Archive | May, 2012

Happy Announcement to ATP readers :)

30 May

I usually don’t post very personal stuff on this blog, but I made an exception this time… Yes I’ve got some good news for you today. Yes, it’s been a long time coming, so it’s kind of “olds” instead of “news,” (HAHaha..) but we kind of had to make sure all our nearest and dearest were informed before I announced it here on ATP… Plus, there has been somewhat of a mad rush during the month of May to get everything squared away for both Austin’s and my medical school apps, so that contributed to the delay as well. Sufficient excuse for keeping this from all y’all? Uh can you guess what I’m about to tell you yet?

It’s true, Austin the boyfriend has been Austin the fiance for about one month now! I have been beyond excited that soon I will be ATB instead of ATP, and be able to spend the rest of my life right beside the man I love.

Moving on! For those of you who are interested in the story, keep on reading. :) You all remember when I returned from Ghana on Thursday April 26, and the San Diego Food Blogger Bake Sale on Saturday April 28? Let’s just say that was an awesome weekend, and absolutely the best way to be welcomed back home. Here’s the much abbreviated story of the weekend…

Austin and my dear mom picked me up from the airport on Thursday, after I spend an uncomfortable 15 hours on two different flights, in a very non-stretchy Ghanaian dress. Every passing minute on those airplanes I got more and more anxious to be home, see my family, and snuggle into my honey’s hug. It felt amazing jumping into his arms at the baggage claim.

Pumped full of adrenaline, I felt barely a hint of jet lag, so the first thing I did was come home with them, eat my long-awaited SALAD. Austin and I then proceeded to get two half-gallons of ice cream at Vons, indulge, and then head over to his parents’ house for a welcome home dinner later in the evening. Ghana was and always will be tugging at my heart, but right then it felt so good to be back. It was a low-key, homey affair, but it was exactly what I needed. Little did I expect what was to come later on that weekend!

Friday was spent at Pat&Oscar’s for lunch (GREEK SALAD, WHOOO!), which apparently is changing its name again to O’s… Strange? Yes. Then Austin and I hopped in the car and drove up to Julian, a little country mountain town off Ramona in North San Diego. We were so full of salad, breadsticks, and pizza from lunch, but that didn’t stop us from wine tasting at The Blue Room Winery, sharing a grand chocolate bombe for dessert at the Candied Apple Pasty Company, picking up two pies at Mom’s, choosing licorice (his) and chocolates (mine) at a candy shop, and honey tasting. It was somewhat ridiculous how full we were as we strolled around window browsing! It was an amazing day; I love doing simple things like that with Austin. The evening was spent baking(which we all know is one of my favorite things to do) and packaging maple bacon cookies (recipe post coming up!) and orange chocolate tarts for the San Diego Food Blogger’s Bake Sale, which we participated in the next day.

With $3034, SD Food bloggers exceeded our fundraising goal of $2500 for Share Our Strength, a  charity dedicated to eradicating childhood hunger in the U.S.! Way to go, everyone! It was great to meet all the faces behind the blogs and get to know everyone a little better. I was so glad that Austin was there to support me… and take me out for some pad kee mao and Thai iced tea!

After the bake sale, we separated briefly before our special dinner date at The Marine Room in La Jolla. I serendipitously decided to paint my nails for the first time in months and get a haircut! My mom described my coif with the Vietnamese adjective that means “like a witch.” I thought it looked pretty good for having cut it myself in Ghana! I had no idea she was pushing me to trim my locks because of something very special coming up… :)

Austin picked me up, he looked studly, and we drove the scenic coastal-view route to La Jolla Shores in the twilight.

We were about 10 feet from the beach at our table, and started off with a Jameson neat (his) and a Kir Royale (mine). I think that combo is kind of hilarious. Apps were lobster bisque with enoki and a goat cheese brulee, entrees were sear scallops with carrot risotto and pork cheeks with black quinoa, and the desserts were trios of cordillera chocolate pots de creme, ginger gelato, and hibiscus lemon tarts. I put all of those down, because I know y’all would appreciate it, as food-lovin’ folks.

We had sat at our table for more than two hours, talking, savoring our meals, staring at the waves, and staring at each other as couples do after being separated for three long months. Finally, Austin told me that we should be getting to our beach walk, and then home quickly because his mom wanted to share her pie with us. He said we’d probably Redbox a movie and relax for the rest of the night. I sort of thought silently, “A movie, Austin? That’s kind of anti-climactic for such a romantic night,” but I was just so happy to be back with him again, it didn’t matter at all. I was unaware that it was all a decoy!

We continued the evening at La Jolla Shores beach, walking along the sand under a beautifully clear and star-studded night sky. It was a very special spot to us, because La Jolla Shores was the place Austin first asked me out when we were wee little 18-year-olds, recently graduated from high school and living a care-free summer before both heading off to Cal in the fall.

Austin took my hand, and was marching very quickly along the shore. I commented that it wasn’t as enjoyable as meandering leisurely along, and joked that he probably rented a dude dressed up in a Pooh Bear suit that was waiting for us (inside joke, hehe). He insisted it was because his mom wanted us to get back quickly so we could eat pie together. I almost suspected something, but brushed it off…

We got to the specific place on the stretch of beach where Austin and I sat and first talked about dating each other, and where we shared our first kiss. I was facing the ocean, with Austin behind me, holding me in his arms. He told me to look at the stars and close my eyes… Something was definitely getting fishy! Especially when he covered one of my eyes with his hand, and was doing something  mysterious with the other!

And then he told me to turn around. I was shocked to see a semi-circle of glowing paper luminaries, and the silhouettes of about fifteen of our family and friends standing behind each one. That first one’s a picture of them surreptitiously hiding from us in a stairwell! They were all there to witness and help celebrate what was about to happen next. At this point, I was definitely already bawling! Austin dropped to one knee and retrieved the ring from a lantern he had decorated with flowers. He asked me to marry him in the sweetest, most romantic words I could imagine, which will always remain a special secret between us, because to everyone else around the words were drowned out by the waves.

Of course, I jumped into his arms with a resounding yes. More bawling, more laughing, more hugging of everyone around. Austin even got our friends to come down from LA to be there, and I was absolutely touched. It was the most special thing to me that they were all there, showering us with their love and support. I have the best fiance in the world.

Amidst uncontrollable laughter from everyone, and a smile on my face that would not let my cheeks rest, we all got into cars and drove to Austin’s parents’ house, where a delicious spread and even more family friends were awaiting us. I was so covered with love, and it was just the happiest day of my life thus far. I was almost too overwhelmed to eat, and that never happens, that’s how excited I was! I just felt so blessed to be surrounded by the people I love, and to be looking forward to a lifetime of marriage with Austin.

A couple of my many “surrogate moms,” and two of our high school friends :)

It was a star-struck evening that I felt flew by just like Cinderella’s night at the ball. Except my prince would drive me home and leave me with a goodnight kiss to dream about as I fell asleep. Forgive me, I’m totally cheeseball-ing it up, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing here! I was in absolute joy, and still am a month later.

The next morning, I woke up and stared at my ring finger for about ten straight minutes in bed. Please, I know I’m not the only newly-engaged lady that did this! Then I headed over to Austin’s and from there we met up with our out-of-town friends for brunch in Del Mar at the Pacifica Breeze Cafe. It was a glorious morning, and I am so thankful to have such truly amazing friends. The rest of the day was spent calling our nearest and dearest. I could feel my dad beaming through the phone, because Austin had called and asked his permission beforehand. Some of our favorite reactions were: Austin’s old roommate dropping the phone and emitting audible shouts of joy, and our dear friend from church playing a bassoon for us over the phone. Haha! I told you our friends are awesome :)

For the past month, Austin and I have been at the AMCAS grindstone, prepping everything and researching the perfect medical schools. After submitting the primary application (very soon!), we’ll be able to start legit planning–booking venues and such. I am excited for marriage counseling at our church, and for this special season of heightened learning. I loved the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, and I am looking forward to the challenges as well as the blessings of this upcoming partnership. I know it’s going to be especially difficult for us if medical school works out, what with all the added stress, lack of sleep, and mountains of knowledge to absorb, but no matter what God presents us with, there is no one I’d rather live, grow, and love with than Austin.

-ATP

P.S. Next up on At The Patisserie, we’re turning back to FOOD! Two upcoming posts–Maple Bacon Cookies and Orange Chocolate Tarts from the San Diego Food Blogger Bake Sale! Also, let me know if there are any readers out there that may like to hear more personal non-food-related posts on here from time to time. I know I said I usually don’t post stuff like that, but I may steer the blog in an additional direction if I can’t resist sharing a few wedding deets here with y’all :)

 

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Welcome Back from AFRICA! Vegan Spiced Chai Latte Cupcakes + Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

17 May

This is a double welcome back from Africa!

I baked these requested cupcakes for Austin’s little sister (but she’s already 20!) as a sweet homecoming treat when she came back from her study abroad trip to South Africa last week!

You can read all about her adventures in her amazing blog here. You will be completely enthralled by her adventures cage-diving with Great White sharks, almost being blown off a cliff by 80mph+ winds, serving at a day-care, and touching cross-cultural experiences. Did I mention she met Desmond Tutu?! There’s a photo of her sidled right up next to him, shaking his hand and grinning. Adorbs. Miss Emily Elizabeth is one amazing young lady, and I love her. We are so glad to have her back at home with us.

And the second part of the “double welcome back” is my return to this blog! Yep, it’s been about 13 weeks since I posted any deliciousness here. I missed sugar so much when I was in Ghana that the first activity I did when I came back was bake up two batches of treats for the San Diego Food Bloggers Bake Sale, in support of the charity Share Our Strength. Totally cool experience, and I can’t wait for next year!

For readers that have been wondering about what I actually did in Ghana, see this post, or check out the extensive journals I wrote in my blog. In short, it was life-altering, and I have it in mind to return to little Saboba town and serve there again.

On to the the sweetness! Emily is a fan of chai lattes, and who wouldn’t be? I love their complex, spicy, exotic flavor. This version is vegan–no eggs, no milk, no butter, and therefore very dense like a muffin, but still SO delicious. Once you add the Swiss meringue buttercream, however, you can’t count the entire cupcake as vegan, . Too bads, but who’s complaining!? I may be a slightly granola Berkeley girl, but I will never give up butter… Unless my doctor tells me to, of course. Listen to your doctor, friends! Oops sorry, remnants of Saboba are still lingering with me, I guess!

Back on track! I was afraid of Swiss meringue buttercream after my first very soupy attempt, but I decided to tackle it again for the sake of Emmy’s cupcakes, and it turned out to be a success! Lesson learned: don’t let a one-time failure scare you into submission! You are the boss of the kitchen, and maybe it will take just one more try to conquer that difficult recipe. Got it? Got it. :) Now go on and try these scrumptious cupcakes!

Spiced Chai Latte Cupcakes
Makes about 16 cupcakes

2 1/4 c. Soy milk
8 Tea bags, black tea (I used Lipton yellow label, ubiquitous in Ghana ;] )
2 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 1/2 c. Flour
4 tbsp. Cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp. Ground Cardamom
1 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
2/3 c. Canola Oil
1 1/2 c. Granulated Sugar
1 tbsp. Vanilla

  1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, scald the soy milk (heat to just under boiling).
  2. Take the strings and papers off the tea bags if necessary. Remove the saucepan from the heat and steep the tea for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bags, and re-measure the soy milk, making sure that at least 2 cups remain. If there is less, you can top off to 2 cups with some fresh soy milk.
  4. Whisk the apple cider vinegar into the milk and let it sit until it is curdled.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  6. Pour the soymilk, oil, and vanilla into the bowl and stir until just incorporated.
  7. Fill cupcake pan with liners, and put about 1/4 c. of batter into each well.
  8. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

    Heat and whisk your sugar + egg white until it looks like this!

Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1 c. Granulated Sugar
4 Large egg whites
1 1/2 c. Unsalted butter at room temperature

1 tbsp. Vanilla
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

  1. In a double boiler, or a metal pan set in another pan filled with simmering water, cook the sugar and the egg whites together, whisking constantly until all the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is white and uniform.
  2. Pour into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until cool, and forms thick, shiny meringue, about 5 minutes. I used a hand-hend Cuisinart 7-speed mixer on speed 5.
  3. Add in the butter, 1 tbsp. at a time, beating after until smooth. If the mixture looks soupy or curdled, continue beating, and it will smooth out!
  4. After all the butter has been added, beat another 6-10 minutes on medium-high. Add in the vanilla and the cinnamon.

Recipe adapted from Love and Olive Oil

All you have to do after that is frost your cupcakes! You can use the regular ole knife method, or fill a piping bag (I just use a large ziploc) and pipe it on. I myself just used a large ziploc bag-in-a-cup method. Easy and delish.

Emily and everyone else in Austin’s family, and our family friends who came to the welcome-back-Emily party just loved them. :) Austin himself said, “AH… MAY… ZING” in a text. That’s how I knew they were good enough to share with y’all. And I hope you really do enjoy them!

Make them for your hubby to say welcome home from work.
Make them for your kids to say welcome home from school.
Make them for anyone you love to say now we’re together, welcome home.

<3 ATP

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