

So here, my friends, is a nice little muffin for those mean little mornings. One muffin tin, one lazy morning, one nation, under muffins, with muffins and muffins for all. 

Oatmeal Carrot Muffins

You can hardly taste the carrots, but they do certainly lend a delicious moistness. The brown sugar + cinnamon combo gives the muffin a lovely warm taste, and with the amount of sugar added these muffins aren’t overpowering at all. I’m not clueless enough to call these muffins “light,” but as far as cinnamon rolls go, feel free to eat all 12 of them. Haha, kidding (not really). 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cup grated carrots
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs

Steps

Preheat oven to 400°F. Yes, that’s what I said. No, I’m not mad.

Mix together dry ingredients: flour, oats, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, grated carrots, cinnamon. Whew. 

Beat together the eggs and milk and vegetable oil.

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Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients…

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Now pour into the muffin tin. Yo. Bake for about 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top and edges. 

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Ledicious. Sew ledicious.

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I’m lasivating.

My cat approves.

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So does the maple syrup.

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Are you feeling muffin-y?

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Savory Profiteroles

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The perfect appetizer, the cutest little bundle of joy, a savory-delicious mid-afternoon snack.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: a savory take on the classic chocolate-and-whipped-cream French profiteroles. These are inspired by stuffed mushrooms, but they come with a bit more novelty than their American fungus counterparts. 

These are fantastic made just for yourself on a lazy afternoon when you have Game of Thrones in one hand and need something to fill the other. But these are also suitable for any get-together: Wow your guests with your cooking prowess. Amaze your co-workers with the rich savory flavor. 

Confuse them all by telling them, “Oh, it’s just pâte à choux pastry.”

It’s okay, you don’t need to (pretend to) speak French to appreciate the taste of this. 

All you need are taste buds, which speak the Universal Language.

Savory Cream Cheese Profiteroles

Inspired by the stuffing of stuffed mushrooms, these profiteroles offer a savory dose of ground beef, a dash of flavorful veggies, deliciously sour cream cheese, and a blend of spices for that extra level of flavor. 

Ingredients

Profiterole Dough

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4.5 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • dash of dried parsley flakes (optional)

Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese – neufchâtel works too
  • 1/2 lb ground beef – 85% lean works well
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp each salt, pepper, cumin
  • optional veggies: chives, green onion, mushrooms, etc. 

Steps

1. Make the profiteroles. I first posted a profiterole recipe here, but I shall valiantly repeat my steps on this page:

Bring water, butter, and salt to a boil. Remove from heat and add in flour to form a dough.

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Now beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. After each egg, the dough will come apart into little pieces, but if you keep beating, it will come back together. 

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Sprinkle a little bit of dried parsley on top. Gives it a nice savory look so you don’t confuse it with its sugary chocolatey whipped cream French profiterole cousins.

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Now pipette the dough onto a greased baking sheet. You can also use a spoon but I can’t guarantee you’ll feel as fabulous. 

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Pop it in the oven at 425°F for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Not too bad, eh? 

2. While the profiteroles are in the oven, set your timer and begin making the filling…

Add some oil to a pan and cook the beef thoroughly. Now throw in everything else and sauté together all of the ingredients (except cream cheese, silly!). 

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You may now kiss stir in the cream cheese. Mmmph. Sneak yourself a bite. 

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3. The assembling is straightforward: cut open each profiterole and stuff it with the delicious mixture. I mean, what does it look like I did? Magic?

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 No, just savory profiteroles. 

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Well, same thing. 

Feeling zesty and savory?

Spicy Chili Meatballs

Spicy Chili Meatballs

15-Minute Pork Chops

Juicy 15-Minute Pork Chops

Super Savory Pancakes

Super Savory “Pancakes”

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Sweet ‘n Buttery Carrots

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What can you do when you wake up one day and find that 6 pounds of carrots have found their way into your fridge?

Well, you could make carrot muffins, carrot cake, and carrot soup, but that will only get you so far. What you need to do is eat straight carrot. I’m sorry, there is no other way. 

But what’s wrong with carrots? They’re just not as glamorous as edamame or snap peas. Maybe it’s their bright orange color, or their eccentric shape. But let me tell you: carrots are the most underestimated inhabitants of your refrigerator. 

Ask yoda just.

Ask yoda just.

Don’t mess with the carrot. Especially when it comes with this subtle yet flavorful tinge.

Sweet ‘n Buttery Carrots

A hint of buttery taste, a hint of sweet brown sugar, delivered on a soft and delicious carrot. The best of both worlds. Ah, I bet you didn’t think carrots could be absolutely divine. 

Ingredients

  • 10 large carrots
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Steps

Chop up the carrots at a nice angle. 

I prefer 43.5°

The 43.5° angle works well for me

Now boil ‘em until they’re soft. This takes shorter than you’d expect, about 8 minutes. 

Looking radiant

Looking more radiant than my face after a good chocolate chip cookie

Now toss in the butter and brown sugar. Stir around to melt them.

Oh my word…

Easy? Easy. 

Delicious? Mmmphyeshmmmph. *gulp*

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Delicious.

Are you in a veggie mood?

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Chocolate Biscotti

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Those Italians are culinary geniuses. This chocolate biscotti is so good. I’m addicted. 

Stating the obvious aside, this biscotti is so good. 

Also, those Italians are culinary geniuses and I’m addicted.

If you’ve never had biscotti, now is your delicious chance. If you’ve never made biscotti in your own kitchen, it’s now time for you to realize just how straight-forward the process is. 

I think the best part of biscotti is the texture: so crunchy and crumbly. They’re an awesome snack on their own, and an absolute delight when dipped in coffee. When dipped in milk, this chocolate biscotti is like fancy, crunchy Oreos. 

So good. Italians geniuses. Cici addicted.

Chocolate Biscotti

This biscotti turned out to have a richer chocolate flavor than I’d anticipated, although it’s by no means decadent. That’s perfectly fine—this biscotti isn’t supposed to hit you over the head, it’s supposed to give your brain a healthy dose of chocolate comfort food. The texture is awesome. It’s a little crumbly but mostly crunchy, and even keeps its texture after being left out for a few days. When you first take them out of the oven and let it cool, they might seem too hard, but they get better with age: after the first night, they get less dry-crunchy and more crumbly-crunchy. If that makes any sense at all.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp coffee extract (or instant coffee granules)
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

Steps

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk together oil, eggs, sugar, and coffee extract (or coffee granules). Then add in the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder.

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Shape into two logs, each 1/2-inch thick. This is a pretty sticky dough, so mentally prepare yourself and don’t say I didn’t warn you because I just did. Bam.

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Bake for 30 minutes. Take it out and let it cool, then cut it up into 1/2-inch strips.

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Bake for another 20-30 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.

See? That wasn’t difficult at all. If you want to be fancy, you can even drizzle white chocolate over them (just cut open a corner of a sandwich bag and use it to squeeze out melted white chocolate). Don’t know about you, but I think white chocolate on a dark chocolate background is my kinda color combo.

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You know what makes these even better? Dip these in steaming and aromatic coffee. Or sweet and homey hot chocolate. Or just a cup o’ cold breakfast milk. Biscotti are so awesome, they don’t even get soggy. Do it. Do it. Do it.  

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A perfectly delightful treat, breakfast or otherwise. 

Other chocolatey treats:

Dark Chocolate Nutella (Without Oil!)

Dark Chocolate Nutella (Without Oil!)

Two-Ingredient Chocolate Syrup

Two-Ingredient Chocolate Syrup

Dark Chocolate Tofu Mousse

Healthy Chocolate Mousse

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10-Minute Breakfast Platter

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Scrumptious. Filling. Balanced.

This is the perfect breakfast if you’re looking for something warm and decent 20 minutes before you must leave the house. As much as I love Cheerios, I simply can’t eat it every day. 

Okay that’s a lie. 

But let’s not talk about my addictions. 

Quick Breakfast Platter

Ingredients

  • 2 strips bacon
  • 1 egg
  • veggies, such as mushrooms or greens (leftovers are amazing for this)

Steps

Turn the stove on Medium-High. Cook the bacon until finished; push aside to the side of the pan. Crack the egg into the pan, and use the extra bacon grease to fry the egg. Once the egg is finished, throw in any veggies or any leftover food you might have in the fridge, again using extra bacon grease to cook. (In this case, I used 2 mushrooms, a cup of leftover white rice, and soy sauce.)

What a beauty. Perfect for those crazy mornings!

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Are you thinking breakfast? Also check out:

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Quick Caramel Pastries

This is so decadent yet so simple, I’m literally speechless.

Which is why I’m literally still talking.

But humor me for a second and close your eyes and just imagine.

Delicious, golden-brown sweetness. Glorious, warm-and-sticky caramel. It’s like all of your sweet pastry dreams in one fantastic breakfast pastry.

Now open your eyes. Ignore the paradoxical nature of that exercise, the impossibility of closing your eyes to imagine and opening your eyes to read at the same time.

Forget all of it. Drown yourself in your sorrows, your happiness, your pain, your glories, your sticky scrumptious caramel-y breakfast.

It’s all the same thing.

Quick Caramel Pastries

Note: This is an easy whip-it-up recipe for a lazy decadent breakfast. The caramel filling is highly simplified because I didn’t want to mess with cream or anything fancy; it will dry up and crumble when cooled. No worries though—just pop it in the microwave to make it all gooey and caramel-y again!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tbsp butter or margarine, cut into small chunks
  • dash of salt
  • 2-3 tbsp water

For the filling:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Steps:

1. In a bowl, mix together flour, butter, and salt.

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Don’t be tempted to eat this, however tempting it may be

Add enough water to make it into a dough.

Nice and cohesive, just like all of my college classes sometimes maybe not haha funny

Nice and cohesive, just like all of my college classes sometimes maybe not haha what

2. Turn out the dough and roll into a rectangle. 

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Look at that butter spot in the top right. It’s like a sunspot but delicious-er

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Fold the rectangle into thirds, turn, and roll flat again.

 Store in fridge for 15 minutes. I like to prepare the dough the night before and stick it in the fridge overnight.

4. Melt butter and brown sugar on stovetop, Medium-High heat, until it reaches a thick caramel consistency (about 3 minutes).

Don't lick or your tongue live to will regret it

Sweet like honey, hot like lava

5. Cut dough into squares and fill each with caramel.

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“Square” is a descriptive approximation

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Fold over into cute little triangles

6. Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, until the caramel oozes and goozes.

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Can you see the delicious goldenness? Perhaps this is better:

IMG_6257Yesss.

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Toasted Croissants

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a way of living. You will never eat croissants the same way again.

A flaky, buttery, warm, crunchy, delicious start to your day.

It’s especially delicious when you use a big fluffy croissant, snatched right out of the glass bakery display of your local grocery store.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury this morning, so a pathetic little croissant bought in bulk had to suffice. But hey, I’m not complaining.

Never again will you settle for the plain old croissant. This is Croissant 2.0.

Okay, let’s go. To start off, you want to cut your croissant in half, just like so:

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Now here’s the toughest part. Carefully, pick up each croissant half and translocate it from the plate to the toasting machine. You can either broil it in the oven for a minute, or toast it in the toaster. If you’re using the toaster, be careful to not damage the croissant during insertion into the toasting bay. This is crucial for an enjoyable croissant experience.

Once finished, you have something like this:

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You are now finished. You may enjoy your croissant, or you may make your breakfast experience even more enjoyable.

…by holding your nose and saying kwa-SAHN in an obnoxiously faux-French accent

…by holding your nose and saying “kwa-SAHN” in an obnoxiously faux-French accent

You can also spread extra butter over the croissant.

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In the words of Paula Deen, “You can never have enough butter.”

Now admire the flakiness of the croissant, the layers, the beauty. Take it all in before you take a bite.

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Happy morning. You have survived your first challenge of the day.

Spicy Chili Meatballs

Spicy Chili Meatballs

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Don’t you dare buy pre-made meatballs ever again. Don’t take that as a challenge.

This is not truth or dare. It’s not opposite day either. No but really it isn’t. Are you confused? Good.

Now let’s get to the real business.

For the longest time, I was intimidated by meatballs. You’re handling raw meat, first of all, and they teach you right in elementary school that raw meat contains big green germs singing self-deprecating songs.

Even scarier, though, was the thought of not knowing how your finished product tastes until it’s done and it’s over and it’s too late to make any changes. For someone who eats half of the guacamole in the process of tweaking ingredients, this is absolutely terrifying.

Look at all the guac I made!

Look at all the guac I made!

But friends, be terrified no longer: I have ventured into the land of big green singing germs and I have brought this recipe back just for you.

Spicy Chili Meatballs

Notes: These meatballs have just a soft kick of spicy, and a healthy kick of chili. Also, these are meatballs without cheese, because I can never commit to buying an entire half-pound bag of cheese.

Ingredients:

• 1 lb ground beef – 85% lean is a good choice
• 1 large egg
• 1/4 cup milk
• 1/2 cup breadcrumbs – you can just crumble up some white bread
• 1 tbsp hot sauce – I used Sriracha and I’m not ashamed
• 1 tsp white vinegar
• 3/4 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp each pepper, oregano, onion powder - and any other meatball-esque seasonings you might have

For the sauce:
• 16 oz. tomato sauce
• 2 tbsp chili seasoning

Steps to Success:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Mix together everything (except sauce ingredients, of horse).

Use a receptacle of your choice

Use a receptacle of your choice

3. Shape into meatballs.

If you're having trouble with your brain today, here is a visualization

If you’re having trouble with your brain today, here is a visualization of the approximate shape

4. Pour 16 oz. tomato sauce and 2 tbsp chili seasoning into baking dish. Add the meatballs.

I count 17 little piggies

I count 17 little piggies

 At this point, I also like to sprinkle a dash of chili seasoning over the meatballs themselves.

The mysterious chili seasoning of which I speak so highly

The mysterious chili seasoning of which I speak so highly

5. Bake for about 20 minutes, then turn the meatballs over. Sprinkle chili seasoning over them again (if you wish) and bake for another 20-30 minutes.

Slightly cloudy with a sprinkling of chili seasoning

Slightly cloudy with a sprinkling of chili seasoning

Oooh la la.

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Just look at that slightly spicy

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chili-flavored

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deliciousness.

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Sweet ‘n Crunchy Toast

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Oh gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh. My. Gosh.

This is so simple and awesome. It’s mind-blowing. And if you haven’t had some version of sugary toast for breakfast lately, you’re missing out. Because these are So. Freaking. Amazing.

So amazing, evidently, that I can’t speak more than one word per sentence.

And you know, nothing beats warm toast for breakfast. It gives your taste buds that early-morning buzz. It gives your ego that early-morning boost (because toast + powdered sugar + strawberries looks absolutely professional). And it’s so easy my cat could do it.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

 

If you have one thing for breakfast tomorrow, let this be it.

Let. This. Be. It.

Sweet Breakfast Toast

Ingredients:
• 4 slices bread
• 1 tbsp butter
• 4 tbsp sugar

Steps:

1. Take out some bread and butter lightly. The butter gives it a nice buttery edge, but you don’t want it to overpower the sweetness.

Just a tea spoon of butter makes the toast go down

Just a tea spoon of butter makes the toast go down

2. Liberally sprinkle sugar over the bread. Just on one side for now.

It snowed

It snowed

3. Put it under the broiler for 3 minutes. Watch it carefully! Take it out after it’s nice and browned.

Toast is my favorite shade of brown

“Toasted bread” is my favorite shade of brown

4. Take out the bread, flip it over, and sprinkle sugar on the other side. No need to butter this side. Then, it’s back under the broiler for another 3 minutes.

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If you’re not salivating, there might be something wrong with your taste buds

Now for the big photo op:

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Wow I feel so professional. I mean, look at that sweet crunchiness.

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Ego, consider yourself boosted.

Wholesome Baked Eggs

Sometimes, you just want a simple, healthy breakfast.

But you can’t muster the enthusiasm to fry eggs, and lord knows what would happen if you attempted eggs benedict after a solid 4.25 hours of sleep.

Don’t try to visualize it.

You have a situation on your hands. A dilemma. At this inhumanely early hour, you are the sole, tired-eyed witness to the continuous existential struggle between easy and delicious and healthy.

But you know how to resolve this issue. You take out your eggs, veggies, and a bowl…

*superhero theme song*

Wholesome Baked Eggs

Notes: With this recipe, you get two serving of delicious eggs. Also, this is for the people out there who like a somewhat runny egg yolk. Like me. And you. And all of the people.

Ingredients:
• 2 eggs
• 4 slices turkey - Only because we were plum out of bacon.
• 1/2 green bell pepper
• 2 cloves garlic
• 2 mushrooms
• 2 heads green onion
• dash of salt & pepper

Steps:
1. Preheat your oven to 350F and slice up all of your veggies.

OMG so artsy gotta Instagram

OMG so artsy gotta Instagram

2. Saute together all of the non-egg ingredients.

Gotta love sauté pans

Gotta love small sauté pans

3. Divide your veggies into two cute ramekins/baking cups and admire.

This is only one of them, obviously

This is only one of them, in case you were confused

4. Crack an egg over each of the warm sauteed breakfast delights.

Mm mmm good

That egg doesn’t know what’s about to hit it

5. Bake for 15 minutes. Check your oven occasionally to make sure your eggs stay happy. 

Happy happy egg

Basically my facial expression every breakfast time

The Extra Mile:
• Craving an extra kick? Top with some Sriracha or another spicy sauce.
• No time in the morning? Bake the night before and microwave (on medium heat for 3 minutes) when you’re ready to nom.

Breakfast of champions right here. And guess who’s the champion.

You. And me. And all of the people.

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All-Natural Microwave Granola

You read that right.

Crunchy granola in less than 5 minutes. No ovens involved. It’s pretty darn healthy too—none of that brown evaporated cane syrup rice juice business.

I’ve actually been making it in my dorm room for quite some time, although I’m not entirely sure if my roommate approves of our room consistently smelling like warm granola.

On an unrelated note, I’ve figured out that if you give people enough food, they lose their ability to complain/protest/talk.

I must warn you, however, that granola can and will get burned in the microwave. I’m just glad I haven’t set off the building’s fire alarms yet, because I’m not sure how I could explain making granola using a microwave at 11:30pm on a Saturday night in my bright blue Hello Kitty pajama shorts.

With a spoonful of Nutella in one hand and a Harry Potter movie in the other.

Haters gonna hate.

Haters gonna hate.

When it comes to dorm neighbors, some things are better left unknown.

All-Natural Microwave Granola

Notes: This is delightfully crispy when it’s freshly made, but it unfortunately doesn’t stay that way for more than a few hours. Fortunately, it is entirely possible to consume the entire batch in one short sitting. I have tried many times, and also succeeded many times without trying.

Also, I’ve left out the quantities of each ingredient—because granola should be spontaneous, fun, and wild.

Ingredients

  • old-fashioned oats. Your mom and other recipe sources have told you many times but I’m going to say it again: not the quick oats.
  • honey. Or agave nectar, or anything sticky sweet.
  • nuts. If you haven’t eaten all of them during your midnight snacking rampages.
  • dried fruits. Optional.
  • cinnamon. Slightly less optional.

Steps:

  1. Put everything in a bowl and mash together until there’s a thin layer of honey coating everything.

    That's the way uh huh uh huh

    That’s the way uh huh uh huh

  2. Now pop it in the microwave and heat for one minute, or until the oats are a nice sizzling golden brown. Stir occasionally and keep your eye on it!
  3. Take it out, lay it flat, and let it cool. As it cools, it gets crunchy. As it gets crunchy, you get happy.

    Sunbathing; it's rude to stare.

    Sunbathing; it’s rude to stare.

The Extra Mile:

  • Add some cocoa powder or shredded coconut or whatever you have on hand that happens to be in small bits.
  • Add real chocolate. Watch it melt into delicious ribbons. 

Now: Imagine this on a soft pillowy bed of strawberry yogurt. Imagine this drowned in milk. Imagine this immersed in dreamy Nutella.

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I think my salivary glands are misfiring.

Crispy Waffle Bits

Crispy Waffle Bits

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Here’s a semi-good college cafeteria story:

So in my school cafeteria there’s this breakfast bar, where you fill out an order form and they make pancakes/waffles/scrambled eggs on the spot. I’m a fan of breakfast, and a fan of ordering oversized plates of food, so it’s perfect.

This was a Tuesday morning between the hours of 7:00am and 8:00am, the moon was in its waxing crescent phase, the sun had risen at 6:42am, and Jupiter was 22º from the northern horizon—this could mean only one thing.

I would be eating a Belgian waffle and an egg, over medium, for breakfast.

So I filled out the little paper slip indicating my deepest breakfast desires. I sat down and waited.

Five minutes later, my name was abruptly shouted in an excruciatingly loud manner. As I approached the counter, I squinted a little in confusion. Wait a second, I thought. Was this happening?

What evil cook puts a fried egg on top of a Belgian waffle?

Questions ran through my mind. How do I even dump syrup over this dastardly contraption? Should I dump syrup over it? Should I eat the egg first then come back and dump syrup over it? Should I eat the egg if it’s been contaminated with waffle? Should I eat the waffle if it’s been contaminated with egg? Was this the biggest first world problem ever? Should I tweet about it?

My eyes grew wider as I considered the worst possibility: Did the moisture from the egg make the waffle… soggy?

Look, now. Waffles are supposed to be warm and crispy with a slight hint of sweet and buttery. The syrup accentuates the sweetness of the waffle, emphasizes its warmth, and contrasts its crispiness. When your waffle isn’t crispy, then, you’re left with a soggy sugar buttery mess.

Mississippi_Mud_Cake-3

Actually that doesn’t look bad.

But it’s the surface of the waffle that gives it crispiness. So what if we increased that surface area?

What if, instead of having a flat waffle, we had waffle bits? It would increase the surface-area-to-volume ratio, which meant more crispiness for the same amount of waffle.

What can I say, I’m pretty much Einstein. Now give me my Nobel Prize in Wafflery.

Crispy Waffle Bits

Notes: I suppose you could use pre-packaged waffle or pancake mix, but prepare to be judged. I’m Einstein by day and Big Brother by night.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Heat up a pan to Medium. Coat with a little bit of butter.

2. Mix first four ingredients in a bowl, then mix last four ingredients in another bowl. 

3. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Slow and steady does it. 

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My photography skills just get better with every passing day.

4. Pour some batter into the pan. Let it solidify for a few Mississippis.

Definition of the word “some” is up to you

Definition of the words “some” and “Mississippi” are up to you

 

6. Scramble it all together.

Go into Egg Scramble Mode

Go into Egg Scramble Mode

 

Take out revenge for all of the failed pancakes you've made in your life.

Take out revenge for all of the failed pancakes you’ve made in your life.

The Extra Mile

  1. Drizzle in a few gallons of syrup. Obviously.
  2. Enjoy with Perfect Scrambled Eggs. If you’re feeling especially scrambled on a particular morning. 

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What mode do you assume when you’re eating breakfast?

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I always prefer Hungry College Student Mode.

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Commentary Cici: Souped-up Soup

When I hear the word “chicken noodle soup,” I have one reaction: let me eat it.

That was particularly true last week when I experienced my first college illness. I desperately wanted chicken noodle soup, but my options were limited to Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, both of which contained literally two pieces of chicken and ten noodle strands.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. The amount of noodles in the can is actually now quite impressive.

Being the intelligent college student I am, I realized I had the following things on hand:

  • pre-grilled steak pieces
  • spinach leaves
  • ground pepper

Also a box of Kleenex and a laptop with Netflix. But those are inedible and therefore irrelevant in life.

Anyway, I proceeded to perform my signature masterchef maneuver; I put everything in a glass bowl and microwaved it until hot.

By the way, I realized spinach leaves were too big so I had to tear them into smaller pieces.

I know, it’s that kind of improvisation that makes me feel like a true chef.

Voilà. 

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Monsieur. Baguette. Croissant. François. 

I don’t know why so many college students (and normal people) rely on pre-packaged food. Even without a fridge or microwave, it’s entirely possible to eat well.

If all else fails, buy some bananas at least. I mean, I’m pretty sure you can’t get Snickers, Lay’s, Oreos, or even Ramen as cheap as 60¢ a pound. 

And you know what? Prepackaged stuff is only faster by a matter of 10 or 15 minutes, aka that extra time you spend every day Facebook-stalking that one kid from elementary school.

I’ve done it.

You’ve done it.

And I’m sure we can both agree that souped-up soup is more satisfying than the weird pictures on your stalkee’s Facebook profile.

But only by a little.

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Crispy Crunchy Wraps

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You take a bite.

The warm tortilla crunches soundly against your teeth, breaking into brittle shards as the delicious contents reveal themselves to your taste buds.

I should be a novelist.

Fries and Burger

I would specialize in unlikely romances.

But really, this is solid stuff right here.

And all you need is a broiler. As in, no worries that your stove might explode electric sparks on you, like that last time you innocently tried to reheat leftover stir-fry. 

It’s basically baked American cannoli with Mexican tortillas and grilled chicken. A smidge of the American Dream, a little bit of rising prosperity, a chance to eat more and more crispy crunchy wraps every day at every meal. 

I’m all about that diversity. 

Crispy Crunchy Wraps

Notes: I sincerely hope you know how to make a wrap. If so, include any ingredients you fancy. If not, go back to Start and replay the game of life. 

Ingredients:

  • wrap material: tortillas, spinach wraps, wheat wraps, etc.
  • filling: chicken, steak, cheese, lettuce, rice, beans, onions, pico de gallo, soybeans, chickpeas, peas, chicks, etc.

Steps:

Cut everything into strips.  I just used seasoned brown rice, chicken, and lettuce. 

Some assembly required.

Some assembly required.

Assemble the wrap.

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Break out your screwdriver and nails.

Now fold it messily and place on a oven-safe object.

How does Taco Bell do it?

How does Taco Bell do it?

Broil for 4 minutes a side, watching closely as it browns. 

Oh my glorious wrap.

Oh my glorious wrap.

The Extra Mile:

  1. Make this a breakfast burrito. Just use some eggs, ham, green onions, etc. 
  2. Make the outside extra crispy and delicious. Before broiling, just brush on just a thin layer of oil.

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You know what? Diversity is better in large numbers.

This wrap represents diversity.

I think you can guess what I’m trying to say.

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All-Natural Snow Cones

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For some reason, snow cones (or “sno cones,” if you’re young & wild & free) are perceived as healthy. I have no idea why, as it’s just frozen water drizzled liberally with artificially-flavored corn syrup.

It kind of reminds me of soda.

But you see, it’s mostly made of water, and water is healthy. Let’s ignore the “corn syrup” part for a minute.

Okay the minute is up. Time to face the truth: Harry Potter is fictional.

And snow cones are also made of corn syrup.

And I did eat the last slice of cake in the fridge.

Sorry. 

All Natural Snow Cone

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup pitted cherries
  • 1/2 cup water

Steps:

1. Blend or process together cherries and water until it’s nice and mixed.

I think the miscellaneous pots in the background add a nice touch. I included them on purpose, duh.

I think the miscellaneous pots in the background add a nice touch. I included them on purpose, duh.

2. Pour into a baking pan and toss in freezer.

It's like a cherry marsh.

It’s like a cherry marsh. Don’t think too hard about it or you’ll lose your appetite.

3. After 30 minutes, scrape up the solidified ice with a spoon, and put everything back in the fridge. Repeat this process until you’ve scraped up the entire baking pan.

Shampoo, rinse, scrape, repeat.

Shampoo, rinse, scrape, repeat.

Now consume in aggressively large quantities.

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What a beauty.

Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline-Sno-Cone.

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I am going to get sued so bad if I ever catch companies’ attentions.

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Lighter Hummus (without tahini)

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I’m all about that olive oil, but I’m not about it enough to pour loads of it casually into my chickpeas.

In this kitchen, hazelnuts are not to be distorted into sugary chocolate butter. Cocoa is not to be contorted into a barely-recognizable ganache butter. And chickpeas are not to be maimed into an oily hummus butter.

I would stop saying butter but it’s such a fun word butter

This was so good that I used them like mashed potatoes. As in, I ate some and then I ate some more and then some more and just one more bite and another to wash it down and maybe another one for the road what road no road well then let’s celebrate by taking one more bite and now it’s all gone mission accomplished.

Yeah, I may have an unhealthy relationship with buttery objects.

Lighter Hummus

Notes: This hummus is has a slightly different texture than store-bought hummus. It’s less oily. Hmm I can’t figure out why. Please send help immediately.

Also, hummus is usually made with tahini, which is a paste of toasted sesame seeds and olive oil. I wanted to shortcut that but still have the same sesame nuance, so I added sesame oil instead. This is hummus without tahini. (I had to say that straight-out so that the search engines out there can effectively bring to me the desperate hummus-lovers who don’t have tahini on hand.)

Nutrition facts here!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (16 oz.)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 4 tbsp water

Steps:

Using a food processor, process together everything except for the water into a very fine-grained paste. Takes about 5 minutes (wear earplugs). Then, add in water 1 tbsp at a time until you get a fluffy hummus consistency.

Oh yes so good look at it so yum yes yum nom. 

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That celery only wishes it could be hummus.

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Lieutenant Hummus, ready for action.

Dark Chocolate Nutella (Without Oil!)

Dark Chocolate Nutella Without Oil

IMG_5230

Let me brag about this first. 

This Nutella has 3.4 g of monounsaturated fat, 1.8g of protein, and 1.6g of fiber in every tablespoon. 

It also tastes like a darker cousin of your favorite why-do-I-even-need-toast-I’ll-just-eat-it-out-of-the-can hazelnut spread. It’s like that one time your cousin went to the beach and got ten shades tanner than you did and you got jealous.

Practically green with envy.

While this boasts a better-looking nutrition profile than Nutella, it’s still not exactly low-calorie (if you use regular sugar, instead of other sweeteners), nor is it low-fat.

But that’s a good thing, do you know why? Because hazelnuts are nutrient-dense, and if a shady character on the street comes up to you one day and offers you fat-free, zero-calorie Nutella, you better run the other way because you can be sure that Nutella ain’t made of hazelnuts. 

But this—this Nutella is made of hazelnuts. 

And dreams.

Dark Chocolate Nutella

Notes: Other non-sugar sweeteners may be substituted, in which case you would need to add less milk.

Nutrition Facts here. (Regular Nutella is on the left, my Nutella is on the right. Same 1tbsp serving size.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • dash of coffee granules
  • dash of salt
  • dash of vanilla extract

Steps:

Using a food processor, chop everything except milk until you have tiny small minuscule granules (about 5 minutes). Then add in milk one tbsp at a time until it forms a paste of the desired consistency.

Desired consistency. I desire this consistency.

I also desire a consistency in the presence of Dark Nutella in my fridge.

IMG_5230

I require it. 

15-Minute Pork Chops

Juicy 15-Minute Pork Chops

This was the recipe that made me fall in love with thick cuts of meat.

See, as an Asian, I’ve been taught to be deathly afraid of pink steak/pork/fish/clowns.

Rule of thumb: if the meat isn’t cooked to death, neither is the bacteria.

My carnivorous experience wasn’t juicy, tasty, or tender. It was basically the same old beef, pork, or chicken stir-fry.

Every.

Every.

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Single.

Day.

Day.

But one day, I was watching some YouTube cooking videos (it’s a perfectly normal guilty pleasure) and I was inspired by the many variations of “How to Cook the Perfect Steak.”

The very next day, I went and bought a thick cut of pork chops.

Then I cooked it, and I loved it.

So I ate it.

Juicy 15-Minute Pork Chops

Here’s a printable version!

Notes: Despite the warnings of my elders, I like pork medium well. For well done, add 2 minutes to oven time; for medium, subtract 2 minutes.

Taste & Texture: These chops are moist and tender with a slight chew to them. This particular sauce gives a half-sweet, half-savory flavor. Just when you think the sweetness is too much, the soy sauce hits your taste buds and brings it back to Saltyland. It’s kind of awesome.

Ingredients:

  • 2 thick cut pork chops
  • salt n pepper

For the marinade:

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp sugar

For the sauce:

  • half of the marinade
  • 1/8 cup water + 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • dash of sugar
  • dash of vinegar
  • dash of dijon mustard

Steps:

0. Prepare the meat. I like to stab it multiple times, pound it with a tenderizer, then marinate overnight (or at least 20 minutes). Use only half of the marinade; you’ll use the rest for the sauce.

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I like my meat tender, okay?

1. Preheat oven to 300F. Heat skillet on medium-high and pour in a good layer of oil.

2. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and put in the skillet.

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I used garlic pepper because I’m fancy.

3. Brown the meat.

Brown one side (2 minutes)

Brown one side (2 minutes)

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then render (melt) the strip of fat on the edge (1 minute)

Then brown the other side (2 minutes)

4. Now put it all in the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Or 1 minute for medium and 5 minutes for well done.

Also get a napkin to wipe off your drool

Also get a napkin to wipe off your drool

5. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a skillet, dissolve 1 tsp cornstarch in 1/8 cup water. Add in all other sauce ingredients. Simmer until it’s nice and thick.

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This tastes disgusting by itself, by the way, not that I tried.

6. You’re done; now relax and let the pork chops rest for at least 10 minutes. Do not skip this! Resting meat allows it to retain its juices.

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And allows you to retain your juices, because that was a thrilling pork adventure.

Now slice up that delicious pork chop.

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Aw yeah look at that juicy pink meat.

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Now drizzle it in that saucy sauce.
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Mmm sauce. Look at that color. Look at that meat. That sizzle.
IMG_50682Okay stop gawking and eat it already.

Will do.

Here’s the printable!

No Oven Honey Roasted Almonds

No-Oven Honey Almonds

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Sweet & Tangy Blueberry Jam

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Profiteroles

Gloriously Fluffy Oatmeal

Gloriously Fluffy Oatmeal

Flaky Steamed Tilapia

Flaky Steamed Tilapia

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Healthier Rocky Road

Today, I wanted to eat mass quantities of crunchy chocolate-covered objects without feeling like an elephant.

I think that’s fair.

Today was also the day I re-discovered the big box of plain shredded wheat that’s been loitering in the pantry for 5 months. I know it’s healthy and whole grains and fiber and love and peace and nuclear warfare, but I prefer my shredded wheat covered in frosted sugar and drowned in cold milk.

I wanted healthy chocolate-covered crunchy things, and the shredded wheat was both healthy and crunchy.

So I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I took a stone, threw it at two birds, and missed.

I sighed, went back inside, and decided to concoct a healthier rocky road.

Healthier Rocky Road

Notes: The chocolate syrup I use is made with honey, which means it won’t harden completely, even when you put it in the freezer. This makes for a slightly chewy rocky road, but the shredded wheat still lends it crunchiness. If you don’t have/want/like honey, you can also substitute coconut oil, corn syrup, or agave nectar — these will result in a more solid chocolate rocky road.

Ingredients:

• 1 cup red wheat puffs + shredded wheat. But you can use pretty much anything puffy and/or crunchy: millet puffs, cocoa puffs, nuts, granola, rocks, roads, etc. This is a great way to recycle those uneaten cereals.

• 1/4 cup dark chocolate. In the form of chips, bars, bunnies, eggs, or semi trucks.

• 1 tbsp honey (or coconut oil, agave nectar, or any kind of syrup).

Steps:

1. Melt together chocolate and honey (or sticky liquid of choice). You can use a microwave. Add more honey as necessary to form a somewhat-thick syrup.

2. Combine everything in a bowl. Get everything coated in chocolate as much as possible.

3. Freeze for 20 minutes. The longer the better. Meanwhile, stare at the clock until 20 minutes have passed.

Now. Eat one bite, then another. Do you feel like an elephant yet?

Me neither.

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This means we need to eat more.

Two-Ingredient Chocolate Syrup

Two-Ingredient Choco Syrup

30-Minute Spiced Chicken

30-Minute Spiced Chicken

Sweet & Sour Ribs

Sweet & Sour Ribs

Delicious Steamed Eggs

Delicious Steamed Eggs

Guacamole With a Twist

Guacamole With a Twist

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Easy Mooncakes with Mung Bean Filling

These things are so expensive in Asian supermarkets, you’d think they require hours of intense labor.

Not so.

Usually, mooncakes are made with somewhat exotic ingredients (golden syrup and lye water) and with even more exotic kitchen tools (namely, a special mooncake press).

But look, my kitchen is currently located forty minutes away from the nearest Asian grocery store, and the tectonic plates aren’t shifting quickly enough for me to wait. So I had to improvise.

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Closer… Closer…

Admittedly, this mooncake doesn’t taste exactly like authentic Chinese mooncakes, mostly because of the mung bean filling. It’d be better if you could go out and buy prepared mooncake filling, or at least try and research a real mooncake filling recipe.

Eventually I’ll attempt this again and actually try to make it more authentic.

But as long as my family keeps devouring all of these in one day, it ain’t happening.

Easy Mooncakes

Notes: This was adapted from this here recipe on my favorite Chinese recipe website. If you want more authentic mooncakes, buy pre-made mooncake filling or look up a real mung bean paste recipe. Personally, I don’t mind a slightly different taste, because this paste is so darn easy. (My version tastes more mung-bean-y than the real thing.) Also, use golden syrup if you have it at hand, and lye water if you have that too. Otherwise, join me on the improvisation train.

This recipe makes 8 medium-sized mooncakes.

Taste & Texture: The crust of this mooncake is just a little bit sweet and somewhat chewy. The paste is thick and tastes like lightly sweetened mung beans. Probably because that’s what it is. Nothing about this is overpowering, which is refreshing.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 1 1/4 cup flour. Flour power. 
  • 1/8 cup oil. It’s not Asian without oil.
  • Choose one:
    • 1/3 cup corn syrup. Oh stop scoffing, you supercilious syrup snob. 
    • 1/3 cup golden syrup. Syrup made of gold, obviously.
  • Choose one:
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/4 tsp water. Yeah I don’t know what I’m doing either.
    • 1/2 tsp lye water. (lye:water in a 1:3 ratio)

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked mung beans. Pronounced Coo-ked, as in Coo Coo Coo I’m an owl.
  • 1/3 cup white sugar. She was fast asleep, so I sugar awake. 
  • 1 tbsp butter. You butter include butter.
  • dash of salt. Stop insalting my pun skills.

Steps:

1. Combine all dough ingredients. Add in flour last, and add as much as you need to form a slightly sticky, oily dough. Knead a little; this is your chance to pretend like you’re a cat. Now let it sit for 1 hour, at least. Cats have patience, remember.

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Rollin in the dough.

2. Puree all the filling ingredients.

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That looks appetizing.

3. Microwave (or heat on stove) until it’s a nice thick paste. It took me 6 minutes in the microwave, on high. Stir occasionally.

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Slightly more appetizing?

4. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Now assemble your mooncakes.

Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.

Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.

Flatten the ball until it's a round circle that's quite thin.

Flatten the ball until it’s a round circle that’s quite thin. Thinner than it’s pictured here.

Take a scoop of mung bean paste and dollop it into the middle of your dough patty. Bring up the sides of the patty until the paste is completely enclosed. Place the ball seam-side down.

Take a scoop of mung bean paste and dollop it into the middle of your dough patty. Bring up the sides of the patty and enclose the paste. Now flip it over and place the ball seam-side down. NOTE: This dough patty was way too thick. You want it to be as thin as possible without tearing. Lesson: I’m a bad example.

5. Now form the shape. If you have a mooncake press, now is the time to whip it out as you sing your life’s theme song in your most obnoxious manner. I don’t have a theme song, so instead I did a square shape because I figured it’d be easier than a perfect circle.

Take each ball and press it up against something flat, like a knife.

Take each ball and press it up against something flat, like a knife. Press one side at a time.

Press the top too, while you're at it.

Press the top too, while you’re at it. (I did a fantastic job of making it totally smooth, as you can see.)

6. Bake in oven for 13-15 minutes. At 5 minutes, take it out and brush some egg wash (1 egg, whisked) over it. Don’t forget to put it back in.

Um, yeah.

This is the finished product.

It was yummy.

No big deal.

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I deserve 50 Asian points for this.

Red Wine Vinegar & Mushrooms

Red Wine Vinegar Mushroom & Onion

Sometimes stir-fry gets monotonous.

Chop, oil, fry, stir, sprinkle with salt. Where’s the fun in that?

Trick question. There is no fun.

But one rainy day found me standing in front of the vinegar section in the supermarket, wondering if a new type of vinegar was the missing piece in my life.

Balsamic vinegar was too Italian and wouldn’t fit in with the Asian sauce clique in my kitchen. White vinegar was an old friend that had overstayed its welcome. Beer vinegar had the word “beer” in it and I wasn’t sure I could make it through the checkout line without being humiliated by the classic “You’re not over 21″ phrase.

So I tried red wine vinegar, because at least if I were humiliated, red wine would sound classier than beer.

At first, the soy sauce alpha male bristled at the introduction of the new kid. The white vinegar got a little jealous. The cooking wine was disgusted by its red-colored second cousin, once removed.

But that’s okay, because the red wine vinegar made unlikely friends with two little vegetables.

The rest was edible history.

Red Wine Vinegar Mushroom and Onion

Notes: You could experiment with other types of vinegar, but it just doesn’t give the same wine-ish, sweet and sour taste. Alternatively, you can use real red wine plus white vinegar. Still not the same though.

Taste & Texture: The red wine vinegar is complex. It’s like Luxembourg, but it borders sweet, sour, and red wine-y instead of Germany, France, and Belgium. It’s quite a lovely combination, and the crisp onion and mushrooms provide a solid neutral base for that flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • 2 yellow or red onions (White onions are too pungent.)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • dash of salt

Steps:

1. Chop up everything nice.

Today was a good camera day.

Today was a good camera day.

2. Cook onions until somewhat wilted. Add a dash of sugar while you’re at it.

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This was on another day, when I did a really good job of cutting up the onions into strips.

3. Throw in mushrooms.

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They’re not enjoying this.

4. Then add everything else.

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Vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, etc.

5. Cook until the onions are translucent and everything is nicely wilted.

I didn’t cook it until the onions were translucent, though, because I just wanted to eat. 

I was actually planning to take these pictures on a previous day, when my cooking skills and camera skills were a little more impressive. However, on that day, something unfortunate happened.

My mother dumped half a head of cabbage into my lovely red wine mushroom & onion stir-fry.

And I proceeded to eat it anyway.

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That, my friends, is how things go in this kitchen.