Category Archives: cooking

Dancing Baklava

Okay I’m not proud of the title to this post. But I haven’t written since last semester so I’m just warming up. Speaking of things I haven’t done since last semester – I took a little hiatus from teaching as I was paranoid about my knee injury and now I’m teaching today for the first time from 4-5 pm in Adams UCR. It’ll be rough around the edges but I’m pumped to get back into it.

Today I’m hoping to explore Natarajasana, also known as dancer pose. Strangely enough, none of my yoga books talk about this pose so I’m a little skeptical about how traditional this pose is. The one thing I know is it’s challenging for beginners to accept is how they look in this pose. Usually we want to look like this:

When it’s great to look like this:


But really, none of that is important. What’s important is the long lower back, open chest, and thigh stretch. If you feel those things working, then great. I definitely don’t look like the first picture, so you don’t have to either. Fears abated? It’s all about, santosha (contentment): enjoying here not there.


Meanwhile, I created one of my favorite dishes a couple weeks ago. The friendly, exotic, heartwarming pistachio baklava. I borrowed the recipe from this website with a few tweaks.


1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

1/4 cup rosewater

1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon

12 ounces raw unsalted, untoasted pistachios
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, and cooled slightly
1 pound frozen phyllo, thawed

cardamom and cinnamon to taste

To prepare the sugar syrup, combine sugar, water, rosewater,  honey, lemon juice and cinnamon in small saucepan and bring to full boil over medium-high heat. After everything dissolves, move to a small glass bowl and set aside to cool while making the baklava. (Apparently you can do this 4 days ahead of time and just leave it).

For the nut filling, pulse the pistachios in the food processor until very finely chopped (coarse sand!). Add the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and pinch of salt and toss to combine or grind a little more. Set aside a couple tablespoons of the ground nuts to be used later as a garnish on the finished baklava.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Hopefully your phyllo dough will be 13″x9″, but if not, cut it so it fits your baking dish. TRUE FACT: Phyllo dough is insane to work with. It’s highly breakable so be wary of handling the phyllo dough. If it breaks, fear not, you can still make disjointed layers that look artisanal. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying and cracking. Brush a 13 by 9-inch glass baking pan with some of the melted butter.

For assembly of the layers, it’s important to note here that you should save the best-fitting, most intact sheets for the top and bottom layers of the baklava. Place a sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the buttered baking pan, and brush the sheet until completely coated in melted butter. Repeat with 7 more well intact phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, until you have 8 phyllo sheets stacked on each other.

Evenly distribute about 1 cup of the nuts over the 8 phyllo layers. Cover the nut layer with a phyllo sheet, and dab butter all over it (if you try brushing it on, the phyllo will slip all over the place). Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, for a total of 6 phyllo sheets on top of the nut layer. Repeat the layering process with another 1 cup of the ground nuts, 6 sheets of phyllo and butter, and the last 1 cup of nuts. Finish off the layering with 8 to 10 sheets of good, intact phyllo dough, brushing each layer with butter except for the final top sheet. Use the palm of your hands to press down on the layers, starting at the center and pressing outwards to remove any air bubbles. Then, drizzle 4 tablespoons of butter over the top layer and brush to cover completely. (so I actually didn’t have as many layers as this paragraph suggest, but just go by ear and figure out how you can evenly stack your phyllo dough layers and salvage the pistachio blend).

Using a good, sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds—I found it easiest to make one long cut from one corner of the pan to the other and then making parallel diagonal cuts every couple inches on either side. I then repeated this on the other side of the baklava, to make complete diamonds.

Bake in preheated oven until lightly golden, about 50 minutes to an hour. Once removed from the oven, immediately pour all of the reserved syrup over all of the cuts lines and then over the surface of the baklava. Garnish each piece of baklava with a sprinkling of the reserved ground pistachios. Cool to room temperature, for about 3 hours, then cover with foil and let stand at least 8 hours. (I didn’t actually end up doing the whole 8 hours because my friends mauled it, but it still tasted amazing. So I’m curious to see what happens after 8 hours). Apparently stores for a couple weeks!!


Happy Sunday.

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Herbing Out P2 with a side of dragons

I had a sweet dose of home last Sunday thanks to the annual Boston Dragon Boat Festival (the oldest in the US! Alas, Boston has the oldest Chinatown. Who knew?) that was held by the Charles River. I got some sun, lion dancing, and front seats to watch attempts at dragon boat racing (“We’d kill ’em” to quote a crew athlete).


Dragon Boat @ Cambridge

Dragon Boat @ Home

 Bachelorette dragon boat IN Hong Kong (also the episode where she decides she doesn’t want any of the 8 guys because the guy she was supposed to marry from the previous season decided he wanted to get back with her)

So continuing on Herbstalk, other things that you get to see/do…

5. Herb Walk

This was awesome. I didn’t realize by simply walking around the parameter of a building, I could spot about 10 different plants that could help me out in life. Granted, fertilizer/pesticides/road ickyness in general may have gotten their say in how the plants are actually doing, but it’s still fascinating. Here are a few:

Chewing carrot seeds acts as a contraceptive by acting on the pituitary gland (hormone controlling part of brain).

Lily of the valley regulates blood pressure.

This is either goldenrod or primrose, and it’s great for cat allergies. This poor guy is usually mistaken to be the culprit for allergies, but it’s really ragweed, which is wind pollenated. Also awesome for SAD.

Violet leaves: bronchitis, cancer, sluggishness (tamasic nature), stimulates lymph system

Plantago major (above) and lanceolata (below). Also known as plantain (NOT like the banana kind). These guys grow anywhere people walk, giving it the charming name “white man’s footprint” (makes me wonder about the rest of us). If you rub it the oil soothes mosquito bites as it draws out poisons. Also helps dry sinuses, digestion, stomach ulcers, and can even be used to cool down injuries. I may have taken some and put it on my tweaked achilles.

Our favorite dandelion! You can use the whole plant. Roots – liver, also a diuretic. 

So I’m stopping there as the list goes on forever and it gets a bit aggressive all at once. But you can see how there are countless numbers of natural herbs and foods that can help fine tune the body and mind. My favorite part was in the end when she said we should only take 30% of the plant, allowing the rest to regrow. Try taking 30% of what you think you want at a buffet. For reals.

[[to be continued]]

Daily Nutrition Facts

I also got to taste some awesome Korean tofu 만두 (“mandoo” – Korean for dumpling). It had sweet potato noodles, carrots, chives, mushrooms, tofu, and a dash of ginger. Fabulous, vegan, and I’m hoping to replicate in my own time. (Summer Project 1: vegan Korean food! Did you hear that the owner of Kogi BBQ food truck – the LA Korean Mexican-Korean fusion food truck – is going vegetarian? Not sure if he’s just purely leaving the industry though or will attempt to change his truck. I really believe he can. Have faith in Seitan, please sir, please.)

Also adopted a Kombucha baby from my yoga friend Natalie! 

What is Kombucha? To quote Wikipedia, oh ye faithful source of englightenment:

“The kombucha culture is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, comprising Acetobacter (a genus of acetic acid bacteria) and one or more yeasts. These form a zoogleal mat. In Chinese, this microbial culture is called koubo (Chinese: 酵母; literally “yeast mother”).”

Health benefits: detoxification, cancer prevention (full of anti-oxidants), liver health promotion, treats arthritis (hyaluronic acid helps aid with preservation of cartilage), aids digestion, helps with depression,  etc. etc.

FUN FACT: Reagan drank Kombucha in 1987 when he had cancer because he heard of the health benefits. 

To make a “home”, you brew tea, stir in a cup of sugar, and cool it down to room temperature. Fill up a massive jar (1 gallon) with the mixture, water, and because I adopted my baby (a girl, I’ve decided), I get liquid from the previous home. Now the jar with my kombucha momma is chilling in my room. I’ll keep you guys updated on the progress.

And out.

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Herbing Out P1

So I’m in the middle of a sick yoga teacher training certification at Karma Yoga Studio and yesterday we covered superfoods and superherbs. Basically, the main idea is that these are foods high in prana/energy. Or in less esoteric terms, full of juicy nutrients, life, and are at the bottom of the food chain. It’s mother nature’s way of taking care of us.

These are things like fresh & raw veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, mushrooms…you get the idea. It’s simple. And so healthy. And it’s the optimal way of living as it helps establish you at a healthy weight, maintain a strong immune system, and live longer (if done in moderation a la The Middle Way).

Luckily for us, Boston was hosting its first ever Herbstalk . I was so bummed I didn’t get to stay for the whole thing since I had to head back to work at Sandrine’s (the French bistro I apprentice at. Or intern. Or whatever.) But I got a lot out of the whole thing and the atmosphere was so vibrant. It was so energizing to see how many people were actually there and eager to learn about what the world has to offer. And she’s got a ton.

So what do you get to do at a Herbalicious gathering? Well, here are some available options (to continue in later posts).

1. Drawing on the sidewalk. Being eight as wait for your savory BBQ Seitan sandwich from Clover Food Truck is always a great remedy for getting over a night out.

Amanda getting her fix of chalk art.

My eating wave.

2. See a yellow jeep (please refer to my bio to understand why this is important)

3. Be intrigued by the idea of Broga (I promise you I will attend a class and report back)


That’s M. She’s from Alaska. And she dyes her silk scarves with everything from beets to cabbage to lemons to grapes to flowers. The $$ is donated to different bee cooperatives and local food sources. New hobby? Potentially. If you want to see how click here.

Welcoming a new member to my family – RED ONION

[[[[to be continued]]]

Daily Nutrition Report

I got way too excited by cauliflower that looked like the brain cortex. Neuronerdiness to the rescue. (FYI, roasted cauliflower with only oil, salt & pepper sprinkled on it is phenomenal. Chef Carlos reckoned the scallops weren’t selling as well because they were only being offered with the cauliflower than with starch. Usually the dish comes with mashed potatoes.)

I also got to meet these awesome kids today. They’re called Fiddleheads. I thought originally that Enrique was saying fetal heads. I heard very, very wrong (though it works, right? Kinda?) When sauteed with onions and garlic, it tastes delicious, with half its texture like spinach, and the other like a green bean. Their light taste is a cross between okra and a green bean. Full of omega-3, omega-6, antioxidants, and potassium, these guys are only available to be harvested during the spring/early summer.

Deciding still whether or not to stay with them. Will elaborate in another post.

And boo, Celtics lost the final game. I know I’m incompetent when it comes to sports knowledge and my enthusiasm for watching sports is about the same level as my enthusiasm to run a marathon (random fact: every marathon run will do permanent damage to your heart), but I’m in Boston. And being foreign let’s me have no real affiliation.

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more chili and chocolate

part two:

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dark chocolate zucchini bread with a side of grit

Usually I’d try to come up with some connection between some topics to come up with some fantastic post, but today, my brain is overloaded with reading science articles. So instead, I yield to dissociation.

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Basil

1/2 cup flour


Almost a full cup zucchini grated


1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder


handful chocolate chips semisweet


1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar






1 egg


1/4 cup canola oil


1/4 cup whole milk yogurt


1/2 tsp baking soda


1/8 tsp baking powder



“Mix the wet ingredients together and sift the dry ones in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture in three parts to the dry and fold until just combined. Pour into a 5 inch loaf pan and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean. Cool on rack to room temperature before slicing.” (taken from

I had a lot of chocolate scraps left over from production, so I liked to add a layer to the top of the bread after I let it cool for 5 minutes. It created a really cool texture on the top. I also sprinkled cinnamon and basil on the top of the loaf.

You can serve with a light cheese, or a sauce mixed with lemon zest, or extra basil if you please.

And now…onto grit.

I came across this blog, The Frontal Cortex, while reading a science book review during my research. I absolutely loved this post (and now his blog), and thought I’d share it with you:

Grit is not just about stubborn persistence. It’ no use persisting, after all, if a goal is truly impossible. While you’ve no doubt been bombarded with successful people telling you that dreams always come true, that we just need to believe, that if you can imagine it then it can happen, the dismal reality is that not every goal is worth pursuing. I might want to play in the NBA, but I’m not Spud Webb. I still want to compose the Great American Novel, but I also know that my college creative writing professor was right: I have no talent for fiction. Unless I’m honest about my limitations, I’ll waste time chasing a farfetched future, which quickly gets very very frustrating. Because dreams do come true. But first we need to pick the right one.

So how can we sort the useful long-term goals from the futile ones? How can we make sure that all of our struggle and practice and sacrifice will be worth it? Well, here’s my advice: ask yourself if the goal passes the underwear test.

Let me explain. One of the most deep seated features of the human mind is that it quickly takes things for granted, becoming numb to the predictable perceptions and pleasures of the world. Just think of your underwear. Do you feel it? Are you conscious of it? Of course not. That’s because you’ve adapted to the feel of underwear, habituated to the touch of cotton on your bum.

And this isn’t just about underwear. Psychological adaptation also explains why the first bite of chocolate cake is better than the second, and the second is better than the third. It explains why the first time you use that new iPhone you’re pretty excited, but before long it will just be another thing in your pocket. And then, a few weeks after that, you’ll start complaining that your phone (your phone!) can only hold 10,000 songs or that it downloads streaming videos from Netflix so slowly. The delight has vanished, replaced by the usual dissatisfaction. This is because our brain is designed to be ungrateful, every pleasure a fleeting thing.

What does this have to do with grit and long-term goals? Well, the only dreams worth pursuing are those that pass the underwear test. These are the pursuits that don’t bore us, even after we put in 10,000 hours of practice. They contain the kind of subtle thrills that don’t get old, that we don’t adapt to, that keep us motivated and interested for years and years at a time. Sure, there will be frustrations along the way, but these frustrations don’t feel permanent, which is what allows us to keep on working and learning and improving. Because that’s what it takes to succeed, to accomplish something interesting. Perhaps you want to invent the cure for malaria, or bake a perfect baguette, or create the next Facebook. Whatever – don’t apologize for your obsession. Just be grateful you are obsessed with something, that you’ve found a goal worth getting gritty over. Because if your goals ever feel tedious, if you find them as unnecessary as that last bite of chocolate cake, then you’re never going to put in the necessary work. Grit requires passion. Grit requires love. And love is just another name for what never gets old. Love is the opposite of underwear.

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sriracha chili and chocolate make sweet, sweet love


Do you love Sriracha chili sauce? And chocolate? Well, Socola’s seasonal flavor may have to do with that. This video basically sums up my summer. Enjoy.


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Not exactly what you had in mind, I know. A compilation of random things I created, ate, and are still haunting me in my dreams (and also didn’t make it into any of my blog posts). I will miss you, SF 2011. I’ll be back for more.

A S’more cupcake from the Cupkates, the cupcake food truck. Deep chocolate, burnt vanilla icing, and a graham cracker hidden at the bottom. The flavor is very light, and the only memorable part really was the graham cracker.

A lavender nutella creme brulee from the creme brulee cart at the Fort Mason farmer’s market. I shared this with a random person standing around because I couldn’t eat it all. Was met with a weird look, and then it dissolved 5 seconds later the moment she took a bite.

Creation Numero Uno: Honey cookie with a date filling, topped with dark and white chocolate.

Senor Sisig Food Truck: a Filipino food truck hosting dishes like Filipino tacos and burritos. These were their pork spring rolls – seriously some of the best I’ve ever had. Delicate, crispy, and fresh. I’m not capturing their greatness for you but for a girl who’s lived off of spring rolls her whole life…that’s pretty big.

Kelly & Aida’s victory meal: Pear Ale and Vietnamese spring rolls with THE BEST PEANUT SAUCE EVER – what more could you ask for post-Critical Mass?

Creation Number Two is in honor of my addiction to raw kale: kale, peach, blackberry, seitan, and sesame seed salad tossed with a dark cherry vinaigrette.

Okay this was my winning food for the summer. I cannot even express to you how good this pizza was. My friend Kyle took me to this small pizza place, Pizzetta, located on 23rd Ave for his birthday. They change the menu every five days or so: sign of a good restaurant. It was tiny – only three tables and a small bar where you could watch a couple of girls make pizza. We came at 8:40 pm and barely managed to sit at the bar. We ordered the mediterranean lamb, red pepper, basil, and cheese pizza (I forget what kind..the shame, I know, the shame). The moment this savory, lush-smelling pizza came out of the oven, it found its way very easily into my mouth. I barely touched the bottom of the pizza with my tongue, and the powdery flour collected on the bottom of the pizza (fused with garlic and olive oil) melted on my tongue. I closed my eyes and let out a long mmmmmmm because I knew I was probably about to bite into one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. And it was. I nearly cried with each bite – the fresh, melting cheese, dancing with the fresh peppers and spicy lamb on my palette. What made it unforgettable was the pizza crust. Thin, but not so thin that it was crunchy. Baked almost like a doughy garlic bread, sprinkled with herbs, and perfectly chewy yet airy. I went to Italy for World Champs and this beats any pizza I had in Rome. If you go to SF, you have to, HAVE to go here. Kelly’s Creation #3: dark chocolate zucchini bread garnished with fresh basil.

Part of Kelly & Aida’s Cacao Adventure: sashimi. Yum.

Aida & I bought each bought this book as a present to ourselves in honor of our love for Tartine Bakery.

The croque monsieur: an open faced sandwich with bechamel (a French sauce where scalding milk is mixed gently into a flour-butter mixture), gruyere cheese, thyme, and pepper. We loved ours topped with either ham or mushrooms. One of my top five discoveries of the summer. 

Tres Leches Cake: “sweet coconut milk moistened chiffon, layered with cajeta and crema”

Oh, Tartine.

MY FIRST POACHED EGG EVER! A success. Alas, beginner’s luck. My next few tries were very unsuccesful.

Creation #4: Baked salmon coated with white truffle olive oil, lavender sea salt, rosemary, lime, and cacao nibs with some onion on the side.

Another adorable hole in the wall: Farm Table. A small cafe with only one large table for people to sit at. They made their almond milk fresh, so their almond milk latte was totally killer. Also another one of those places that switches up their menu on a daily basis.

Baked potatoes with creme fraiche and spring onions.

“Morning Toast”: Goat cheese, tomatoes, and basil leaves

Baked French bread with cheese and ham, topped with a boiled egg.

Creation Numero Cinco: Whole wheat pasta with artichokes, radishes, scallops, tossed with garlic, gouda cheese, and white truffle olive oil.

The notorious salted caramel ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery. Was a pleasant surprise, but definitely not my favorite flavor compared to their creme fraiche, basil (AMAZING texture), and chocolate.

Creation Six: Double Dark chocolate salted peanut cookies, drizzled with a smidgen of sea salt.

Joss and I went to Alembic, a small plates bar that’s fond of whiskey and gin down the road. Pictured here is The Gilded Lily: gin, yellow chartreuse, orange flower water, and sparkling demi sec with a touch of gold leaf.

Jerk duck hearts with pickled pineapple and thyme – clearly one of my requests.

This is another one that goes into my top 5 for the summer: Beef Tongue Sliders. These babies melt in your mouth. Fried green tomato pickles, arugula, red onion, and horseradish aioli.

And now we’ve come to the last of my creations (and the end of this post): Lettuce wraps filled with a baked radish, baked sweet potato, artichoke sausage, and caramelized onion mixed with a wild rice mustard-mayo-soy dressing. Basically, what was in my fridge.

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