The Art of Cooking.

There is a misconception that the majority of college students these days tend to follow a “microwave only” diet. Wrong. I’m one of those people who believes that the art of cooking is not dead, especially in the younger generation. Recently, I have found myself cooking and baking more than ever. If you follow me on any social networking platform, you have probably seen an increase in Instagram pictures featuring meals I’ve cooked lately. Cooking to me is an art form, something that makes me happy, and a way for me to express my appreciation of the people in my life. Cooking and love are synonymous in my book, hence why I cook for my friends so often – especially my close ones.

fried riceThe Culture Shock. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m Asian. More specifically, I am a Vietnamese American who immigrated to America. Growing up, my packed lunches were never your typical PB&J sandwiches, rice was always a staple, and the number of spices and sauces in the cabinet were countless. Now that I’m on my own and have the freedom to cook for myself, I actually have a huge fear of integrating my culture into my cooking. I always say cooking is one of the main factors that keeps me rooted to my culture, but I am unable to cook “authentic” Vietnamese meals. You see, regardless of who I live with, there’s always that bit of fear of being judged. Sure, people think fried rice and stir-fry smells great, but how will my peers judge me if I were to boil pig’s tongue and start dipping it in fish sauce? What if I decided to whip up some rice poridge with congealed pig’s blood? Liver pate? Delicious. Although I have assimilated into the America culture quite well, one thing remains true: if you list a part of an animal, I have probably eaten it. The “strangest” thing I’ve eaten? Stir-fried silk worms with jasmine rice. It’s a delicacy, or whatever you want to call it.

The College Budget.I’m a college student, which is basically implied that I am poor. Sure, I occasionally splurge on the smoked gouda to have with a glass of red, but that’s not a common practice. I believe one can have a great meal if there is some time and thought put into it. Grocery trips consist of staples ranging from fresh produce to proteins I will actually eat. As much as I love pizza rolls, frozen foods are not my preferred sources of nourishment.

Baking.Y’all, I actually really enjoy baking from scratch. Sure, I’ve had my moments when I see the brownie cupcakesmix that’s on sale for $1 and I immediately make the purchase, but for he most part, I prefer to bake from scratch. Why? Because there’s more thought put into it –  the measurements have to be more precise, the mixing has to be consistent, and other factors that could influence whether your cupcake comes out fluffy or a deflated hot mess. Cupcakes are my forte – don’t you dare try to insult my cupcake baking skills.

If I have offered to cook/bake for you, I probably appreciate you to some degree.

Early Morning Urges.


I started off the morning making these egg toast cups. This recipe has been on my Pinterest for quite some time now, and I figured now that I am finally home and have all the necessary ingredients within reach, it was the perfect time to attempt it. It was really simple, especially with a muffin/cupcake pan.

Simply tear pieces of bread and line it in the muffin tin to get that round shape, stroke some canola oil or butter to make the bread hold. Then, crack in egg in each pan. Place into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the whites are cooked, at 375 degrees. Then, voila! Egg toast cups that are easy to serve and even easier to eat.

To finally satisfy my urge to bake, I made these delicious, warm, brownies from scratch. I am a strong believer that desserts and sweets should always be made from scratch, regardless of the fact that they might not look as aesthetically pleasing as the Betty Crocker boxes. Ignore the fact that my brownies aren’t pretty; I swear they’re sweet, moist, and incredibly easy to devour within seconds.

I’m not a fan of using a whisk when I bake, so I always use a pair of chopsticks to mix my ingredients – that haven’t failed me yet. The brownies are pretty easy to make.

1 cup of flour
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1 cup of butter
1 Tsp. of vanilla extract
1 Tsp. of baking soda

Mix dry ingredients, and then wet ingredients. Spread into a brownie baking pan and cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the toothpick, or in my case, wooden chopsticks, come out clean.

Cupcakes of Summer.

There is nothing like the simplicity of a lazy day of baking with a good movie playing the background. I spent the afternoon baking these citrus cupcakes with pink lemonade frosting, while watching 500 Days of Summer. It is definitely too hot to venture outside today, but if I did, I would head straight to the mall to pay the Ann Taylor Loft store a visit. Why? Because there is an additional 50% off everything in the store today until 7 PM. So for all you lucky ladies out there that are still looking for a few new additions to the wardrobe, you should definitely stop by. Why am I not stopping by? Because all my money is currently going to buying the necessities for the new apartment I’m moving into in less than a month.

Let Freedom Ring.

Happy 236th birthday America! You’re not my country of birth, but I consider you my home. Yes, contrary to popular belief, I was not born in America, regardless of how fluent I am in the English language. I arrived in America at the tender age of 4 in March of 1997, and unfortunately have not visited Vietnam since then. However, I have loved every minute of being in this country and am so blessed to have the amount of freedom and opportunity that I do by living here.

I started off my 4th of July with a trip to Starbucks where I discovered tall hot coffees were free today. Talk about a great start to an eventful day. I then headed to Half Priced Books to see if there was a ridiculous book sale of some sort; I can honestly spend hours at a book store, regardless of which one it is. After rummaging through the clearance section, I came across A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I have been meaning to read this book for some time now, especially since I heard about it years ago on Oprah’s reading list. Unfortunately, the last time I heard about the book, it was not positive feedback; something regarding false information provided by the author. However, I heard the overall read was worth it, accurate interpretation or not. And of course, for a $1 + tax, how could I turn down such a bargain?

A Million Little Pieces is a semi-fictional novel about a 23-year-old alcoholic and drug abuser and how he copes with rehabilitation through a 12-step program. Even though it was originally promoted as a memoir, it was later discovered that a couple of the events mentioned in the novel never actually occurred – hence the negative critiques that made the novel go from a bestseller to a target for literary bashing. Although there is some fabrication of the events, I will probably read it as if it was simply another novel, rather than one that is based on “real” events.

Afterwards, I headed to South Congress with a friend to explore what the street had to offer as far as vintage shops and eateries. Our bellies were still full from the campus buffet, so eating was not our main priority. However, we could not leave without grabbing a cupcake from Hey Cupcake! – the cupcake food trailer featured on the Travel Channel. Located on the 1600 block of South Congress, the food trailer serves cupcakes for $3 each. The cupcakes are baked fresh daily with the best ingredients and love, of course. The workers are beyond sweet, and the cupcakes can make anyone drool. I grabbed myself a Michael Jackson cupcake, a chocolate cupcake with white cream cheese frosting, that was decorated with patriotic red and blue sprinkles.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful 4th of July! May your evenings be safe and filled with dozens of firework shows. Tonight, I am heading to Auditorium shores for a musical firework display put on by the Austin Symphony Orchestra; I cannot wait for my first Independence Day experience in Austin!

Shape It.

This morning I woke up and had the urge to bake chocolate chip cookies. However, when I finished baking them, they weren’t a lovely round shape, but rather just a large rectangular shape. So, I had to be innovative and decided to cut them into squares. For today’s baking adventure, I give you chocolate chip cookie squares! For some reason, I can never manage to make them into circles…they’re probably the only “simple” dessert I can’t seem to master as far as aesthetics go. They taste just fine, but they just never actually look like your usual cookies.

Now that I have managed to acquire an Android phone, I’m really obsessed with Instagram and am Instagram-ing everything I do. Anyone who knows me can tell you that if they had Instagram on their phone, I probably used it – best friends especially. But now that I have my own, I can finally spam everyone with my own “masterpieces.”

Pampering.

This morning I woke up a very grumpy child. I started off the day doing laundry and unpacking my stuff. The only problem with unpacking is knowing that I will have to pack the majority of my stuff back up to head back down to campus in a week. Since I will only be home for a week, Mom decided to spoil me today. We had lunch La Madeleine and then I headed to the salon for a haircut, eyebrow waxing, and mani/pedi. In a bit, I’ll be heading out to the mall for Mother/Daughter bonding.

Anyways, the point of this post was to show off my cupcakes. It’s been a while since I’ve documented my baking endeavors.

Vanilla cupcakes with Nutella “icing” and pieces of a Kit-Kat bar for a little crunch. I definitely have a lot to do this week before I head back to Austin, but I’m definitely trying to enjoy what little leisure time I have. It was a great first year of college and I can’t wait to return for a second one 🙂

Late Night Cravings.

I honestly couldn’t fall asleep tonight. Instead of tossing and turning in bed, I decided to bake a cake with the apples that mom recently purchased. She arrived home this afternoon with a bag of the sweetest apples I have ever tasted, or at least ever tasted since I left for college. I guess in a sense, college has altered my views towards fruits and vegetables in a way that makes me believe that any fruit or vegetable is a gift from the Heavens because the cuisine that the dormitories concoct for us lack a variety of healthy and inexpensive choices. The options are: fried and cheap or healthy and expensive. Anyways, back to the original intention of this post – the cake:

P.S. This post was featured on Cakified Daily 🙂

Delicious Failure.

I have always liked baking. However, my weakest area of baking are cookies. I can never seem to make cookies actually look like cookies – in reference to their round shape. Today I attempted to bake the classic chocolate chip cookies and discovered I probably should have just made chocolate chip cupcakes instead. Here is the documentation of my epic fail attempt at cookies:

I think the partial fail was putting way more brown sugar than necessary. However, when I tasted these ugly cookies, they actually tasted quite delicious. I guess the moral of the story is “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Hell, who am I kidding? These cookies are ugly and the probability of them being eaten is about slim to none. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Sweet and Salty.

It’s my second day off this week and of course, I couldn’t help myself but bake something. Yes, I know I already published a blog post today, but I couldn’t help but share my fabulous cake balls. I’m obviously not that great at turning cake batter into actual balls, so they’re not actually cake balls per se, but bear with me. I still think they’re quite adorable.

gingerbread cake balls with dark chocolate coating

And then this afternoon I decided to cook a bit to satisfy the salty craving I had after consuming these sweet cake balls.

grilled chicken with yellow peppers and mozzarella cheese on French bread

Lazy Baking.

Twice a week my manager decides to bless me with two days off from work and usually the two days are Wednesday and Thursday. Well my dear readers, it’s Wednesday and I don’t have to stand for endless hours being a cashier in retail. In celebration of my day off, I decided to bake something I’ve been meaning to for a long time now: Nutella cookies. Except in my edition of the cookies, I decided to make them thinner for a more crisp taste, instead of a thick chewy one.

I’m a fan of the homemade rustic look of these cookies and they will definitely be made more often in the household. It’s been a great couple of weeks back in Dallas, but I can honestly say I’m ready to head back down to Austin and begin my second semester of my first year of college.