Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pho Delight

I must impart with you my first tastings of a Vietnamese dish by the name of Pho. Perhaps you've heard of it. Lists circulate every so often on facebook or other social media of the 50 foods you must try before passing into another life where apparently none of this food is available. One that I consistently saw on said lists was Pho. At first I was like, "what the heck? Why would I eat something that sounds like someone talking smack?" For real, pho looks like it should be pronounced fo or foe. Fo sho. And all that. However, after reevaluating my life [i seem to be doing that often enough these days], I figured that it would be wise to not let another few months pass without trying this magically elusive dish. Because, honestly, who knows what's going to happen in any given day? I didn't want to feel like the pathetic loser at the pearly gates. God would be standing there [or Saint Peter depending on what Bible you read. kidding. or something.] letting people pass right through onto the streets of pure gold. I'd get up there, and He'd be all like, "Julia, you did not finish that list of 50 foods you MUST eat before you die." I'd ask God respectfully if that list was simply a suggestion that some uppity foodie put together to make other people feel bad about their cuisine curiosity. And of course God would ask me to pull out my pocket dictionary and look up the word must.

Must - be necessary: to be important or necessary for doing something

Obviously I'd have to agree with God that the word must is imperative in this statement, and I simply did not live up to that food list. Thus, how could I be let into heaven without having tasted one of the many spectacular and curious cuisines of the world?

So I decided I must try pho.

Ironically it isn't pronounced f-o. That isn't actually ironic. However, it is said like the word "the". Just put the prefix "ph" and you get the Vietnamese soup dish.

I apparently ramble to no end late at night. My bad-ness.

To finish this up: I was in DC one night with my good/wonderful/superb/phenomenal friend Lauren, and I saw a Pho place. So we had to stop.

[we also had to stop because the Ramen place we wanted to eat at had a TWO HOUR WAIT. for a ramen restaurant.]

I ordered the beef pho, as suggested by our waitress. Let me tell you, it was superb. I'm literally salivating thinking about it [which is a little awkward to be doing in front of my dog].

Please note the attractive couple sitting behind me in this picture. Obviously I wanted my excitement over pho to be framed by their lovely figures. That's why my friend included it in her picture of me.

Lauren demonstrated how to put plum sauce, Asian basil [it's a real thing. look it up], sprouts, cilantro, jalapeno pepper and sriracha sauce on top. It takes a bit of dressing up, this soup, but it is totally worth it. I chose to not use the number one condiment in the world on my sauce as Sriracha makes my mouth burn like a raging forest fire, but I all the other toppings added such depth and diversity to the dish. 

Also, my nose kept running because it was hot out already. But I'm sure Pho is just delightful in the winter.

U Street, I'll be back for more Asian goodness. Perhaps I can knock off another food I MUST eat before I die of the list.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Making Strides in Becoming an Adult... Kind Of

Some celebrate momentous occasions with champagne and fancy cheeses. I pat myself on the back while telling everyone that I come into contact with that I have not bit my nails in three days. I haven't drunk diet coke in two days. I've been listening to the news on the radio instead of the local indie radio station. Oh, and I've started to consistently wear a watch.

Yes folks. I'm attempting to grow up.

No, I don't have a serious job. 

No, I haven't moved out of my parents house.

No, I don't go to bed on time or exercise regularly or eat on a consistent schedule.

But damn it, I wear a watch almost every day.

That is progress. At its basest form.

Oh yeah. I also got glasses that make me look like a hipster - thus an adult. 

I retract that statement. Hipster glasses DO NOT make one look like an adult.

Life Goals

Recently [meaning tonight] I have been attempting to reevaluate what I want in my life by way of career choices and goals. Leaving my current one hundred jobs in the next few months is my goal. Thus I know the road, so to speak, that I would like to travel. However, I don't know my end destination. Or rather, my next stop. All I can figure out at the moment is that I desire a full time job that pays fairly well. I also know that I would like to move. To be self-sufficient is a goal of mine. I just have no idea how these desires are going to manifest themselves in my life.

So tonight I started thinking and looking. A few months back I wrote down a few things that I'd like to see happen in my life. I need to do that again. And I need to be perfectly honest with myself. Does this ever happen to you? You sit down to write out some lists of what you want, but then you are embarrassed that your future children [or future cats, for when cats can read in the future] will read it and think less of you. So it happens that items that should be on the list don't make it. Alright. That's probably just me. I sound like a crazy person who can't articulate what they want to say. So I'm rambling and going on about nothing.

Essentially, I need to make some goals and dreams for myself. I have to stop living as though I am limited by some unknown force. No unknown force is holding me back from diving into something completely new and unexpected. I can't be whatever I want to be [although i am holding out hope for being a world champion sumo wrestler], but I also have more options and perhaps even opportunities than I realize. Why limit myself? 

Someday I want to teach history to a room full of enraptured students. Hanging on my every word, they will forever remember the day that I taught them about Rasputin [Russia's greatest love machine - ABBA's words, not mine].

Someday I want to open a bakery with one of my bestest friends in the world. I want to bake and decorate beautiful cakes that taste like magic.

Someday I want to give tours in a museum. And I want people to love those tours. I want them to be so caught up in the history that is being explained, that they forget that the tour is four hours longer than scheduled.

This is a start. But it is certainly not the end.

Now to get to applying to jobs.

Monday, August 20, 2012


I'm slightly [read incredibly humiliated and sad] embarrassed that I have not updated this little blog in quite some time. Upon contemplating my given excuse as to why, I had to look up how to spell embarrassed. I was flabbergasted at the spelling. No wonder I always spell it embarresed [note: this is NOT how you spell said word. please don't take after me and decide to spell it wrong ALL the time]. Really, I need to take lessons in spelling, grammar and the like. It doesn't matter that I have a college degree as it obviously did not raise my english pedigree [no matter that i boast of a minor in english].

Not that you would know, but I just took a fifteen minute respite from writing to venture to the library for French tapes. Then I realized that I'm not living in the '90's, and they are in fact French cds. I'm not exactly the best at picking up languages at all, but I going to Paris in December! And guess who gets to learn a little bit of French before we go. I do. Because my siblings are lazy. 

My goal is to blog more often. Feel free to heckle me if I am not actually doing so.

I'll leave you with some of my baking accomplishments this summer.

Mississippi Mud Pie Coffee Style

Lemon Blueberry Cake with Lemon Icing

Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll with Maple Bourbon Glaze

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

The returning Chocolate Cake with Toasted Marshmallow Filling, Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache on top

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fashion in Downtown Annapolis

I got a new part time job. Now I have three. I think I'm a sucker for punishment. I am stoked about this new gig, however. Through the magical-ness (which includes scamming out the wazooo) of Craigslist, I stumbled upon a listing for bakers assistant at a nearby tea house. I applied (after spiffying up my resume of course) despite my lack of experience in the culinary world. Yet they hired me! I start next Monday, and I am beyond excited!

So commemorate this momentous occasion, I shall post pictures of my sisters. Yes, these have nothing to do with what I just wrote about. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Homemade Oreos

To celebrate the 100th year anniversary of Oreos [because who wouldn't want to celebrate that, really?] I decided to try my hand at making the homemade version. I wanted something quite similar to what a real oreo tastes like, but obviously there had to be some differences. Those differences would include the size, ingredients for the filling, and overall texture after they had "aged" a few days. 

The cookie was made by combining all the dry ingredients and then slowly mixing in the butter. It was incredibly crumbly, and it took forever to get all the butter mixed into dry ingredients. I may have sworn up and down when cocoa powder mixed with flour flew out of the Kitchen Aid for the umpteenth time. I may have also cursed the day I decided to try and make these cookies. Eventually I took my little hand torch to the bowl in order to melt the butter ever so slightly so it would stick together. 

Clearly Orly was not too invested in the process.

When I finally finished the actual cookie part of the recipe they ended up turning out very similarly to shortbread. They ended up being quite crunchy and sandy when eaten straight.

I wanted to mix things up a little, so I made a semi-sweet chocolate ganache for a filling along with the normal white chocolate filling.

The cookies with the semi-sweet chocolate filling were incredibly rich. Like almost too rich. Maybe that's a good thing though. You eat half a cookie and you're fine dessert wise? That would help with my ever expanding waistline. The white chocolate filled ones were not so intense, although the cookies was still incredibly rich what with the crazy amount of butter and cocoa powder. 

I loved the look of the dark chocolate cookie which was attained by using dark chocolate cocoa powder instead of the normal cocoa powder usually bought in store. Delicious. 
 Interested in making these tasty little treats? Here's the link to the recipe I used. By the by, this ladies entire blog is incredible! I found it one night and ended up using three of her recipes within days of each other.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lack of Winter this Year

The amount of snow that Maryland, particularly Annapolis, received this year is pathetic and quite embarrassing. The few dustings we actually received caused a shock among the community as once again, we were reminded that we can't even drive in rain much less snow. It has become a really awkward reality for me since my cousin from central New York moved in. She just guffaws and such when she sees how Marylander's handle their precipitation.

You can still see the grass, that is how little it snowed. Sad. Pathetic. Awkward. Am I right? That is an awkward amount of snow.

As I type this out, it is a beautiful 60 degrees outside in the sun. Spring is coming. That groundhog didn't quite have it right. Either that or Mother Nature [Earth?] is messing around with us... again.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Co-Ed Baby Shower

My dear friends are having a baby. To celebrate the upcoming birth they threw a co-ed baby shower complete with booze and no gross games. That's my kind of party. Plus there were cute little hand crafted decorations everywhere.

The sister got to see some old co-workers. And by old co-workers I mean that they are up there in age. Like ancient.

Hopefully Flora doesn't beat me up now. I just called her old on the world wide web. I don't even have any protection from the mob OR mafia. I'm done for.

Actually, Flora is a lovely person. We talked about people stalking other people. It's really okay as long as the stalker doesn't want to kill you or anything. Otherwise it's just flattering.

Unfortunately I didn't get any great pictures of the parents to be when they were opening up gifts. They are awfully adorable though.

So excited to meet Baby Baker!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Baby Shower Cake

I made a cake. This one was requested for a small tea party/baby shower that one of my friends was throwing. Her little baby girl is due in March, and I am VERY excited to meet their bundle of joy. She essentially told me that because of being super pregnant, it's hard for her to focus on cooking and what-not. So I helped her out.

I am going to attach a recipe so you can try out this beaut' for yourself.

Very-Vanilla Butter Sponge Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp lemon juice or extract
6 large eggs, separated, room temperature (best separated when cold)
3/4 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare three 6" pans with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Cream butter, half of sugar, and lemon juice/extract in mixer until very pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
3. Add egg yolks, one by one, scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Add extracts, mix well.
4. Sift dry ingredients together and add to creamed mixture on low speed until just incorporated. Add yogurt on low speed.
5. Transfer to another bowl, clean mixer bowl and wipe with vinegar or lemon juice on paper towel, to eliminate any trace of grease. 
6. Whip room temperature egg whites and remaining sugar until stiff peaks form (about ten minutes).
7. Fold into cake batter gently. Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake until inserted skewer comes clean. 
8. Let cool completely before layering and frosting.

I used a white chocolate buttercream frosting recipe that I found online for the frosting 
of this cake. I think it tasted delectable.

I also used raspberries as a garnish on top. Next time, if I have the money for it, I plan
to add raspberries to the middle of the layers as well. I think that would give the cake a 
little more of a kick. 

The fun thing about this cake was the size. It was little but high. I wish that I had been able 
to taste it so I would know if it was actually tasty or not. I am just going to guess that it was.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Weather

I realize weather is what everyone talks about all the time, but it is one link that humans have with each other on a daily basis. Everyone can talk about the weather. You will find that are very few instant small talk pointers that people can whip out of thin air while under pressure.

It was gorgeous outside yesterday. With January soon coming to a close, I expected winter weather to still be in full force. The forecast had other ideas and swept in with some sixty degree weather. Perfect for biking.

Me and the kid sister bicycled to downtown Annapolis to enjoy some icecream and the sun.

The weather was simply perfect. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Christmas Cookies - Part Two

I work at Starbucks currently. It is the job that I kind of fell into last August. I had worked there previously back in 2008 in between highschool and college, so it was a coming back to the old stomping ground kind of thing for me. Some of the regulars back in 2008 are still regulars now in 2012. It blows my mind how some people just have the same routine year in and year out. I think I am too antsy for that.

I digress.

So around Christmas I was making some cookies [like a boss obvs] and decided that I have been working at Starbucks for way too long. It was truly apparent that I have been working there far too long because I zoned out for a half hour, and this is what came to my vision after zoning back into reality. 

Yikes. All my gingerbread men were wearing Starbucks aprons and holding Starbucks' red Christmas cups. Two of them were even wearing bowties like my manager does. 

It seems kind of funny, but the gingerbread man above even had an injured foot* like my manager. What are the odds? 

The last kicker in all of this? One of the barista gingerbread ladies has an uncomfortable look on her face, very similar to how I look at work ALL THE TIME! This is truly a creepy coincidence. 

Thankfully after I snapped out of it and stopped icing cookies with Starbucks aprons, I was able to salvage some Christmas trees.

Maybe next year I will have gingerbread men who aren't trying to over-caffeinate the masses with concentrated espresso. Just maybe it will be a Christmas miracle.

And if you are looking for a kick-butt gingerbread recipe, look no farther than Martha Stewart's website. It was the second gingerbread recipe I used during Christmas, and they really turned out so tasty and wonderful. I recommend it highly.

*Chad's foot isn't actually injured, he just wears thrifted boots, which is practically a form of injury.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christmas Cookies - Part One

What was supposed to be a relaxing day off in December quickly turned into a cookie fest. As it turns out, December is filled with parties and get togethers. It was requested that I turn out a bajillion cookies in order to appease the hungry holiday guests that amass at these various events. My mother is just too popular for her own good and has to be invited to every single event within a twenty mile radius of our home.

I made what was supposed to be sugar cookies. Interestingly enough, they ended up turning out like a mix between sugar cookies and shortbread cookies. They shaped well but crumbled just slightly after they had cooled. They were just delicious. 

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar (just whipped 1 cup sugar in the food processor until it was blended and then measured out 3/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces & softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1) Whisk the flour, sugar, & salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

2) Beat the butter into the flour mixture, one piece at a time using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, then continue to beat until the mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, 1 to 2 minutes.

3) Beat in the cream cheese & vanilla until he dough just begins to form large clumps, about thirty seconds.

4) Knead the dough in the large bowl by hand a few times until it forms a large, cohesive mass. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter, divide it in half, and shape it into a two four inch disks. Wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20 to 30 minutes.

5) Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375. Work with one disk at a time, roll out the dough to a 1/8″ thickness (or however thick you prefer your cookies) between two sheets of parchment paper. Slide the rolled dough and parchment onto a baking sheet & refrigerate again until firm.

6) Working with one sheet of dough at a time cut out shapes using cookie cutters and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 1″ apart. Bake the cookies until light golden brown, about ten minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.

7) Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely, about thirty minutes. When cooled, the cookies can be decorated as desired.

Sugar Cookie Frosting
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup shortening
5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring

In a large bowl, cream together confectioners sugar and shortening until smooth. Gradually mix in milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff, about five minutes. Color with food coloring if desired.

The frosting worked quite well for decorating and such. It held its shape well, and it was very smooth. My only qualm with it was that it tasted like shortening to me. If I were to do anything different next time, it would be to either add more vanilla extract, or find a frosting recipe that didn't involve shortening. It just seems to affect the over all taste.