Coconut Cantaloupe Popsicles

Coconut Cantaloupe Popsicles
Coconut Cantaloupe Popsicles
Coconut Cantaloupe Popsicles
Coconut Cantaloupe Popsicles
Coconut Cantaloupe Popsicles
Coconut Cantaloupe Popsicles

Gosh, I've been bad at this whole food blogging thing! Sorry I was absent for a while again. Life has been a little crazy. I feel like I say that once a month. As you probably know, I applied to be on The Great American Baking Show. That happened about 2 weeks ago and a bunch of crazy stuff has happened since then. Once I sent in my application, I took a deep breath and waited like 2 seconds. The next day I got a phone call that lead to another phone call, which then lead to a semi awkward facetime interview, and then all of a sudden I was preparing to do down to Los Angeles to audition in person. Holy cow! My little anxious heart was going to explode. So that's why I've been a little quite on the blog.

For the LA auditions I needed to bring a highly decorated bake, a pastry, and a loaf of bread following their super basic recipe. I had one week to figure out what I was going to make, practice each a few times, and figure out how the hell I was going to be able to bake all these thing at the right time so that they still taste good after a 7 hour drive to LA. Oh, and like still work a real full time job and deal with life all at the same time. I decided to a make a tahini layer cake filled with plum jam, covered in vanilla swiss meringue buttercream, and topped with matcha macarons and baked meringues for my decorated bake. There was a lot going on. For my pastry I made an oolong tea pastel de nata or egg tart if you're more familiar with the egg tarts you find at dim sum. The only component I've ever made before was the plum jam... and the bread sort of. So I was really pushing myself with this challenge.

Last week felt like Hell Week, which is what we would call the last week leading up to final reviews in architecture school. It's as awful as the name alludes to. We would stay up all night, eat a lot of vending machine ice cream sandwiches, occasionally suffer an x-acto knife injury, and design something eventually. I didn't really sleep, at least not peacefully. Did I mention that I'm an anxious person? I burned myself pretty bad on a 450 degree dutch oven while practicing my bread. I was being dumb and had a margarita that night... so don't drink and handle hot metal. But that bread was the best bread I've ever made! So that's something! It was a week of many many failures and a few successes. By the end of the week I was feeling somewhat confident in my bakes.

It had finally struck 6pm on Thursday and I was quietly packing up my things to head home and bake for the rest of the night. But my coworkers noticed and gave me a sweet little send off and cheered me on for the weekend. It was a great little boost that I needed : ) I headed home and baked for what felt like days. I slept for maybe 3 hours, got up at 3am to bake some more. Then all of a sudden it was 9am and I had a pretty cake, some egg tarts, and a b+ loaf of bread to transport down to LA. Thankfully Reuben also took the day off to be my personal driver, so I didn't have to be a zombie baker and a zombie driver at the same time. I thought I could sleep on the driver down there, but nope! I was a little too anxious to allow my mind to shut off. I just had no idea how this judging process was going to go. The unknown makes me nervous sometimes. I imagined that the judging would be like how my architecture critiques would go. I would stand up there, present my process and reasoning behind each bake and discuss their praises and critiques. That I felt comfortable with. But that's not really how it went down.

The judging took place in the ballroom of the hotel the production company got us a room at, which was super convenient. Reuben and I arrived at the hotel about an hour before my tasting slot. So I had a little bit of time to calm down and make myself look like a presentable adult person. I carefully gripped my bakes and brought them down to the ballroom. The room was filled with who I assumed were producers, one of whom I recognized from facetiming and chatting on the phone with all week. Hi, Matt! They placed my bakes on a big Cheesecake Factory scale platter and carried them into another mysterious room. I guess I wasn't going to be in the room as they were tasting. Reuben and I waited outside for about 10 minutes until they were ready to bring me in. There were 2 people in there- baking experts. They told me that overall my bakes were really beautiful. I had a minimal but impactful style that was refreshing to see. That's a good comment, right?!! I was feeling good. Then they told me that the tahini in the cake was a little too savory and that the oolong tea turned my custard a little grey. Ugh, not good. But overall they said that everything tasted good. Cool. The second half of the session was them asking me if I've made x,y, and z. Have I made a 3 tiered wedding cake? NO. Have you made puff pastry from scratch before? NO. Have you croissants? NO. Have you made a mirror glaze? NO. I did say yes to a few things, but about 75% of the things they asked about I had never made before.

There was a knock on the door and my audition was over. It all happened so fast. I walked out, met up with Reuben, and we were directed to just hang around the hotel a little bit until the judges decided if I was going on to the last and final round of the audition, which would be a technical bake the next day. So we went to the hotel bar. I ordered a white wine and we watching the first 5 minutes of the incredibly disappointing game 4 of the NBA finals. I got a call on my phone from Matt, my producer, and he told me that I was not going through to the next round. I had only been at the hotel for less than 2 hours and already my weird baking journey was over. I teared up just a little bit, but held it together because I was sitting at the bar of a hotel surrounded by strangers. By this point I was mentally and physically exhausted. But my sadness quickly dissipated. I realized that I did it. I put myself into this weird and challenging scenario and followed it through. I felt proud of myself. And I felt a sense of relief honestly. I felt like throughout the entire audition process I was pushing myself into this mold that I didn't really fit into. I'm not really baker. I would never say that I'm a baker. I enjoy baking and love experimenting with my bakes. But I'm really a cook. I love chopping vegetables and eating noodles to much. 

Plus we now had the whole weekend in LA to just hang out! The production company paid for our hotel all weekend, so I pretty much worked really hard all week for a free hotel in LA. It was great! We found some great beer bars and some really really amazing food. The hotel was in Glendale, Ca, which has the largest Armenian community in the US. So we got to experience some top notch Armenian food. If you're in LA, you must try Mini Kabob in Glendale, it's sooooooo good! The Chef also had a taco pop up at Smorgasburg, so we decided to stay a little longer on Sunday and stop by for some free tacos and all the other crazy food you can find there. It was so much fun! I wish San Francisco had one too!

This whole experience ended up being really wonderful, and I have absolutely no regrets doing it. Thanks to all of you who were cheering me on throughout the whole process and sent sweet words to me when I told you I didn't make it through. Thank you to my friends for being there for me and not getting annoyed of me as I was live texting the whole experience. And the biggest thank you to Reuben! Seriously, what a guy. He has to deal with the not so fun side of the experience. Everyone else just gets to say, "You can do it!" and cheer. But Reuben had to handle the many times I broke down from stress and dramatic moments. Like when I burned my hand and cried all night. I get sort of mean when I get grumpy. But thankfully Reuben still loves me after this who experience. He's so kind and patient with me. Really could not have done this whole thing without him by my side.

So this story really has nothing to do with popsicles! But I've been meaning to share this recipe for like a month now... I got a little busy obviously. This recipe is super simple, super fresh, and really visually appealing if you're into geometric color blocks like me : ) I hope you enjoy them and have a great week!


Coconut Cantaloupe Popcicles

makes 10 popsicles

materials:

3 cups cubed cantaloupe
1 cup + 1/3 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cup coconut yogurt (I used Noosa Yogurt)
1/4 cup honey or agave syrup

steps:

1. Blend together cantaloupe and 1 cup coconut milk until thick and smooth. Taste for sweetness. You can add a bit of honey or agave syrup if you prefer it a little sweeter. 

2. Pour cantaloupe mixture into your popsicle molds so that they are filled 2/3rds of the way up. Place the popsicles in the freezer, propped up at an angle and allow to freeze for 1 hour.

3. Mix together coconut yogurt, 1/3 cup coconut milk and honey or agave syrup until combined. Fill the remainder of the popsicle molds with the yogurt mixture. Insert popsicle sticks and place back into the freezer to completely set up.

4. Enjoy once completely frozen!

Spring Chicken Siu Mai

Spring Chicken Siu Mai
Spring Chicken Siu Main
Spring Chicken Siu Mai
Spring Chicken Siu Mai
Spring Chicken Siu Mai
Spring Chicken Siu Mai
Spring Chicken Siu Mai
Spring Chicken Siu Mai
Spring Chicken Siu Mai

Ah, it feels good to be home : ) Reuben and I just got back from 9 wonderful days on the East Coast! We danced around, ate, and celebrated love with some of my best friends in New York City. Then we got some quality time in with his parents in cute little Roosevelt, New Jersey. His mom made us brownies and this incredible chorizo, chickpea, and cod stew that I'm still dreaming about. Triple C! I also developed an addiction to these coconut and seedy cluster things they kept at the house. I'm still dreaming about them and trying to find the time to recreate them myself. THEY ARE SO GOOD. At the tail end of our trip we spent the last weekend in Philadelphia. It was MUGGY. I forgot what that type of weather felt like. It was so hot and wet, the second you went outside your skin was instantly damp. Living in San Francisco has made us wimps. We live in a bubble of constant 65 degree weather and any temperature slightly above or below that is either hot as balls or cold as tits. Is cold as tits a saying??? I caught myself telling someone in Philadelphia how we don't eat outside in San Francisco because it gets down to 55 degrees at night and it's freezing. I realized I sounded like an idiot. My inner midwesterner was embarrassed.

Despite the muggy weather in Philadelphia, I absolutely loved it there. Reuben and I have been wanting to make a trip out there to see if we could potentially move there. I think the answer is yes, definitely yes. The food was so great! We ate at 2 Michael Solomonov restaurants, Dizengoff and Abe Fischer. Insanely good! We would have made it 3 if I didn't feel like a meatball the whole time and had some actual stomach room to grab a donut at Federal Donuts... next time! Center City was super cute and charming. Super walkable too! I was worried that Philadelphia would be missing all the Asian food we're spoiled with by living in San Francisco, but then 1 block from our Airbnb was a ramen place that made brisket ramen with kimchi and a matzo ball and all my worries disappeared. It's hard to compare any city to San Francisco, but I think Philadelphia has all the amenities and culture points we need, but just a lot cheaper and a little more charming with all the cute old neighborhoods. Downtown Philadelphia is also not nearly as poopy as Downtown San Francisco... ugh, gross. If/when we move there I'll just have to buy a bunch of loose summer dresses and shorts to help acclimate to the weather. 

Since we've been living in the Inner Richmond, which is the Asian food mecca of San Francisco, I've developed this irrational fear of not having access to great Asian food whenever we move. We just have the best Thai, Burmese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Chinese restaurants within 4 blocks of our apartment. But the day that we move will come, and I will be prepared to make my favorite dishes!  I'll probably never be able to recreate the magic that happens in the kitchen of Good Luck Dim Sum, but I'm feeling pretty confident that my dumpling making skills will satisfy my cravings. These Spring Chicken Siu Mai were inspired by all the beautiful spring produce popping up at our farmers market. I love this season so much! It's almost as great as late summer, when all the tomatos and stone fruit taste like candy. The chicken siu mai are a lot lighter and maybe slightly healthier than the traditional pork and shrimp or beef fillings. Once it's all steamed together it tastes super fresh and sort of like all the best parts of your spring garden rolled up into a little dumpling. Bonus points for it being super easy to assemble too. No fancy pleats or pinching necessary!


Spring Chicken Siu Mai

makes 36 dumplings

Materials:

1 lb ground chicken (turkey works too)
1/3 cup fresh peas
1/3 cup diced carrots (same size as peas)
2 spring/green onion stocks - whites and greens thinly chopped
1 egg
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
36 round wonton wrappers
extra peas and carrots for garnish

Steps:

1. Combine ground chicken, peas, carrots, spring onions, egg, cornstarch, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, and white pepper in a bowl. Gently mix together with your hands or a rubber spatula until evenly combined, avoid over mixing. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to marinate.

2. Place a heaping tablespoon (about 1.5 tablespoons) of filling in the center of your wonton wrapper. Fold up the side of the wrapper, but leave the top of the dumpling open. Place on a lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Cover prepared dumplings with a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out. Top each dumpling with either a pea or a cube of carrot for garnish.

3. Boil water in a pot and place a bamboo steamer (the same diameter as the pot) on top. Line the bamboo steamer with cabbage or a parchment paper disk with perforated holes. Arrange dumplings in the steamer, cover, and steam for 7-8 minutes.

4. Remove dumplings from the steamer and enjoy by dipping into some dark soy sauce.

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Sprouted Kitchen Food Photography Workshop

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Hi, friends! Sorry for the absence. Life outside of this space has been a little hectic. I feel like the week leading up to vacation is always a crazy whirlwind of tying up loose ends, getting as much work done as you can so your team isn't left floundering after you leave, clearing the fridge so it's not a science experiment when you get back, and throwing a Riverdale season finale watch party. Yes, I made cheeseburgers, french fries, and sprinkle milkshakes for a bunch of ladies and it was excellent. Once I found out the fate of the poor citizens of Riverdale, I was ready to fly off to New York to watch my best friend get hitched! I spent the last few days running around New York City, eating things, drinking things, dancing on a boat, and catching up with some of my best friends. Weddings are so great for obvious reasons... you know the whole mushy love thing. But they are also such wonderful reunions. Jeff, Katie, Hali, and Ben - I miss you all so much already! Still going through some friendship withdrawal. Why don't we all live in the same city again?!

Vacation is not over though! Reuben and I are spending a few days in New Jersey with his parents before heading to Philadelphia for the weekend. I really do enjoy New Jersey, at least where Reuben is from. It's green, rural, and peaceful. Everything that I crave while living in San Francisco. Plus it's filled with the best carbs in all the land! When we are not eating, we're watching The Great British Baking Show and planning out how to make sure my audition video isn't super embarrassing. If I haven't told you already, I'm going to audition for the Great American Baking Show, so wish me luck and send me all your tips if you're a GBBS super fan.

Part of the application is submitting a few photos of my best bakes. So while I was going through the gajillion photos hogging up space on my laptop, I realized I never shared with you my weekend of taking pictures of pretty food at the Sprouted Kitchen Photography Workshop a few weeks back! It was a literal dream. Sara Forte and Hugh Forte of Sprouted Kitchen taught the class. It was held at Aran Goyoaga's extra dreamy studio kitchen. It was filled with so many beautiful ceramics, linen napkins in every color, and stacks of stone slabs and backgrounds. A DREAM. I might say dreamy a little too much in the remainder of the post. 8 other ladies and I all few in from other parts of North America to spend the weekend together in Seattle arranging microgreens and playing around with our cameras. Hugh, Sara, and Aran were so sweet and were so knowledgable. I was fan-girling a little hard on the first day. It's just so crazy to actually meet these people that you've been following on Instagram for years and they are making breakfast for you! Like, what?! 

Without getting into too many painful details, the weekend workshop was spent shooting and styling the beautiful food Aran made for us, soaking in all the techy knowledge Hugh shared, and becoming Lightroom wizards. It was so fun! A little intimidating in the beginning because everyone's cameras were like triple my size... but size doesn't really matter, right?? As much as I loved playing with my food, I would have to say that my favorite part of the whole class was reflecting on why we do this. Why do we take the pictures we take? If there was no Instagram involved (no one would see it), why are we doing this? I think for most of the other people in the class, they had photography in mind. But for me I was reflecting on cooking. Why do I cook? Why do I want to make it beautiful? Why do I want to share it here or on Instagram? Big questions. I took the questions back home with me after the first workshop day. I had dinner with my friends in Seattle, but kept the question in the back of my head. That night I went to a friend's house for a birthday BBQ and I some how commandeered the grill and made some top notch  hot dogs for the group : ) . I think while I was grilling up basic Oscar Meyer hotdogs, I remembered that I love making food for people because I just love taking care of people. I want to make them happy. I want to share with them the joy I get from good food. I want to share with them something surprising and unique, but may be a pretty normal thing for me and my family. I want to share with people a little bits of me. I'm hoping that if you've been reading this for a while that you feel like you know me. Or if you actually do know me IRL, that I sound like myself!! The internet is such a big crazy space, but my hope is that my little corner of it feels cozy and like we're sharing a virtual slice of cake and coffee together : )))

Okay, my v heavy pasta dinner is starting to put me to sleep. Gotta sleep and semi watch the Cavs game. Bye, I'll let you know if Philadelphia is fun!