As some of you my dear readers know, the start of this year hasn’t been particularly pleasant because of a certain “discovery” that happened. In fact I can think of several adjectives that can describe it, but let’s stick with …infuriating. Don’t get me wrong, this discovery was an important eye-opener, and in the long run a beneficial and positive one, but it’s been hard on me. I won’t deny it. And the fact that it has caused me to neglect almost all the things I love (except coffee), has been cause for why I’ve been spending my days feeling like I’m in a rut. My disposition hasn’t been the brightest because of it.
This blog is one of the things that suffered most from this period, and I hated this fact knowing I had promised myself to make this blog better than it was last year. I sure as hell couldn’t keep that promise if I could not even find the time to post. At the start of the year after the “discovery”, I had so many terrible emotions rolling through me that only added to the physical and mental exhaustion I was experiencing from work. A great deal of my time was spent hating the people responsible for this whole mess. There was too much work to be done to rectify the situation, and I was constantly beat and dispirited. I was so burnt-out in just about all aspects of my being that I spent weeks not baking at all. I’ve never been the type to spend idle days, but that was all I wanted to do then: Lie down, try to get restful sleep, forget about everything.
I had been shaken out of my character.
Continue reading for the recipe >>
Every year in our house, we follow the Hokkien way of celebrating Chinese New Year. My grandmother, or Ah-ma as we call her, was born and raised in Fujian, China so she is incredibly traditional, and even after 50 years of living abroad, all she knows is how to speak Hokkien. My grandmother is 92 years old now and although she doesn’t look it, she’s become rather forgetful of dates, so my Mother has taken over with the Chinese New Year preparations. It’s not really about being Buddhist as much as it is about being Chinese that we still continue celebrating the Lunar New Year in the way that we saw Ah-ma do it. We have the burning of gold paper, and prayers using incense. There is the never-absent offerings of a feast and wine at the altar. But my favourite is this giant colourful bowl of grain and things which I like to call ‘The Melting Pot of Prosperity‘.
The Chinese are big on symbolism, and in every province in China, they have their own unique symbols for every Chinese occasion. Here’s the one I grew up with, which I assume originated from Fujian. The Chinese culture is so rich it’s kind of hard to keep track of these things.
According to my Ah-ma, we set up these bowls for several days all over the house to help attract good feng shui for the year. The grain stands for year-round abundance in food, and the green onions stand for growth in business or in the home (as with the coins stuck on the grains, which is like money growing out of the ground). The cut-out figures with the rose plus the yam tied with the red ribbon represent family unity and a blooming relationship. The orange, the bread, and the colourful decorative ornament stand for objects that invite luck and opportunities into one’s life. The meanings may vary for each household, but one thing is for sure: all the elements in this bowl represent aspects in life the Chinese consider as most important, such as family, wealth, luck, and prosperity.
It’s kind of overwhelming sometimes how seemingly mundane objects can have so much meaning. Something easier for me to understand though is the food that usually comes connected with the Lunar New Year: glutinous rice cakes locally known as tikoy, pineapple tarts (and actual pineapples), huat ke, and the list goes on and on. I made these super yummy pineapple tarts last year, and this year I had a craving for peanut cookies.
Continue reading for the recipe >>
Sometimes I find myself shocked at how fast time flies. Whenever I have an idle moment, my thoughts begin to spin and tangle against each other. I begin thinking about the days, hours, and minutes that I have already spent– vivid scenes of the things I’ve done and conversations I’ve had with certain people that seem to linger in my mind; especially those I wish I could go back and change. I begin to wonder if I’ve done enough to make myself better and wiser as a person, or if maybe I’ve done the exact opposite of that. I wonder how I can turn myself into the person I want to be. I wonder about my future. And when I get tired of thinking about all the very serious stuff, I settle my racing mind with thoughts of special recipes to cook/bake for the next year.
(For the most part, I try really hard to keep myself busy so as not to be overwhelmed by all these thoughts.)
I honestly don’t know why I keep thinking about making desserts with Bailey’s Irish Cream in them for my New Year posts. I’m not promoting it, and neither is it my favourite liquor. But it just seems fitting somehow. In any case, I have no qualms in saying this ice cream was absolutely fantastic in every single way. Probably in my top three favourite ice creams I’ve ever made and eaten! Continue reading for the recipe
I hope by now everyone has done their last-minute shopping and is taking it easy. It’s the 24th on this side of the globe and I feel positively giddy! The time is near for gathering round the Christmas tree after a hearty dinner, then the gifts will be passed around over and above the chatter of excited family members. I always imagine my family opening gifts around the cozy fireplace, except that having one is vastly impractical when you live here in the Philippines. (In reality, we gather around the area where the cold air from the air-conditioning is most felt.) I always love that moment when we’re all together, swapping stories over the sound of gift wrap being torn, and the looks on everyone’s faces when they receive their gifts. I for one always obsess over getting the right gift for a particular person, because I’m very sentimental and I always want my gifts to mean something.
These Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes are my virtual gift to you all this year! I like to share, especially around this season, and if only I could work some magic to allow every person who reads this entry to reach into the screen and take a cupcake, I really truly would. Continue reading for the recipe
Sometimes I find it odd how certain things, even things I have never encountered before, have a way of bringing back certain memories. I randomly see an image or hear a familiar sound and it immediately attaches itself to an old moment you’ve filed away inside my mind. There are times when this happens to me with food– when the sensation or the taste of it begins to tug at some distant memory of mine and all the details attached to it.
Picture this: Taiwan, 2007.
It was a chilly December dawn as I roused from my sleep and put on three layers of jackets. My favourite pink pull-over sweater was the one in the bottom layer, as it was the most comfortable. Tugging at it, I covered my hands with the sleeves as I set out towards the mountain. It was still dark and difficult to see, but there were no obstacles on the dirt road that I could make out. On both sides, the sleeping outlines of stalls and stores greeted me whenever I looked around. I rode the train halfway up the mountain and disembarked, my camera hanging on my shoulder. I blew into my hands to warm them, berating myself over forgetting to wear gloves. Continue reading for the recipe
I think one of the best things in life is breakfast. I can’t seem to survive the day without it. Mornings composed of coffee and some form of bread are perfectly blissful in my book. Oh, and silence. I like to take my breakfast with a side of that. When I think about it, my being a morning person has its perks. I get to have mornings to myself. The rest of the day tend to be filled with people and noise, endlessly ringing telephones, paperwork scattered all over the place. The evenings are filled with family stories and laughter, which of course is always a pleasure. Then again, I still love my tranquil mornings the most.
Last year, an uncle of mine gave us this giant loaf of panettone about a week before Christmas, and it was the best panettone I’ve had so far. It had just the right hint of citrus, and the perfect amount of nuts and dried fruit. I ate it every single morning toasted and with a piping hot mug of coffee. I remember this nice sense of contentment settling over me during those days. I don’t know how else to explain it. Usually my peace of mind comes to me during breakfast-time, maybe because my brain hasn’t turned on all the way yet; the spinning of the gears haven’t gone full speed ahead. Or maybe those quiet moments simply are my tiny pieces of paradise.
Breakfast is undoubtedly my favourite meal of the day, but there are times when even your favourite moments get elevated into something else entirely, you know? Somewhere between savouring the panettone and thinking about nothing at all, I had promised myself I’d attempt to recreate a panettone as delicious the following year. Continue reading for the recipe