Monthly Archives: February 2013

brownie cake

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This cake should be called the cake of death. One of my friends from community college had the craziest sweet tooth. She could eat sugar for breakfast if she wanted and not feel like gagging. I was notorious for baking goods for friends for their birthday and she asked me to make her something. I decided to make her a deathly brownie cake with frosting, oreo cakestars, white chocolate, and semi-sweet chocolate. If you know anyone who has THAT crazy of a sweet tooth, feel free to make this for them. You could always substitute with candy bars such as kit kats, reese’s, twix, and etc.

Brownie Cake
1 box dark chocolate fudge brownie mix (made according to instructions)
chocolate frosting (I used the canned kind)
1 box oreo cakestars cut into small chunks (I’m not sure if they sell these anymore)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

– microwave white chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips in separate bowls
– frost brownie cake with chocolate frosting
– top with oreo cakestars
– drizzle white chocolate on top
– drizzle semi-sweet chocolate over the top of white choc

I was pretty new to baking back then. You could make the brownie cake from scratch but I used a boxed mix. I baked it in a 9×9 circular cake pan. The toppings could also be a variety of candies. My friend happened to love the cakestars so I made the cake with them but I’m not sure they sell those anymore. I’m sure the cake is fine without the chocolate drizzles but I felt the need to add it and make it look pretty. It’ll satisfy any sweet tooth. Personally, I would never eat it because it’s way too sweet for me. I would eat the brownie by itself but that’s just me. My friend loved it and requested more. Enjoy! 🙂

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

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Chinese New Year: Part Two

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So I talked a bit about traditions during CNY in part one of my CNY posts. It’s considered good luck to build strong family ties because in Chinese culture, family is very important. Yesterday I went to my grandmas house for our annual CNY celebration. Somehow we always end up going to my grandmas house first every year. My moms side of the family congregated and we had a delicious feast. One of the dishes was lobster noodles. It’s usually available at Chinese restaurants during lunch or dinner. My uncle was going to cook some and he asked me to help. I’ll be posting the recipe soon! 🙂
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That’s my uncle in the picture. My grandma has a propane stove outside and we were outside cooking delicious lobster. My uncle laughed at me when I told him I had to get myself one of these. They really reminded me of the traditional Chinese stoves people use in China. Well…except for the propane part. My parents always talked about cooking dinner over a fire so they had to be fast and resourceful. And just in case you’re wondering, there were three trays of beautiful lobster and delicious noodles.

Another strange tradition which I think only exist in my family is bringing bread (bao) to another relatives house. Literally, I was pelted with bread from all my aunts.
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The white one is gai bao which translates into chicken bun. The one on the right of the gai bao is the cha siao bao which translates into bbq pork bun. The long looking one is just a bun with a hot dog inside. The last one is bo lo bao which is pineapple bun. It has a sweet coconuty filling. The bbq pork buns are the business! My mom actually knows how to make the chicken buns so I never really buy them anymore.

That’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll have more food stories. When I have time, I will write up the recipe for the lobster noodles. Thanks for reading!

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and polish sausage

This dish is one of my favorites. I LOVE ravioli but somehow I despise the four cheese kind. In the picture the circular ones are four cheese and the square ones are wild mushroom. I highly suggest using only the wild mushroom kind. The four cheese kind belongs with a red sauce but I threw them in because my sister likes cheese.
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Wild Mushroom Ravioli w/Brown Butter Sauce & Polish Sausage
– one box frozen wild mushroom ravioli (I can’t remember the size for the life of me)
– one package polish sausage
– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
– salt and pepper to taste
– italian seasoning if desired

– cut polish sausage into chunks
– cook ravioli in boiling water until they float to the top
– in a large pan, melt the butter until it turns brown (add sausages once it turns brown! you don’t want it to burn)
– add polish sausages to butter and cook for about 2-3 minutes until the sausages are cooked thoroughly
– add ravioli and mix to coat in brown butter sauce
– add salt and pepper to taste
– add italian seasoning or herbs if desired (I used rosemary, parsley, and thyme)

Wild mushroom ravioli is the business. I love it even though it’s quite pricy. This is another one of my easy pasta dishes. It could be served with a salad and some dinner rolls and voila. I was a very lazy cook during my college days. I had classes all day and didn’t get home until about 6:30pm so I love quick pasta dishes. You’re more than welcome to make your own ravioli but I’m too lazy for that. I bought the ravioli, polish sausage, and dinner rolls at the farmers market in Irvine. I’ve only been to the one in Irvine and the one back home but I’m sure a lot of farmer markets have great stuff. Enjoy 🙂

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

leftover pasta

I’ve been looking up recipes that I’ve written and saved since my college days and found some super easy and lazy pasta recipes. I had a load of classes every quarter and I tried my best to make dishes that tasted good and were relatively easy. Occasionally if I had time, I’d make recipes that require more effort. I call this recipe leftover pasta because I was short on cash and had these ingredients on hand for this pasta dish.
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Leftover Pasta
1 box farfalle pasta cooked
1 11 oz jar of Bertollis Italian sausage and romano sauce
6 breakfast sausage links cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

– in a large pan or pot, dump in the minced garlic
– cook garlic on medium high heat for about 30 secs (do NOT use high or over cook or you’ll have burnt garlic in your pasta)
– pour in the jar of pasta sauce until it’s warmed to your liking
– add pepper and stir (add more to your taste)
– stir in the chopped sausage links and mix to combine
– last pour in the farfalle pasta and mix again

Enjoy! 🙂 You can use a wide variety of red pasta sauces. I happen to be a fan of the italian sausage and romano sauce. You can serve it with some garlic bread and a salad and it’s an easy dinner. I usually never add salt to this recipe because I find the sauce is salty enough. After you add the pepper, try it first! Only add salt if you really like it salty. You could also add some mozzarella cheese or substitute the sausage links for italian sausage. It’s delicious for a 30 minute meal. It’s all about leftover ingredients. Somehow I realized that the dishes I make when I have leftovers generally taste better than the meals I plan..strange…:P What can I say? I love carbs.

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Chinese New Year: Part 1

Tomorrow’s the day! Chinese New Year is tomorrow and I am more than ready for some delicious food. CNY is among some of my favorite holidays because I get to have delicious food and I get red envelopes. For those of you not familiar with red envelopes, they hold money. Every year for CNY, all the married members of my family give out red envelopes to the kids. It’s sort of a sign of good fortune and prosperity. The red envelopes come with different sayings sort of like fortune cookies. Except fortune cookies are more Americanized than Chinese.

Today is what I like to call chaos clean day. My mom doesn’t give a hoot if I clean before New Years. If I don’t clean before CNY, she will have my head on a spear. Cleaning before CNY is important because you want to ring in the new year on a positive note. Also, it’s considered bad luck to do the cleaning on the actual day of CNY as Chinese people think they are sweeping away their luck. As I am currently typing this, my sister is busy cleaning. My dad is in the kitchen prepping for our feast for dinner. My grandmother made pastries for us! For those of you who have been reading my blog since the beginning know I praise my grandmother to the sky with her cooking. Nothing I could ever buy at a restaurant will taste the same as popo’s (grandmother) cooking. She made two different types of pastries. One of them is savory and the other one is sweet. The savory one consist of green onions, ground pork, chinese sausage, and etc. It’s in a oval shape and remind me of flowers based on the way it is wrapped.
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The sweet one is like the sesame balls they sell at dimsum (yum cha) without so much sesame seeds on it. It’s the dark brown circle ones in the picture.
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My popo makes the sweet ones different than the ones you could buy at restaurants. She puts yams into the dough and they make them so much more delicious. They don’t look too appealing in the picture but I guarantee you they’re freakin delicious. And they have red bean filling in the middle. My favorite kind of sweets! 🙂

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There are a ton of these plates around my house. I’m not sure what they represent but my mom always finds a way to stick some in my room.

Chinese people (aka my parents) are very “strict” about what they should eat for CNY. Some believe that certain foods will bring luck, wealthiness, and good health while other foods bring bad luck and fortune. Personally, I just want to eat because I know my parents pull all stops to make good food. So here’s the breakdown of foods in my family and what my mama said they represent. Egg rolls are a staple because they represent bars of gold (wealth). Noodles (usually rice vermicelli) represent longevity (health). Shrimp represents laughter (enjoying life/happiness). Fish represents having enough (abundance). Broccoli represents a new start (luck). Egg rolls literally are golden brown when you’re done frying them which makes them look similar to gold bars. Being wealthy in the new year is extremely important. Noodles are really long so they represent longevity. It’s bad luck to cut the noodles before you cook them or cut them before you eat them because it’s considered cutting your life short. Shrimp represents happiness because of how the word is pronounced in Chinese. Shrimp is “ha” in Chinese which could be similar to “haha” like a person is laughing. My parents usually make the fish whole and it represents having enough of everything because that’s important in the new year. Broccoli represents a fresh and growing new year. The stems on each piece of broccoli you eat represents the start of something new and it will blossom and grow.

I’m sure there are other foods that hold specific meaning but these were the main ones my mom told me about. Every year we go to the houses of my aunts and uncles and celebrate as a family. My mom said it’s important to start off the new year with a strong family presence. That’s it for part one. Come back for part two soon 🙂

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

Occupation

I’ve been pondering this question since I’ve graduated college. What do I want to do? You see..as a psychology major, the jobs are very limited without higher education. I only have a Bachelors and decent paying jobs usually require a MA, MFT, or higher. I’ve been stuck at a crossroad because I don’t know what I want to specialize in if I decide to go to grad school.

Sometimes I get insanely jealous at the people who know where they’re going and how to get there. I’m currently working at a non-public school for kids with developmental disabilities. I did an internship with a preschool while I was still completely my undergrad work. So the answer should be simple right? I want to work with kids. Or at least that’s what I figured I wanted to do since everything I’m doing seems to involve kids. Somehow, everything is very complicated in my mushy brain.

When I first decided to be a psychology major, I was very driven and passionate about what I was going to be. I was blunt and determined to become a clinical psychologist so I could work with veterans for the Veterans Affairs. My mind has since wandered elsewhere. I like to stick with what I plan to do but at the same time, I don’t want to be unhappy later on. I can’t decide if I want to pursue an MFT and work as a therapist for children or if I want to pursue a PhD and work as a clinical psychologist for veterans. I’ve also thought about working with children who come from military families.

I feel like I’m in la la land most of the time because I can’t figure out what I want to do. My sister says that sometimes it just takes time and I should keep doing what I’m doing because it’ll help me gain experience. To be honest, I only applied for the job I currently hold because I figured it would help me decide if I want to work with kids or adults. My mind has not changed a bit since working there. I’m still in limbo. Some days I feel like the world will show me a sign and tell me I should go down one path. I know for a fact I don’t plan on being a teacher’s aide for a career. I know I’m going to grad school. I just can’t decide which career path to pursue. I figured I wouldn’t look into grad schools unless I know which career path to follow. My dream school is riding on UCLA. I guess I’m a wanna be bruin at heart. My sister graduated from UCLA 🙂

Has anyone done one or the other? Any advice? Pros? Cons? If you wouldn’t mind telling me your experience..it would help a great deal! 🙂

Fail Sweetly,
Justina

oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies

My doctor trip went well. As in I’m finally getting the medication I need to get over whatever it is I have. I was prescribed a long list of medication. Somehow I always feel so “wrong” when a doctor prescribes me more than one medication. I feel diseased or something. Anyway, I’m feeling slightly better which is a good sign. I decided to write a post for the oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies I made.
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I got the recipe from Picky Palate. The only thing I did that wasn’t in the instructions was put the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour before I used it. I’m quite a cookie fanatic so I’ve made tons of chocolate chip cookies. The butter was at room temperature and somehow my cookie dough was very sticky and looked like dough for my pizza..so I stuck it in the fridge to harden up a bit and it was fine. As much as I love the recipe, I’m most likely going to be using my go to chocolate chip recipe which has not failed me thus far. I’ve never had to put it in the fridge to harden.

I’ll be perfectly honest, these cookies taste better as the days go on. The longer you keep them, the better they taste. I think the biggest issue would be keeping them long enough as they go pretty fast. The oreo is so soft in the middle after it’s been baked. I couldn’t find pictures of the cookies I made using Jacques Torres recipe so I guess I will make some more when I’m feeling better. I’m excited for Chinese New Year this Sunday. It means delicious food! 🙂

Fail Sweetly,
Justina