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.

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So it begins.

The past few days via Instagram:

  • Cooked pasta
  • Went to one of my favorite cafes with a great friend
  • Baked cupcakes
  • Started my second college internship at an office that looks like it’s straight off Pinterest
  • Got my wallet invaded by Batman
  • Devoured a lot of burgers

It’s been a great 2013 so far.

The Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

Woke up this morning to sounds of my mother dancing around in the kitchen preparing scrumptious meals for this evening’s festivities. I hope everyone is having a safe and warm Thanksgiving, wherever you may be. I will be devouring unhealthy amounts of my parents’ homemade cooking that includes a mixture turkey, pie, egg rolls, noodles, and various Vietnamese dishes that I cannot seem to describe using the English language. Sorry y’all, not all items can be literally translated without receiving a cringe from the general public.

Happy Thanksgiving. Texas fight, beat TCU.

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!

Judgmental.

Maybe it’s because I’m actually Vietnamese or maybe I’m right, but I was definitely not fully satisfied with the dinner I had last night. I headed to Ya Ya on Guadalupe/37th St here in Austin to satisfy a pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) craving because I heard good reviews from my peers. Unfortunately, it was overpriced, and not the best pho I have ever had. For $6.95 + tax, which equals out to about $7.52, you are given a small bowl of meatball pho. As a person who ventures a lot of pho places, I can tell you that I have had better for a cheaper price.

What I did like about the restaurant was that it was clean and modern in design. A customer does not have to worry about any vermin crawling through cracks. It’s a fairly new-looking restaurant that is also conveniently located next to a Starbucks. Any college student can tell you that anything next to coffee is a good location.

Will I be returning for another meal any time soon? Probably not. Would I eat it if I had to? Yes. If you’re on a student budget and are craving some Vietnamese comfort food, head somewhere else, don’t come here. Actually, go hunt down a Vietnamese mother and have her make you a bowl filled with love 🙂

Pretty in Pink.

TJ Maxx skirt and top. Sperry Topsider shoes.

Headed to TJ Maxx this morning and purchased this cute outfit. The Sperry Topsider shoes were purchased yesterday by mother from Macy’s, but the skirt and top are from today. I’ve been meaning to purchase a bright skirt of some sort, so when I saw this beauty hanging in my size, I had to have it. When something is cute and I’ve been meaning to have it and there’s only ONE left and it just happens to be in my size, I believe it’s a sign I need to purchase it – especially when it was relatively inexpensive. It’s a very J.Crew outfit, without the J.Crew price.

I then headed home to make these beauties. They started off being strawberry cupcakes, but then I realized they were too small to ice…so I stacked them to make a little cake. So I present to you, what is left of my (apparently) delicious strawberry “cupcakes” with pink lemonade frosting. I want to devour all of them, and my family does too. SUCCESS!

Pseudo Chef.

I’m on a cooking and baking adventure this week. Yes, I just decided that I would be on this adventure…about five minutes ago. Yesterday I managed to bake my first batch of cupcakes from scratch and this morning I woke up and decided to cook with the ingredients I found in the fridge. Thus, the seared salmon brunch was born!

Yes, I did Instagram this. I’m a bit obsessed with the app, don’t judge me; I’m sure a lot of college students are obsessed with it too. The salmon was marinated in salt, pepper, ground sage, dried tea leaves, and lime juice and cooked in a frying pan. It is served with Jasmine rice and broiled Chinese squash – or at least I think that’s what it’s called in English. I will be spending the rest of my day unpacking and sorting my stuff, and then grabbing coffee with an old high school friend that I haven’t seen since she left for Ole Miss, and then moved to San Francisco. When a friend is in town for only a couple of days, it’s a good reason to see them; at least, that’s my view on it.