Friday, December 30, 2011

Wonderful Christmas 2011, a New Puppy, and Raisin Oat Bran Muffins

The holiday season is nearly bowled over once New Years' hits! Wowie, it's been pretty crazy, but in a good way. The rush of buying gifts was done in pretty good time, for me, unfortunately I still have to do gift exchanges with my girlfriends when they get back from Las Vegas and such (lucky dogs, going to Las Vegas on New Years). This year, we had our Christmas dinner at our house instead of grandma's (which is a long 1.5 hour drive inland). It was simple and not overloaded with food, which I like, but we still had leftovers. My mom made her delicious and famous mi hoanh thanh (wonton noodle soup), my grandma made her ca ri ga (Vietnamese curry chicken, my fave dish of hers!), and my aunt brought over seasoned chicken wings (I think from Costco). My other aunt bought a tiramisu cake from Costco (so delicious).

Mi Hoanh Thanh
 It was a good night, one that I liked a lot better than the long-winded Christmases we've had before, which involved pictures before, during and after each present and unwrapping. We shot through our presents, which were also reduced in number this year and again which I liked because I don't like excess.
Me and Ong Noi (Grandpa!)

Cousin's gifts to Cat
Me, my sis, and my aunt

Auntie and Me

Scarf crocheted by Cousin's fiance
Those scares my sister and I are wearing were made by my cousin's fiance. She crocheted them in a matter of one to two days. She is insane!!! What crocheting talent and drive! I can barely edge out one crocheted item every 6 months. She's super awesome and fun to hang out with.

Best gift, though, had to be this cute little guy my sister brought home around 3:30pm Christmas Eve day.

Cody, the Mini Toy Australian Shepherd
He's a Mini Toy Australian Shepherd, a Blue Merl. My sister drove 1.5 hours to get him in the morning, going under the alibi that she had to go "Christmas shopping." She got herself her Christmas gift, haha. She didn't get the complete approval of our parents beforehand; she just went and brought him home. Haha, my dad was pretty excited, and still is. My mom, she's a different story. As old Asian people are: dogs are smelly and dirty! Don't let them lick your face! You'll get freckles! So nasty! Aghhh! He isn't. He's a cute little guy, except now he bites and gnaws at my feet and ankles really bad. Ow!

Sleepy the first two days we got him
I didn't bake or cook anything for Christmas since we had too much cookies and cakes and pies already, but I'll show you some stuff I made during school:

Raisin Bran Muffins
Made with Arrowhead Mill Oat Bran
Raisins soaked in Cola
You can find the recipe on the back of the Arrowhead Mills Oat Bran box. I tweaked their basic oat bran muffin recipe by adding cola-soaked raisins, and a couple extra shakes of cinnamon and allspice, and a light sprinkling of brown sugar-cinnamon topping. You can freeze leftovers by wrapping individual muffins in plastic wrap and in another freezer plastic wrap for extra protection. Just take out and microwave somewhere between 45-60 seconds. These are great for breakfast or afternoon or late night snacks. They are very dense though, so I recommend that healthy and filling combination of a glass of (almond!) milk.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Baking Donuts in the Throes of Dead Week

It is really hard to believe that I am an undergraduate senior at UC Berkeley and that I am coming to the end of my second to last semester here. "Rest, Recitation, and Review" Week (or more commonly and endearingly referred to by faculty and students as "Dead Week") has just begun and it is going to be hectic. Two group projects/presentations due on Wednesday and Friday this week, so I'm meeting with my groups nearly every day (but today, thank goodness!). Review sessions and mandatory attendance of presentations occur during the same time as my normal class periods, so it's not like classes ended last Friday, as it officially says in the Academic Calendar. Not to mention I have about 5 late shifts this week. This is going to be very intense, but somehow I'll survive.

Berkeley engineering students in the library the day before Dead week

And then sometime find time to write my graduate applications to three more universities and a scholarship app before December 15.


Anyways, you've all come here to read about my baking, not my personal life. I mean, that's why we browse food blogs right? The person behind the screen does not matter. Only their food and their ability to take photos of their food matter. Therefore, I will digress no longer.

Gingerbread Donuts.

I've been having this unrelenting craving for gingerbread man cookies since Thanksgiving. I bought the Lebkuchen from World Market, made pear upside-down gingerbread cake (from, to be documented soon!), and bought iced gingerbread cookie bites from a nearby bakery...Yet nothing has satisfied my craving for a real, full-on gingerbread man cookie.

So I made gingerbread donuts, and am still craving gingerbread men. Oh, the woes of woman, to crave food and men in the same moment. Browsing through Tastespotting, I that livelovepasta posted this wonderfully healthy and tasty recipe for gingerbread donuts and immediately bookmarked it. (She apparently got it from PinchofYum, Sunday morning, I got up and made a batch to bring to my project group (unfortunately didn't have time to ice them before bringing them. So much better iced!)

I modified her recipe because of the spices I had on hand, and I wanted to try the lemon and gingerbread combo I've seen floating around. Berkeley is bountiful with random lemon trees in front of everyone's apartments and houses. It's so great, walking home, reaching into someone's tree, plucking a fresh and plump lemon, and then taking it home. ;-P

Gingerbread Donuts with Lemon "Spicing" (modified from livelovepasta)
For the Batter:
1 cup flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
Sprinkling of allspice (can be somewhat generous)
Sprinkling of nutmeg (this is strong, don't be too generous)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (dark) brown sugar, divided
1 egg
¼ cup (unsweetened) applesauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup (I used breakfast syrup, darn maple syrup is expensive on a college budget)
2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons butter (melted in the microwave)
For the Glaze:
Powdered sugar, couple squeezes of fresh lemon, cinnamon and ginger, all to taste and texture

1. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and ¼ cup brown sugar together in a medium bowl.
2. Melt butter in microwave. Mix the egg, applesauce, syrup, and milk in a large bowl. Pour in the butter and mix well. (keep the bowl the butter was in)
3. Pour in half the flour mixture to the liquid mixture. Stir to mix. Pour and fold in the rest of the flour mixture.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5. Use a pastry brush and wipe off the butter from the butter bowl. Use this to grease the mini donut pan.
6. Put some of the batter into a plastic zip bag and cut a small bit of the bottom corner of the bag. Fill each tin ½ full with batter (or 3/4 full for super awesome plump donuts).
7. Bake for about 6-8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Cool in the pan 5-10 min, then use a plastic knife and excavate the donuts from the pan carefully. Let cool completely on wire racks.
8. Mix the glaze ingredients together, making sure it's not too liquidy, but not too hard to stir. Push donut tops in, twist about to coat, pull up. Use a chopstick or plastic knife to smooth out the glaze and to remove extra glaze.
9. Let the glaze harden, set out on a nice plate and ENJOY!!!

(Calorie content should be around 100 if you make around 20 donuts, around 150 if you make 12, and around 50-80 if you make around 24 donuts)


You won't wanna share these little treats. Hot dayum, these tasted really good. I was sad to share them with my roommates and friends, to tell the truth. Really yummy. The donuts by themselves are a little dry tasting on their own (unlike the vanilla and hint-of-nutmeg donuts from VeganYumYum), but taste really good with the lemon frosting.

Definitely gonna make these again when I have time. Oh, 4 weeks of winter break, come now!

Hope you enjoyed this latest update on my Donut Project (and my life, lol). Hope to see you all soon! Wish me luck to survive through Dead Week and Finals!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Product Review: thinkThin Creamy Peanut Butter Bar

Every now and then, I try some commercial products and fast food. My opinions tend to overflow, and in my desire to guide the public in spending their money for worthwhile things, I will post reviews now and then about these products that I've bought and tried. I will rate on primarily on taste and price, with commentary on sustainability, ingredients, and aesthetics.

First review: ThinkThin Creamy Peanut Butter Bar

First time I ever tried a thinkThin bar was a "Bites" sample from some school event. Back then, that sample was not very appealing. The texture was like other creamy protein bars out there (creamy, being in contrast to those grainy soy crisp textures) and the taste was full of that whey protein and sugar substitute and artificial-ness. These thinkThin Bites are marketed as "low calorie protein bars" having "5-6 grams of protein, 0 grams of sugar and no gluten" and only 100 calories. I think I tried the Chocolate Toffee Nut or something, but I was not very impressed.

I had been fooled by the packaging, thinking it would be like one of those super natural, surprisingly tasty, grain and fruit tasting bars like Larabar. (I really think the packaging is marketed for women, who like to think they're green, and like working out and shopping or something.) I was grossly mistaken. It tasted and felt like those Tiger Milk bars that I use to eat way back in early 2000 taking and failing at tennis class.

Tonight, I got a hold of another free thinkThin bar, a full one this time: Creamy Peanut Butter. The first few bites were all right. Again, that same graininess of protein blends (man, these protein blends, be it whey or soy, are really nasty, and and feel so artificial). The give of the coating and the feel of your teeth tearing through the bar, oddly enough, is a satisfying feat, but alas...continued eating of the entire bar is more of its own fitness challenge. Come on, Rocky! Get to the end of this bar! Eye of the Tiger!!! (Ahh, no more no more.)

And the fact that one full bar (2.1 oz) is 230 calories,  8g (12% DV) fat, 3.5g (18% DV) saturated fat, 11 g sugar alcohol, and only 4% calcium...I don't think this is really that much of "thinking thin."


thinkThin is just another protein bar that makes it seem different with its more "natural" looking wrapping (natural, given the tan color and simple design, I believe). I suppose it is supposed to be maybe a meal replacement and an after-workout supplement, but I don't think it's worth it. It doesn't even give you other vitamins that other protein bars or Ensure shakes give you. It would be better to eat a banana and have a chocolate milk after an intense workout.

Taste: 2/5
Price: n/a, but about $1.99 online
Overall: 2/5

Pros: nice packaging, first bites all right, feeling like Rocky and a "Real Housewife" of Orange County at the same time, small and light bar that doesn't break easily in purses (it jumbled around a bit before I got to it)

Cons: misleading packaging, tastes like a protein bar x_x, ending bites are torture without something to drink, expensive per bar (compared to slightly better tasting Odwalla which usually goes on sale for $1 each over in Cali)

Note: I kind of stole the style and based my review off of theImpulsiveBuy's style of food reviews. Check 'em out. They're fun to read.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

View from the Top

Just thought it'd be nice to share a little something with you all.
Something that makes hiking uphill through the UC Berkeley campus worthwhile.
A sight that makes working late at the residence halls satisfying.
From the stairs of Foothill or the balcony of Stern Hall,
You can see the beauty of Downtown and the City (short term for San Francisco).


Granted, this image does little justice to what I see on most nights.
My 5 Megapixel cellphone camera cannot do the nightscene justice,
But I do hope this gives you some feel of the euphoria that fills my soul everytime I turn around
And take in the beautiful view.
Especially at night, when all is relatively serene,
Some lights softly flicker. The clocktower ("Campanile") shining erect.
On a warm night, it is all I need.

If you do ever take a visit to Berkeley, take a hike uphill to the landmark "Big C" at night. Sit up there, stare at the surroundings. Deer wander by sometimes too. It's wonderful.

(Upcoming posts: Eat Real Festival at Jack London Square, Improv Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Bread Pudding, and restaurant reviews)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Baked Donut Update 2

To continue my Baked Donut Project update from yesterday, I continue with the Dark Chocolate Espresso Bean Donuts and the Pumpkin Donuts.

Based off of the original VeganYumYum vanilla base, I added in dark chocolate coffee beans. I had these dark chocolate espresso beans from Trader Joe's and chopped them in my spice/coffee bean grinder.

I ended up with kind of a dark chocolate dust, dark chocolate bits, and espresso bean bits. This I blended into the batter, with some leftover. After baking, I melted the remaining dark chocolate dust (with espresso bean remnants) and used that as the frosting. Like last time, I frosted with my pastel sprinkles.

Normal vanilla-nutmeg donuts (top left). Dark ChocoCoffee Bean (bottom right).
Basic and Dark ChocoCoffee Bean frosted with sprinkles.
 As you can tell from the picture, the addition of the dark choco-coffee bean bits made the donuts crumbly. This also could have resulted from me leaving the batter in open air on the countertop as I waited for the first batch of regular donuts to bake. The batter could have dried, losing the moisture it needs to stick together during baking. Next time, gotta cover and refrigerate batter.

20 mini donuts for enjoyment ^_^
What I like to do when I bake my donuts, is leave it in the oven for 6 min, then turn the pan around and bake for another 6-7 minutes, just to ensure even browning, since my oven is tiny! It's like a third the size of my oven bake home. So, I have to make my donuts in two batches - which works because I only have one donut pan, but I could do stuff in my multiple mini cupcake pans.

Next up are the pumpkin donuts, of whose flavor is the quintessential, nearly hackneyed predilection of foodies and bloggers during the fall season. For this one, I did not use VeganYumYum's recipe, but based it off this one: Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Donuts. Again, I did not make it vegan, nor gluten-free. I used all-purpose flour, a blend of white and brown sugar, butter, and a blend of pumpkin puree, soymilk, and frozen yogurt.

Some frosted, some not.
Such good texture...*drool*
 The results were fantastic. I loved just munching on them without frosting (a general statement for all the donuts I've been making). Frosting for me is purely for decoration purposes; I'd rather eat the cake in all its normal, not overly sweet euphoria.

Puffed up in the pan, hot and toasty!
 Yup, so that pretty much sums up my donut project so far. Every time I make some, I give some to my housemates and then to my friends at UC Berkeley. I even called up my old roommates to meet them on campus and extend some yummy baked donut love.

It's always good to share (but of course save some for meself too! ;-P )

In the meantime, I've cooked a few random things and made an impromptu pumpkin pie which I'll post up soon too.

Baked Donut Update

For lack of posting, you must forgive me.

I am a college student, a senior in bioengineering at UC Berkeley, and juggling projects, clubs, assignments, and some tests here and there. I do have a legitimate excuse for not posting as much.

It's called PFAT: procrastination, Facebook, ADD, and Tastespotting (okay, so the ADD part isn't really real, but I have such issues focusing sometimes).

Zits really tells you how us college teenagers (wait, I'm no loner a teen, dangit!) work (please click the images below to read):

Another funny Zits comic about blogging:

Well, besides this detour, the purpose of this post is really an update on my semester Baked Donut Project. So far, I've made about 5 different types of donuts (1 of which failed and we will not post pictures of the lava flow it produced on my pan x_x ): basic vanilla from NorPro (the baking pan I bought), vanilla-nutmeg from VeganYumYum, dark chocolate coffee bean, failed eggless carrot cake, and pumpkin.

For now, I will only post my first two trials so that people with slow to average internet connections don't suffer from the load times.

Norpro Vanilla Cake Donut Recipe: came out flat and more cookie like
(harder and crispier than cakey). Simple frosting with pastel sprinkles.
Try 2: VeganYumYum's Vanilla-Nutmeg Donuts. Very very awesome and delicious.
The nutmeg added a very pleasant flavor, while the texture was perfect.
Even the day after and after it was still delicious.

Cakey interior texture, springy under strain (omg, viscoelastic!).
Have to admit, the sprinkles are pretty, but I don't like how much
crystalline crunch it gives to the top. I want normal sprinkles.

I modified VeganYumYum's by making it non-vegan and using unsalted real butter, milk, and eggs. Instead of apple cider vinegar, I used fresh lime/lemon juice. For the frosting on both, I mixed powdered (confectioners') sugar with a touch of milk, lemon, and vanilla. To frost, you just dip the donuts upside in it, let some drip down and wipe some off, smooth it a little, then dip the frosted top into a small flat bowl of sprinkles, making sure to roll along the sides.

Because Norpro's failed me in terms of shape and texture (flavor was good), I will not post their recipe. Above are links to VeganYumYum's recipe, so you can go there to experiment with hers. It is a great recipe base, which I modified with the aforementioned dark chocolate coffee bean, which will be posted up next soon sometime...


Note to self: try the recipes on this page

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Paula Deen Will Be Proud: Mini Donut Project Prep

I just bought three 1-lb blocks of unsalted butter from Safeway at 11 pm.

Mini Baked Donut semester-long project.

It's on.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Food Blips from Texas

A long overdue and unfortunately truncated post, this is a picture recap of some food-related things I pursued during my internship in Texas.

Sundried tomato risotto (Lundberg) with Blue Baker Olive Focaccia,
made for an intern dinner I planned.

Bourbon Bread Pudding from Bell Ranch Steakhouse,
in the Hilton Hotel.  Very very sweet and very large portion.

Pho Bo Tai - rare sliced beef pho - from Rosie's pho. This was so good.
I never realized pho could rival or exceed my mom's homemade pho.

Japan vs US cake made for the Women's FIFA Final game.

Cream cheese frosting....Japan or US. Who would win?....

Hard to celebrate after, since most of my friends were rooting for
America, so they didn't feel like eating cake. Cake was like a cinnamon
muffin texture and flavor.

Failed attempt at beer bread (made it bland this time around), and
surprisingly delectable cornmeal cookies. Easy to snack on.

Like crisper, but still light and airy, corn bread in bite sized pieces,
lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

Secret menu item at McDonalds: Strawberry Pie McFlurry.
Only $1 in Texas. So good! Not overtly sweet like DQ Blizzards.

La Bodega crab enchiladas. Decent. Their tomato sauce is like
a strange pasta sauce.

Fish burrito. Green sauce is okay. Too much creamy topping. Red
sauce also like pasta sauce. Innards do not have enough fish >:(

Potbelly's Berry Smoothie. So many seeds, so you know
it's real fruit. Good taste, good price. So cute with the
cookies on top!

My last baking in Texas. Had to make Texas "chicken in a chive biscuit"
with my Texas cookie cutter. ^_^

That pretty much recaps my food adventures in Texas. Sorry for the lack of recipes of some of the things I made. The result of these recipes I think were only all right, not anything spectacular. I was mostly proud of the presentation for my FIFA cake and my Texas-shaped biscuits. And I had to share the Pie McFlurry with you all. Everyone has to definitely try this at least once. The saltiness of the pie crust complements the sweetness of the filling and the sweet milkiness of the ice cream.

Hope you have enjoyed my (partial) itinerary of Texas!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Forgot to thaw your meat? Try...Tofu Sloppy Joe's!

Oh no. You've done it again.

After a long day at work (or school, in my case), you return home in the evening and realize that you never put out your frozen meat to thaw out. It is sitting nice and frigid in the freezer, encased in frost and icicles, hard as a rock.

Source: What's Cooking America

You don't want to try and thaw it now. Nuking in the microwave would just result in an exterior of tan-white cooked sections over a still-frozen nucleus. Darn, why does that cell have to have both a membrane and a cell wall as barriers!

...But I digress...way too far into biology.

The matter is that you have no centerpiece to your dinner tonight? What do you do?

This is where tofu comes to the rescue. Yes, all you carnivores. Tofu. Although many people cringe at the thought of tofu, prepared correctly, it can be the shining star of a dish. The great thing about tofu nowadays is that it comes it so many varieties and can keep in the refrigerator for one or two weeks without going bad. Even then, you can just freeze it for use later.

Source: Restaurant Widow

Last week, I had come home and had nothing for quick dinner options but ramen, soup in a can, or buying out. Luckily, I had a pack of firm tofu in the fridge, which would complement well with the abundance of tomatoes I had. The idea for tofu sloppy joes came up. Healthy, quick, and not too warm for these hot summer nights (which are fading soon!).

I started off by looking up recipes for tofu sloppy joes, coming across this and this, but nothing was really satisfactory to me nor to the ingredients I had at hand. So I improvised, which means the recipe below is a rough estimate of what I did. I admit, what resulted did not have the original smoky, hearty flavor of a classic beef sloppy joe, but it was very flavorful and made a great sandwich filling that was not sloppy at all. Maybe I should call these Tofu Clean Joe's, instead!

Tofu Sloppy (or Clean) Joe's (serves 4-6)
1 block (12-16oz) silken firm tofu
3-4 tomatoes, diced, some seeds and liquid innards removed
3-4 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2-3 Tbs Gochujang sauce (Korean red pepper paste, *see Notes)
1 Tbs ketchup
1 small white or yellow onion, fine diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 stalks of green onion, chopped
Sprinkling of sugar
salt and pepper

For assembly:
8-12 bread slices (Whole Food's organic multigrain is a great one)
8-12 green lettuce leaves
2-4 tomato slices per sandwich if desired

1. Drain the tofu and mash. Set aside.
2. Heat a medium skillet pan over medium heat. Add in some oil and saute the onion till yellow. Add in half of the garlic and saute until fragrant and lightly tanned. Add in the tofu and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. In a large pan, saute the garlic until lightly tanned. Throw in all the tomatoes and simmer. Add in the Worcestershire, Gochujang, and ketchup. Add in sugar, salt, and pepper until you get the taste you want. For more spicy, add more Gochujang. More tang, add more Worcestershire. More sweet, add more sugar or molasses or brown sugar.
4. Add in the tofu onion mixture. Simmer about 5-10 minutes. Adjust seasoning further as desired. Sprinkle top with chopped green onion.
5. To assemble, spread the tofu mixture 1/3-1/2 inch thick on one bread slice. Place tomato slices on top. Place two lettuce leaves on the other side of the bread and serve (let guests see the wonderful filling before they place the sandwich it all together!).

*This came out super tasty and my two housemates really liked it. Really try the Whole Food's organic multigrain small batch bread. Its texture, thickness, and taste is great for pretty much anything. I would definitely make this again when I have some extra tomatoes and silken firm tofu lying about.
* If I had more ketchup laying around and had the made the effort to cut one or two more tomatoes, it would have made more sauce, which I think would have added to the dish overall.
* If you don't have gochujang, you can probably just use some tomato paste from a can and add in pepper flakes or powder.