Friday, March 28, 2014

Adventures in cooking: Chinese Scallion/Green Onion Pancakes - Going back to the roots and a diferent kind of pancake stack

I don't often make "traditional Chinese" food, most because well..I never learned it.  As a child, I would always spend hours watching my mom make all types of food - garlic sauteed vegetables (which is about a daily occurrence in my house), steamed fish, stuffed tofu, dumplings, you name it, my mom would make it.  However, I never really had the desire to learn it on my own, and the most I ever did was help her chop vegetables.  Chinese food is also really labor intensive, even though it's not always actually that difficult.  All dishes have some food that needs to be chopped or sliced or julienned, and cutting the meat was always an exhausting job because most Chinese dishes have meat with the bone attached. I am eternally grateful for work that my mom puts in every single night to prepare multiple dishes, prepping for dinner about three hours in advance every day, and now when I go home and visit, I am sure to help out however I can...also with the added benefit that I can start learning how some of my favorite foods are made. 

I have to say, I haven't made toooo much progress on learning how to make some of my favorite dishes, but I'm starting to get a better idea just from watching how things are done. Now that I almost never go home, I'm having a desire to learn more about Taiwanese culture and to go back to some of the foods I ate growing up.  I'm doing the best I can with some recipes that I'm finding on my own, supplemented with memories of how things were done with my mom, but I definitely have some work to do.

So on to the food.  I needed to make something traditionally Chinese/Taiwanese (yes, they are different, but they also share many foods) for an end of semester party for the students I teach English to.  I was absolutely stumped for days, as I wanted something that wouldn't be too difficult to make, would be universally liked, and would be unique enough to not be a standard menu item at a typical Chinese restaurant.  It wasn't until yesterday that I had the idea to make scallion pancakes.

I should also note that I tried to make a gluten-free version......and failed.  I'm going to try it again, changing up what I did next time, but the results were pretty hilarious.  The taste was there, even if the texture was completely off.  See the end of this post for some real failure :p

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gluten Free + Dairy Free Irish Soda Bread - A Successful Experiment! + Going Gluten-Free for Real?

As much as I love soda bread, and always had it in the house around St. Patrick's Day (who knew...Asians eating soda bread?), I know surprisingly little about it.  All I knew was that my parents always really liked it and we would both buy and make it.  It was actually kind of a shock that some people had never had it before - but then again, it was the only aspect of St. Patrick's Day that my family ever celebrated...or "observed" might be the better choice here.  

Alas, when it came to being asked some trivia questions about St. Patrick's's all that I could come up with:

Well...I tried.

All I know that Irish soda bread is one of my favorite breads....but after experimenting with some more foods in my house and eating regular soda bread and my mom's pasta...I can nearly confirm that I now have a gluten-intolerance.  I was always suspicious of it, especially after coming home from Europe last summer and realizing that everytime I ate anything gluten-heavy (breads, pastas, pizzas), I would feel nauseous and get a headache after.  I didn't really quite believe that it could happen to me - especially after four months of eating some type of bread, pasta, or pastry on a daily basis in Europe.  I kept experimenting and somewhat stayed away from anything that had a lot of gluten in it, but didn't follow it really strictly.  I'd say I stuck to about a 75% gluten-free diet but wasn't picky about it at all.  

Then I went home for spring break and was surrounded by all things gluten - pasta, bread, cookies, mom's homemade noodles and buns (which were delicious!).  I didn't go crazy, but I had two main meals - noodles and these Chinese buns filled with sauteed tofu, ground pork, and chives.  These were the only times I felt nauseous for the rest of the day and night after eating, leading me to believe that the use of regular white flour was what was causing my discomfort.  

I haven't seen a nutritionist, nor can I say 100% that gluten is causing my discomfort, but I think these experiences plus my discomfort in the summer say something about my gluten intake and my stomach.  I know now that I will be much more conscious about being gluten-free, and doing some more testing to see how much gluten I can tolerate.

Anyway, explanations aside, I managed to make this:

 A total experiment on gluten free Irish Soda Bread.  

A little non-traditional, I know, but I daresay I liked it BETTER than traditional soda bread.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Little Haul (NYX and Real Techniques) and What Goes On A Face - FOTD

I don't know what spring break means for you - but it certainly doesn't mean sitting in my room writing a paper the entire week.  Alas, my spring break was not full of sun, beaches, warm weather, or too much of a "break," at all, but at the end of the day, I'm actually glad I had time to work on my homework without having to worry about class for a week. (Note that this is the life of an overachieving nerd, and I'm desperately hoping it will all pay off in the end)  

BUT, I did manage to get a few things done. Beauty-related things, too!  I bought makeup for the first time since January...a BIG deal for someone as beauty and makeup obsessed as me.  And I only managed to spend $20..not too bad, right?  

Here's the damage:

To see more details (and swatches), as well as how I incorporated these into a look (plus a haircut), keep reading!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Desperate Peachy-Pink Call for Spring

By now it should be known that my monthly favorites will be at least a week late, but it will be more like two weeks late.  Time just has this funny way of escaping me when it comes to things like this....

BUT this month (or should I say last month?) was different.  I had planned to do everything on time, until I looked around and realized I didn't really have too many favorites.  Then I looked at the few things I had together, and realized they were all kind of the same thing.

Case in point.

 I think the fact that all of these are basically the same color but with slightly varying tones indicates that I'm emerging out of my winter and cold weather-induced berry and plum toned blush selections to lighter pink and gold tones.  I am officially ready for spring even though I was able to enjoy the bitter cold better than most...but I'm ready for warmer weather and sunny days where I don't have to layer 48932 shirts underneath a puffy coat.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What I've Been Eating Recently

It occurs to me that if I posted more often, I wouldn't have to compile 20+ pictures from the past month into one massive post, but all of these pictures seem to add up until I look at my phone one day and realize I have hundreds of uncategorized pictures.

It also is apparent that I like to eat certain things - everything I make is some variation of some core ingredients I always have around.  I am now planning a post of a detailed grocery list and what exactly I like to buy, but you'll see from these posts that I favor:
  • avocados
  • green/red peppers
  • onions
  • eggs 
  • spinach
  • kale
  • chickpeas 
 Heh. I'm pretty sure I could only these for the rest of my life if I had to because I can prepare them in so many different ways.

For once, none of these really have distinct recipes, but I will list the main ingredients and techniques that I used for everything that I made!

Green Smoothies are kind of a rarity for me now, and they really only happen when I have extra time.  However, they still remain my favorite post-workout drink, especially something cardio heavy.  It's refreshing and full of nutrients, allowing me to refuel quickly right after my workout before I make something that takes longer.  I believe this one had kale, almond milk, a pear, half a banana, and cacao nibs sprinkled on top.  I have to admit, I was still experimenting with cacao nibs when I made this smoothie and I definitely prefer to blend them in with everything else instead of sprinkling them on top.

To keep seeing my recent eats, click below!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Variations on a Mug cake (Gluten-free and Vegan options available!)

I've kind of made a recent discovery - I love mug cakes.  They're way quicker than trying to bake an entire cake (along with the risk of me eating the entire thing), but I find that they're so much easy to play with.  I love trying out different ingredients together, and since the ingredients are in much smaller quantities, messing up ingredients is a little more forgiving.  It also allows me to have the illusion that I'm eating something completely decadent, when I really am just sneaking some healthy ingredients in there.  I've used them as a post-workout meal with oats, peanut butter, and eggs (carbs, fat, proteins!).

I've been tweaking several recipes and have come up with two variations that yield a slightly different consistency, but are both wonderfully delicious.

The first version is a bit more brownie-like. It's slightly gooier, and when a bit of peanut butter is added in the middle before microwaving it, it has something like a molten cake consistency.

Look at this.  How does this not make you run to the kitchen and start throwing ingredients together?  You would never guess that it's actually about 75% healthy..

 Read on for the ingredients (and a bonus version!)