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Home for Christmas

24 Dec

Hi all!

It’s been a busy fall quarter (September – December) for me at college. Being a Resident Adviser for 60 freshmen has been a fun experience. Balancing my job, school work, family, friends, and spiritual commitments has been a learning experience (to say it lightly). But I’m so thankful for all that has happened this quarter.

Coming home has been a good break from my job and school work responsibilities. It has meant decorating my home, spending time with my mom, going Christmas shopping with friends and family, and baking (yes baking!).

Baking

I’ve done some cooking too like the Filipino macaroni!

Filipino Macaroni

Can you guess what the sauce it made out of?

It’s strangely sweet but so good…

Ketchup!

And it’s usually served with spaghetti noodles and sliced hot dogs.

You might call it a “poor man’s spaghetti and meatballs” but it actually makes a tasty dish!

For a more detailed and authentic recipe, check out this Filipino blog here: http://www.busogsarap.com/2011/01/filipino-sweet-style-spaghetti.html

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Easter Day with Family at UCD

15 Apr

Just last Sunday was Easter, so let me start off by saying: Happy Easter!!!

Easter Bunny

This little guy looks a tad grumpy but isn't he cute?

For Easter my Mom, Mom’s best friend (Eric), Dad, and Aunt (Dad’s sister) came up to visit me in Davis last Saturday. It was a lovely treat especially since I don’t see my Aunt very often since she lives in Los Angeles. I was able to show my them downtown Davis – “so cute!” they said – and the Davis bookstore which we pillaged through for cute UCD shirts and memorabilia.

They even saw my dorm room, which I was so busy cleaning that morning. I vacuumed, dusted, fixed my bed, reorganized my desk, and shoved everything that I didn’t know where to go in the closet. (Haha…) It looked all nice when they came in and by the nods of their heads and the lack of questions like “When did you last clean?”, I figured I did a good enough job.

When my family greeted me, they all came bearing a gift. Check them out:

Watering Can Flower

"Watering Can Flower" brought by Mom

Mr. Caterpillar

Mr. Caterpillar

Pink carnations with Easter Egg

Pink carnations with Easter Egg

Easter egg

Easter egg that "came" with the pink carnations

Orange Star (flowers)

Orange Star (flowers)

Three flowers on a window sill with a balloon

The three flowers on a window sill with a balloon.

Count how many “things” are in the above picture. Three flowers and one balloon, so there are four things.

How many family members came to visit me? Mom, Eric, Dad, and Aunt. So four again.

Logically you could assume that each one of them carried in a flower or the balloon. But that is not the case! My mom (or was it my Aunt?) carried in a flower AND the balloon. But I said they all came bearing a gift. What did my dad give me?

After I gave all the initial hugs and greetings, I noticed my dad standing there behind everyone. When there was a slight pause in the conversations, I walked toward my dad and asked him how he was.

The first thing you should know about my dad is that he is a man of very few words. He rarely shares his opinions. Our conversations are at most 5 minutes long. This only makes the words he does say AND his actions all the more important. When I approached him he was holding a white plastic bag with something wrapped in foil inside it.

“I baked you an apple pie,” he said handing over the white plastic bag.

“That’s an apple pie in there?” I asked not hiding the surprised expression on my face.

“Mhmm..”

“Are you sure?”

“Mhmm..”

“You baked it?”

“Mhmm..”

“Really?”

“Mhmm..”

After we all returned from our mini Davis tour, we gathered outside my apartment near the parking lot. The subject of the apple came up again because I couldn’t help asking him, “Did you really bake that pie?”

He smiled slyly and said, “When you open it, you tell me.”

The second think you should know about my dad is that he likes to tease. How does he do that when he hardly talks? At the minimum 50% of what he says is a joke. However, he only jokes with you when he likes you or feels comfortable with you.

I nodded my head. Then with gusto and a smile displayed from ear to ear he said,

“But you HAVE to eat it with ice cream. It’s not apple pie without ice cream, vanilla ice cream.”

So there you go, folks. The man of very few words who doesn’t share his opinion on much said that I MUST have apple pie with ice cream.

And so I did. Thanks, Dad. :)

Got some Thrifty ice cream to go with the apple pie. Did he really make it? Well, I guess I'll never know for sure. ;)

Topped the apple pie with vanilla ice cream ... and coffee ice cream ...

Mummy Cupcakes, Anyone?

5 Nov
Blue-eyed Mummy Cupcake

Blue-eyed Mummy Cupcake

It seems like I have been a lot of baking lately with the huge batch of cookies last week and then with my latest adventure: mummy cupcakes.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to bake. But baking on a schedule with classes right after and homework and studying that needs to be done, enjoying the process of baking is hard (especially the cleaning up part -of ugh).

So these mummy cupcakes are probably going to be the last of my baking until Thanksgiving. That’s when the baking-cooking marathon really starts. And this year’s menu is changing too. There’s going to be more Filipino food and vegetables. I am personally going to make sure we have eggplant Provencals like the ones I had in the Dining Commons here in Davis.

I don’t want to give away the whole menu quite yet so instead I’ll tell you about the mummy cupcakes.

I made these for Cooking Club because the theme was Halloween (duh!). I saw these on the Joy of Baking website (my favorite resource for baking recipes!). I didn’t have my piping bag with me so I couldn’t make the cupcakes quite as nice of Joy of Baking but they turned out cute I think. And, I put in the extra effort to design their faces. (Yes, I put the chocolate sprinkles one by one.)

Mummy Cupcakes Recipe found here from Joy of Baking.

The family of mummy cupcakes. Every family has to have its personalities right? :P

First Post from My Davis Dorm

30 Oct

Hi Everyone!

I’m here to quickly post up some pictures of my food adventures at UC Davis. For those who know me personally, you will have seen some photos on facebook but I have some new photos and stories here.

FYI: If you’re interested in more frequent updates on my food adventures, then you can follow me on twitter: @Notebookworthy. :)

Downtown Davis Farmer’s Market

Check out the prickly pears on the right! Who knew they existed? And I never knew there were different shades of purple that eggplant could be. And don't even get me started on how strange those squash look. Amazing. *I also like their sense of humor. The sign over the eggplant says "Grill me! I'm a superstar." :P

So at the farmer’s markets, I usually go with my friend Liz and the last time we went, we ended up walking up and down and all around the market 6 times, and each time we saw something different. The second time we went there we learned not to eat breakfast before hand and to instead get there early and buy a freshly baked pastry. I got a large cinnamon roll – the size of my whole hand with fingers extended! – and she got a scone and expresso.

But the first time we went we had a good time too because we ended up buying fresh basil, chinese long green beans, several types of eggplant, squash, and garlic. Then we made a veggie stir fry the next night. We were happy kids especially since we were so used to eating like this at our homes.

Segundo Residence Hall Garden

Luckily, I don’t have to go all the way to the official student farm which is located off of campus because the residence hall here has a little garden where we can grow produce. After the summer vegetables were harvested, we planted the fall (winter?) produce like purple and white beets, green beans, squash, tomatoes, basil, and much much more. I was only able to stay for an hour so I’m not sure what else they planted but I passed by the other day and all the boxes are filled so this week I’ll figure out what else they planted.

No more having to try growing tomatoes all by myself on the rooftop of my apartment. I've got a garden team!

The Green Chef Challenge: Team Cuarto!

At the Dining Commons (DC), I saw a sign posted calling all cooking enthusiasts. How could I not resist?

Photo credit: UCD

I got lost on my way to Cuarto (the dorms of campus) and almost ended up on the freeway….on a cruiser bike. Right before the road turned into an on ramp, I pulled into some apartments’ parking lot and called the coordinator. Luckily, she steered me in the right direction. :)

We had a team of five and one UCD chef, a list of vegetables produced on the Student Farm, and a 3-hour time limit to create a dish for the judges who would judge the dish on appearance, taste, and reproducibility.

Some of the ingredients:

  • eggplant
  • olive oil
  • setan (meat substitute, made of flour)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • mini strawberries
  • vinaigrette sauce
  • boy choy
  • zucchini
  • brown rice
  • sea salt

    Photo credit: UCD

We could NOT use:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • oil

It was difficult to create the flavors we wanted since we couldn’t use the above items, but I think we did pretty good considering we were limited.

The chef had great ideas so we mainly went with his ideas but we were free to incorporate some of our ideas and own techniques while prepping and cooking.

photo credit: UCD

And our final creation included:

  1. Mixed vegetable gazpacho (cold soup) with fried eggplant chips on top
  2. Bok choy vegetable fried rice in a thin zucchini wrap topped with fried setan and fresh cherry tomatoes
  3. Strawberries rolled in a fresh vinaigrette sauce

photo credit: UCD

Cooking Club

I also joined the Cooking Club at Davis. The first meeting’s theme was “Home” so I made an apple blueberry cobbler with a cinnamon walnut crumble on top. It was a hit! The girl behind me was talking to someone and she said, “OH MY GOD. This cobbler is delicious, guys! I’m going to get some more.” It made my evening and helped me survive through Philosophy discussion which was right after.

Apple Blueberry Cobbler with Cinnamon Walnut Crumble Topping

(unbaked) Apple Blueberry Cobbler with Cinnamon Walnut Crumble Topping -- yes, there was oatmeal in the crumble too!

My plate: pesto pasta, marinara pasta, banana bread, poppy sead cupcake, chocolate chip cookie, and my cobbler :)

My plate: pesto pasta, marinara pasta, banana bread, poppy sead cupcake, chocolate chip cookie, and my cobbler :)

This week’s theme is Halloween so I’m going to bake pumpkin spice cupcakes in halloween cupcake liners. So excited!!!

Hopefully I don’t get sick this week though. Last week baking with a fever was no fun. :(

Circle K International – UCD

I happened to see a post on the UCD Class of 2015 post asking if anyone was going to the Circle K meeting. Having nothing to do and simply browsing through the site, I kept reading the comments. Someone asked, “What is Circle K?” The original person responded saying it’s a community service organization/club on campus.

Since I was looking for this kind of club, I was immediately hooked. I Googled what Circle K was and found their website here.

I was sort of thrown off with all the video game references because I thought “Eh… I may not fit in with this group after all…” but I went to the calendar and I liked the various events they held and the other service organizations they were affiliated with. I was especially intrigued by the “Challah for Baking” weekly event.

After emailing back and forth with the service rep from Circle K, I went to Challah for Hunger, had lots of fun, and then went to the general CK that night.

Funny story about that meeting actually. A couple of the CK members at Challah for Hunger mentioned that the meeting’s theme was plaid. “Where any plaid you have,” they urged warned. It felt like a warning at least. Their facial expressions seem to say, ‘If you don’t wear plaid you’re going to have to suffer some sort of embarrassing public humiliation.

After Challah for Hunger I went back to the dorm and pretty much ran around the tiny little room as if I were a tornado. I tore through my drawers and closet as if the building were on fire and I was trying to find my most precious possession. I was about to give up finding a plaid anything when I remembered that I had this plaid pajama top.

I wasn’t sure if this was something that was presentable for outside but I had nothing else. The plaid shirt was sort of fuzzy, made of red material with forest green lines so I paired it with a lighter forest green shorts with a brown belt and a yellow tank top. I figured I was going to go for a “forest ranger” look. Luckily, it didn’t turn out too weird and at the meeting, I won team points for being in theme clothing for my new CK family – the Zoras!

Right after the meeting, I had to go to the Dining Commons (DC) to have a reunion with the Green Chef Challenge participants so I simply went there with my plaid costume. It was getting cold so I buttoned my plaid shirt up all the way – which was a bad idea – because I really did look like I was about to crawl into bed and go to sleep (haha). And funny thing too was that we took pictures so now there’s evidence! But, I’m not posting the pictures here… :P

Anyway so since I like adore being in CK a lot especially in the Zora’s, I decided to bake them cookies for the next meeting. Unfortunately I had baked for three straight hours the day of the meeting while having a fever so I was not in great shape in time for the meeting. I dropped off the cookies with the team leader hoping they would get eaten, but they weren’t eaten until two days later! By then my beautiful graham cracker topping was not crunchy, but everyone still loved them. :)

Inspired by Picky Palate's S'more Cookies (recipe here). I was actually going to only make 1 batch but decided that I didn't have time (and energy) to bake cupcakes for CK so I just doubled the recipe. By the way, when Picky Palate calls them giant, she wasn't lying. Look at how huge they are!

Challah for Hunger

Yeeee - challah if you like Challah for Hunger! ;)

I just mentioned that I volunteered at Challah for Hunger and for those who don’t know what challah is, it’s a Jewish bread. Now I knew it was bread but I didn’t know it was a Jewish bread so when I showed up at the volunteer club house – it’s literally a house – I was surprise but not deterred. Besides the house smelled of sweet pumpkin and cinnamon. (That week the recipe was for cinnamon sugar and pumpkin challah – yum!)

I eagerly joined where I could that first day which was simply making labels for the bags and putting the finished challah in them. Just to show you how bad of a speller I am, I was constantly misspelling every other bag by writing, “Cinnamon” and then “Cinnamin” (incorrect). Haha… luckily the guy next to me noticed and corrected me before I wrote too many “Cinnamin” bags.

Pumpkin Spice Challah - Week 1

The next week I actually participated in shaping the loaves with contained either nutella or olives. I’m actually pretty good at making the filling stay inside of the challah strands. :) And then because I was going home that weekend, I bought one olive challah and one nutalla challah. I was just going to buy one, but when I was given a sample of freshly baked olive and nutalla challah my taste buds gave me no choice!

Olive Challah - Week 2 ---- This one I actually ate with my mom and we warmed it up for 30 seconds and the whole loaf was delicious. The bread was soft like Filipino sweet bread but it was firmer than that; and the savory taste of the olives complemented the bread so well. Too bad we didn't have any olive oil to dip it in. And if you're wondering about the nutella, it didn't last long enough for a picture (haha).

The third week I showed up on time at 1pm and participated again in shaping the bread and filling it with pesto. (mhm…) I wish I could have tasted it but I had to leave early to help out at the Resident Garden and then see my Stats TA. (boo…)

The Dining Commons – Segundo

Eggplant Provencal with side salad and setan

Farm to College Theme Night

Farm to College Theme Night - all of these are REAL

Farm to College Theme Night - all of these are REAL

Ta Ta for Now!

So since it’s Halloween Eve, I want to wish you all a Happy Halloween!! I hope you taste all the lovely holiday foods out there. The seasonal treats make this time of year very special and memorable.

Savor(ing) Seattle: Pike Place Market

5 Sep

Space NeedleI’m back from my 6-day trip to Seattle with my mom. It was our first time and honestly we had a romantic vision of the city from watching movies like “Sleepless in Seattle”. (Who doesn’t  love Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as a romantic movie pair?)

Yet though I had this romantic notion, I was also wary of the old rumor that Seattle gets a lot of rain. By the way people talk about it I was expecting Seattle to be raining all the time. In fact, I learned from the captain of the Argos ferry to Blake Island that Seattle doesn’t even rank in the top 10 of the most rainiest cities in the U.S. In reality it ranks 44th!

San Francisco gets roughly 19.7 inches of rain per year with 63 out of 365 days being rainy. Seattle gets 38 inches of rain per year. Unfortunately, Seattle is rather cloudy and drizzles more days of the year: 158 days in a year. I even experienced this little drizzle last Tuesday when for 5 minutes the dew-like raindrops drizzled upon our heads just as we went underground the streets of Seattle. (We were part of Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour.)

But who knew Seattle was drenched ALL the time right? I mean, poor Seattle, it gets such a bad rap.

If you want to know the explanation of the bad rumor, follow this link: The Explanation!

After the Underground Tour, Mom and I went to Pike Place Market for our Savor Seattle food tour. We went to visit 11 different stores/shops/restaurants at the market place, tasted the product they’re most famous about, learned about the history of the market and of the shops, and then received a handy dandy VIP card that gave us 10-15% off of over 25 stores at Pike.

Here are some of the photos of the samples with links to the various places we visited.

1. Daily Dozen Doughnut Company

The doughnuts were made fresh right at the food stall. Plus the doughnuts were delicious and came in a variety! What more could a person ask for?

Daily Dozen Doughnut Company's mini doughnut

A mini cinnamon sugar doughnut. Excuse the fingers....

2. Wild Harvest

Wild Harvest's Huckleberry Cheese Cake

Huckleberry Cheese Cake

I had no idea what huckleberries were but the sign caught my attention. It read: HUCKLEBERRY. Well, I lie. That’s not the whole sign. I think it actually read: HUCKLEBERRY SMOOTHIES but I can be certain because as soon as I saw the word “huckleberry” my mind thought of the book by Mark Twain. Then after my nerdy brain switched into foodie mode, I thought about my Uncle who said he grew up eating huckleberry pies in Idaho.

But I still had that lingering question: What’s a huckleberry?

When I searched the food stall I found pictures of actual huckleberries displayed next to Wild Harvest’s huckleberry jams.  I was surprised to see that they looked just like blueberries, I kid you not.

Then I thought, “Is a huckleberry just a fancy term for a blueberry?”

Before I could ask Caroline or the workers behind the counter what a huckleberry was, we moved on. Later that night I looked up what huckleberries were and found out that they were their own species. However, they are related to blueberries so you can think of them as blueberries’ closest cousins.

3. Market Spice

The Market Spice sells spices like the ones shown in the picture but it also specializes in teas. We tried the fragrant Market Spice tea (yes, that’s what it’s called).

The tea reminded me immediately of cinnamon infused with orange (or is it the other way around?). Caroline said that there were three ingredients. A person offered cinnamon. Correct! Another guessed orange. Correct! But what was the last spice? Cloves!

Market Spice's spices

There were about 20 more shelves segments like these two.

4. Pike Place Fish Market

Flying fish, random yells from fishmongers, and delicious smoked salmon are the three things that come to mind at Pike Place Fish Market. This world famous market, which gave itself this title, is now actually just as well-known as its title suggests.

Pike Place Fish Market store front

It's always crowded here!

I don’t usually like salmon. Salmon burgers? Nope. Salmon jerky? Nope. Salmon sushi? Not a favorite. Salmon puffs? Pass.

Ah, but this place made salmon delicious. While on the tour we were given samples of their original smoked salmon, lemon pepper smoked salmon, and salmon jerky. I didn’t care for the jerky, but the smoked salmon was so tasty.

Original Smoked Salmon

Original Smoked Salmon

It was so tasty that two days later, Mom and I came back to buy a pound each of the original and lemon pepper flavors.

Tour guide Caroline with Fishmonger

Tour guide Caroline with Fishmonger

4. Frank’s Quality Produce

“Quality” is their middle name!

Eggplant

Delicious eggplant

How to Choose Eggplant

How to Choose Eggplant: look for a small 'dot' underneath eggplant. The smaller and more circular the dot is, the more likely the eggplant is male and therefore has less seeds and more flavor. (Male shown on right.)

Fresh Rainier cherries and blueberries

Fresh Rainier cherries and blueberries

Local figs

These local figs were so sweet (literally and figuratively!).

5. Pike Place Chowder

The chowder here is amazing and it better be if it won the Monterey National Clam Chowder three years in a row. My only complaint is that they need better sourdough bread bowls. Seriously, the bread had the look and texture of Wonder Bread. There was a slight sour taste but it didn’t complement the delicious chowder well. I guess I’ve been spoiled by Boudin’s sourdough.

On another note, I suspect that the bread was not great because the starter wasn’t good or perhaps the bread just wasn’t baked properly. If you look on Savor Seattle’s website, the bread bowl has a great looking crust so maybe we just went there on a bad day.

Special of the Clam Chowder of the Day

Special of the Clam Chowder of the Day

But if  great chowder is what you’re looking for, then this place has it! My favorite was the original New England style. My mom’s was the Seafood Bisque chowder. Ironically the large bread bowl shown was of their special clam chowder of the day, which was good but not as good as our favorites. We bought this before the tour – whoops.

Sample Clam Chowders

Sample Clam Chowders: Seafood Bisque (red) and Original (white)

6. Beecher’s Homemade Cheese

The cheese is made on-site even for the public’s viewing. Signs and pictures even describe the cheese making process. Then turn around and the counter to buy the cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and famous macaroni and cheese is right there. Brilliant store planning.

Cheddar Cheese that tastes like Gruyere

Beecher's cheddar cheese tastes like gruyere. Goes well with the whole-wheat seeded cracker.

As I munched on the cheese, I whispered to my mom, “This tastes like gruyere”, and gruyere is one of favorite cheeses after I first used in my baking two years ago. Carolina the tour guide then announced that the cheese was in fact cheddar but that Beecher’s used gruyere cultures. How a cheese can be one kind of cheese when it uses another cheese culture beats me but I was happy that I was correct. It made me feel I was truly becoming more cultured as a foodie!

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

The macaroni and cheese was a tad spicy but too cheesy for my taste. How did I ever eat macaroni and cheese when I was younger? I ate the Kraft version at least once a week. I even cooked it myself and for my mom as lunch sometimes. She ate it and even added tuna and chicken sometimes. That’s what I call love. I don’t find Kraft appetizing any more and now real mac-n-cheese is too cheesy. Whatcha gonna do?

7. Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe

Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe sign

The deli man and the woman whose family owns this delicatessen are fondly known as the perfect ‘pear’. (Cue the aw’s!) The deli man’s name is Brian Jones and he worked at many famous restaurants all over the world. He finally settled in Seattle and joined the family business. Together they renamed the deli to its current name to show that it has entered a new stage.

More about the history behind the deli: here.

Not only does this pair have a cute love story, but the pair also serves delicious sandwiches! We all sampled the ham sourdough sandwich with glazed onions and greens. I’m glad to say that this deli had much better sourdough.

Ham Sourdough Sandwich

Ham Sourdough Sandwich

8. Etta’s

Etta's crab cakes

Etta's crab cakes (the mini version)

Writing an introduction for this one is hard. I could talk about the award winning chef Tom Douglas who established this and other popular restaurants  (Dahlia Restaurant, Dahila Bakery, Lola, Serious Pie, Cuoco, etc.) each with their own specialty.

It’s nice to know Etta’s is a Tom Douglas restaurant because then you can assume that the food is good. But if you don’t know who Tom Douglas is, then knowing that this is his restaurant offers no insight into Etta’s.

I could tell you it has a fancy atmosphere and that the prices are steeper than other smaller food stalls at Pike Market. This, however, may just deter you from checking it out though.

But if you’re going to a restaurant then you will want to know one thing: how the food tastes.

And let me tell you, the crab cakes at Etta’s are to die for. I only had a small sample of the crab cakes – a mini crab cake to be honest – but if you are  a fan of crab cakes or wish to convince someone that crab cakes are delicious then go to Etta’s.

I didn’t eat anything else at the restaurant, but if the appetizer is this good then the entrees must be good here. It’s faulty logic that would never make it into math or philosophy books but you’ve got to trust me on this one.

If you’re not willing to gamble and go for a full meal, then go for the crab cakes. My suggestion is to take out the crab cakes and then hang out at this grassy area across the street. You’ll get a nice view of the water and boats on a nice day.

Grassy Field

By the way, if you’re wondering if I recommend this 2 hour, walking tour, I would have to say that since the price isn’t steep ($39 per person), it’s a acquaint little way to be introduced to the market place. It was definitely nice getting the inside scoop from the tour guide. Our tour guide’s name was Caroline so if you can request guides, ask for her. She was friendly, knowledgeable, and the store clerks all liked her. She even memorized all 15 of our names!

Savor Seattle also has other tours: Gourmet Seattle (3 hrs), Chocolate Indulgences (2 hrs), Craving Capitol Hill (2.5 hrs), Gourmet Kayak (3 days), and private events for groups. All tours are also by foot so bring a water bottle. They provide the napkins and food as well as nifty personal radio sets to hear the tour guide wherever you go. And if you ever get lost, look for the pink umbrella as each guide carries one – rain or shine!

Back from a Road Trip

30 May

Just came back from LA. Took a road trip with my mom and family friend Eric. I was supposed to help drive, but Enterprise car rental won’t allow drivers under 21 to drive on long distances.

La Brea Farmer’s Market

Since we arrived at our hotel in Fullerton late Wednesday, we basically relaxed in the hotel until the next morning. On Thursday, we braved the crazy freeways to get to La Brea. Our original plan was to see the La Brea tar pits but we accidentally got distracted at The Grove mall and Farmer’s Market.

I was amazed by everything there. I loved the little food stands everywhere and how tucked away everything felt.

Nuts, nuts, and more nuts!

Confetti Popcorn

Confetti popcorn, anyone? Besides this kind, there were at least 5 other varieties.

The French Crepe Company

The French Crepe Company's cute painting. Lately I've been hearing a lot about the historic World Fairs.

Japanese Teapots

Japanese Teapots. Did you know there are only 3 Japan Town's in the whole United States? There's one in San Francisco, another in San Jose, and a third in downtown Los Angeles.

Cute sign

Because we live on one big green planet!

Jams

Would you like jam?

Ordering ice cream

Ice cream stand. Too many choices to choose from!

Vanilla-Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream

Perfect for a warm summer day.

Cajun Menu

Never did get to try that gumbo...

Veggie Chips

Veggie Chips. What doesn't this company make?

Candle Cupcakes

A store even had candle cupcakes.

Fresh Pasta

Fresh Pasta

Veggie Market

We got fresh strawberries, cantalope, plums, and bananas. I bet this market would have even more for better prices during the summer.

Strawberries

We ended up mixing this with the ice cream. A delicious combination!

 From Restaurants: Foxy’s and California Ramen

Fish Taco

Fish Taco from Foxy's Restaurant in Burbank

Fresh dinner rolls with sea salt

Fresh dinner rolls with sea salt. The inside of the dinner roll is made up of strips of bread.

Ramen with grilled chicken and fresh veggies

Ramen with grilled chicken and fresh veggies. The cauliflower were purple and orange, but the waiter assured us they were natural.

Made by Family

Chocolate Loaf Cake

My Aunt Pat made this for me to celebrate my graduation. It's chocolate-y but not dense or fudgy. It has a light crumb and moist texture. The key ingredients: pudding and Bailey's and Vodka. :)

Overall, the trip went well – especially the part beyond the realm of food. :)

Crazy for Cupcakes

20 May

I graduate tomorrow.

Since I’m leaving, I knew I would have to bake something special for all my teachers and special faculty.

Without any real finals (I took a lot of AP classes), I had time last weekend to brainstorm my game plan. I knew I had to bake for a lot of teachers and faculty and I had recently been inspired by the current cupcake frenzy, so I decided to bake my own cupcakes from scratch.

Naked Cupcakes

The (mix) red velets are at the top. The toasted bananas are the brown ones. The lemons are the ones in the red cupcake pan.

My original plan included four cupcakes for each recipient in a cute plastic container made specifically for cupcakes given out by Kara’s Cupcakes or Cako. I did get the four varieties done, but the cute plastic container was out. Instead, I found a round 8-inch foil container with a plastic lid – not too far off from the original idea. Still, transporting them was a pain. Thanks to my friends Amy Ruth and Michelle all worked out well.

I don’t have too much time to write about the whole story and process so I’ll just show some photos instead.

Recipes can be found below their corresponding pictures.

The Pretender

This cupcake wishes it were homemade, but it’s not. I had to make these from a mix to present a newspaper party on short notice.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (all mix)

I love the paper liners, don't you?

1. Toasted Almond Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting

If this title doesn’t get you drooling, then maybe this photo will.

Cupcake Recipe from Simple Daily Recipes: here
*I use this banana cake recipe for banana bread too
Brown butter frosting from My Kitchen Addiction: here

Toasted Almond Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting

Yep, those are bits of toasted almonds on top as a garnish. S'mancy, yes?

Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting

First time making brown butter at home. I wasn't sure if I was cooking it right at all, but it turned out brown and unburned!

2. Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

I didn’t used to be a fan of lemon baked goods until I tried a piece of lemon pound cake from the corner store near my school. Now I can appreciate such lemony goodness. For those who’ve never tried lemon baked goods, they’re usually not too sour. Rather, they’re tart but sweet at the same time. The lemon cuts the sugar like a hot knife in butter!

Cupcake recipe adapted from Joyofbaking: here
*I did not add the lemon curd or use the whipped cream topping

Buttercream Frosting adapted from Joyofbaking: here
*I only added 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and added 1 tsp of lemon extract

Lemon Cupcakes

This reminds me of something I'd see at a baby shower or Easter party because of the pastel colors.

3. (Fightin’ Irish) Mint Cupcakes with Mint Chip Frosting

I have mint chips at home so I thought, “Well, I’ll just make some kind of mint cupcake – easy!” Ah hah hah – No.

Instead all the recipes I found called for peppermint extract, which I didn’t have so what do I do? Improvise using a red velvet cupcake as the base; substitute in melted mint chips; and cross my fingers that the ooey gooey mud colored batter I just created actually turns out edible let alone delicious.

Red velvet recipe and frosting adapted from Joyofbaking: here
*I melted about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of mint chips shown below and added this to the batter. For the frosting, I added a little less than 1/4 of melted chips.

Melting Mint Chips

I just microwaved them so they're glistening. Right after this picture, I smushed them with a fork. By the way, like my fat cat bowl?

Mixing the Mint Cupcake Batter

It was so pretty before I mixed it! You can actually see green mint butter-egg mixture underneath the flour-cocoa powder mixture. After I mixed it, it turned a hideous forest green color.

Mint Chip Cupcake

Even after it baked, you can see the gross green color underneath but at least the frosting turned out good and more importantly, the whole cupcake was delicious!I had to taste test this one because if it tasted bad there was no way I was going to give this to my teachers or friends.

Mint Chip Cupcake

Ta-dah!

 4. Cookies-n-Cream Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

These were my inspiration for doing cupcakes. When I found this recipe, I knew I had to do it especially since it seemed easy enough.

The cool part of this cupcake besides the obvious garnish was the cookie bottom. I split the Oreo and took the side with the cream and placed it frosting-side up in the bottom of each cupcake liner. I believe it was Beantown Baker who came it with this ingenious idea.

Original Recipe from Beantown Baker: here.

Oreos on bottom of cupcake liners

Beantown Baker's ingenious idea

Oreo bottom of cupcakes

Oreo bottom of Cookies-n-Cream Cupcakes

Oreo bottom of cupcake (sideview)

Sideview of Oreo bottom

Cookies-n-Cream Cupcake

Isn't it beautiful? I'm so happy it turned out the way it did.

The Packaging & Finished Products

All the tins of cupcakes

All the tins of cupcakes. There were 15 total.

The finished cupcakes

The finished cupcakes. Cute, right?