from now

i received an artfully-crafted mix cd for my birthday. it was my favorite kind of music: sweetly melancholy, songs whose sounds were made of equal parts leaving it all behind and coming back home, of fresh flying starts and getting lost in the past. i have a feeling that this certain string of songs, many years from now, will also sound like my first week of being twenty-four.

it has been spinning nearly every morning as i bumble about, getting myself together for the day. it has been the soundtrack to my thoughts as i drive to work – sun high in the sky – and as i make my way home, speeding through a twilight that comes down a little earlier everyday. and the songs were there when i drove to have a belated birthday dinner with my parents, my mom a passenger in my car for the very first time in my life. it was just us for the ride. she asked me, in her carefully-paced english, questions about my life, my work, my friends. i answered carefully, too, trying to stretch my words to cover the years of distance between us. and as i answered, i had the strange feeling not only that i had grown up, but that suddenly we both could see it.

around birthdays, or any other marker of time in a given year, i suppose it is expected to take stock of your life, to make plans for the next stretch of it. and as much as i wish for more long, solitary drives into the oblivion that is my twenties, i hope that i will also remember to simply be a daughter.

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chocolate chip cookies

i’m sure a lot of you have your go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies. i do, too – a gently tweaked betty crocker recipe – and i’ll probably hang onto it for one of those nights when i want something chewy gooey right this instant… or for when the apartment gets cold and i need a reason to turn on the oven. (is that sad?..) but for all other times, oh boy: this one is it.

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a little bit of pretty

what a funny thing to find in a mall parking lot.

for breakfast

this is a lemon ginger scone. it looks so innocent and lovely here, baked up all golden and sugar-sparkled, sitting pretty next to a hot cup of coffee. but before getting into the oven, boy was that dough an uncooperative mess. it was wet and sticky and managed to gum up my pretty little fingers even after an exuberant dusting of flour everywhere.

but, as with all things in life: looks will get you in the door. or, all flaws can be redeemed. you pick your favorite. anyway, the end product tasted pretty darn great, and look —


aww, so pretty.

so, they’ve made it here. i may save this recipe for a part two, though, in which i will up the lemon zest about 200% and figure out a way to get the dough to behave. a large ice cream scoop may be involved.

Lemon Ginger Scones
adapted from this recipe, by Tyler Florence
Makes 8 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. dried ginger
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
zest of 1 lemon
2 ounces chopped crystallized or candied ginger (about twelve ¾-inch pieces)
1 cup half-and-half
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash
Raw sugar, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and dried ginger. Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Add the lemon zest and candied ginger pieces. (Coat the candied ginger pieces with some of the flour mixture to keep them from sticking together.)
  3. Make a well in the center and pour in the half-and-half. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough.
  4. Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 ¼ inches. Cut the rectangle in half, then cut the pieces in half again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in half on a diagonal to give you 8 triangles.
  5. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with the egg wash. Sprinkle generously with raw sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

two-tone chocolate cream pie

i was telling you the other day how i lured some friends over with a couple of pies. first was the fresh strawberry tart, so sweet and delicate and composed of 80% fruit. now i’d like to introduce you to the chocolate pie. all cream and chocolate and butter and fluff. i.e., awesome.

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starts from within

when i woke up this morning, i began recollecting my thoughts from the previous night. i imagined some kind of carol alter-ego emerging from a swamp with gucky goo hanging from my arms, running after the little people fleeing for their lives. And by “little people” I mean, yilei. emotions. emotions running wild. as much as i’d like to suppress my female driven tendencies when it comes to stress, it’s just not as easy for me. my health conscious mother even tried feeding me clorophyll pills, saying that’d make me a less aggravated person. could this really be the cause of diet? actually, don’t answer that. what i’m trying to get at is simply this: be healthy, then you’ll be happy. and if you’re anything like me, something as little as healthy skin in the morning can lift your spirits up (and the little people’s too).

my latest visit to the doctor, i got a little finger wagging because of my poor diet. i tried to find some ways to improve it and found some motivating tips and facts. berries (strawberries, rasberries, blueberries, etc) are an excellent source of antioxidants which help fight skin damage from outside exposure like the sun. luckily, i got some of those at emilylime’s pie party. also, supposedly the key to healthy skin is in fatty acids. salmon, walnuts, canola oil, and flax seed. this is an area i need to work on. eating nuts and seeds. easy enough… you’d think. if you feel like multi-tasking, maybe you can dip your berries into some yogurt to get some of that vitamin A. cereals, whole grain, tuna, and turkey have lots of what’s called selenium minerals to boost healthy skin cells. whenever you feel like your skin is drier than the air around you, don’t underestimate the power of water. drink, drink, drink, my friend. ’tis good for moist skin and detoxifying your entire body.

now with that in mind, perhaps i’m setting foot on the right path to the better version of carol. maybe i’ll rarely set foot anywhere else. in most circumstances at least. go me.

Posted in car, to eat

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sweet, soft, saucy

pie is a great remedy for that ho-hum feeling you get in the middle of the work week. i took some time the other day to make a couple, then called over every good friend i knew to come and help eat them.

today: a portrait of the fresh strawberry tart.

i’m not a big fan of using the usual flaky pie pastry as a base for a fresh fruit filling, and i didn’t think a graham cracker crust would hold up too well either (though in any other pie situation, my heart belongs to crusts of the crushed-cookie-plus-melted-butter variety). so i went back in my files to retrieve a tart shell recipe i used last year. it comes from maury rubin, chef-owner of city bakery in new york, via this la times article. the tart dough bakes up to be rather firm and almost cookie-like, with a texture that crumbles finely in your mouth. i found it to be a lovely complement to the mound of sweet, soft, saucy berries.

to keep the strawberries from sharing too much of that sauciness with the delicately textured crust, i used a handy trick i picked up from my many years of eating store-bought tarts. i stuck a smattering of white chocolate chips in a bowl and melted them down, then used a pastry brush to apply a thin, sauce-proof layer of chocolate along the bottom of the tart shell after baking it. and that, my friends, put an end to my mushy-crust anxieties.

for the filling itself i turned to my dog-eared, thumbed-through betty crocker cookbook. to make the (luscious, glistening) sauce, a handful of strawberries were mashed down to a cup’s worth and thickened over the stove with some sugar, water, and cornstarch, into which i splashed about a tablespoon of lemon juice. i pushed it all through a sieve, then gave the strawberries a good tumble in the warm sauce. and then we had this:

and all of a sudden, wednesday night got interesting.

Fresh Strawberry Tart
adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook

Baked tart shell (recipe here)
about ¼ cup white chocolate chips, melted
1 ½ quarts strawberries (about 3 1-lb. containers)
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. corn starch
½ cup water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

  1. Prepare baked tart shell.
  2. Use a pastry brush to brush bottom of tart shell with melted white chocolate.
  3. Mash enough strawberries to measure 1 cup. Mix sugar and cornstarch in 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in water and mashed strawberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute; cool. Stir in lemon juice. Pour mixture through sieve, pressing with a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid; discard solids.
  4. Put remaining strawberries (washed and dried very well) in a large bowl. Pour cooked strawberry mixture over top and turn gently until all strawberries are coated. Fill tart shell with strawberries. Refrigerate about 3 hours until set. Refrigerate any remaining pie.