You know how people always equate the act of unveiling an unglamorous truth about something beloved to “learning how sausage is made?” This sentiment is exactly how I feel about baking. After learning that the secret to making almost every cherished American dessert is somewhere between two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar, I made a conscious effort to refrain from baking sweets all together. However, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, I’m in the mood to share (the guilt).

I probably should have whipped a batch of these Chinese Almond Cookies for Lunar New Year a few weeks ago but I am more than happy to relinquish my family chef crown to my mother for family get togethers. The recipe is also insanely easy (love anything that requires one bowl and fewer than three steps) so feel free to bake a batch and share with your valentine(s) this year!

Valentine Almond Flowers
Yields 36
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups flour
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 1 cup butter, melted
  6. 1 egg
  7. 2 tsps almond extract
  8. whole almonds
  9. 40 drops red food coloring, optional
Instructions
  1. Mix together flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Add in melted butter, egg, almond extract and red food coloring.
  2. Knead dough into 1 inch balls. Flatten and place whole almond in the center.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes at 325 degrees.
Notes
  1. Dough will be dry and crumbly prior to kneading into balls.
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It happens every year. I start January off with daily cardio, sugarfree this, sugarfree that and only a month later my healthy streak comes to a screeching halt with the biggest junk food fest all year: the Superbowl. That extra dollop of ranch dressing on your salad or the second spoonful of sugar in your morning coffee pale in comparison to the smorgasbord that is the Superbowl. Eating a salad in the back corner while every other sports jersey donned guest melts their face off with buffalo wings, potato skins, and queso is not only a guarantee of becoming a social pariah, but doing so would be just plain un-American. 

So what’s a girl who loves pigging out to do? Grab that handy cast iron skillet of course! I’ve so often found that when I’m craving something crunchy and deep fried, a good crispy sear from my skillet ends up doing the trick. Additionally, chicken thighs are another great compromise for when I’ve gotten bored of ultra lean protein. Not only is dark meat itself more flavorful, it absorbs other spices and marinades more robustly than lean white meat. And to throw in another perk, chicken thighs are usually sold in bulk and much cheaper than other chicken cuts – perfect if you’re hosting a big, hungry crowd. 

For this year’s football showdown, I’ll be sauteing some chicken thighs in a sweet and sticky ginger honey glaze. The best part of this recipe? Everything goes in one pan. Now THAT’s a touchdown. 



Honey Ginger Chicken Thighs
Serves 4
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 chicken thighs
  2. 1 cup soy sauce
  3. 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  4. 1/4 cup honey
  5. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  6. 2 tbsp sesame oil
  7. 1 tsp ground black pepper
  8. 1/2 cup chopped green onions + extra for garnish
  9. 1/2 cup ginger, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Place chicken thighs in skillet. Mix remaining ingredients for sauce and pour into skillet. Marinade for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Saute on medium heat until sauce caramelizes, about 10 minutes. Pan fry for an additional 2-3 minutes until chicken thighs are seared.
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A new year, a new beginning. While the latter half of 2016 may have ushered in several unpleasantries, I can’t deny that I have been blessed with many wonderful opportunities this year. First and foremost, I finally moved back to New York City (and convinced a nice Midwestern boy to tag along)! As you may have surmised, I am living the foodie’s dream come true! From three star Michelin restaurants to late night dollar pizza, anything I could dream of eating can be found here. 

Unfortunately, I have distanced myself from my usual cooking adventures by spoiling myself with thousands of amazing restaurants all over the city. But fear not! Nothing like the combo of a chilly winter and depleted bank account to bring me right back into the kitchen. In my absence, I discovered that even my most treasured hobbies can accumulate dust in my mental calendar. And the longer these pastimes go unparticipated, the harder it becomes to reengage in them. And the harder things become to do, the easier the excuses come. I lost efficiency in a craft that was once second nature to me, making time a new barrier to entry, a barrier that kept multiplying the longer I went unpracticed. For me, I knew the best way for me to ease back into cooking was to reidentify what first drew me to the kitchen. Like many journeys of self-revelation, the answer starts with home. 

If I could encapsulate one aroma that embodies home for me, I would easily choose the smell of fresh steamed bánh bao. Interestingly, although it has always been one of my favorite Vietnamese treats, we didn’t have it very often growing up; these were reserved for special birthdays and occasional pit stops in Chinatown. Now, whenever I return home for the holidays, I reliably wake up to the scent of fresh buns and Vietnamese coffee for breakfast. I suppose it’s my mother’s way of signifying that my homecoming is a special occasion – and what else could feel more like home than that. 

So as we move forward in ringing in a new year, let us first take a step back to retrieve what we thought was lost and revive our passions with the hope and promise that arrives with the first stroke of midnight. 

For those of you whose New Year’s resolutions involve baos, baos, all types of baos, see instructions below. 

Vietnamese Breakfast Bao
Yields 12
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Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
For the dough
  1. 2 cups self rising flour
  2. 1 cup milk
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  5. 12 pieces of wax or parchment paper, cut into 3" x 3" squares
For the filling
  1. 1 lb ground pork
  2. 1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
  3. 1 tbsp sugar
  4. 1 tbsp black pepper
  5. 2 tsp salt
  6. 3 boiled eggs, quartered
  7. 3 Chinese sausage links, thinly sliced.
Instructions
  1. Mix together self rising flour, milk, sugar, and vegetable oil. Cover with a damp cheese cloth or towel for 30 minutes until dough has risen.
  2. While dough is rising, mix together ground beef, chopped onions, sugar, black pepper, and salt. Roll into meatballs approximately 2 inches in diameter. Place a quarter of a hardboiled egg into the meatball and cover with sliced Chinese sausage.
  3. Once dough has about doubled in size, knead dough and divide into 12 equal parts. Roll each part into a ball and flatten to create a circle about 4 inches. Put meat filling in the center and fold the dough over filling, gathering and twisting at the top.
  4. Place bao over parchment paper square and steam for 15-20 minutes.
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Rainy days, lots of spare time, and a brand new ice cream maker leads to dangerous and delicious outcomes. As with most things in life, once you master making anything from scratch, it’s difficult to return to the status quo. I certainly feel that way about ice cream. There is something so redeeming about bringing the simplest of ingredients together and achieving the highest quality taste. Some cream, milk, sugar and fresh flavors of your choice (and a little technology) will satisfy that sweet tooth in the most natural, healthiest way possible.

While I live in a tiny apartment and any available counter space is a godsend, I can’t imagine parting ways with my new ice cream maker. The beauty of being able to craft my own ice cream at home is that I get to be a mad little food scientist for a few hours (or as Jay likes to call my experimenting, “Frankensteining”). My three favorite ice cream flavors in no particular order are green tea, mint chocolate chip and coffee. FINALLY I no longer have to choose; I can have all three at the same time. Who says you can’t have your ice cream and eat it too? I know it sounds outrageous, but Matcha Mint Mocha Chip Ice Cream is easily one of my favorite original recipes to date. Ah the life of the hedonist can be oh so sweet.

Matcha Mint Mocha Chip Ice Cream

I start with crafting my mocha chips. I’ve seen some home ice cream recipes that call for using straight up chocolate chips. That’s just plain lazy. Don’t do that. They’re supposed to be crispy and melt in your mouth people. Melt your chocolate chips, coconut oil and instant coffee over medium heat, stirring constantly. I too have been guilty of getting too impatient, turning up the heat to melt the chocolate faster or leaving the chocolate on the stove to get a head start on my next step. Trust me, you will end up with a pot of burnt chocolate and is there anything more guilt inducing than rendering chocolate inedible? Once your chocolate is silky smooth, slowly pour the melted mixture onto a wax paper lined baking sheet. The trick here is to use the biggest baking sheet you have and roll the pan around (similar to the way you would grease a baking pan) so you have the thinnest possible sheet of chocolate. Place your chocolate sheet in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Melting Chocolate

Matcha Mint Ice Cream

Then comes the fun part. Rough day at work? Homemade chocolate chunks ought to relieve the stress. Chocolate has never been so therapeutic.

Homemade Mocha Chips

Meanwhile, simmer fresh chopped mint leaves in your half and half for about thirty minutes. You should start to see a pale green color form over time. What’s great about adding in the matcha is not only that it cuts the sweetness of the chocolate chips, but it adds a robust green color to our ice cream without the food coloring. Once you’ve strained the chopped mint leaves from your half and half, add it to your sugar and matcha powder. You may want to let the ice cream mixture chill for a bit before adding to your ice cream machine, depending on your machine’s specifications. I also recommend you add in the chocolate pieces towards the end of the ice cream mixing process as the chocolate may clump together while the ice cream is still in liquid form. 

And that’s all there is to it folks. So simple, so sexy. 

Matcha Mint Mocha Chip Ice Cream

Matcha Mint Mocha Chip Ice Cream

Matcha Mint Mocha Chip Ice Cream

Matcha Mint Mocha Chip Ice Cream
Serves 6
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
For the mocha chips
  1. wax paper
  2. baking sheet
  3. 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  4. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  5. 1/4 cup instant coffee granules
For the ice cream
  1. ice cream maker
  2. 4 cups half and half
  3. 1 cup packed mint leaves, chopped
  4. 1/2 cup sugar
  5. 4 tsp matcha powder
Instructions
  1. In a nonstick pan, melt chocolate chips, coconut oil, and instant coffee on medium heat, stirring constantly. When completely melted, pour onto a wax paper lined baking sheet and spread chocolate as thinly as possible. Freeze for at least 30 minutes. Once frozen, use a mallet or spatula to break chocolate sheet into small pieces. Set aside.
  2. Simmer half and half with chopped mint leaves for 30-40 minutes. Strain mint leaves and mix remaining half and half with sugar and matcha powder.
  3. Follow ice cream maker instructions to make ice cream. First add in half and half mixture then add in mocha chips towards the end.
Notes
  1. Feel free to substitute coconut oil with butter.
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