Refreshing Iced Milk Tea

Can you believe it’s already mid-August?? For me, it feels like the summer was just getting started when now it’s already coming to an end. And with all the fun outdoor adventures and after-work activities and weekend trips that summer brings, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted lately on the blog! For those of you that follow my Instagram, you’ll see that I’ve (sorta) kept up with some baking photography throughout my busy summer, but I’ve definitely neglected the blog.

So, to jump back into it, I wanted to share my summer obsession with you all: Iced Milk Tea. I’m literally drinking a glass as I write this post now πŸ™‚

Many people might associate milk tea with boba tea or bubble tea, which is really the same thing, just with tapioca pearls. Personally, I prefer without the pearls, but either way, this has been my go-to craving this summer. Somewhat sweet and so refreshing, it’s the perfect pick-me-up when you’re craving something creamier than regular iced tea, but maybe not quite feeling an iced coffee either. (Or you’re like me and you simply don’t like coffee!)

Plus, it’s so easy to make a home! And for much cheaper than any of the bubble tea shops.

Let me know if you try it out with the recipe below! You can also make a large pitcher of black tea in advance and use it to enjoy milk tea throughout the week* πŸ™‚

*(If you opt to make a large batch, I would recommend sticking to a more concentrated tea, as described in the recipe below, so it’s not too diluted once mixed with the ice and milk.)

Recipe:

Ingredients:
  • Black tea
  • Milk of choice (regular, soy, almond, etc.)
  • Sweetener of choice (honey, sugar, etc.)
  • Ice cubes
Instructions:
  1. Brew 1 tea bag with 1/2 cup hot water (or any loose leaf tea with about 1/2 the water you normally would.)
  2. Let cool for several minutes. While tea cools, add ice and any desired sweetener (honey, sugar, etc.) to a tall glass. Optional: add any prepared tapioca pearls to the glass as well.
  3. Once tea has steeped and cooled a bit, pour over glass with ice and top with milk.
  4. Stir gently and enjoy!

Visit to Vancouver/Victoria

Hello hello! Having just returned from our trip to Vancouver + Victoria in British Columbia, let’s just start by saying it’s beautiful. With the mountains and the forests and the ocean just outside the city… a perfect combo of urban and nature.

I’d been told by several people that Vancouver has a great food scene, so I was looking forward to trying out a few places. Luckily, we have friends from Vancouver who gave us some excellent recommendations, which I’ll of course share with you all as well πŸ˜‰

Vancouver

First day, we walked around the perimeter of the downtown area, through Gastown to Coal Harbour and up to Stanley Park. In Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, we passed by the famous steam clock, which is pretty neat. Further along, the outcropping at Canada Place gave us a great view of Vancouver Harbor, busy with sea planes taking off. (Have you ever been on a sea plane?? I think they’re so cool!). Walking along through Coal Harbour and into Stanely Park, the views along the sea wall from both the city side and from the park are really a beautiful contrast of the modern glass buildings next to the serene water and mountains. It was probably one of my favorite views in the city.

In Stanley Park, we walked around a bit, though definitely didn’t cover the whole park. In the south side of the park, there’s a collection of native totem poles that were cool to see with their bright colors and intricate carving designs.

Totem poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver

We continued on by circling around from the park to English Bay Beach and down to Yaletown. By this point, we were starving for restaurant rec #1: The Parlour. Our friends told us to try the Yaletown pizza, which has albacore tuna, avocado, cilantro, red and green onions, and a spicy aioli. Now you may think tuna sounds a bit different for a pizza, but this pizza was SO GOOD. Would 100% recommend.

Yaletown pizza from The Parlour

Day 2 of Vancouver, we explored further west outside the downtown area to Granville Island, Kitsilano, and the University of British Columbia area. Food highlights of the day included Montreal style bagels from Siegel’s Bagels from the Granville Island Market (pictured below!), as well as Lee’s Donuts, also in the market.

To end the second day, we tried restaurant rec #2 from our friends, La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop. This place started out as a food truck and now has several locations in Vancouver and Victoria. Now, given that my boyfriend is from Mexico, we’re always game to try and find authentic tacos in the states, and our friends claimed these were the best tacos they’d ever had (of course, they’ve never been to Mexico πŸ˜› ). They were not wrong.

My boyfriend ordered the tacos de cachete (cheek), de lengua (tongue), and con mole, while I went for carnitas and hongos con kale. We also split an order of sopes. All in all, the tacos were super authentic, to the point where my bf declared them the best tacos he’s had outside of Mexico. If that isn’t endorsement enough for you to go try, I don’t know what is!

In addition to the places pictured/mentioned above, I would also recommend these Vancouver food spots!

  • The Diamond – restaurant/bar in Gastown with great cocktail list. We went here the first night for a few drinks.
  • Miku – recommended by our local friends, they say it’s the best sushi in Vancouver. We didn’t have a chance to try it out. It’s also situated on the water with lovely views of the harbor and mountains.
  • La Mezcaleria – the more formal sister restaurant of La Taqueria. Also didn’t try here, but if it’s anything like La Taqueria, it will surely be amazing.
  • Chambar – also recommended by our local friends, a Belgian restaurant with great brunch (they say: try the waffles!). We also didn’t get to try here.

Victoria

After a couple days in Vancouver, we headed off to Victoria on Vancouver Island. My bf’s younger cousin has been living there on an exchange school year, so we thought to visit her and see the city before she returns to Mexico for the summer.

Victoria is definitely a much smaller but charming city. We spent most of our time walking around downtown and the harbor, eating ice cream/gelato. Our main food goal (who are we kidding, my food goal) was a recommendation for brunch at Blue Fox Cafe. Warning: be prepared to wait in line, especially if you go on Sunday. Despite the wait, this place was completely worth the line. The menu has literally a dozen kinds of eggs benedict, several kinds/flavors of waffles and pancakes, an extensive list of creative coffee/tea drinks (see the Mayan Mocha, iced chai latte, and a hot chai latte pictured below), and omelettes as well. After close to an hour in line, all three of us still agreed: well worth the wait.

Final food highlight of the trip was another round of Montreal style bagels en route to the airport from Mount Royal Bagel Factory in the Fernwood neighborhood of Victoria, near our AirBnb. With us being semi-New Yorkers now I have to say, while we really liked the Canadian bagels, my bf and I agree we prefer our own NY style bagels πŸ™‚

All in all, we had a wonderful time on our trip and would totally visit again!

Strawberry Season

Strawberry season might be one of my favorite times of the year.

Growing up, this time of year always meant driving back to New Orleans to visit family and, most importantly, heading back to Texas with at least a few flats of fresh, sweet Ponchatoula strawberries.

In case you’re saying to yourself, “Ponch-a-what?”, let me explain: Ponchatoula, Lousiana is famous for its strawberries. It’s a small town north of New Orleans and east of Baton Rouge which truly has some of the best strawberries.

Because of this tradition, I’m a bit strawberry spoiled: I find myself often disappointed with watery, flavorless varieties in the off-season (not to mention how expensive they can be in NYC off-season!). So when strawberry season comes around and I do find flavorful, sweet, juicy berries, it makes me incredibly happy. And reminds me of those trips we made growing up, eating countless berries in the car ride home and over the next couple weeks. πŸ™‚

Chocolate strawberry fudge

In honor of the season, I’ve been happily baking quite a few berry recipes!

To name a few which I’ve made so far/on my to-make list…

(Hover over for recipe links to all the above!)

Who else is loving strawberry season, and what are you baking??

Strawberry basil scones – yum!
Irresistible fudgy squares…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat No-Bakes

Spring has finally arrived to NYC, and I’m so excited.

Yesterday, I took full advantage of the spring sunshine to go for a long run in Central Park and was marveling at all the flowers which seemingly bloomed overnight! Just a few days before, I had been walking along a path where some initial green shoots were starting to poke through, and yesterday they were already full-blown daffodils!

With the spring and extended daylight, I’m definitely looking forward to more baking, but today I’m actually starting off with a quick and easy no-bake treat!

These Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat No-Bakes are not quite a bar, not quite a cluster, not quite a cookie….they’re just sort of pieces of gooey goodness.

Any really, I could call them Chocolate Nut Butter Oat Bars/Clusters/Cookies, because I’ll tell you a secret: I didn’t actually use peanut butter in this batch πŸ˜€

Super easy and quick, these are sure to be treat for anyone!

Recipe:

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk (regular, almond, soy – anything works)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup any nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower…)
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • Handful of chocolate chips
Instructions:
  1. In medium-sized pot, combine sugar, milk, cocoa powder, and butter and melt together over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After butter has fully melted, cook for another 2-3 minutes until just bubbly.
  2. Reduce heat to low, and add salt and nut butter. Stir until nut butter begins to melt and incorporate.
  3. Add oatmeal 1 cup at a time, mixing in with a spatula after each scoop.
  4. Line an 8×8 baking pan with wax paper and pour mixture into pan, spreading evenly to the edges. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and gently press into mixture. (Feel free to go as chocolatey or not as you like, and if you’re really feeling it, you could even mix these in the pot for chocolate chips throughout!)
  5. Place pan in the freezer for at least 20 minutes for bars/clusters to cool. Can be stored in container at room temperature.

Donuts donuts donuts

Ever since I bought my new donut pan from Sur La Table, I’ve been on a donut kick.

Blackberry donuts

The first donuts I made were these blackberry donuts by Preppy Kitchen, a few weeks ago when we were hosting my boyfriend’s cousin + her boyfriend at our place. They were super moist, so easy to make, and our guests loved them!

The recipe only calls for blackberry juice in the dough, but I decided to add some leftover juice and additional bits from straining to the frosting for extra blackberry flavor. If you’re looking for a smooth, glossy finish to the donuts, probably best to leave out the blackberry pieces from the frosting, as it made it a little inconsistent in texture; otherwise, why waste perfectly good blackberry bits (and it gives such a nice pink color)!

Blood orange donuts

Next, I decided to go for blood orange donuts! I’d been seeing lots of these pink beauties on my Insta feed, so I joined in the trend πŸ™‚ Conveniently enough, the donut pan came with a recipe for just that: Sur La Table’s own take on blood orange donuts.

Comparing the two recipes, I’d say the dough for the blackberry donuts was moister, but I slightly preferred the sugar glaze of the second batch over the cream cheese frosting. Might have to try a mash-up recipe of my own for batch number three… πŸ˜‰

YUM!

Oreo Balls

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

To partake in the festivity of today, I decided to make a classic throwback recipe with a St.Patty’s twist: Irish green Oreo balls.

Back in high school, I was pretty much famous for these Oreo balls – everyone loved them, and I’d bring them to school in huge batches of 50 that would disappear in minutes. Such a simple treat that everyone seems to love!

All you need for Oreo balls is 3 ingredients: Oreos, cream cheese, and white chocolate. That’s it!

For holidays or other occasions, I like to either add food coloring to the melted white chocolate or add sprinkles while the white chocolate coating is still firming. However you choose to decorate, you really can’t go wrong πŸ™‚

Ingredients:
  • 1 package of Oreos
  • 8oz cream cheese (softened at room temp)
  • 20oz white chocolate almond bark
Recipe:
  1. Crush Oreos in food processor into fine crumbs. Transfer to large mixing bowl and mix with cream cheese until well incorporated.
  2. Use hands to roll into balls and place on baking sheet lined with wax paper. Let balls firm in fridge for ~20 minutes.
  3. After chilling for ~15 minutes, begin to melt white chocolate either in microwave or over the stove, being sure to stir occasionally so as not to burn.
  4. Once chocolate is melted, remove balls from fridge and 1 by 1, place into white chocolate and coat. Place coated Oreo ball back on the wax paper for chocolate to firm. (Once you’ve coated all the balls, I recommend putting back in the fridge a few minutes to speed up the chocolate firming.)
  5. Enjoy immediately, or store balls in fridge up to a week.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Fun fact: the first time I ever used yeast (several years ago now) was to make homemade cinnamon rolls.

Prior to that, I had thought of yeast as something complicated to work with that would require hours of waiting for it to rise and all the effort of kneading. And while some breads might require a bit more time and effort, these cinnamon rolls are extremely easy and ready in just 90 minutes.

For anyone else who’s never worked with yeast before: that’s not too daunting, right?

Honestly, the trickiest part of these rolls is the actual rolling of the dough without losing any of the filling. But I’ve learned a tip to make even that part easier!

Rolling pins are always fun to use, don’t you think?

After mixing the ingredients for the dough, resting it, and then rolling it out to the right size/thickness, I recommend placing it on a sheet of wax paper/parchment paper before beginning to add the fillings. That way, you can use the paper to help evenly guide the rolling process (something I learned watching The Great British Baking Show episode for Swiss rolls!).

After that, it’s just a matter of slicing your roll and letting them proof to double the size:

A tray full of golden brown cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven and just waiting to be iced… can you think of anything better on a Sunday morning? πŸ™‚

Check out my go-to cinnamon roll recipe by The Baker Chick here!

~Mardi Gras King Cake~

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, marking the end of one of the most festive holiday events in New Orleans.

Fun fact about me: although I live in New York and mostly grew up in Texas, I was born in New Orleans. In fact, my mom’s whole family lives in New Orleans, so growing up, Mardi Gras was an annual event for our family. And despite a somewhat popular misconception, it’s not entirely a drunken street party. Of course, if that’s your type of scene, you can easily find it around Bourbon Street. But in other neighborhoods, especially for the daytime parades, you’ll find kids and families out watching the parades and hoping to catch beads, or if they’re lucky, a stuffed animal or other such toy.

Part of the tradition of Mardi Gras is the king cake, an oval-shaped delicacy which is sort of a cross between a coffee cake and a French pastry. King cakes are only sold during Mardi Gras season, essentially from the start of the year through Mardi Gras; so, having a February birthday, I’ve always been able to enjoy king cake as a very special kind of birthday cake! Even after we moved to Texas, we would usually either drive back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras weekend and load up on king cakes from the bakery, or my mom would special order one for us to be sent to Texas from the very best bakery, Manny Randazzo’s. The best kind of birthday treat!

Inside each cake is a plastic baby; tradition is, whoever finds the baby brings the king cake to the next party.

Balconies of the French Quarter decked out in Mardi Gras colors

Best Chocolate Chai Cookies Ever. Seriously.

Two weekends ago I discovered one of the best new cookie recipes I’ve made in a while: Chocolate Chai Cookies.

They’re so good, I would encourage you all to go make a batch ASAP πŸ™‚

These cookies by Two Cups Flour have definitely landed a spot towards the top of my all-time favorite cookies list. Essentially, they’re soft chocolate cookies with a molten chocolate center, coated in chai flavor spices (think: ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, etc.).Β 

One of my best friends makes the perfect cup of chai tea, so when I saw these cookies I instantly knew we’d need to team up for an afternoon of chai tea and chai cookies next time she came to visit. In the meantime, I’d say these cookies would go perfectly with any type of tea or coffee!

Check out this awesome recipe by Two Cups Flour here!

Easy 5-Ingredient Nutella Cookies

Who here loves Nutella?

Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who’s not a fan of Nutella.

An old friend of mine didn’t like chocolate, but he liked Nutella.

When I was living with my Austrian host family, the little boy – Lukas – would eat Nutella on toast almost every day for breakfast, occasionally for lunch, and I imagine dinner as well had he been allowed.

My boyfriend looooves Nutella.

So now that we’ve established Nutella is pretty much universally loved, let’s get to these cookies. Incredibly quick, simple, and with only 5 ingredients (one of which is, you guessed it, Nutella), they’re perfect for whipping up a quick treat, or just finding a new way to enjoy your favorite hazelnut spread πŸ˜‰

Enjoy!

Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well blended.
  3. Use a cookie scoop or alternatively roll batter into 1-inch balls with hands (it will be sticky – I recommend wetting your fingertips with water to help) and place on parchment paper lined tray.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes.