Wednesday, December 26, 2012

World Peace for Christmas?

Merry happy Christmas! Hope everyone is as stuffed as I am. Seriously, I have been very very bad this holiday season. Oh well, I have all of 2013 to make up for my fatness of food binges this past month. Holidays are always a good excuse to cheat.

Let's face it, I bake all the time. But most of the time not everything gets eaten. Yes, that is an unfortunate outcome. Very seldom do I have sweet tooth craving. When I make 3 different batches of cookies in a day, the kitchen gets a little chaotic and I literally have stacks of baked goods that I end up taking to my friends at Starbucks. So, usually, when I have an urge to bake, I try to cater to what everyone else wants-- because my Starbucks friends are getting too spoiled these days.

Every week or so, my sister forwards me emails with recipes she wants me to make for her. To be honest, I get so many potential recipe emails, they loiter in my inbox until my sister asks if I looked at it/want to make it for her. Since I don't get to see her that often throughout the year, I try my best to feed her well (and by well I mean make whatever she wants). Her request for Christmas were these Word Peace Cookies.

For a chocolate cookie, these are surprisingly very low maintenance. The only thing I had to pick up from Trader Joe's was some good quality bittersweet chocolate. Somewhere in the range of 60-85% cacao is always good.

World Peace/Korova Cookies
Paris Sweets, Dorie Greenspan via Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
(I used unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
(I used regular Kosher salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour mixture, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Serving: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.

Do ahead:
Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days (Deb note: not a chance); they can be frozen for up to 2 months. They can also be frozen in log form for months, and can be sliced and baked directly from the freezer, adding a couple minutes to the baking time.

Don't be intimidated by these at all. Just mix, wrap, refrigerated, cut, bake, done. They come out divine. I love how, for a chocolate cookie, they are not overly sweet. It's actually more like a chocolate shortbread. This recipe is a keeper!
(Instagram photo c/o my sister @melissafong)

Monday, December 10, 2012

cranberry white chocolate cookies

I have kind of a silly ritual. The night before I give a presentation, I bake. Baking is happy time. And when it comes to giving presentations, I feel like the worst thing is to over-prepare. The best thing: fill my kitchen with the sweet sweet glorious smell of sugar and butter.

This past Thanksgiving, my sister was craving a cranberry white chocolate cookie. And being the wonderful sister I am, I decided to include this cookie into the holiday baked goods repertoire this year. Turns out that improvising this cranberry white chocolate cookie was such a hit. My sister loved it, so I decided to make them again to bribe my professor.. I mean, share with the class.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chunks or chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
2. In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients-- flour, baking soda, salt.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or separate bowl with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugars until light and even consistency. Then, beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined.
4. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture (on stir speed) until just incorporated. Do not overmix!
5. Fold in cranberries and white chocolate. (I just add these in after my dough has come together and pulse the stand mixer on stir a few times)
6. Use a cookie scoop to drop even portions of the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. 
7. Bake for 12-15 minutes (rotating in between) until the edges are just light brown. If the cookies are overbaked they will be more crispy than chewy, so it's important to watch them.

So simple. So good. So festive. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

getting organized

I have so much jewelry that I think I could probably put them all in a pile and swim it it. I have been stuffing everything into my Pottery Barn McKenna Leather Jewelry Armoire for months now. And every month (week, day..), more baubles get squished inside. It's a pretty big size jewelry box, so you can imagine how many baubles I must own. Here's a picture of my jewelry armoire at it's finest-- prior to overcrowding:

Being the statement necklace junkie I am, you don't want to see what it looks like now. I just knew I needed another type of organizer to lift a little burden off my armoire. Statement necklaces don't really work that well in a jewelry box anyway, because they lay all weird and end up getting knotted and stacked on top of each other. No bueno.

I found this amazing framed jewelry organizer on Etsy. It took a few weeks to arrive but it was definitely worth the wait! It's perfectly crafted because it has tons of hooks to hang necklaces/bracelets but also a nice framed screen for hook earrings. I don't really have too many hook earrings, so this ended up working well. Now, my jewelry box carries mostly my daintier jewelry which is such a huge improvement.

I've looked all over the web for jewelry organizers. I'm not sure if this one is that practical for someone like me who owns way too much (because not all of the statement necklaces even made it onto the hooks). However, it's a nice way to organize jewelry with the added decor of the framed design. There were a lot of great organizers with better storage, but what they had in storage potential they lacked in style.

I'm totally happy with this purchase because it is really well made. It's not that heavy but surprisingly sturdy. I love the somewhat distressed look (not sure if you can quite tell from the picture) in midnight black, especially since my bauble collection is super colorful. Plus, it matches the rest of my bedroom furniture, so it's kind of perfect.

This was my second bauble organization attempt (the first was the armoire) and I would mark it as a success. I know eventually I'll have to figure out how to store the rest (plus future baubles) but I loving having some on display. Today, I made a lonely wall and an overworked jewelry box a little happier.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

the paleo life

In an attempt to undo all the crap I've put into my body over the years, I started Paleo (aka the Paleolithic diet aka the caveman diet). Once I completed my first Whole 30, I was hooked. Although I haven't been as strict with my Paleo eating over the past few weeks (because everyone said I was being "no fun"), I want to get back on track. The basics of Paleo are: no grains, no legumes, no starchy white potatoes or corn, no dairy besides eggs, no refined sugar, no processed foods of any kind. Honestly, I was unsure if I could make it though the first 30 days but then I reached a point where I forgot what I was missing, because real food just tastes better.

And then Thanksgiving happened, and I was once again reminded of how freaking amazing hot, buttery, castiron parkerhouse rolls taste. Don't even get me started on the apple pie with the super flaky crust and sweet, gooey filling. I tried not to overindulge but shoot, when it hit my lips, I knew I was in trouble.

While I was eating all the bad, bad, very bad, taboo food, it felt good for all of 15 minutes. Then, I just started feeling lethargic, unmotivated, and overall useless. I literally spent hours not doing anything because my body was in shock. Everyone has their own reasons for going Paleo but mine is pretty clear-- I feel more energetic, healthy, and happy. And, me, I like to be happy.

I'm not saying I will never eat frozen yogurt or pasta or french fries again. That would be so silly and, not to mention, such a big lie. Though, my goal has always been to try to eat Paleo at least 90% of the time. I don't believe in depriving myself of everything I love, but I know that eating mindfully will always steer me in the right direction. It's really easy to do when I have time to prep, cook and come up with new food creations. But, truthfully, it's such a pain when I don't.. So I can understand how sometimes Paleo just doesn't fit into a person's lifestyle.

The meal I cannot live without is breakfast. I used to never eat breakfast, because I either slept through it or ran out the door in too much of a hurry. In order to prevent those awkward moments when someone nearby can hear my stomach growling like crazy, I push myself to wake up at least 30 minutes earlier than normal. Although I wake up hating myself for setting my alarm to go off 6 times in 5 minute intervals, I end up being so thankful for those 30 extra minutes I can eat, relax, and check my email at the beginning of the day.  

This is what I had for breakfast this morning: an omelet stuffed with sauteed red bell pepper, onion, mushroom, and broccoli.. also, free-range chicken meatballs and sliced avocado. My breakfast usually looks like this or some of variation of the same thing. Yes I'm boring and semi-predictable. The more color I can put on my plate is always better, especially when there's no cheese in my omelet and no toast on the side. My version of Paleo also includes black coffee because, well, you don't want to know me if I'm deprived of coffee.

On that note, I must gulp down another cup and finish up some work. I hate when the weekend is over.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

fall staples

The fall season has taken over my life. I'm addicted to over-sized sweaters, cardigans, collared button downs, skinny jeans, and riding boots. Luckily, west coast living makes it easy to just dress in light layers during the cooler seasons. I am so thankful, because big puffy coats and snow shoes are not flattering on me.

Anyway, here's my outfit of the day (jeggings and riding boots not pictured). Excuse the lazy side braid and the crinkled collar (fail).

The reason why this picture is so close up is to highlight the bauble (because that's really all I care about).

Bauble of the Day: the Silver Dew Drop Bib from BaubleBar. I've seen this bib on the site before in rose gold and gold. I was tempted to buy one of those two but just never took the plunge. When they added this silver version to the site recently, I decided to go for it. I like that it is very holiday-esque and the design is unique. I used some of the BaubleBar vault points I've accumulated and got this beauty for free! However, even if I had spent money on this, I'd still say the $32 is worth it.

To go with this bauble, I'm wearing my all-time favorite cardigan-- the BDG classic cardigan from Urban Outfitters. I started out with one and have it in 4 different colors. Can't say that regret owning so many of the same one. It's the most versatile, goes-with-everything cardigan ever. There will always be room in my closet for more.

I also wore the Tinley Road Silk Olivia Blouse from Piperlime. It's a tad on the baggier side, which I don't mind because it looks good either tucked in or just hanging out for a relaxed look. But, I can see maybe sizing down for a more fitted wear. The only problem for me is the bagginess of the sleeves. I always roll them up anyway so I guess it doesn't matter, but to others it might. Overall, it passes for "work" attire and that works for me.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wanna s'more? Some more of what?

So, basically, I'm kind of a mess. There, I said it. I spend most of my time on Pinterest, in the kitchen, or buying all the sparkly things. I can't help myself. I'm obsessed. Surprisingly, I still have friends who accept my crazy... probably because I stuff them with baked goods (and let's face it, baked goods make everything okay).

I am a true baker at heart but ironically do not have much of a sweet tooth. There is something about kneading massive amounts of dough, crafting perfectly-shaped cookies, frosting delicate cupcakes, and the orgasmic smell of buttery and sugary goodness that is just so incredibly relaxing and enjoyable. However, more than anything, sharing the edible love with everyone else is the real reason why I will never stop. Happiness can certainly be so simple and so sweet.

The other half of my double life is devoted to baubles. Really, how many statement necklaces can one person own? Well, stay tuned and you will soon find out. Once you miss out on something because you hesitated over the purchase button for too long, you will never be the same. And that's how it started for me. If it's sparkly, I'm pretty much sold. But these days, everything is sparkly, so I'm pretty much screwed.

I'm not a fashion or culinary blogger, and I'm not going to pretend like I have any expertise in these areas. This is just my life. Sometimes I find really great recipes or want to show off my latest bauble. And this may be a better, more organized platform to do so than having all my Facebook friends and Twitter followers judge me for all the daily uploads.

With that said, I will leave you with this: the most delicious, fail-proof s'mores cookies I've ever come across. Thanks to The Girl Who Ate Everything
, my s'mores world has officially been rocked.

S’mores Cookies

Source: Ice Cream Before Dinner
11 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
(you can cut this down or eliminate it if you don't like the strong cinnamon flavor)
2 ½ cups flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
3 regular sized Hershey’s bars, broken into pieces
1-2 packages graham crackers, broken into squares


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, sea salt and cinnamon to combine. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter with white and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
3. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixer and combine on low speed.
4. Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Chill dough in refrigerator for 1 hour to overnight.
(The chill time doesn't really make much of a difference. It's not a super sticky dough)

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking pans with parchment paper.
6. Lay out graham crackers side by side on the pans as close as possible (they should be touching).

7. Place tablespoons of dough on graham crackers about 1 – 1 ½ inches apart. Press down slightly with fingertips.
8. Bake for 5 minutes then remove from oven to press Hershey’s bar pieces on to the top. You can place as many pieces or as little as you want depending how much chocolate flavor you want.
9. Bake for 5 – 7 more minutes or until dough is beginning to turn golden brown at the edges. 
10. Remove to a wire rack to cool. For clean cutting make sure cookies are completely cool and cut with a sharp knife.

For someone who doesn't like to consume many sweets, I have a weird fascination with s'mores. Maybe it's because one of my all-time favorite childhood movies is The Sandlot. Though if I'm being honest, gooey marshmallow plus crispy graham cracker plus melty chocolate equals love.. always. The problem with the classic s'more is that it only tastes good when eaten right away-- no time to think about the gluttonous compilation of ultimate sweetness I am shamelessly stuffing into my face. 

These cookies are the greatest adaptation of the classic s'more. This s'more maintains the perfect balance of slight chewiness from the cookie and the familiar crunch from the piece graham cracker it lays on top of like a pillow. The cookie comes out exactly the same whether you bake the dough immediately or after refrigerating. It's not a super gooey dough and I hate waiting, so I always bake them immediately. Plus, you can bake the whole batch right away because they stay fresh for quite a few days. Each day after they're baked, they seem to taste better and better to me. Until you get to like day 6 or 7-- but really, if there are any survivors at all after day 2, there is a serious problem.

Here's proof I made these and they turn out as heavenly as described..

Okay, can you tell I love these cookies? I could probably continue talking about them, but instead I'll just encourage you to try them yourself. Go.. do it.. now!