Saturday, October 26, 2013

Tasty Lady Finger Cookies

PART OF WHY Halloween is my favorite holiday is that it's the one occasion where dress-up and disguise are socially acceptable, and if I can sound totally scary for a minute, the one day "evil" is allowed to prevail over "good".  In preparation for Halloween parties galore, my friend Zhanna and I spent our Friday night sipping dark chocolate martinis and moonlighting as a finger-making factory.

Check these fancy phalanges out:

Care to feast on some finger foods, ghouls and boys?

Yields 30 cookies

  • 30 almond slices
  • Red food coloring
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

  1. Dispense 10 drops of red food coloring into a shallow bowl. Color your almonds by letting them submerge in the food coloring. Set aside and let dry.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. Add one egg and the yolk of another egg, and beat until smooth. Add flour to the mixture and combine on low until dough forms. Wrap this in plastic and chill in the refrigerator until firm (roughly 35 minutes).
  3. Take the dough out of the fridge and preheat your oven to 350°.
  4. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper and then form 30 balls with dough. Make each ball into a finger shape, press down on two places to form the knuckles, then score each knuckle with a knife.
  5. Brush egg white onto the fingers and position the almonds on the fingers.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

This moon phases cocktail plate is wicked cool.

Have a great Halloween, everyone!  Until we eat again...

Sutro Baths

SAN FRANCISCO is full of gems that I'm still uncovering even though I've lived in the Bay Area nearly all my life.  The Sutro Baths, a privately-owned swimming pool complex built in the late 19th century, is one of my latest discoveries.  The building housing the baths burned down in 1966 and was abandoned, but the ruins are still open to the public. As one tourist describes, they are beautiful on sunny days and "incredibly eerie on gross days. Either way it's a win win."   

At first glance it seems like a place you could easily take in for 5 minutes and be done with, but upon closer inspection it's not just a dilapidated structure by the ocean.  It's close enough to tons of hiking trails which lead to the beach or overlook the Golden Gate Bridge (making it a popular wedding photo shoot destination as well).  People visit just to read, relax, recharge, to dine seaside, to hike, to see the sunset... there is something for everyone, pretty much making it a must-visit if you're ever in the Bay Area.

Wally and I took the photos below which were my favorites from the day.

Margopher peeking out from the relics.

Left: The waves crept up on us and got all our shoes wet.  Right: Barbara enjoying the salt spray inside a cave we explored.

Saif perched himself at the top of a rock and basked in the sun, not unlike a lizard.

Left: I think they're ready for big league modeling (Calvin Klein, maybe?).  Right: Waving to my reflection in murky waters.

A grand view of the baths.  


We came across a crab skeleton that washed up onto the shore. "Saif has crabs...... legs," I said, with the maturity level of a 15-year-old boy.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Berkeley Eatathon


NDYING LOVE.   That is what I feel for the city of Berkeley.  It isn't a place as much as a way of life.  When I'm surrounded by the trees, the sea of people wearing too much tie-dye and hemp, I feel in my element.  I hit up the town last week with my buds, stopping primarily to shovel food and drink, take the occasional non-selfie and walk around campus (to burn off calories so we could resume our food fest.)

Beautiful Berkeley hills and a view of the Bay below us.  
Can you spot the Camponile tower?

Caught in the act.

The Cheese Board Collective is one of my friend's favorite pizza joints, so we knew we had to stop there on our eating spree.  The pizza of the day had fresh California corn, chile passilla, onions, mozzarella and French feta cheese, garlic olive oil, cilantro, limes.  We grabbed our pizza, some cold drinks, and sat outside on the median while live music wafted over us.  "I could eat this pizza every day," said Wally, who is not at all delusional nor exaggerating.

Much cuter than a picture of me stuffing my face.

Garlic naan & tikka masala love.


Slurping gigantic cups of boba from Purple Kow.

Photos by my friend Wally. ♥

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Macaroons & Tea

IF I WERE TO make a list of my skills, I'd put resourcefulness near the top.  Like so many other things I like to blame my parents for, my dad inspired this only-now-appreciated quality in me.  When people would come to our house they'd frequently comment on how simple and minimalist it was.  OK the actual words used were "bare" and "spartan", but I am one for a little more embellishment as it would turn out.

When I was a kid my dad would donate my toys if he thought my sister and I weren't playing with them anymore.  One second they'd be there, the next they were being driven away in the charity collection truck.  It goes without saying that I kept my toys in heavy rotation as a result, and I got to be very good at stashing objects.

Nowadays that fear of losing a precious toy has translated into hiding food not yet ready for consumption and the ability to see a recipe where some others might just see ingredients.  Case in point: my mom and I had some coconut and condensed milk left over, and almost immediately opted to make macaroons.  We adapted a recipe from Paula Deen, everyone's favorite apologetic racist/butter fiend, and the outcome was excellent.

Crowd-pleasing combo: macaroons & tea.

  • 3 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/6 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 egg whites, stiffly beaten (foam-like eggs)
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar


1. Combine coconut, almond extract, and salt.  Mix condensed milk into dry ingredients and fold in egg whites and cream of tartar.  Place teaspoon-sized scoops onto greased cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches of room between macaroons.  Bake on 350° for about 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fruits of Labor

Y PARENTS' backyard has been teeming with life this summer.  Birds, squirrels, bees, and rodents are rampant (much to my dismay), but the fruit trees have blossomed, keeping my cravings for fresh fruits and vegetables satisfied.  My parents put a ton of work into this mini oasis and it has really paid off!

For starters, we've been enjoying figs the size of my fist.  I definitely wouldn't complain if my parents wanted to turn our backyard into a fig orchard.  My dad's favorite though, are blueberries, which explains why every time I visit a new tree crops up.   We have in total 20 blueberry trees at this point, which took my migrant farm worker—I mean sister—the better part of the afternoon picking them.  I also love the pear, orange, pomegranate trees and artichoke plants, the latter producing the most stunningly vibrant purple flowers.

All pictures above were taken with my non-smartphone so the quality is less than stellar.  Not bad though, I think.

Hope your days have been filled with fruit!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Keroppi Green Tea Cookies

EMEMBER WHEN kids were crazy for Keroppi?  Neither do I.  It seems that no Sanrio character has enjoyed as much success as Hello Kitty, especially with the help of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Mariah Carey who have catapulted the feline into the limelight, eclipsing all the other adorable characters.

I personally was partial to Pochacco because I love dogs.  I was never obsessed, but then there are people like my friend Victor.  Victor loves Keroppi; he probably loves Keroppi more than he loves most people.  In fact he has a collection of plush Keroppis, each of which has its own name (obviously), and remain in their individual dust bags to ensure continued cleanliness and longevity.  I don't know when Victor's Keroppi mania started but he would murder for Keroppi if an animated frog could issue a command to kill.  If that's not love (and/or borderline psychosis), I don't know what is.

I came across a Keroppi cookie from Jen of Tiny Urban Kitchen when I was looking for something to get Victor for his birthday.  I felt like I struck gold.  I mean seriously, after seeing these cookies, are you not in love with Keroppi too?

KEROPPI GREEN TEA COOKIES (adapted from Tiny Urban Kitchen)
Makes 2 dozen cookies, prep time: 2 hours (not including time in fridge), bake time: 8 minutes.

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks softened butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tbsp milk
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp matcha powder
  • Rainbow Chip Crunch sprinkles
  • pink or red food coloring


1. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl.  In a separate bowl blend sugar and butter until smooth.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla into this bowl and mix.  Then add the flour mixture slowly into the sugar and butter mixture until everything is smooth.

2. Separate the dough into 2 sections, with one section roughly twice as large as the other section.  Mix matcha powder into the larger section until dough is consistent in color.   Roll each section out to about 1/4" thickness, place between non-stick paper, and refrigerate until firm (30 minutes to an hour).

3. How to assemble a cookie: Use a shot glass to cut Keroppi bodies out of the green dough.  Then shape the dough a little, as Keroppi's body is more oblong than circular.  I used cake piping tips to cut eyes out of the "white" dough, and again to cut out the green dough where his eyes go.  Fit the eyes into the cut out face, and stick Rainbow Chip crunch sprinkles for his pupils.  Use a toothpick to imprint Keroppi's smile. Finally with some of the white dough, use pink or red food coloring for Keroppi's noteable pink cheeks.

4. Preheat oven to 375° and bake for approximately 8 minutes.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Vodka

LCOHOL IS SO universally loved it that really does not need PR.  My friend made a quiz that calculates how much your vices stack up to be every year and I was blown away by my results.  My booze spendings were exorbitant enough to make me want to drown my sorrows that very instant (those bastards tend to float though).

After I was done letting out a string of expletives, I resolved to make some changes.  For one thing I've started taking wheatgrass shots (non-alcoholic, in case that wasn't clear).  This wake-up call to my wallet also helped me cut down to avoid getting gouged so heavily at bars, and I decided to begin making beverages at home to share with friends.

Last weekend I bought the biggest bottle of Vodka I've ever seen in my life from where else but Costco, and tried my hand at a refreshing strawberry rhubarb-infused vodka.

Better for my savings account but more detrimental to my liver.

INGREDIENTS Makes about 6-8 oz Vodka 
  • 1 1/2 cup quartered strawberries
  • 1 cup rhubarb, 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 cups Vodka

Place rhubarb, strawberry, and vodka in a jar and refrigerate. I used a vintage Vodka decanter which had the perfect opening to keep the fruit contained when straining the mixture. Take care to give the jar a shake a couple of times every day for 5 days. 

After straining the strawberry/rhubarb out, combine the vodka with whatever you'd like!  We enjoyed it with a splash of grapefruit juice, a spritz of lime juice, and muddled mint leaves.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


I never thought I would say this, but I watched an episode of the show Chopped today that moved me to tears.  For people who haven't seen the show, the competitors are challenged to make 3-course meals with a set of mystery ingredients per round.  The competition was among 4 of the most humble and gracious lunch ladies, who unlike competitors I've seen in other episodes, rooted for and had nothing but love and respect for each other.

The focus of the episode was on improving children's nutrition and eliminating hunger.  It shed a light on something I was completely unaware was a problem in the U.S.  I was incredibly saddened to learn that 1 out of 4 children in America regularly goes hungry because their families can't afford to feed them enough.  I think it's important not to trivialize the issue even though compared to the rest of the world, we are fortunate (see this chart for 2010 world hunger statistics).  What tugged at my heart strings the most was how dedicated and genuinely compassionate these women were despite having unglamorous, low-paying, and often thankless jobs.

Stop Hunger Now is one program I found that is taking measures to solve the problems Chopped addressed. They aid in the distribution of high protein, nutrient-rich meals and other necessary resources to the world's most vulnerable people.  They operate meal packaging locations in 18 cities throughout the U.S. and will be opening four new locations, including several international facilities, this year.

The message of this episode reminded me of some words which strike a chord every time I read them:

"You can't do everything to make this world a more loving and peaceful place to be, but you can definitely do something. And I think it's essential for anyone who wants to feel their life has purpose, who desires to feel fulfilled each day, to figure out what that something is going to be. It doesn't have to be loud or public; one person can make a huge difference simply by spreading love as they move throughout their days. Holding a door open matters. Letting people merge on the freeway. Smiling at a stranger, lending an ear, a shoulder, a hand. It all counts. The surest way I know to be miserable is to make life all about what is or isn't happening for you. Because it's such a small worldview. It's a population of one, and we are built for connection, not isolation.

I know many people who think they will give back once they "make it". As if tomorrow is promised, and it's okay to think of today as a rehearsal or a place-holder leading to some fruitful outcome in the future. Today counts. Today is the only day you know for sure you've got. You can make a difference today, all day long. Life may unfold exactly as we'd like (although it rarely does!), or it may be full of twists and turns that throw your plan right on its head. Waiting to make a difference is a way of letting ourselves off the hook.

For people who've figured out what their purpose is, managing energy becomes the thing. You cannot be all things to all people, and you will never please everyone. If you spread yourself too thin, you won't get anything done well. If you're a giver by nature, saying no is a tough pill to swallow. Sometimes you have to say no to how you're being treated, because taking care of your heart and protecting your ability to shine really must come first. Otherwise what do you have to share, and where do you expect the fire to come from to get things done? To show up for the other people in your life, and to be of service? You have to figure out what feeds your soul, what lights you up from the inside, and then you really have to honor that and stoke that flame. Because that's your purpose, that's your gift, and you're meant to share it."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Orchid Re-Bloom

UNTIL THIS SPRING, I didn't think my orchids had a chance of reblooming.  In one last ditch effort, I pruned them, re-positioned them to a west-facing window, and was extra vigilant when watering them. I've definitely been guilty of giving mine too much, so this time around I watered very sparingly. (It seemed like almost less water than fake flowers require). ;)

My apartment mate Dan got the brilliant idea to set up his tripod and capture a time lapse of the bloom. See the magic for yourself:

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Roaming Among Redwoods

Last weekend we ventured out to Golden Gate Park on a mission.  It was a sunny yet breezy day in San Francisco, as it often is, and so we set out with our cameras and a thirst for adventure.  These were the results of our journey.

Here we tried to recreate a page out of an Urban Outfitters catalog. The key is to look dissatisfied with life.

Pretending to know what I'm talking about.

Meet Pebbles and his boy.

Gazing up at a tangle of branches.

Doing tree pose with the trees.

Pictures above were taken by my friend Wally. 

Isn't he talented? :)


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Banana Caramel Cupcakes

THEY SAY there's a reason people from your past don't make it to your future.  I try not to dwell on the reason when it's one that causes pain.  For the past few months I've been working hard not to let the darkness define me, instead striving to become a source of light.  I have been trying to actively focus on the current moment and the positives because there is so much to smile about.

Up until recently, the personal struggles I've been grappling with have felt inescapable, consuming most of my thoughts and creeping into my subconscious.  You'd think that if you let go of something toxic that it'd be easy to move on, but then grief always catches me off guard.  

Even though there are still difficult days where I feel like I'm relapsing, most days I feel like I am making progress because I still gained a lot when I lost.  Over time, the clarity that truth provides has given me a renewed sense of self-worth and optimism.  I feel good about not taking the easy route that troubled people often do, ignoring logic and reasoning for the temporary and illusionary psychological comfort of the status quo.

In the time spent away from blogging I took greater interest in many activities that slowly helped bring me back to feeling like me.  Yoga has been and remains one of the most influential.  It teaches appreciation for the journey rather than the destination; it dissolves the ego and allows us to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us if only we took the time to look for it.

My months have been filled with lots of loyal friends, new faces, and countless fun activities: live concerts, comedy shows, parties and gatherings, poetry readings, basketball games, photography, and most recently a return to the kitchen.  I feel ready to re-immerse myself again after taking some time out to reflect and pursue other interests.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 pureed bananas
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • banana chips for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients (pureed bananas, sour cream, rum and vanilla extract) in another.
  3. Beat butter until smooth and add sugars slowly until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and mix after each addition. Then alternatively add dry ingredients and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry mixture. Do not overbeat!
  4. Fill mini cupcake pan until ¾ full. Pop into oven to bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 6 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 16 oz. cream cheese at room temperature


  1. Mix sugar and water in a saucepan, cooking on medium high heat until sugar dissolves. Then raise heat and let the mixture boil. Do not stir. 
  2. When the sugar is a deep amber (took approximately 20 minutes for me), remove immediately and stir in butter sour cream, vanilla extract, rum, and salt. Let cool.
  3. In your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it's smooth and beat in the caramel.
  4. Place in refrigerator until firm enough to pipe. Overnight is a good choice, or freezer if you want to expedite the process.
  5. Frost and garnish with banana chips. Eat immediately! :)

Banana chip on top.