An Amuse-Bouche

You’ve seen it on Instagram, you’ve seen it on Buzzfeed, you’ve seen it all over the Internet – trendy, stylish foods that toe the line between disgusting and impressively creative. Yet we can’t get enough! We line up for hours to try rainbow bagels and cookie dough served in ice cream cones. We “do it for the ‘gram.” We are foodies.

I am one of these foodies. I watch Food Network, I follow more food Instagram profiles than anything else. I’ve made lists of restaurants to try. I can name exotic foods and spices, and I yell at Chopped contestants like I’m watching football.

But I also have a secret… I never actually learned how to cook.

I was a picky eater as a child. No one in my family ever seemed to be particularly excited about food. Growing up, I saw cooking as more of a chore than a hobby. Once I got into food, I found myself wanting to make the dishes I saw on Pinterest or practice the skills I saw on TV. In 2015, I started this blog on another platform. Now I’m continuing that blog here as of 2018.

The point of this blog is to document both my pre-med journey and my culinary exploration and share it with my readers. I hope to share the lessons I’ve learned, as well as my successes and many failures. I feel learning to cook is not only a great hobby, but a way to encourage a healthy lifestyle while I pursue my dream of being a physician.

“…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”  -Julia Child

Week 6 Technical: Prinsesstårta

Week 6 focused on European cakes, so Mary Berry chose a Swedish cake for the technical challenge. It is a cake with sponge, pastry cream, and whipped cream in a dome that is then covered in marzipan (usually green in color). It got the nickname “princess cake” because three Swedish princess were said to be fond of the cake.

Most of the components are made from scratch, including the cake, jam, and the marzipan. I was a little worried about making the marzipan smooth on the outside.

Prinsesstårta

The Bake

  1. The Custard

I had two worries. The eggs I got at the store had dark yolks, which would throw off the color. Second, my vanilla beans have gotten hard on the outside so I was afraid I’d miss pieces when I pulled them from the milk.

2. The Jam

There was no mention of straining out the seeds. I overboiled the jam for a moment and I didn’t have “jam sugar”. My jam was quite loose…

3. The Cake

After the cake got into the oven I took it out to cool. The top collapsed. Also how does anyone get three layers out of these tiny cakes?!

4. The Marzipan

Oh gosh… I had pretty slivered almonds but not enough so I ended up using regular almonds. I hated the taste of this and the color was all wrong.

5. Assembly & Decor

I think this is the first time I’ve ever realized I didn’t have anything to present. Mistake after mistake after mistake. I can cope with a little ugly, but as I started the bottom layer, I realized my custard wasn’t set. It didn’t trap the jam and everything flooded out.

Final Thoughts

This was more like a Nailed It challenge than a GBBO challenge… The cake was a disaster. The marzipan was the wronng color and tasted like dirt. The cake fell apart and tasted funny. I was so proud of my rose until I saw Mary Berry’s delicate thin fondant rose. The custard didn’t set, but it tasted okay with the jam. We threw this in the trash and I stabbed the marzipan with a butter knife.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t making this for any princesses..

This Week in the Kitchen

This week has been a week of “procrasti-baking”. I’m applying to medical school and I’ve been avoiding the essays like the plague. I’ve been getting my house in order – cleaning, organizing, and cooking. Mess and clutter adds to my stress, but I know it’s also a bit of a way to ignore my other work.

Recipes/Experiments

Mermaid Mimosa: My first sort-of cocktail. I really need to get a cocktail making kit so I know how much I’m actually putting in. Very blue, not bad tasting.

Pepper Lunch: A trend from TikTok. It seems to be a popular take-out lunch from a restaurant (possibly in Japan?) Needed more pepper.

Foodie Fails

I watched a TikTok video where someone took a mostly empty jar of Nutella, filled it with heavy cream, shook it, and froze it to make Nutella ice cream. Did not work for me. Maybe I should have melted the Nutella?

Around the World

Ramen “Bokumbap”: Bokumbap is fried rice. This recipe added Shin ramen (a Korean brand). Super tasty and easy to make!

Korean Corn Cheese: a cheesy corn dip that’s a popular bar food in Korea. I even got to use my new countertop oven.

Foodie Media

Currently watching: MasterChef (I’m on Season 11)

Currently Reading: Brew

I’m into the recipe part of this book. Hoping to try out some techniques and recipes soon.

Restaurants Tried

The Lola: Sunday brunch had a line out the door! Love their birthday celebration (Hint: it involves fireworks)

Chicken & Waffles

Steve’s Espresso: an eclectic coffee shop full of artsy types. They seem to be purists about certain coffees. I enjoyed iced French press coffee.

Recipe Notebook 2.0

I filled another notebook. There are two others floating around my house, but I thought I’d share the best and worst of the recipes scribbled among the to-do lists and wedding plans. Some of these may have been shared in m

Please note some recipes aren’t online so I can only share where I found them!

Recipes to Highlight:

Cardamom Orange Sugar Cookies: I made these for a Christmas cookie box and they nearly rivaled my famous ginger molasses cookies.

Aquafaba Meringues from NYT Cooking: You would never guess these are vegan.

Two Vinegar Chicken from NYT Cooking: Served over polenta, this vinegary chicken has a bold, acidic flavor.

BBQ Chicken Legs: These chicken drums were super easy to cook in a slow cooker with a sweet and tangy bourbon barbeque sauce.

Tomato Soup Cake: I know it sounds weird but it doesn’t taste like tomato at all. I found this because of a TikTok and it did not disappoint.

Spicy Asparagus: This amazing Korean woman shares recipes from her Korean home-cooking. Her whole channel is amazing.

Costco Copycat Muffins: These use a package of jello pudding and boxed cake mix to make super moist and rich muffins (honestly they’re really like small cakes). They almost didn’t make it to the potluck.

Foodie Fails:

Churro Lava Cakes: Not sure if this was an issue with the recipe or just a simple failure of execution. I made four of these cakes for the Great British Bake Through. There was definitely no lava in these lava cakes.

Mint Julep Part One: Another Great British Bake Through challenge, only this time I failed this one and chose a different recipe. The crust was smooshy and awful and the filling never set. Never make this pie.

Pane di Pasqua: Though it made a pretty Easter centerpiece, I don’t think I kneaded it enough, which made the dough thick. Despite baking it longer than suggested it was still raw inside.

There is another notebook in my kitchen right now mixed with all sorts of things. Let’s see how long it takes before I fill it.

This Week in the Kitchen

I haven’t been as active in the kitchen lately. Between work and my school applications I’ve been unmotivated. The physician I work for will be gone for most of the month of July. I’m hoping that will help restore my routine. It’s time to start meal prepping again.

Recipes/Experiments

Sweet & Salty Rice Krispies: Rice krispies with crumbled potato chips. Next time I think I need a sturdier chip.

Copycat Costco Muffins: Tweaking a box of cake mix and adding jello was supposed to make muffins similar to the ones from Costco. They weren’t really like Costco’s but they were super moist and delicious.

Foodie Fails

The cold brew I tried to make using milk instead of water actually turned to be okay when I poured it into black cofffee. I’m excited to see what my coffee book can teach me about making better cold brew at home

Slutty Brownies: These 6 layer slutty brownies from TikTok were supposed to be made with cookie butter but I used peanut butter instead. Apparently peanut butter has a boiling point? They boiled over and made a mess. The brownies were edible and people like them. Maybe next time I’ll switch the PB and nutella layers.

Around the World

Beef & Broccoli: I made my first recipe from Jet Tila’s cookbook “101 Asian Dishes to Make Before You Die”. With all these trips to the Asian markets have stocked my pantry with everything I need.

Foodie Media

Currently watching: MasterChef (I’m on Season 7)

Currently Reading: Brew

I’m almost done reading this! Currently debating on whether I should buy some different coffee makers like a Moka pot and Chemex.

Restaurants Tried

Kick Ass Coffee of Hawaii – I finally tried one of their signature lattes.

Week 6 Signature: Baba au Rhum

We are officially halfway! Week 6 is themed after European cakes, which puts me at a bit of a disadvantage as an American. I’m not familiar with yeast-leavened cakes from Europe. Fortunately examples were provided in the episode, which made research a little easier. The cakes should at least be inspired by a traditional European cake and must be leavened with yeast. Working with yeast doesn’t bother me, but I’m not sure how these should taste. This feels more like a technical challenge than a signature.

The Plan

I had to do some research to figure out what types of European cakes were leavened with yeast. It was between an Austrian kugelhopf and a baba au rhum. A rum baba/baba au rhum is soaked in syrup made with rum. Ultimately I decided on a baba au rhum, as it is traditionally set on fire! I thought it would be fun to try flambee for a little pizzazz. I used Melissa Clark’s recipe from NY Times Cooking. I especially liked that she switched traditional raisins for chocolate.

The Bake

  1. The Dough

It is so strange to me to start a cake with yeast. It goes against my muscle memory. I got the yeast to foam nicely. After adding in the other ingredients, I ended up with a wet dough.

2. The Rise

A yeasted dough means proofing. The half of the dough went into a bundt pan, followed by the chocolate, then the rest of the dough. I usually proof in my oven, where I can be sure it won’t be disturbed.

3. The Bake

I greased the pan like crazy. If the pan got caught anywhere I was afraid it wouldn’t rise. I also didn’t want trouble pulling it out of the pan. Messy exterior means messy presentation.

I baked it until I could see a nice rise and a golden brown bottom. It looked and smelled like bread!

4. The Syrup

I boiled cinnamon sticks with orange, dark rum, sugar, etc. The instructions said to pour the rum syrup over the cake several times until there was a little syrup left. This involved pouring it over the cake on a cake rack over a sheet pan. Then I had to move the cake, pour the syrup back into a bowl, and repeat. I kept going, probably pouring over about 6 times. I was worried the cake would get soggy.

I chickened out on the fire. Sorry!

Final Result

The best aspect of this cake was the rise. I don’t think it was too densely textured. Unfortunately like the tiramisu, I failed the soak the cake enough. However, where the rum was I could definitely taste a difference in the cake. That syrup was sweet and delicious. Also, the tunnel of chocolate sort of failed. It was thin and lopsided, so I could barely taste any chocolate.

In regard to presentation it was a little plain. I’m not quite sure how to dress up this cake. It doesn’t seem like it would be tasty with frosting. Maybe a little chocolate work would have dressed it up and brought out the rest of the chocolate.

What do you think? Would I get to stay another week? Let me know in the comments!

Week 5 Showstopper: 3-Tiered Pies

In true showstopper fashion, the final challenge was to build a three-tiered self-supporting structure of three pies all with a central theme. Luis picked the four seasons. Nancy made three pies with some variation of apple. Some bakers chose watercrust pastry for savory pies and then stacked them all on top of each other. Some used a type of display which depended on the pie for structure.

I’ve decided to skip the “tiered” aspect. Instead, I’ll be baking three pie under a common theme. This is a lot of food and I don’t want to waste it by making all three pies at once. I doubt my small family would be able to eat enough to make it worth it.

The Plan

The first job is to pick the theme and number of pies. I’m sticking with three. That’s already SO many pies!! As for the theme, I tried to come up with options but I kept going back to the same idea: boozy pies. I wanted to bake pies inspired by cocktails. My goal is to utilize different alcohols, so that I avoid a one-note underlying flavor in these pies.

Pie #1: Mint Julep

The mint julep is a classic cocktail made of bourbon and mint simple syrup. This pie uses a chocolate wafer crust, a mint julep filling, and whipped cream.

1. Crust

I know I cheated because I used Famous Chocolate Wafers for the crust. Everyone knows I can bake cookies already.

2. The Custard

This was my first time making a custard with gelatin. I see the bakers on GBBBO use gelatin but I was a bit nervous. I had access to the powder rather than gelatin sheets. Making this made me so nervous. Sticking my measuring cup in boiling water.

3. Whipped Cream

I made whipped cream with mint simple syrup a few days ahead. Unfortunately by the time I made the pie it tasted rotten! Tub of Cool Whip to the rescue!

4. Bake

This was a quick bake with all of the filling ingredients followed by a long freeze.

5. Final Thoughts

This tasted like a grasshopper pie, so it tasted good. I caught some of the bourbon in some of the bites, but overall it didn’t remind me of a mint julep. However, the filling is like a cross between a popsicle and ice cream. I really enjoyed the texture.

Pie #2: Rum Old-Fashioned

Featuring rum and bitters (spirits infused with fruit, spices, leaves, bark, roots, and herbs), this pie is a play on a lattice peach pie.

  1. The Crust

I’ve made pie crust a million times at this point. It came together nicely with a good moisture level. Chilled it as a disc in saran wrap. Rolled it out, pricked the base with a fork, then chilled again.

2. The Peaches

I actually bought fresh peaches, sliced them, and then froze them. Probably not the best idea because they wouldn’t thaw. They got a little ugly after defrosting but they were still good.

3. The Filling

I was fiddling with the pie crust instead of paying attention to my pan. I combined the juice and alcohol from the macerated peaches with cornstarch. It thickened while I wasn’t paying attention and nearly stuck to the pan and burned.

4. The Assembly

I had never thought of braiding the lattice before! I gave it a shot and it looked nice. I’ll have to think the rest of the lattice through next time.

5. The Bake

The edges of the crust caught a little bit. I put the crust shields on a little too late. The inside seemed baked, but it looked like some of it congealed more (possibly because I overcooked the filling?).

Final Thoughts

The crust held together and did not get soggy. When you cut into the pie the filling stayed intact. You could definitely taste the booze, but I may adjust the bitters if I ever make this again.

Pie #3: Margarita Pie

Margaritas (not the frozen kind) are made with lime, tequila, and an orange liquer called triple sec. I switched out triple sec for Cointreau in this baked then chilled pie.

  1. The Crust

I’ll admit I cheated a bit. I did not want to bake my own graham crackers for this crust. This crust is made of crushed graham cracker crumbs with salt and butter, then baked for a short time before filled and baked again.

2. The Filling

There’s is soooo much lime juice in this. I now need to buy a juicer to prevent my poor husband from struggling against them ever again.

3. Bake & Chill

I use a pizza stone for my pies (as per the pie queen herself- Erin McDowell). It helps evenly distribute heat.

4. The Decorations

I piped whipped cream onto the cooled custard then topped with salted limes – like a margarita!

5. Final Thoughts

So much lime! You get hit with lime then the bitter bite of tequila. It was set nicely and didn’t slop over or leak when sliced. It was also quite pretty. I only worried that perhaps I didn’t mix it enough because I could see swirls of egg yolk in places.

The End Result

I think i would have been disqualified after this round. Pre-made biscuits and a tub of Cool-Whip weren’t exactly in the rules… However, this challenge has been the bottleneck for this whole bake-through. I’m just glad it’s over!

This Week in the Kitchen

A lot of my inspiration, cooking, and food lately has been focused on Asia. For those of you who don’t know me I lived in China for a year. My brother currently lives in Korea. My hobbies include listening to kpop and watching anime and other Asian dramas. I started experiencing Asian food modeling off the media I was consuming (snacks from T.V shows, recipes from celebrity’s favorites). Lately I’ve been visiting Asian markets and it has been supplying ingredients and new things to try.

Recipes/Experiments

Korean Soy-Sauce Eggs: These delicious soft-boiled eggs were marinated in several aromatics. Opening the lid when they were done marinating just smelled amazing. I took out the eggs and then marinated chicken in it!

I wanted to brag about the memorial day dinner I made. I made a Korean-inspired “cook out”. We grilled up some pre-marinated meat from H-mart (bulgogi and pork belly), made some Japanese mayo-based sauces, and made them into burgers. This was served with Kimchi potato salad from NY Times and blanched asparagus with a gochujang sauce.

I learned a new burger trick! Take store-bought burger buns, brush with egg white, sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Put into the oven at 375 for 5-8 minutes.

Foodie Fails

I saw someone on TikTok make their cold brew with milk. She had coffee pouches similar to a tea bag and a large mason jar. I tried using my standard cold brew maker from Amazon.

Around the World

The trips to Asian grocery stores continue! Last week I got an intense haul from H-Mart (a Korean market chain). Examples of snacks eaten include corn ice cream (it even looked like a little corn!), Takoyaki (fried octopus ball) puffs, and instant beef bone soup.

Foodie Media

Currently watching: MasterChef (I’m on Season 6)

Currently Reading: Brew

Restaurants Tried

Palette Collective Coffee Shop (Tempe)

This Week in the Kitchen

TikTok really has been showing me all these fun recipes and tricks. I feel like half of the things I’ve made in the kitchen lately have been from some TikTok.

Recipes/Experiments

Honeycomb Crispies: Switching out Honeycomb seemed like a delicious idea but adding the honey changed the texture of the

Lebanese Hummus: Another TikTok recipe. Absolutely amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had hummus that tasted this good. I thought adding water would make it runny but it was a perfect smooth, thick texture. I am never buying Sabra hummus again.

Foodie Fails

I tried to make an omelette (fritatta?) from of a TikTok video. It used enoki mushrooms, which I love, but mine were thicker and bigger so the texture didn’t look as nice. Then I forgot to use my non-stick pan and ended up with scrambled eggs instead…

Around the World

I tried boba milk tea from a can. The milk tea wasn’t bad but the boba were awful!

Yuanyang Tea: This is a Hong Kong style beverage made from black tea and coffee. I need to figure out the right balance.

Foodie Media

Currently Watching: Best Baker in America

Currently Reading: Brew. This is going to turn me into SUCH a coffee snob I swear.

Restaurants Tried

I drove out to H-Mart in Mesa. Husband and I ate lunch at the food court. I had black bean noodles and he ordered Korean fried chicken from Left Wing.

Would you guys like me to write a guide to their Food Court?

This Week in the Kitchen

Welcome to a new series where I document my less exciting progress in the kitchen. I don’t always have time for my Great British Bake Off challenges, or fancier recipes to show off. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying new foods, playing around with new recipes, or going to restaurants around the Valley.

Recipes/Experiments

I fried eggs in cream based off of a suggestion from Food52. Delicious!

Mix peanut butter, plain yogurt (I use Siggis), and a little bit of honey. Dip apples in it for a delicious snack.

I made a Food Network recipe for flank steak with cabbage and bacon. I think this is the best steak I’ve made yet.

Foodie Fails

I tried to make cookie brittle from a cookbook called Genius Desserts (by Food52). It seemed simple until I forgot to add all of the flour and poured it into the pan… and realized after it started baking. I was so frustrated I just threw it away and didn’t try to remake it.

Around the World

I’ve been venturing to different Asian grocery stores in my community. I went to one near my house that I’d never seen before and picked up some goodies.

First I tried, Filipino spaghetti made from a package of sauce.

I also bought frozen ddeukboki, a Korean bar food/street food dish made with rice cakes, fish cakes, and a spicy sauce.

I also bought my first container of Japanese mayo, which I used in a “ramen hack” I saw on TikTok.

Foodie Media

Currently watching: Chopped Sweets.

Currently Reading: Brew

Restaurants Tried

Mochi Fresh (Tempe)

Bourbon Steak (Scottsdale) – Review coming soon!

My Recipe Notebook

As many of you may have assumed from my post on Mise En Place and learning to cook, I write down all of my recipes before I try them. I remember things best when I write them down. There are probably four or five notebooks around my house with various scribbles. Though they are primarily used for recipes I may have grocery lists, to-do lists, and other lists in them as well. Recently I filled one entire notebook. I thought it would be nice to reminisce on some memories and mention some of the best recipes.

This notebook seems to have started out for To-Do lists. I can tell it started in 2018 based on the Medical school list and the calculations I did for my taxes. It goes all the way through the pandemic, including my wedding, and into early 2021. The first few recipes don’t have titles. Based on the instructions I can tell one was a strawberry shortcake recipe. I can also see that this is where I started to venture out into global cuisines. There are recipes for curries, bubble & squeak, and other recipes with origins from outside of the U.S.

Please note some recipes aren’t online so I can only share where I found them!

Recipes to Highlight:

Peach Tart: the almond extract in this is a perfect note with the sweet, sweet peaches. The crust was crumbly and light. My family devoured it.

Peanut Butter Miso Cookies: The miso in this NY Times recipe adds an umami to a class peanut butter cookie. The contrast of this umami with the demerara sugar and sweet PB was heavenly.

Asparagus Orzo with Breadcrumbs: I think I ate 3 servings of this NY Times recipe. I couldn’t stop eating it! The tang of the lemon and the crunch of the breadcrumbs made this pasta dish out of this world.

Ribs with Balsamic BBQ Sauce: Cook your ribs however you want but make sure you use this rich, savory barbeque sauce from NY Times.

Baked Ziti: Simple, easy, and delicious. Hearty enough to feed hungry men.

Pureed Sweet Potatoes in Yogurt: Game changer. Super filling, healthy, and delicious.

Filipino Spaghetti: I heard this was made with something called “banana ketchup”. I found a pre-made sauce that made the sauce easy. Love the sweetness.

Bacon Kimchi Udon: If I hadn’t oversoaked the noodles it would have been absolutely perfect. Smoky, creamy, and slightly tart from the kimchi.

Foodie Fails:

Pão de queijo: I bought cassava flour, which may have been the mistake. They ended up dense and gummy, not light and fluffy.

Cold Cream of Mint & Pea Soup: My very first recipe from Jacque Pepin’s cookbook exploded out of my food processor! What a mess!

Biscuits: My husband’s family loves biscuits and gravy. I can make gravy just fine but I’ve failed biscuit recipe after biscuit recipe.

There are some recipes here I’m definitely going to have to re-visit. Some of the other notebooks are reaching their last few pages. Stay tuned!