latenight baking: crinkle ginger molasses cookies

I must have the biggest soft spot for Starbucks ginger molasses cookies. Every time I see them, I just have to get one, sometimes along with a tall unsweetened soy green tea latte (always a mouthful to order, haha)! It’s also a cheapo way to get stars too. But alas, I discovered that they are not available in Hong Kong. Meaning when the cravings hit, I won’t be able to do anything to satisfy them D:

Or so I thought.

I tried searching for a similar recipe and found a few that were quite promising. Although, knowing my luck with cookie batters, I was a little doubtful that I’d get the results I want. At first I was really disappointed because the batter turned out really wet and there was no wa I could roll them into balls… The heat in Hong Kong must’ve melted the batter more than it should… But my cravings were strong enough to urge me on – I salvaged the batter by adding more flour. The results… Well, ee for yourself:

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TADA!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe how perfect the cookie came out!! I can’t say they’re similar to the cookies at Starbucks, but this had it’s own charm. The spices were prominent but not overbearing, and the cookies had a nice crunch on the outside, whilst still being delectably chewy on the inside. I seriously could’ve finished the whole batch (yes, the whole dozen of cookies) if I hadn’t quickly packed them up to give away to my parent’s colleagues and people I met up with the next day. All this baking is seriously going to sabotage my “healthy diet” plans, haha.

By the way, hopefully this will be the last post with sub-par quality photos… Sony just released a software update (ver 10.1.1.A.1.253) and they seem to have improved the camera performance 🙂 Shall be testing the camera more to see how it turns out. But I guess all the latenight baking means I’ll never have optimal lighting for nice pictures anyway… Ha.

Anyhow!! Here’s the recipe below if you want to try making these. Guaranteed to be super easy and super quick! Even if you choose to hand-whisk everything like I did … I seem to have taken a liking for hand-whisking everything after the meringue incident. There’s a strange sense of satisfaction (with a dash of power) in being able to beat the crap out of something for the greater good…

Crinkle Ginger Molasses Cookies
Recipe adapted from Fifteen Spatulas

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar (+ extra for rolling)
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 tbsp unsulphured molasses

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F (175*C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a big bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until combined. Add the egg white and whip until smooth, then add the molasses. Mix in your dry ingredients until the flour just disappears.
  4. Portion out the cookie dough into 12 balls, and roll them in granulated sugar.
  5. Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes. Or until cookies “spring back” when touched.
  6. Allow the cookies to set before transferring to cooling rack.

Tips:

  • I added the nutmeg and cinnamon to add to the depth of flavour but you can omit them if you don’t have them on hand already.
  • Using blackstrap molasses will give a more potent flavour
  • For softer cookies, leave them in the oven for less time. If you do this, make sure you let the cookes REALLY set, because they will be very fragile!! (Speaking from personal experience :P)
  • Portion out the cookie dough into 6 balls to make those Starbucks sized cookies (and bake them for a bit longer) XD

Let me know how they turn out for you! I love this recipe so much I’m going to make more of these cookies soon hehehe…

milestone birthday + pwnage by a can of soup

I’ve never been big on birthdays. Just because I build up so much expectation for it to be a “special” day that I end up being disappointed… (Signs of a closet narcissist :P)… Anyhow, I planned to help my previous supervisor with her side business (yes, I wanted to work on my birthday). Nothing complicated, just handling some orders for shipping. If you’re interested in affordable cosmetic brushes and beauty products, you can check out their website. I met up with her for lunch, fully expecting that we’d be working together afterwards. Then she informs me that she was going to leave me at the office to go do something else, to which I shamelessly protested, “I can’t believe you’re going to leave me all by myself on my birthday!!!!!!!!!!!”

Turns out she didn’t realise it was my birthday, even though I’ve probably mentioned it at least ten times during the week (haha, so rejected…). So in the end, we both went back to the office to pack stuff. After that, she let me tag along with her to the facial place ’cause I wanted to see Ava. It was nice to be able to chill for a bit! Also made friends with the facial boss lady and she offered to give me a free facial… I was so touched.

Quickly headed home for dinner post-beautification (bleurgh) – surprisingly my dad cancelled his prior engagements to have dinner with me. Probably felt bad for missing dinner yesterday, when we purposely moved the date for him. My dad drove me to the grocery store to pick up some ingredients and I whipped up a simple dinner. First time I cooked for my family… Too bad my brother wasn’t here! Then we had the whole obligatory birthday cake shebang … Complete with picture-taking, out-of-tune singing, candle-blowing and ceremonial cake cutting. Uhhhh, I guess before you get too bored from reading… Here are some pictures from dinner:

blueberry cucumber spinach salad with vanilla balsamic dressing

blueberry cucumber spinach salad with a honey vanilla balsamic dressing

whole wheat spaghetti with chicken, mushrooms, red peppers and onions tossed in a garlic olive oil sauce

whole wheat spaghetti with chicken, mushrooms, red peppers and onions tossed in a garlic olive oil sauce

Earl Grey chiffon cake from Smile!

Earl Grey chiffon cake from Smile!
(quite tasty, albeit a little dry)

Now that I’ve turned 25, I thought it was a good time to change and become a (more) responsible adult. So to display my debut into adulthood, I decided to put away the groceries that we bought. But I didn’t stop there. I decided to rearrange all the canned soup, moving the older ones to the front and putting the new ones in the back. Responsibility, with an extra mile, right there.

Alas, getting older doesn’t automatically mean you become wiser. Or less clumsy in this case. A can of soup slipped out of my hand and dropped right onto my foot. Absolute pwnage. Of course there was the inevitable pain, blood and bruising, but what I find peculiar is how it managed to only hit my middle toe, leaving all the others unscathed… Had to cancel all my planned engagements today because I can only limp around. SIGH.

Anyhow, what a birthday I’ve had this year! Definitely a day you find out who holds you dear to their hearts, and also those who secretly hate you.

Dang you, Campbell (soup).

latenight baking: chewy cookies

I absolutely ADORE chewy cookies, so much that I’ve been trying to perfect the recipe for a looong time. I’ve tried many many cookie recipes and have always failed to yield anything with the desired texture or appearance – somehow my cookies were cursed to NEVER spread. I have no idea why… I can’t be that bad at baking, right?… I thought cookies were definitely my nemeses. But, one day I finally found this awesome recipe after one of my friends nagged and nagged for white-chip macadamia nut cookies. Even though the first time I baked them was a disaster, we got AMAZING cookies the second time around. In fact, they were almost perfect. Almost. But of course, being me, I felt pretty triumphant already, so I left it at that…

Until the past two days. I’ve been reliving my university exam-week years – that is, breaking out the baking mojo when I’m really supposed to be studying (or sleeping). Why? Because I make random goals to bring baked goodies for people I haven’t seen for a while, and I happened to be meeting up with some ex-colleagues for lunch. It doesn’t help that Hong Kong is so grossly humid that the only way to maximise the freshness level is to bake as close to the meetup as possible… Hence the latenight baking. Anyhow, I proceeded with the recipe above but my cookies were mediocre.

Conveniently, tonight I had another excuse to try again – I’m meeting another friend of mine tomorrow and I had promised to bake him something before I left. With a few more tweaks to the recipe above, I think I’m one step closer to the perfect cookie base!

The Almost Perfect Chewy Cookie Base!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F (180*C). Line cookie sheets with aluminium foil.
  2. Beat the butter until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes
  3. Add the brown sugar and granulated (white) sugar and beat until combined.
  4. Add the egg and beat each time until well-incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until the ingredients are incorporated.
    [Stir in the your choice of add-ins]
  7. Scoop a generous tablespoonful of the dough and roll into a ball. Tear the ball in half, snd smoosh the dough back together with the torn side now at the top of the cookie. Gently shape so that the dough ball is taller than it is wide and place on cookie sheet about three inches apart.
  8. Bake for about 10 minutes, until edges of cookie begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes on cookie sheet so the cookie can set. Carefully move to wire rack to cool completely.

Today I split my batter and added cocoa powder to half of it. Then I stirred in some white chocolate chunks. The other batter I stirred in dark chocolate chunks and roasted hazelnuts (I roasted them! :))… Can’t believe this is already my last baking session before my birthday (tomorrow)!

Anyway, hope you enjoy this recipe! I’m still working on making it less sweet and trying out different batter consistencies to see what will make the cookies spread nicely. Hurray for not having a job so I have time to do all this eh??

dark chocolate hazelnut cookies! white choc choc cookie!Do excuse the horrid photos… The xperia is still giving me headaches with the photo processing so I borrowed my mom’s iPhone to take pics… Bear with the quality until i arrive at a solution!

new skill + disappointments

Today I finally dragged my butt off the bed and went to try my hand at baking some macarons. I  decided to whip up the meringue by hand. Even though I’ve done it before and it took forever (20mins+ by hand vs. 5-10mins by an electric mixer)! Not to mention having to switch between two people after we tired our arms out… But watching my friend whip up his meringue in practically no time(!?!?!!!), I realised it’s all down to technique (duhh!).

I’ve always whipped in a circular motion, which proved itself to be inefficient and always left my arms sore and spirit defeated (and I’d swear to never try to attempt this ever again). But today, I was determined to employ this new skill I observed and SUCCEED. I cracked my eggs and seperated the whites into my mixing bowl. Here goes nothing! I beat the egg whites in a zig-zag motion until they were frothy and added in the castor sugar and continued beating in the same motion. To my surprise, the meringue was already taking shape! I continued beating for a few more minutes and got a beautifully stiff and glossy meringue. I was so amazed! Especially because it was whipped up in less than 10 minutes, and my arms were okay! Here is a picture of my triumph 🙂

ImageBut of course, things spiraled down from here… First off, I decided to use the full-sized gas oven, as opposed to my mini electric oven which I’ve always used. Secondly, I haven’t baked in a while, so getting a little rusty is probably a given. I must’ve overmixed my batter after adding in the ground almonds and icing sugar. Also couldn’t find my piping bag and we ran out of freezer bags so I spooned my macarons onto the baking sheets which probably deflated the batter even more. The result? Macaron super-failage. ALL my macarons came out cracked, with no feet 😦 But I guess they at least made for pretty delicious meringue cookies…

After getting over the disappointment, I decided to quickly whip up a creme brulee with the leftover yolks. It would’ve turned out rich and creamy if I hadn’t tried to caramalise the top in the oven. In the end, my creme brulee turned out over baked and sans the crispy layer everyone fights for. Guess I really needed a blow torch to do it! Sigh. That’s two fails in a row…

Speaking of disappointments… My new phone turns out to be a downer. It was perfect in many ways – the phone’s profile is sexy, the screen is beautiful, the system is awesome, and the battery life is decent. But the major flaw is in it’s camera. There’s some freak post-processing that the phone does after you take the photo, and more than often I’m left with photos that come out hazy because of the phone’s efforts to reduce noise. The most frustrating thing is, there’s no way to stop it, even if you use a different camera app! For someone who records life in the form of photos, it is absolutely painful to see what would’ve been a perfect photo turn into… crap.

ANYHOW. Apologies for a long whiny post… I should really be more grateful for what I have and what I can do (baking is considered a luxury in HK, as many don’t have enough space at home for an oven) than complain! I guess this is what they call… First world problems. Tsk.

back in commission!

Phew… I finally got a new phone! I guess in the end, I went back to Sony and got the Xperia Z (to which I have affectionately names xbehria z)! It’s a little bigger than I imagined but the phone itself just looks… So sleek. It definitely wasn’t love at first sight… Had a few things to get used to but now I can feel the chemistry working between us. Ha.

So I guess I shall be resuming my posts as soon as I go snap some photos 🙂 Also got a few baking endeavors planned so hopefully that works out!

Oh yeah, I’m back in Hong Kong for the month, while I figure some things out. It is ridiculously HOT here. The heat is magnified especially when compared to Canada, where it was snowing and under 10*C when I left… I guess there is merit to the heat though, since everyday that I’ve been back, I feel like I’m sweating off some fat. “Eww” right? But hey, whatever works! I can already feel the pounds shedding … Haha.

MIA + oatmeal

Phew, I haven’t posted in more than a week, huh? Quite a lot of changes in life recently and I haven’t been able to sit down quietly to collect my thoughts until now! I’m glad I haven’t been completely unproductive though…

I finally applied for the Cosmetic Technique and Management course I wanted to do (with Digital Media Arts as a backup), but sadly the course for September has been wait-listed. I guess I’ll just have to wait and hope someone misses their payment deadline so I get a chance to slip in!

Also made the decision to moved out of the place I was staying at to a family friend’s place temporarily. Packing up was hard – I don’t remember coming back to Canada with so much stuff! Fortunately there’s always the trusty bundling method that my friend showed me – managed to pack 4 pairs of pants, 7 hoodies, 8 tees, and plenty of underwear and socks into my little carry-on suitcase. Fit all other miscellaneous things (snacks, 2 boxes of makeup etc) into my large suitcase. I’m glad the frequent travelling between HK and Canada during my university years has trained me to be a good packer … But I still get overwhelmed every single time and repack once or twice to maximise space usage. Heh.

Since I’m back uptown, I booked my first driving lesson for tomorrow too. I’m so nervous … I haven’t driven since I got my G2 more than a year ago. But I guess I gotta do what I gotta do to get my full license … 😦

Anyhow, even with all that happening, I made sure I still had my bowl of oatmeal each day. Never had I realised how much more appealing regular oats were than instant ones (it’s rare to find anything that’s not instant oats in HK)! I love that you can cook it down into a thick gooey consistency but still have the grains to chew on. Not to mention the many benefits it comes with (low in calories, high in fiber and protein, heart-healthy, you know the gist).

If you’re thinking … “But it’s so bland!” … then I can tell you it’s the exact opposite! Because it’s so bland, you can experiment with so many different flavours – and the possibilities are only limited by your imagination (wow, that was such a cliche line, haha). If you’re stuck for ideas, below are a few things I’ve found in the kitchen that work, but I usually keep it simple by keeping it to just frozen berries. Sometimes I’ll add a handful of vector cereal (my fave!) if I’m craving for some crunch 🙂

Oatmeal Base
1/2 cup oats
1/2 to 1 cup liquid (milk, almond milk, soy milk, water) – adjust to get your preferred consistency
1 tbsp honey

Mix-ins
cinnamon + mashed banana
chocolate + instant coffee
matcha powder
frozen berries
maple syrup

Toppings
fresh fruit (seasonal berries, sliced bananas, sliced peaches etc)
cereal of choice
walnuts/pecans

I’ve been wanting to incorporate chia seeds and flax seeds into my oatmeal for extra protein since my meat consumption is pretty low… I guess that will start when I finally settle down somewhere and have time to go buy it! Funny thing … I learned about chia seeds recently and it answered my question to what those weird gel/frog egg looking things were in chinese fruity desserts. Good to know it’s actually healthy!

No pictures this time around … My phone’s ongoing mission to commit suicide seems to have ended last week when it somehow got stuck in a boot-loop after it froze … Yay! =______= I’ve been forever in a hating relationship with Samsung since the ICS update and now I’m moving back to SONY …

Actually… Here are some random pictures of food I made from my instagram – scroll over them to see what they are!


quick post: baby carrots

So yesterday, I picked up two bags of baby carrots because they were buy-one-get-one free – gotta love them deals! Little did I know, I’d get home and find the following:

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Initial thoughts… That. Is not a baby carrot. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?!! This must be one of the longest baby carrots ever. Searched online and found out it’s probably not (boo), and also found 20 things you didn’t know about baby carrots – if you ask me, I’d say #2 and #5 sound like veal farming, but in carrot form…

Oh, and if you’re wondering what I did with the carrot..

I ate it.

(And then realised I could’ve sold it on eBay and someone might’ve bought it for two hundred bucks, just like this fry)

PS. Birthday shout out to a close friend of mine! Ironic that this post is about baby carrots which he happens to hate, haha.

healthy living

Since I moved back to Canada, I can’t deny any longer that I’ve packed on quite a few pounds (try 10lbs). I can SEE my face and body getting chubbier 😦 So, in all honesty, for vanity reasons more than anything, I started to pay more attention to my diet and be more mindful of what I eat – because as the saying goes… “a moment on your lips, forever on your hips”!

I’m getting tired of my constantly fluctuating weight. I feel like I need two sets of clothes for my fat and skinny phases, but alas I don’t have the money for that haha… so I’m determined to make a change. The more I read about eating clean and living healthy, the more determined I got (doesn’t this sound familiar for my last post haha)

To start, I needed something to gauge my food I take and catch all the unhealthy foods I’m mindlessly consuming. I’ve found Noom to be the best app so far. Yes, most of the time you’re estimating your portion with the easy units so you’re not getting measurements down to the 0.25 calories, but who wants to sit there for hours inputting precise numbers that are probably just guesstimates anyway? Another great thing is that different foods are colour-coded depending on their calorie density (e.g. fruits, veggies, complex grains being green, simple grains and white meat yellow, red meats and junk food red).

This app keeps you motivated by setting mini goals each day and each day’s food intake is rated with a 5-star scoring system. Being a (closet) competitive gamer (I try to say I put those days behind, but the trait resurfaces once in a while), I always aim to get 4+ stars so I’ve found myself shying away from foods in the red category nowadays. That and I also can’t bear to live with the guilt of inputting many red foods. There are times when I want to skip recording those foods but in the end I’m just cheating myself, right?

There’s a lot more to the app but I won’t spoil all the fun for you if you want to try it out! 🙂

Anyhow, back to the main reason for this post… I was browsing through the recipes on Blogilates and found a super simple recipe for HEALTHY pancakes (say whatttt?) – all you need is a banana and two eggs (and some baking soda if you want added fluff). But then I started thinking I’d probably want something more substantial if I’m eating this for a meal (- I say meal because I’m never up early enough for brekkie so I aways end up making breakfast food for lunch.. Or dinner). Since the consistency of the batter is pretty wet, I figured I could add some oats to bulk it up (and add fiber).. Honestly I was scared it wouldn’t work, but it did!! So here I present to you, my Flourless Banana Oatmeal Pancakes!

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Flourless Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 large eggs
1/4 cup rolled oats (instant or steel cut)
Cinnamon and sweetener of choice to taste

Optional:
1/2 tsp baking soda for the fluff
Handful of craisons

Instructions:
1. Mash banana until liquidy and mix in all other ingredients until well combined
3. Heat up a nonstick pan and pour half the batter in. Fry until one side is golden brown before flipping
4. Repeat with remaining batter

Tips and alternatives:
– if the banana is ripe enough, you can skip the sweetener (more healthy!)
– adjust the amount of oats added to get the right consistency (thick pancake batter-like)
– not a fan of the lumpy texture? you can blend the batter until it becomes smooth
– replace two whole eggs for 3 egg whites
– top the pancakes off with seasonal fruit to mix things up! Be creative!
– make bite-sized pancakes and freeze them for later snacking (when the munchies get to you)
– I guess you’d need to oil your pans if you don’t have a nonstick one.. Hehe

Oh and I know it’s hard to make choices to eat clean when you’re being tempted by the greater evil (perfect steaks! creamy pastas! desserts!). But with a will, you can definitely do it! I mean, if I can forego my favourite ginger molasses cookie, anyone can!

(and If it’s of any encouragement, ever since I starting Noom-ing at the start of this month, being horrified by my terrible earing habits and being more disciplined in terms of food and exercise, I’ve already shed 5-6lbs :))

here we go again

Funny how I ended up here again… It started off with seeing a friend liking a picture on instagram of someone receiving a cheque from Google AdSense. Out of curiosity (and desperation, due to the lack of job), I tried to find out how I can be part of this program. Turns out you need your own domain to set up an account… So I looked up domain names, only to realise I’d also need somewhere to host my site, which requires money which I don’t have… And so on and so forth.

In the end I decided to give up for now and settled for another WordPress. Maybe later on if I can actually build traffic, I’ll upgrade to making this blog “domained” (I’m pretty sure I just made that word up – and if it ever becomes a real word, I coined it!).

Here’s the problem.

I have a lot of these phases. I become so determined once I get an idea to do something and be so fired up – frantically trying to get my hands on as much information as possible and make preparations as soon as possible. Sometimes I’d spend countless hours sifting through sites, with ideas rapidly popping up in my head, which in turn fuels my determination. But once I reach a certain threshold, I’d stop in my tracks. Before I know it, I’d start mentally taking note of all the cons and in the end, convince myself that this probably wasn’t such a great idea after all.

I realise this happens much too often in my life. I’m okay with settling for less. Not because I want to, but because I’m scared to commit to something big and follow through, only to find that it won’t work out.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, my pride is too big to accept failure.
— I’m a sore loser. Probably the biggest one a person can be.

Having said all that, I guess I should really deal with this problem instead of taking the route of avoidance. I say I’ve always been struggling to find my passion, to the point where I’m getting frustrated and impatient. But in reality, I’ve just been constantly dismissing the answer I’ve always had at the back of my head because I can’t see a clear path or future, and I’m not willing to take a gamble.

So now I guess I should try deciding on something and running with it…

food or makeup?