Pumpkin Season!!

I’m so behind on my blogging! I’ve been crazy busy with school, dance, job interviews, blah blah blah that I haven’t had time to write up any of my new recipes! But it’s quickly becoming fall, meaning I’m quickly becoming more and more obsessed with the very best part of this season: pumpkin.

Like my collection? I like pumpkin everything. Pumpkin pie, Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie Pop-Tarts, pumpkin spice Eggo waffles, and of course… pumpkin.

Everything tastes good with a little pumpkin in it. Especially desserts. Which brings me to this new recipe…

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 18 cupcakes.

Ingredients
for the cupcakes
2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash salt
6 Tbsp butter, room temperature
1/3 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 C milk
2 eggs
1 1/4 C pumpkin puree
for the frosting
8 oz light cream cheese
2 Tbsp butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2-4 C powdered sugar

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, sift flour, powder, soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Mix in vanilla, milk, and eggs. Slowly add pumpkin and mix until smooth.
4. Gradually add flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture until a batter is formed.
5. Fill pans about 2/3 full and bake for 22-28 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.
6. For the frosting, with an electric mixer combine cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup. Slowly sift in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.

These cupcakes were light and fluffy, just the way cupcakes should be. They lasted about a day in my house before my friends had eaten them all.

So I know what you’re thinking… Pumpkin comes in a huge can, but these cupcakes didn’t sure nearly that much! So what do you do? Well, you could just make tons of cupcakes, which would certainly be fine, or you could make the easiest and most delicious brownies known to mankind.

Pumpkin Brownies

Ingredients
one box of your favorite brownie mix
15oz pumpkin (I used half the 29oz can)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
chocolate chips, walnuts – optional

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×13 pan.
2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until a batter forms. Do NOT use the ingredients called for on the brownie box (eggs, oil, etc).
3. Bake 25-30 min until a knife comes out clean. Let cool, cut, and eat!

Enjoy the rest of pumpkin season!

Stress Baking part 3

I made these for my BFFL’s birthday when I could have been studying for a Chinese exam and preparing for a presentation. But it’s okay because I got an A on the exam and did great on the presentation. And they made his birthday super awesome (obviously, since my cookies make everything awesome).

I gave half to the birthday boy and took half to rehearsal to give to my dancers. Not to brag or anything, but people were fighting over them. And someone asked me for the recipe. That always makes you feel great.

There are so many different things going on in this cookie but I think all the flavors complement each other really well. I hate when you put too many things and the cookie just gets really heavy – these are actually really light. They’re sort of cake-y, not a dense cookie at all, but not so cake-y that they’re not cookies anymore.

Again, they all got eaten very quickly so I’m not sure how well they keep.

Everything Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies. Adapted from here.

Ingredients
1/2 C chopped walnuts
1 ripe banana
1 stick butter
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C applesauce
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C quick oats
~3oz chocolate chips (adjust the amount to your taste – I think less is more)

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 375. Toast walnuts for a few minutes (watch them – they burn easily!) and mash banana. Set both aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add egg, vanilla, applesauce, and banana.
3. Mix in flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir in oats, walnuts, and chocolate chips.
4. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake 12-13 minutes until set.

Yum yum yum. I want to make eat these again. You should make them and give me some.

Breakfasting Alone

This semester is going by so quickly – I can’t believe it. Only five weeks left in the semester, including this one, and then it’s finals and then my internship. I’m starting to feel like I haven’t done nearly as much cooking as I wanted to. Well, let me rephrase that. I cook everyday, but usually it’s lazy cooking. Pasta, sandwiches, whatever. I haven’t done as much fun and exciting cooking as I wanted.

I’ve been experimenting with tempeh quite a bit, actually. I like the taste and texture better than tofu, and it’s more versatile too. I have a hard time putting tofu in anything that isn’t Asian. I know how to put it with noodles or rice, but anything else and I just feel like it doesn’t belong! The other day I made fake Spam musubi with tempeh, which was pretty good (and super Asian), but you can definitely do more with it than that. For example, my bbq tempeh, or the really great sandwich I made the other day. I cut the tempeh really small and grilled it with some baby bella mushrooms, then stirred it up with some pesto I picked up at Trader Joe’s. Put that with some spinach and wheat bread, and you’ve got yourself a really great meal.

I have this bizarre obsession with vegan baked goods. I’m not a vegan, of course, but I love baking things and then saying GUESS WHAT THAT’S VEGAN! What I hate, though, is “vegan” recipes that call for “vegan butter” or “vegan cream cheese” or whatever. Taking a regular recipe and subbing in vegan versions of the ingredients doesn’t make a real vegan recipe.

This past weekend my Weekend Breakfast partner in crime was busy, so I decided to go vegan just for fun.

Blueberry Walnut Muffins 
Vegan. Original recipe here. Makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients
1 C quick or rolled oats
1 C soy milk
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla)
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal mixed with 2 tbsp water)
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp flax meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C chopped walnuts
1 1/3 C fresh or frozen blueberries

Instructions
1.
Preheat oven to 400F.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together oats, milk, agave, and almond extract.
3. While the oats are soaking, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, chia, flax, salt, and sugar.
4. Stir in the flax egg, walnuts, and oats. Last, add blueberries.
5. Spoon into muffin cups and bake 20-25 minutes.

I used frozen blueberries, which was fine I think. As soon as I stirred in the berries, the batter turned a crazy greenish color. They looked like zombie muffins but they tasted great! Not too sweet – perfect for breakfast. Although I will say you have to eat them fast. Since there’s no oil in the batter, by the second day they’re already pretty dried out. I wrapped them in a damp paper towel and zapped them in the microwave for 15 seconds, which helped, but these are definitely meant to be eaten the day of.

Leap of Faith

We all survived the typhoon, hurray! The rain wasn’t even that bad, it just got really windy. A couple of trees near the dorm fell over, but that’s all. Another one is supposed to be coming, I think, but I think it’s going to stay even farther away from Hong Kong than the last one did.

On Friday, after all the typhoon business blew over (hahaha) I went hiking on MacLehose trail, near Sai Kung. It was a perfect day for hiking: warm, but a little cloudy so the sun wasn’t beating down on us. We got caught in a bit of rain toward the end, but it was okay. The trail is over in New Territories, and has some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.

It takes a little over an hour to get to Sai Wan beach, but the trail is super easy – just like the last time I went hiking, it’s a paved sidewalk almost the whole way. Sai Wan is also beautiful, and split in two parts by a big section of rocks. It’s pretty strange – one side is very clean, but the other side has trash all over the sand. It probably washes up there from other beaches or people dumping from boats… really sad.

After the beach, we veered off the path to get to what we were really looking for: Sheung Luk Stream. It’s got a couple pools, but the one at the very top is both the cleanest and the deepest.

If you climb up to the top of the rocks, the jump is about 20 feet. It took me a bit of convincing, but eventually I mustered up the courage to do it. Oh my god, it was amazing. The water was cool and refreshing, and I got such an adrenaline rush from the jump! Afterward I just kept saying over and over again, “I can’t believe I just jumped off a cliff.” Then I did it again.

To cancel out all of that physical activity, I had plenty of desserts this weekend. On Saturday, I went for dumplings with a local friend, and then afterward we got dessert. He went for grass jelly with fruit, while I chose what translates to “ice flower.” It’s sort of like halfway between ice cream and shave ice. So light and refreshing! I got strawberry, but they also had mango, chocolate, durian, and Yakult. The place was right by school, so I will definitely be going back.

After that – FIREWORKS. October 1st is China’s National Day, and Hong Kong had the most amazing fireworks display I’ve ever seen in Victoria Harbor. Seriously, the entire sky was filled with fireworks for 20 minutes straight. I’ve never seen anything like it! They even had fireworks that formed the characters 中国 (China), but I couldn’t get a good picture. Apparently they spent something like $8,000,000HKD on the whole thing. Crazy. Also, the whole area by the water was PACKED. Seriously, the sidewalks were completely full and they even closed down the streets so we could stand there, it was insane!

Have you ever heard of rice pizza? Me neither. Today I went with a friend to a mall in Sha Tin and we had rice pizza for dinner. It’s literally just pizza but with rice instead of crust. She had been there before, but I had no idea what I was in store for. It was really good! One of the most interesting things I’ve ever eaten. And not nearly as filling or fatty as regular pizza, either. We got one with salmon and mushrooms, and one with chicken and mango. The salmon one was kind of cheesy, but I don’t think the chicken one had any cheese at all! I liked that one better. Mostly just because I love anything with mango. I couldn’t figure out how they get the rice to stay like that, though, because it’s not super sticky or crunchy or anything. Food mysteries.

After we stuffed our faces with the rice pizza, we walked around the mall until we were hungry again for dessert! We went to Honeymoon (not the same one as last time) and it was soooo delicious. I think other people had the same idea as us, because that place was hoppin. Seriously, the rest of the mall was pretty empty by that time, but Honeymoon was packed. Everyone wants dessert!

We got a “mango pancake,” which was a little dumpling-type thing with fresh mango and whipped cream inside, an icy sago soup with fresh mango, bananas, lychee jelly, and green tea ice cream (I love their green tea ice cream!!), and warm peanut/sesame tangyuan in black sesame and walnut soups. In the picture on the menu, the bowl is split diagonally with half black sesame soup and half walnut. I think they were rushing a little in the kitchen since it was so busy, so unfortunately our soup came a little bit mixed together. It still tasted great, but I really wanted to taste the walnut soup on its own! There’s always next time, I guess – makes for a great excuse to get more dessert!

I’m gonna come home super fat if I don’t slow it down with these desserts. Seriously.

Healthy Dessert?!!

I got another tattoo yesterday, my third, and I’m really sore. I wanted to bake but I wanted something easy. Easy and healthy. This whole tattoo thing means no working out for at least 2 weeks – I have to avoid sweating as much as possible. According to the extremely reliable Yahoo! Answers, I run the risk of a staph infection – bad news. So I’m trying to keep the fatty foods at a minimum.

This is by far the best brownie I have ever tasted. It’s dense, fudgy, and secretly healthy. I’ve seen many recipes similar to this one and I’ve been absolutely dying to try it out! Seriously, don’t be afraid of it. It’s delicious.

The only thing I’d do differently is put the chocolate chips on top, rather than mixing them into the batter. The walnuts were fine, but the chocolate chips all sunk to the bottom and were lost when I took the brownies out of the pan!

Black Bean Brownies
(Original can be found here)

Ingredients:
1 can black beans
3 eggs
3 tbsp vegetable oil (I used grape seed)
1/4 C cocoa powder
2/3 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping Tbsp instant coffee
1/3 C chocolate chips
1/3 C chopped walnuts (it actually could’ve used more, maybe 1/2 C)

Special Tools:
Blender or food processor

Instructions:
1.
 Preheat your oven to 350 F.
2.
Rinse and drain your black beans.
3. Put all ingredients except walnuts and chocolate chips into the blender. Blend until smooth.

4. Mix in the walnuts and chocolate chips.
5. Pour into an 8×8 baking pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.

Hostess with the Mostest

Double recipe post!! So last Saturday, I decided to invite some other interns over for dinner since my roommate was out of town and I was bored. Surprise, surprise, it ended up just me and the boys. Occupational hazard, I guess.

Anyway, my roommate’s fish was sick, and she said that if I put a couple of peas in the tank they would get better. I have NEVER heard of this before. Have any of you? It seemed so silly, but it works – her fish is swimming fine now! I healed the fish with two peas and had a huge bag left over. That was the motivation behind this recipe.

Spinach and Pea Pesto
Vegan. (adapted from Sunny Vegan)

Ingredients:
1 C peas (thawed if frozen – I microwaved mine)
1 C spinach
1/2 C chopped walnuts (raw)
1/4 C fresh basil
1/3 C olive oil
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Special Tools:
Food processor (or a good blender)

 Instructions:
1.
 Pulse walnuts in food processor until they form a fine meal.
2. Slowly add in the peas and spinach, pouring in olive oil as needed so it will process. I ended up using a bit more than 1/3 C because my blender was being mean, but the end product was slightly more oily than I wanted. I was just impatient.
3. Add basil, lemon, and garlic.

4. Mix with 1lb of your favorite pasta and serve.

So then, for dessert, I really wanted to make ice cream. I felt guilty making ice cream after a vegan entree, but I really wanted it. That makes it okay, right?

The only good fruit on sale at the market was strawberries, but I’ve already done strawberry ice cream, and I wanted to experiment! I remembered I had about a third of a bag of frozen blueberries laying around, so I thought, why not? Let me just tell you, it turned out great. If I didn’t have company, I probably would have pigged out way more than I did on this stuff.

Blueberry Ice Cream
(adapted from Cuisinart)

Ingredients:
~1 1/2 C frozen blueberries
3/4 C low fat milk
1 1/2 C heavy cream
2/3 C sugar
Pinch salt
1 1/2 – 2 tsp almond extract (or vanilla if you don’t have almond, but in my opinion the almond is what really made this amazing)

Special Tools:
Ice cream maker

Instructions:
1.
 In a small saucepan, bring blueberries to a boil over medium heat.

 2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, salt, and almond extract until the sugar is dissolved.
3. Once the blueberries are boiling, squish any berries that havent popped yet. If you really care, you can puree the whole thing and remove skin/seeds using a mesh sieve. I didn’t care and it came out fine. Up to you.
4. Mix the blueberry mush into the milk.
5. Whisk in the heavy cream.

Look at that amazing color.

6.  Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Normally I skip this step out of laziness, but you do NOT want to do that with this since the blueberries were just on the stove!
7. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to its directions.
8. Serve immediately, or transfer to a container and save it in the freezer for later.

Oh, and PS: I ordered a Canon Rebel T3. You know what that means? No more blurry pictures!! I should get it in a week and a half or so.

Zucchini Bread

I really bake too much. I think I could definitely benefit from actually cooking, not just baking. That’s something I need to work on.

I had some zucchini in my fridge that really needed to be eaten, so I decided on bread. I absolutely LOVE zucchini bread, and I’ve never baked any type of bread before. I also wanted something I could take in to work and be that intern.

The original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1/4 C oil (I used grapeseed but olive or canola would be fine)
1/4 C applesauce, preferably unsweetened
1 C brown sugar
2 large zucchini (about 2 1/2 cups grated)
~1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 self rising flour (I used regular flour plus 2 tsp baking powder instead)
1/4 C flax meal
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 C chopped walnuts

Special Tools:
8×4” loaf pan

Instructions:
1.
 Preheat your oven to 350 F.
2. Lightly spray and flour your loaf pan (or line it with wax paper, which is probably the smarter thing to do, but I didn’t have any).
3. Grate your zucchini… It’s a good arm workout, I promise. My kitchen came with this handy grater that collected everything into a little drawer, but you can always just grate it into a measuring cup.

4. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl. One at a time, mix in the oil, applesauce, sugar, vanilla, and zucchini.

5. In larger bowl, combine the flour, flax, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and nuts.

6. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture to combine. It will be very wet! Don’t worry.
7. Pour batter into your loaf pan and bake for 50-60 min, or until a skewer comes out clean.

This came out so great. Super moist and just the right amount of sweetness.

I think my fellow interns liked it too!