Thursday, January 9, 2014

feeding my new obsession/winter break adventures: polymer clay

Three weeks of break from college doesn't sound like a lot, especially when many colleges are closed for twice as long. Between recuperating from semester finals, busy with holiday shenanigans, and visiting old friends and teachers, hour-for-hour, I spend most of my time planted on the living room rug, eyes glazed over in front of the very device I am typing this blog post on.

Even my inner sloth couldn't bear it anymore. This is what led me to pull out the tray of polymer clays that had been collecting dust on our basement shelf for years.  They were a Christmas present from my high school days, at the height of my obsession with all things "kawaii", during which I was inspired to make mini clay figurines. At nearly 20, I have yet to outgrow that phase- I bought a panda trash can for my dorm, for goodness sake - and lately I've rediscovered polymer clay-ing as a fun and creative outlet to help pass time.

I recently purchased some materials to feed my addiction. Let the crappy phone pictures ensue.

Translucent liquid sculpey is an incredibly versatile tool that can be used by itself, as a glue, and as an image transfer medium. I purchased it here.

I also purchased gold and silver headpins to turn creations into charms. The best deal I found was on Amazon from "RockinBeads", who was selling packs of 500 headpins for less than $10. The gold ones (found here) arrived in perfect condition, but for some reason, at least 50 of the silver headpins (found here) were warped to a certain degree. Hmmph. Not happy about that. But worst comes to worst, I will cut the warped areas with pliers and make the best of it.

I don't have glaze yet because I am waiting for the prices of this one, hailed by polymer clay artists across the great interwebs as the ~*holy grail*~ of glazes, to drop.

I'll be moving back to school very soon, and I'm looking forward to finally declaring my major(s)/minor(s). After I figure them out first. Ha. In the meantime, the clay-ing continues...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

magical treacle pudding

Treacle pudding might sound familiar to those whose childhood consisted of all things Harry Potter. I remember waking up very, very early one Christmas and finding the newest Harry Potter Gameboy game under the tree, which I subsequently played and replayed until the sun rose and everyone woke up. Those were the days.

This treacle pudding recipe makes a sponge-y, lightly-sweet, citrus-y cake. I substituted molasses in place of golden syrup because it was what I had at home, but the flavor didn't match well, so I would definitely search for golden syrup in the grocery store the next time I make this. Still, I absolutely adore the subtle citrus and the cake's light texture, and I can imagine serving this with fresh fruit in the summer.

treacle pudding
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup golden syrup
3 tbs white granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
5 tbs butter, room temperature
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp lemon zest
3 tsp lemon juice
a little bit of magic

Yields a "small" bowl's worth, 6 small slices

Cream the butter, sugar, 2 tbs molasses, eggs, and lemon zest/juice. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt. Alternate adding this dry mixture and 1/2 cup milk into the first mixture.

To start the steaming process, grease the bowl; then, pour the 1/3 cup golden syrup in the bottom before pouring in the batter. Wrap the bowl in aluminum foil. Place some form of a trivet (I used a cooling rack) into the pot and add water until the water level reaches to about half the bowl. Bring water to a boil.  Steam for ~1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve with more golden syrup.

My family couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that although this is called "treacle pudding", it's absolutely not the creamy pudding that comes in little plastic containers. Some internet sleuthing revealed that "pudding" is a general British term for dessert. However, there are savory puddings, too - like Yorkshire pudding. Yum.

Have a magical holiday!

Friday, August 30, 2013

ramen burger

The moment my sister informed me about the magical creation known as the ramen burger, I was in food love. The concept of fusing ramen, burgers, and asian flavors simply resonated with my collegiette status. There are several reasons why the ramen burger encompasses the essence of college-style DIY cuisine:
1. Ramen.
2. Like ramen, burgers are the epitome of cheap, delicious convenience food.
3. The special soy sauce is reminiscent of Asian take-out, another quintessential college meal.
The concept of combining ramen and burgers into this $8 gourmet lovechild is not only genius but also just plain, friggen ballsy.

Ramen Burger
1 package of dried ramen
1 egg
ground beef or pork (I used pork)
cooking oil
soy sauce
optional: cheese, condiments, other seasonings

Yields 1

The noodle "bun" molds

Frying the buns so they hold their shape

Cue the singing angels: it's the finished ramen burger. And I only burned myself once.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

blueberry lemon cheesecake (part 1)

I recently spent a morning picking blueberries at Parlee Farms with my sister, who was visiting from NYC. An hour later, we happily trekked home with six pounds of blueberries in tow. I thought that was a lot...but apparently, I have a great aunt down in New Jersey who picks thirty pounds every summer. I guess blueberry-lovin' runs in the family.

I made these cheesecake "bites" for a farewell picnic with the high school homies before we went our separate ways for schools, jobs. These mini cheesecakes, with plenty of lemon and Parlee blueberries, were for me like a last, fleeting taste of summer. The combination of lemon zest and juice gave the cheesecake a pronounced citrus kick, so I thought the graham cracker crumbs and touch of blueberry could help mellow it, if ever so slightly. It was also a great excuse to try out the silicone ice tray, which held up just fine but was a serious pain to wash - oh well.

Fresh out of the oven
Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake

12 tsps Graham cracker crumbs
1 Tbs butter, melted
1 Tbs sugar

8 oz./1 package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
4 Tbs white granulated sugar
Blueberries, fresh or frozen
Optional: splash of vanilla extract

Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter until it takes on a crumbly consistency. Pour into mold and press down into a crust. Bake at 325 F for 5-10 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar till smooth. Crush the blueberries slightly and mix into the batter; pour onto baked crust. Bake at 325 F for 30-35 minutes, or until only the center still jiggles. Let it cool/set in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

I tried making these three kinds of ways. The first followed the traditional cheesecake: graham cracker crust, cheesecake with blueberry mixed in. The second was cheesecake mixed with graham cracker crumbs, with a fresh blueberry on top. The third was simply the lemon cheesecake. Ultimately I learned that a crust really helps the cheesecake come out of the mold in one piece...especially when you find yourself short on time and attempt to pry the still-warm cheesecakes out, only to have them fall apart into a sad mushy mess. Oops. 

Have a great year, everyone! :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

fortune cookies, hearts

I recently purchased two silicone molds - one in the shape of fortune cookies and another in the shape of hearts. Being food grade silicone, they can sustain temperatures from below freezing up to 230 C (446 F), meaning that they are quite versatile.

I can already imagine using these trays to experiment with different techniques, from making ice to candy to cookies. I'm curious as to how well they will hold up and whether they are effective at fulfilling all their potential/advertised purposes.  I have never worked with silicone molds before, much less kitchenware from a company that focuses its production on fast fashion! We'll see. In the meantime, look out for some interestingly-shaped food.

Who knew that Forever21 made kitchenware?
Of course, any ideas on how to use these molds are very much welcome.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

chinese pickles

Every summer, my father makes these cold, crispy, and pungent pickles that pair so well with hot rice. I call them "chinese pickles" because there's really no name for them, and their ingredients lend traditional Chinese flavors. Something I really admire about my father as a cook is that he manages to produce delicious dishes without ever following recipes; he simply goes about liberally, adding and tasting. These pickles are made just like that. A swish of soy sauce and vinegar here, a sprinkling of five-spice powder and garlic there - it's all up to the maker's tastebuds. Mix the cucumbers every once a while to not only ensure that all cucumbers get soaked in the solution, but also to prevent the bottom ones from becoming too saturated and sour.

Cucumbers, all chopped up.
Soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, 5-spice powder, garlic.
After a day of mixing and soaking...and eating!
This post is dedicated to my father in acknowledgement of all the wonderful things he has taught me and provided me, which include an insatiable appetite and borderline-obsession with food.

To all the papas out there: Happy father's day! :) *

*In Taiwan, Father's Day is August 8 because 8/8 is pronounced "ba ba" in Chinese, which is coincidentally the same sound as "father". Being Taiwanese, we always celebrate Father's Day on 8/8!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

simple blackberry cobbler

This blackberry cobbler is incredibly quick and easy to make - all it takes is 5 ingredients! The blackberries can be easily substituted by other fruit like apples or blueberries. I am already envisioning an apple cinnamon cobbler for the fall. We have a blackberry bush in our backyard that, in the past few years, has grown into a tangled mass of prickly branches with . Unfortunately, we don't make any effort to tame it or fertilize it, so the bush has become more a nuisance and a mosquito hideout, and the blackberries it produces are shrunken and sour. Last year, my father actually put on a nylon moonsuit suit (it's one of those things chemical engineers just have) in an attempt to brave the thorns and tackle the Blackberry Beast. This hot and humid summer has revived it - it's back and as prickly as ever. We should really take better care of it, though. With some TLC, blackberries are quite a delicious and healthy fruit, wouldn't you agree?

Blackberry Cobbler

1 cup self-rising flour (or substitute 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt)
1 cup soymilk or milk
1/2 cup (but keep 1 Tbs for the end) white granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
~2 cups (or 12oz) fresh blackberries
Optional: 1 tsp of vanilla extract, lemon zest, orange zest or orange juice

Yields 8-12 servings. 

Rinse the blackberries and dry them with a paper towel. In a bowl, gently mix the flour, sugar, milk, and melted butter. Pour mixture into greased pan. Top the mixture with the blackberries and an extra sprinkling of sugar (1 Tbs). Bake at 350 F for 55-60 minutes, until the cobbler is golden and boiling.

Not yet baked