Falafel Dip

Here’s the thing about Houston: I love it. I really do.

Driving 59 South to Chinatown, enjoying a concert at Miller Outdoor Theatre, even catching a whiff of the pungent smell perpetually dominating the intersection of Main Street and University. It’s just so familiar to me.

Most of all, though, I love Houston for the amazing people I met there during college. Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to visit Houston and stay with my college roommates. The trip may or may not have been designed around seeing the midnight premiere of Breaking Dawn – Part 2 with my friend (and four-year roommate, woohoo!) Liz. Perchance I’ve also seen every other Twilight Saga movie with her. I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind everybody that there is no judging on this website. None whatsoever.

A couple of days before I journeyed to H-town, I received this text from Liz: “Would you be interested in making baked falafel with me on wednesday?” Um. Who wouldn’t? Seriously. Who turns down a text like that? Not I.

That’s how, later on that week, I found myself making baked falafel with Liz and Rachel (another lovely roomie). Chickpeas, onions, cilantro, salt, pepper, and herbs went into a food processor, and out emerged . . . magic. Mmm. The falafel batter was so delicious. We immediately shaped the batter into falafel patties and popped them on the tray to bake.

Although we initially experienced a little trouble getting the falafel to firm up, after increasing the oven temperature a bit, our patience finally paid off and resulted in some mega tasty baked falafel. Later, after perusing the recipe again, I found out that our error lay in using canned instead of dry chickpeas, which the lovely Kate remarked would result in “sad falafel pancakes.” Whoops. I still think ours were pretty happy (in our tummies!).

Now then. What’s up with this falafel dip?? Well, the next morning, as Liz and I were lamenting the long-devoured falafel, we also discussed the amazingness of the falafel batter. And then. Liz said the words “falafel dip.” As in, the batter doesn’t really need to be baked/fried/cooked in any way, does it? NO. It really doesn’t. Continue reading

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Taro Sponge Cake – Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving comes in all shapes and sizes: Small cozy gatherings, large family reunions, Friendsgivings and more. To me, Thanksgiving means a large potluck lunch with family and friends, complete with a huge turkey, mashed potatoes, and . . . sticky rice. And egg rolls. If we’re lucky, fried jumbo shrimp!

That’s right, I spent nearly every Thanksgiving of my childhood with my Chinese Church community in Wichita, Kansas. And let me tell you, the Chinese Church sure knows how to throw a potluck. The Thanksgiving potluck, though, pretty much rests in a league of its own.

I mean, it brings together the best of both worlds: Traditional Thanksgiving fare like a plump turkey and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and savory Chinese favorites such as Chinese-style spareribs (yummm) and pig’s feet (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it).

Although my family has celebrated Thanksgiving in Houston for the last four years, this year, I am super excited that I have returned home to Wichita, Kansas for the holiday, and of course, to devour a massive potluck lunch (woohoo!!!!)!

And I get to see this baby…SO CUTE.

For today’s festivities, I decided to make a Chinese-style dessert: Sponge cake layers with a mixture of taro and whipping cream sandwiched in between, covered in mounds of fresh whipped cream. For those who don’t know (no shame here), taro is a root vegetable commonly used in Chinese cuisine – savory and sweet.

I don’t really know how to describe the taste; my sister says it tastes like “a really good potato, but more fragrant, like a different flavor.” I’m mostly excited by the fact that it is purple! If you’re interested, you can find one at any Asian grocery store. As for this recipe, my family actually made this cake for my mom’s birthday a couple of years back.

The sponge cake recipe comes from my dad’s super old Chinese cookbook (it’s actually falling apart!), and the taro filling is my sister’s personal creation. This cake . . . mmm. Yummy. I’m surprised it actually made it to my mom’s birthday dinner, considering how much I was eyeing it during the day. But, it was totally worth the wait . . . just like today’s potluck. Continue reading

Crockpot Avocado Pot Roast Sandwiches

I am pretty terrible at leaving well enough alone.

For instance, the two (okay, maybe five or six) times when I drizzled melted chocolate onto my freshly baked chocolate chip cookies because they didn’t seem to have quite enough “oomph.” Or, the fact that I always get my Trailer Park taco “trashy” at Torchy’s Tacos so they ladle in hot delicious queso in place of lettuce (which, let’s face it, has little to no nutritional value anyway).

Oh right, and there’s that one time when I applied to Rice University. In the famous “Fill the box to the right with something that appeals to you” part of the signature page, I glued a whole recipe book with pictures. The next year, Rice required the entries to be two-dimensional and scannable, a change which I take full credit for.

So it should come as no surprise that I wasn’t satisfied in posting a recipe of pot roast. Don’t get me wrong, this pot roast is gooood. Like, seriously, OMG, mouthwatering, marbled fatty beef slow cooked for hours creating a savory, rich pot roast scent that is still lingering around my apartment good. Like, actually, incredible.

But, as I lay in bed the night before making this dish, I could not stop thinking about ways to jazz up pot roast . . . and use up the ingredients in my fridge. Perchance, my 10 recently purchased avocados? Oh yes. Then, I remembered the sandwich success of the week prior, which prompted many dangerous thoughts to my mind.

Pot roast . . . sandwich? Avocados? Sandwich with avocado? AND pot roast. Oh. my. sweet belly. Unfortunately (and crazily), my apartment contained not a single solitary slice of bread. However, my bread conundrum actually created a magical opportunity for me to make FRESH BREAD!!! Continue reading

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Thanksgiving Truffles

Approximately 12 years ago, I made pretty much the best dessert ever for my parent’s Thanksgiving dinner party: Mini turkeys. That’s right. Painstakingly hand-made mini turkeys consisting of a Hershey’s kiss and Oreo cookie body, candy corn feathers, and cut up Twizzlers for the wattle. Finishing those turkeys constituted basically the proudest moment of my life up to that point. Someone (besides my parents) even complimented me on them!

But then . . . no one ate them. Correction: I ate two. One brave adult ate one. And two of my friends, also around the age of 10, each ate one. Sad life. I’ve tried to block out that particular dessert experience from my mind for many years. Now, though, as I reflect back upon my first dessert rejection, I guess I (sorta kinda) get it.

I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily want to eat a mashup of store-bought candy masquerading as a dessert that had been touched and molded into shape with the possibly dirty (but I always washed my hands with soap – even under my fingernails!!!) fingers of a ten-year-old. I’m going on record now, though, to say that if I come across those lovely mini turkeys in my Thanksgiving festivities this year, I promise to eat one. Scratch that. I’m getting five of those suckers. Props to little kids who believe in their dessert craft!

In an effort to avoid the pain of rejection, though, I decided to create a more adult palate friendly dessert this year. And it’s still shaped like a turkey. Hah! Though it can be traditionally truffle shaped for those who so desire. As I considered different food combinations in my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about pumpkin and cream cheese. So, I didn’t. Instead, I used them, along with some powdered sugar, graham cracker crumbs, and pumpkin pie spice as the filling for my truffles. Ermahgawd. I would most definitely eat this filling by itself. In a bowl – no melted chocolate covering or decoration needed. Continue reading

Cranberry-Ginger White Wine Cocktails

Today, I learned a very important lesson about making cocktails for a blog: You end up with a lot of cocktails. Delicious cocktails. In the middle of the day (not on purpose, that’s when the light is best!). But I suppose there are worse predicaments in life.

Especially when the cocktail in question contains ginger simple syrup! Though ginger and I have not always been the best of friends (chunks of ginger tend to hide in Cantonese cuisine ughhh), I recently became obsessed with ginger flavor in cocktails. It all started when I tried a sip of my friend’s cocktail at the Bar Belmont. It was so good that I almost stole the rest of his drink. The secret behind the delicious? GINGER BEER.

Ever since that night, I haven’t let up on my ginger cocktail rampage. I’ve tried moscow mules, ginger beer with bourbon, and I thought it was time to finally make my own. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided to add cranberries for a festive, tasty touch (and some color)! Continue reading

Mini Key Lime Pies

The last time my family went to Florida, we did not eat even a bite of the famed key lime pie. I know, right? I mean, the Florida Keys! Key limes! What’s up with that? Super appalled at our lack of dessert nomming, I purchased key lime bar mix immediately upon arriving home, and placed it on our pantry shelf . . . where it sat. And waited. And sighed. And is probably still sitting. Whoops?

I don’t know what happened. Well, no, I do. I am, first and foremost, a procrastinator, and secondly, an easily distracted individual. I’ll think up about ten different baking ideas – usually as I’m trying to sleep! – before settling on a dessert, open up twenty tabs on my computer and forget about at least half of them, crop photos and read CNN (my new hobby – at least it’s actually educational) in the middle of writing my blog post.

Where was I again? Oh, right. Not easily distracted at all. I recently came across key limes again, in the form of a bag of 25 key limes – for just one dollar(!!!) at my new favorite supermarket, El Rio Grande. 25! One dollar! They also have five avocados for one dollar aka what is going on in the world. (Answer: Lots of guac)

So, faced with the prospect of finally eating my long-awaited key lime pie, I debated the merits of using a pie pan, a mini cupcake pan, or a square pan to make bars, and finally settled on mini key lime pies made in a cupcake tin! The particular advantages of this option? Well, I finally got to try out my new cupcake tin!

You might have noticed that I haven’t yet made full-sized cupcakes on this blog, and that’s because, well, we didn’t have one. I repeat, my sister and I did not have a cupcake pan. Which is ridiculous. I mean, absolutely crazy! Especially considering the fact that last year, we each had one. Where did they go? It’s still a total mystery.

Continue reading

Crockpot Caribbean Jerk Pulled Pork Sandwiches w/ Grilled Pineapple Rings

This is a sample of what my sister and I ate for dinner last week:

  1. Teriyaki salmon with quinoa
  2. Store-bought red velvet cake (Don’t judge! I was already craving it before I made it)
  3. Steak with Boursin cheese and homemade guac!
  4. Taco Cabana
  5. Chicken Pesto Pasta with Corn

We tend to fluctuate between cooking every meal and not cooking at all, between healthy and indulgent, fast food and slow, home-cooked meals. Maybe you’d think that as a food blogger, I would constantly be cooking up a storm in the kitchen. And, I do! I bake A TON and experiment with food all the time. But frankly, sometimes after a full day in the kitchen, I just want to sit on the couch and eat my trusty tortillas and queso from TC (Taco Cabana, for all you non-abbreving folk).

This recipe is perfect for those days when you know you’ll be exhausted, want a fast, delicious (seriously delicious) dinner, and don’t want to feel guilty about not cooking. Enter – the crockpot! I’ve actually never used a crockpot before today (I know, so behind the times). But I loved it. Love! I mean, you pop the ingredients in, let it go until dinner time, then pull out perfect, steaming, fork-tender pork? Sign me up.

I mean, what else can I do in this thing? Dessert?? Cake?! Okay, sorry, I’ll stop. And I know, I know, people have been using this device for years, but whatever. Let me have my fun. Anyway, I had originally planned to just do a super simple pulled pork recipe I found, requiring just pork, root beer, bbq sauce, and hamburger buns.

But then. I spied my beautifully ripening pineapple on the kitchen island and got to thinking. Pineapple rings . . . grilled pineapple rings? Perchance a Caribbean theme? And thus, my idea was born. I researched a few Caribbean jerk seasonings and then came up with my own recipe (based mainly on the ingredients available in my kitchen). Then, it was go time! Continue reading