11 December 2010

An invasion of childhood memories

Oh hi, universe. I'm still here, believe it or not.

Still very much on the Internet, too, silently lurking on other people's blogs while feeling guilty about not updating my own. So here I am! Updating!

Instead of, you know, studying for my cardiopulmonary exam. I make great life choices, guys.

About a week ago there was a Facebook meme where everyone set his/her profile picture to a cartoon from his/her childhood, as a way to raise awareness about child abuse.

This was mine:

Can you tell that I spent my formative years in Asia? I totally impressed myself by remembering all the words to the opening theme song despite not having seen this show since the second grade. It was really cool, and not just a little nostalgic, to be flooded with all those memories.

And then last night my friend Jodi sent me an AMAZING video. Did you know that Josh Groban has a cooking show (of sorts)? The premise to "Groban's Garden" appears to be that kids send in recipes of their own devising, and Mr. Groban makes them on his show.

Yes, this is every bit as hilarious as it sounds.

The first recipe is William's chocolate cake, which is plenty funny, but I think Mr. Groban's sense of humor really shines in the second video:

Guys, the man is snarky. That fact raises him to a whole new level of win, at least in my estimation.

And this show! Who among us hasn't invented a new recipe at least once in our childhood, with or without hilarious results (largely depending on the amount of patience, tolerance, and sense of humor on the part of our parents)?

All this, plus being sick and craving comfort food, prompted my decision to make some 호떡 (romanization: "hoddeok"), which is a Korean snack food popular in the winter.

10 November 2010

Tea parties are for little girls

October 30, 2010: a date of no significance whatsoever. It just happened to be the day of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall.

(Yes, this post is way late, what of it. I have priorities.)

So my friends JoJo and Tom came to DC that weekend from Williamsburg and NYC, respectively, and we celebrated the joyful reunion with a little Carr-aft Night.

You see, I spent the spring semester of my junior year in a magical fairyland (with lots of boats) called Mystic, CT, and JoJo and Tom were two of my housemates there. It was easily the best semester of my life, and one of the many, many highlights was the weekly craft night we hosted at Carr House. Hence the name "Carr-aft Night." We're simple people, yo.

We made like super-cool kids, spending many a Friday night decorating T-shirts, making model ships, and baking marine policy-themed desserts.

Yeah. Some things just never change. Do you understand now why I love these guys so much?

This Carr-aft Night was to make T-shirts and signs for the rally. For the T-shirts, I cut out the stencil, and then JoJo masterfully applied the fabric paint to get the stamped look. It was far too crowded at the rally to take out our signs, so I don't have any pictures of them. Oh well.

The rally was super fun! It was my first time attending a rally of any sort, and I think it was a great first experience. Some very cool and unexpected guests showed up, among them my favorites Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage.

You know. The guys from Mythbusters. Also known as MY HEROES FOREVER.

If the med school thing doesn't pan out, I would so love to work for these guys. Jamie and Adam, are you looking to hire? I love science -- especially the kind involving FIRE and EXPLOSIONS and PROJECTILES -- I'm good with my hands, and I often bring baked goods to work!

Ahem. Unfortunately I was nowhere near enough the front to even be able to see the stage (sometimes it really sucks to be short), but I did spot some funny signs that people brought. I particularly enjoyed this one I espied on our way out:

There are more photos on the rally website and on Flickr, so go check them out!


You're still reading? I envy you your attention span, I really do.

Well. I did originally log on to post the apple crisp that I made for our class' potluck last week.

The cool thing about this recipe is that I made it up, and it turned out okay. Pretty good, even! My classmates cleared the pan in twenty minutes flat, which was impressive given the vast quantity of food at the potluck, especially of desserts.

05 November 2010

Coquo ergo sum

A couple of weeks ago, we had a discussion in one of my classes about the evolution of the human brain in relation to the gut, and its effect on our diet.

See, humans evolved to have such huge, fuel-hungry brains, but managed it without significantly increasing our metabolic rates. We didn't even have to evolve a correspondingly large gut to provide all the fuel demanded by the brain -- in fact, the human gut shrank as the brain got bigger, which conserved on fuel by not needing quite so much energy to digest.

Okay, but wait. Doesn't that actually complicate things, since now it's even harder to digest food?

Here's the secret: cooking.

Yeah, that big brain's gotta earn its keep somehow. By cooking, humans are able to eat more easily digestible and calorically efficient foods, like meat. (As opposed to, say, grass, which requires a cow an entire day of chewing cud, plus four stomachs, just to get enough fuel to get through a day. Doesn't leave much time or energy for rocket science, does it?) A diet of easily digestible foods allows for more efficient metabolism, and, consequently, the reduction of gut size.

Totally brill.

Now me, I love meat: it's delicious. And I gotta hand it to our ancestors, they came up with some ingenious ways to cook meat. Plus, you know. Fire!

But a hunk of meat can never look as pretty as a perfectly ripe lemon.

This, my friends, was a beautiful lemon, perfectly yellow and oh! so fragrant. It added a great tanginess to these zucchini muffins.

26 October 2010

Mega-doofy. Times infinity!

Do you remember Arthur? It is actually still airing, and you can even watch old episodes on YouTube!

This was an amazing discovery for me, since most of the other PBS shows I used to watch (and love!) and learn English from have long since been retired.

My favorite, Wishbone, was culled ages ago, though I think some stations may still be airing reruns. (Which would be awesome if that were true.) I do believe Joe has the dubious honor of being my first-ever celebrity(?) crush. At the tender age of, what, nine? But you know what, not trying to pick fights or anything, but Joe was loads better than Troy or Edward. Just sayin'.

ANYWAY. I digress. A lot. (Why didn't you stop me?)

Professor Pacelli of the Williams Math/Stats Department, also known as Allie of Zucchero Dolce, is hosting Sugar High Friday for October. This month's theme: layer cakes.

Yes, the deadline is today, what of it. I had exams to study for, okay?

Note that this is my first attempt at a layer cake -- the mouse cake doesn't really count -- so, uh, please keep the mockery to a minimum?



Well, but you are allowed to laugh.

Because, how could you not?

I couldn't possibly begrudge you that.

It would be too mean.


Really, go on. Laugh. It's good for you.

I didn't realize just how much the cake was tilting until I started to frost it. Of course, I could have just leveled it with frosting, but my conscience wouldn't allow it.

Besides, I am still laughing.

11 October 2010

"Some pursue happiness; others create it"

Let me tell something to you: an alternate spelling for pure happiness.


It's one of those simple pleasures that never fails to add a dash of color to my day -- even more than the bright yellow tablecloth currently adorning our dining room table.

Add to that the perfect late summer/early fall weather we've had in DC the past few days, and I could almost forgive myself for being nuts enough to come back to school. Plus there's the perk of living in a place where the lesser holidays, e.g., Columbus Day, are actually observed, resulting in the occasional three-day weekend. Win!

09 October 2010

Anthems that winds and fountains sing

Happy Mountain Day yesterday to all you wonderful Williams folks -- and I know there are a lot of you out there!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day here in DC, too, but alas, Georgetown doesn't have Mountain Day. How lame. That's what I get for going to a school in a city. Well, the beautiful weather is supposed to hold for the whole three-day weekend, so hopefully I'll be able to get in a good long run or two.

So, the second med course is over! It still remains to be seen just how much it kicked my butt, but at least I'm done with it. We started a couple of the grad courses this week -- the "lite" versions of immunology/microbiology and gross anatomy -- which are supposed to be a bit less intense than the med courses have been so far. Impeccable timing, since my eye has been hurting lately, which means I haven't been getting enough sleep.

Of course the obvious remedy for chronic dry eyes is staying up late to scrub down the kitchen and bake scones. - -;;

22 September 2010

"I want to eat this dish is a hard grunge"

Happy 추석, everybody!

추석 (the romanization is "Chuseok") is like Korean Thanksgiving, celebrated on August 15 of the lunar calendar. It's the second most important holiday in Korea, after the lunar New Year, and the whole extended family gathers to pay respects to the ancestors and eat great food and generally enjoy each other's company.

Well, I'm here in DC and my brother is in Massachusetts, not in Korea, tragically enough. So we spent about an hour conference-calling relatives in Korea last night.

It was really good to hear everyone's voices, especially when one of our baby cousins insisted on talking on the phone, too, and then couldn't think of anything to say. So cute! It was good fun, but it also made miss Korea a lot, not to mention Korean food. I especially miss 송편 ("songpyeon"), which is a special rice cake often eaten on 추석.

Mmmmmm. I looooove me some Korean rice cakes. The reminder prompted me to set my Facebook status this morning to: 추석이라 그런지 송편 먹고싶다~~ ^^

Now, before y'all go reaching for your Korean-English dictionaries, it means: Maybe it's because it's Thanksgiving, but I'm craving 송편.

When my former math prof copy-pasted it into Google translator, however, he got: I want to eat this dish is a hard grunge.

I... what?

Anyone ever play the Babelfish game, from back when Google didn't have a translator yet? You take a well-known quote (or song lyrics, or an idiom, etc.), translate it into another language with Babelfish. Translate the translation into another language, and so on, and eventually back to English, and then see if anyone can figure out what the original quote was. There are, of course, many variations on this.

ANYWAY, since I couldn't have 송편 but still wanted something a little out of the ordinary, I made a zebra cake. That's what I logged on to say in the first place, I just got a little distracted.

04 September 2010

My life in a nutshell

I finally got settled in my room, which is a big improvement in my living situation since the last post. For one thing, I'm not living out of a duffel anymore, and have more than six t-shirts and three pairs of jeans to choose from. It also means running out of underwear less quickly, so laundry less often! I moved into the room as soon as the last subletter left, and spent a whole day cleaning and unpacking instead of studying... Oops. :)

Well, so I will be spending the next ten months or so of my life in a room about the size of a nutshell. It is easily the smallest space I have had to occupy since the one-bedroom apartment in Eagle Heights in Madison, and then it was only because I had had to share the room with my mom and younger brother.

This room here is actually tiny.

The room came furnished with a lofted bed, a desk, half a chest of drawers (the bottom drawer is AWOL), a chair, and a bookshelf, all of the Ikea variety.

It's hard to snap just one picture that will convey a sense of the whole room because I can't get far enough back.

I actually don't mind having a small room since I don't have much stuff, and it's much easier to keep it tidy. What I do mind, however, is the nutshell of a kitchen.

Makes me really miss the kitchen of Hatherly College, stripes and all.

Hey, but I still have a kitchen! I don't have nearly as much time to bake and cook now, given that I have spent a staggering majority of the past month holed up in a corner of the (windowless) second floor of the med school library, and expect to continue this trend for much of the rest of the year.

However, de-stressing breaks are good for the soul. We just finished the first unit on Thursday, so I can relax just a little bit before jumping into the next unit on Tuesday. And you know what that means: Chinese takeout, hilarious Korean TV shows, a new YA novel, and baking.

Oh yeah, I've been fantasizing about my wild, wild weekend for a while now.

(By the by, Becca sent me the recipe for the Golden Grand Marnier Cake so I could share it here! Go check it out!)

08 August 2010

Another capital city

I'm famous, yo!

Well, not really. But I did wake up to an email from Jodi saying that my mouse cake was included in Ms. Humble's Science Cookie Roundup #6!! Win! Plus, Mr. P even commented on the Pocky whiskers! Double win!

Ahem. Moving on. (Haha! Get it? "Moving" on? Oh dear.)

It's almost impressive how quickly I accumulate stuff. When I moved to Boston two years ago, I brought just a suitcase, a duffel, and a backpack (full of things, obviously). Well, I have a few more things now.

XOXO to all our science vendors for the shipping boxes! The Great Wall of Science Nerdery could not have been achieved without you.

Becca and I packed all these, plus my bike, into a Scion xB, and embarked on the ZipCar Fiasco to End All ZipCar Fiascos. That is, Becca drove me and my stuff from Boston to DC, then drove back to Boston last weekend! Have I mentioned that Becca is amazing, and my hero forever and ever?

Moral of this story: I need to learn to drive! Really.

Well, so I moved to Washington, DC -- the 4th capital city in my life, after Seoul, Madison, and Boston -- but couldn't move into my flat yet because it's sublet for the summer. My friend Ben and his flatmates very generously let me crash in their living room this week, but I need to get myself installed in Georgetown before my classes start on Monday. Luckily one of the subletters moved out this morning, so I can stay in her room until my room opens up... after my first final exam at the end of the month. Less than ideal, but I'll live.

By all accounts, once classes start I won't have time to do much of anything besides study my tail off, so I decided to bake something for Ben and his flatmates during my last week of freedom.

24 July 2010

Good morning!

One of the perks of unemployment is that if I want to get up at 05:00 to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast, I can do that. And then I can go back to bed after my (employed) flatmate leaves for work, if I feel like it, or I can take advantage of the nicest weather we've had in a while and bike to Walden Pond. It's all about the choices.

People in Massachusetts don't really believe in straight lines or labeled street corners, making it tricky to follow Google maps directions. Still, it was a good adventure, complete with Fig Newtons. :)

22 July 2010

Bidding a sweet farewell to mouse wench-hood

Something I just remembered out of the blue: On the Fourth of July, Robby passed around my desserts amongst his sailing team friends because I didn't want to have to carry half-full glass pans for four miles after the fireworks. Apparently his friends were skeptical at first -- Robby is quite the trickster -- but then bit into the food and remarked, "This is really f***ing good!"

I think that was possibly the best compliment I ever got on anything I made. ♥

Anyway, enough narcissism. Ahem.

My last week at work started off by sucking royally, and by Tuesday I was so fed up with it all that I actually just came home early to indulge in some baking therapy. To be perfectly honest, I had already been planning to bring a lemon cake for the animal facility staff on Wednesday, since Tuesday was the IACUC inspection (my very last!) and I wanted to thank them for being so awesome to work with for the past two years. So no, this was not quite as spontaneous an act of rebellion(?) as I made it sound. Bite me.

But you know, I put the cake in the oven, and it still didn't feel like enough. Enough therapy, I mean. So I made coffee cake muffins!

Becca got home from class just as I was pulling the muffins out of the oven.

The best part was that these were for us.

20 July 2010

Becca is amazing

Just, you know, stating the obvious, because the world needs a reminder every so often.

Anyway. Both Becca and I baked a lot for our respective labs last week. The mouse cake was the pièce de résistance, so to speak, but chronologically it was actually the last thing in the queue of treats produced at Hatherly College during the week.

So in the next couple of posts I will simply be playing catch-up. For one thing, it's still a bit too hot to be baking, and anyway, I should be cleaning and packing and generally preparing for the impending move. Plus now that I'm unemployed, I need to be more conservative about spending all my meager savings on baking ingredients. Besides, to whom could I feed it all now?

Last Sunday Becca made a Grand Marnier Orange Cake and a plateful of truffles while we watched the World Cup final. I was too distracted by the game -- which, by the by, was one of the most frustrating soccer matches I have ever watched (Arguing with me? Yellow card! How dare you laugh! Yellow card! Celebrating the first and only goal of the game in double-overtime that will get your country its first-ever World Cup title? Yellow card!!) -- to remember to take a picture of the truffles, but the cake was quite pretty.

I couldn't sample the cake since Becca was bringing it in to work the next day, but I did taste the one that Becca's mother had sent for her birthday, and it was delicious. Becca's coworkers were convinced they could get drunk off the cake, there was that much Grand Marnier in the glaze.

At some point I may ask Becca for the recipe, but then I'd have to purchase a lifetime supply of Grand Marnier just for making this cake. I don't drink, so what else could I do with a whole bottle of orange liqueur besides bake with it? (Does one even drink orange liqueur? I wouldn't know.)

ETA: Becca sent me the recipe for the Grand Marnier cake! See below!

18 July 2010

The incredible edible mouse

A couple of weeks ago I came across the Science Cookie Roundup #5, which featured, among other things, a mouse cake.

I wanted to bring something special to the lab on my last day, and had been eyeing the gel electrophoresis cookies as a potential candidate.

But guys. A mouse cake.

As the self-proclaimed Mouse Wench Extraordinaire, I felt that I could not possibly pass up such a challenge.

The mouse cake submitted by Jackie has a cupcake tumor, since she used to study cancer biology. While some of our mice also sport induced tumors, most of them receive heart or skin graft transplants, since my lab studies transplant rejection.

Unfortunately a heart graft is well nigh impossible to represent in cake form -- unless I were to render a surgery-in-progress, complete with all the organs, instruments, sutures, etc., which... well, there's an idea. Perhaps I'll attempt it one day, when I have more surgical and cake-decorating experience under my belt. For this particular mouse cake, however, I settled for a skin graft.

10 July 2010

It's a rainy day... but I love it!

Guys, guys.

The heat finally broke -- only temporarily, I fear, but right now it is delightfully cool -- and that means baking.


The weather broke with a spectacular rainstorm that caught me out on my bike. I love me some rain storms, but it was terrifying to bike down hills with wet brakes.

That was a lot of water! But it was such a refreshing respite from the smothering heat of the past week.

Both Becca and I are planning to bake a lot for our respective labs in the upcoming days, and that will officially(?) commence tomorrow, but I still wanted to bake something today to, I don't know, celebrate this cooler weather.

07 July 2010

Heat advisory on the east coast

Fact: It is far too hot right now. I can't even fall asleep, which should tell you something if you know me at all. Clearly with the heat index in the triple digits the past (and future) couple of days, the last thing I want to do is switch on the oven.

So I shall take this opportunity to pimp a great recipe from Cooking Light that I tried a few weeks ago. My flatmate Becca had made a red velvet cake earlier in the week, and there was buttermilk left over. Since we hardly ever have buttermilk in the house, I took the chance to use some to make a cake for a birthday in the lab. The cake was such a great hit -- it was gone by lunch time, and I didn't even get to try it! -- that I made another one for Becca and myself. The rest of the buttermilk had to be used up somehow, you know?

Glazed Lemon Buttermilk Cake
Adapted from Cooking Light.

This cake was deliciously lemony and moist, and not too sweet. The sweetness came mostly from the glaze drizzled on the outside.

3 Tbsp. grated lemon rind (2 lemons)
4 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1 1/2 lemon)
1 1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. lemon extract
3 eggs
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine zest and lemon juice in a small bowl, and set aside.

Coat a 10-in. Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar.

Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, stirring well with a whisk.

Place butter in a large bowl; cream with a fork until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1 1/2 c. sugar, lemon mixture, and extract, beating until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture and beat, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 min. Cool in pan 10 min. on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
1 Tbsp. buttermilk

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, lemon juice, and buttermilk, stirring until smooth. Drizzle glaze over warm cake.

04 July 2010

When life hands me lemons...

...I make zest! Honestly, I don't think there is a scent that I love more than that of freshly-grated lemon zest.

A continually overworked mouse-wench-about-to-turn-grad-student, I turn to baking as a way to relieve stress. It is somehow so therapeutic to prepare and combine the ingredients, then to trust the oven to do its job. The chemist in me likes to analyze how each ingredient contributes to the final product, but there is still something magical about the way a goopy mess turns into a delicious cake. Of course the best part about this chemistry experiment is that you can eat the final product!

For the 234th birthday of the United States, I made an apple pie and a blueberry-and-cherry buckle. I am not American, but I guess I won't turn down an excuse to bake something to go with the theme of the day. :)