Cheesy Cream & Onion Pinwheels

food

One of my favorite things to make for parties or hang-outs are pinwheels, made from canned biscuit or croissant dough. I prefer croissant dough because it is more flaky, but both are great options. You can put anything into your pinwheels, from cheese, meats, to nutella and nut spreads… it’s one of those recipes where you can’t go wrong. For a movie night with my friends, I decided to make a cream and onion filling since I really need to grocery shop and some of my friends are vegetarian. As always, the recipe was divine and I am excited to share it with you all!

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Cheesy Cream & Onion Pinwheels

yield: 10-12 pinwheels

Ingredients:

  • 1 can croissant dough
  • 4 oz. softened cream cheese (1/2 of a whole bar)
  • 1/3 c. shredded cheese of choice (I used mozzarella)
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 3 slices turkey/ham
  • 1/4 c. chopped caramelized or browned onions
  • chopped green onions for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. Open the can or croissant dough and unroll the entire dough without breaking off at any of the perforated points. Seal the perforated lines together so that the dough is one complete sheet.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except turkey/ham and use a spoon to spread onto the entire dough.
  4. Lay the deli meat on top of the spread.
  5. Roll up the dough tightly and slice into 1 cm. thick pieces. DSC00022
  6. Place onto the cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Once done baking, let it cool for 5 minutes and serve immediately. I served them with a side of honey dijon mustard but the pinwheel have tons of flavor on its own.

These are beyond delicious and so simple to make. I can honestly eat them all in one sitting as I watch Netflix, but this is a very decadent treat that should be eaten on special occasions only! Feel free to double or triple the recipe for mass production.

 

Taiwan Day 7: Lihpao Land and My Bikini Tale

travel
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Thunder mountain water ride

On a sunlit day where human skin roasted and charred, we drove to Lihpao Land, an amusement and water park in Taichung. The massive theme park is segregated into wet and dry, but with the temperature in the 100s, the dry section was eerily deserted because a hot scar from the metal machines didn’t sound too fancy. Nevertheless, we visited the dry after the wet because we’re dauntless people.

Once we had gotten into the water park, I put on a bandeau-like bikini that zipped in the front. No big deal, right? Actually it was a big deal, and a terrible mistake on my part for several reasons; one being I was horrendously out of shape but more importantly, I was in a more conservative country, in a water park, full of children in one pieces with frills, swim caps, and aqua shoes. Aqua shoes were not required, but swim caps were, so with my bikini on, I meticulously stuffed every single baby hair under the tight-fitting cap, and it was a miracle when the cap finally went over my awfully large, round head. With the top extremely wide, my head takes the shape of an upside down triangle, so while everyone else seemed to function properly with their swim caps, the latex hugged my cranium so tightly, pulling my eyes upwards, and I felt I was going to faint. As I looked into the mirror, the exceptionally unflattering figure staring back at me was cringe-worthy. With my colossal, latex-wrapped head, beer belly, and muffin top, all packed into a teeny bikini, I looked like an unfortunate, rebellious monk. I broke into laughter and took several photos to document the hot mess I was, but I confidently walked out, forgot my looks, and simply had fun. As we went on every attraction through the park, people clearly stared and judged at me for my improper outfit, and I wholeheartedly wished I could lash out at them, but I thankfully kept my composure. Although I did see a few other locals in bikinis, I believe mine looked the most inappropriate since I’m just a tad bustier.

The main attraction at the water park was the “Big Wave” which is constructed to imitate a beach, as a machine generates mountainous waves, sweeping people off their feet. As I waited for the wave to come, I realized I had been in this same exact spot in the big wave 10 years ago, so a rush of anticipation struck me to relive the moment. As hundreds of people eagerly counted down for the wave, my stomach drastically dropped, and instantly the wave worked its way from front to back. When it hit me, I was lifted a couple feet off the ground, and I felt bodies pile on top of me as my swim cap and goggles were knocked off my head. The scene appeared to be an apocalypse where zombie-like bodies were battered by vigorous waves, but once this wave died down, everyone cheered and reordered themselves for the next wave to come. The best part of the big wave is the variability of wave strength, for you may get hit with a weak wave once and then a forceful wave next. Of course we all want to be blessed by that gargantuan, powerhouse wave that causes you to lose your accessories, or even your swim top.

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The big wave

When we had been pummeled enough, we changed into T-shirts and shorts and enjoyed cheap grilled squid, savory egg pancakes, and braised pork rice from the food stands. We took a much needed break and trekked through the heat to the dry, amusement portion of the park.

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Braised pork rice with pickled cucumbers

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Egg pancake

Similar to a horror movie, the amusement park seemed deserted as employees stood by each attraction, on their phones, waiting for a single visitor to go on their ride. There was an aviation coaster, high above us, propelling in circles with just one lonely rider among thirty empty seats. There were no screams and laughter as you would typically hear in an amusement park, but just sounds of silence and the seldom running engine from one ride. We decided to go onto the aviation coaster, which we walked up to and within seconds were buckled and up in the air. The world was spinning rapidly as I gradually rose up into the air with the centripetal force acting upon my body. Scanning below, I saw the deserted scenery, but was also able to see the water park, far off into the distance, crowded with miniature ant people having the time of their lives. With so few people, we were able to knock out most of the daunting and exhilarating rides within a short amount of time. Our invigorating day had come to an end, with our skin three shades darker and our stomachs one pound lighter. As difficult as it was, we gratefully waved Lihpao Land goodbye and swore we would return soon.

 

-Jamie

Taiwan Day 6: I Made It on the News!

travel

 

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Tossing the Chinese yoyo

The only time that I’ll ever be famous was the day local Miaoli reporters flocked to the elementary school with their load of technical equipment, ready to interview the principal along with its fellow volunteers, such as me. We had known the day before that the reporters would come, so we prepared a simple medley of talents for the camera. I felt composed knowing that the reporters were coming, but the moment I saw the white van roll up in the parking lot with three people hauling out massive tripods, video recorders, and a box of microphones and audio devices, my composure escaped my insides and was replaced with queasiness.

The schoolchildren upstairs had been sweeping floors and tidying up the classrooms since the first bell, when suddenly from below I heard thumping footsteps and echoes of children repeatedly hollering, ” 他們到了! 他們到了!” (They are here!) To keep all procedures organized, the principal, calm yet assertive, spoke on the intercom for all students to gather in the foyer and instantly all the schoolchildren frantically raced each other, competing who could sit down criss-crossed applesauce first. When the children had arranged themselves in columns by grade, the principal spoke with authority, “Today is the day, and we are so thankful for our volunteer teachers here. The local reporters have come and are ready to report all that has gone on in the past week at our school. We have been preparing for this for a couple of days so try your best and just have fun! All the yo-yo kids, head downstairs first and let’s attempt the “dragon”!” While the yo-yo kids set up on the grass, me and my fellow volunteer mates were approached by the reporters, who set up audio microphones on our backs and told us to write our Chinese names on a sheet of paper. Having the cameraman clip the audio box onto the back of my jeans and guide the wire to the back of my neck was tremendously awesome. I was about to be on Taiwanese News! Who would’ve imagined my first time on television would be in a foreign country?

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Elementary schoolkids

After I was set up, I waited to be interviewed. My stomach felt empty because I didn’t know what type of questions the reporter would ask and I had to respond in Chinese, which I am quite good at, but having to spontaneously respond on the first try on camera was frightening. In my head, I predicted some simple questions she could possibly ask, so I repeatedly rehearsed my responses in my head until I was called on. The double emotions of excitement and nervousness was overwhelming, but I confidently greeted the reporter and stood in an area of good lighting. She instructed me to speak loudly and about 2 inches away from the microphone and within seconds, my two minutes of fame began.

Initially, the reporter asked me elementary questions which thankfully I had rehearsed in my head, but I was at the highest extent of nervousness that I even had to ensure I wouldn’t butcher my Chinese name. Eighteen years I have lived with this name and even such pressure could’ve caused me to forget. More advanced questions were thrown at me and the camera was fast and rolling, but surprisingly, I briskly soared past them one by one, and by the end of two minutes, I had only stuttered once. I felt proud at the moment. Public speaking was never my forte and I personally know of my low self-esteem, but the girl that would appear on the Miaoli News later tonight would be someone of full confidence.

But my fame did not end there. I eagerly moved on to the patch of grass where the children were warming up their master yo-yo skills, and boy was I an amateur among the kids, but I had picked up Chinese yo-yo quickly in the past few days so I agreed to join the yo-yo squad on camera. The first trick performed was the “dragon”, which is great for cameras because it shows teamwork, unity, the Miaoli elementary school as one. It took only the second try for the yo-yo to smoothly move down the line of ten people, from one persons string to the next, and the toss back reached great heights and was successfully caught. We all happily cheered and we, as a school, truly were one in unity. Following the “dragon”, we performed toss ups, around the leg, spider web, and throw and catch. I performed around the leg, which can be perpetual for the ultimate yo-yo guru, but as a non-guru I was currently at 21 loops, when everyone, including the reporter and cameramen, gathered around and loudly chanted the counts in unison. I had reached 40 loops when I saw my yo-yo wobble in which I tried to straighten, but once I hit 43, my yo-yo tumbled off and rolled away on the grass. Everybody joyously hollered, clapped, and laughed and I put on a broad smile because 43 was a great number for a dilettante like me.

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On the Miaoli news

After the yo-yo portion was recorded, I was approached for a second interview on how I was so talented on the Chinese yo-yo, which, umm… I honestly wasn’t, but because I am an American who had just picked up the sport, it was pretty impressive. They then moved on to the Chinese top acts, which I had no place in because I actually had zero talent in Chinese top.  An hour had passed as I watched these little town children, flawlessly execute impressive top tricks, only wishing I was as skilled as they were. Performance can be exhausting, thus when the medley concluded with one last top trick, a lunch of fried oyster mushrooms, fresh bamboo shoots with Kewpie mayonnaise, bitter melon with salted egg, and leafy vegetables was served for all the hungry performers. All plates were later emptied of their food, and classes resumed as usual.

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Dinner

-Jamie

Traditional Chinese Pork and Spring Onion Crispy Pancake

food

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As you bite into the crispy pancake, the layers of the flaky crust crumble and cake your lips. Then you bite into succulent, savory pork that is balanced out with fresh, green spring onion and you know there is a party going on in your mouth. How does this pancake pack so much flavor and texture? It’s no secret. These traditional Chinese pancakes are a very popular street food in Asia. Although it takes a couple hours to make, it is completely worth it. Difficulty level? Easy to medium. You can make it, and you should make it right now!

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. + 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • For oil paste: 3 tbsp. oil and 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds (optional)

For the filling:

  • 1/2 lb. ground pork (a less lean % is preferable for this recipe. This is NOT a healthy recipe)
  • 1/2 c. chopped spring onion
  • 1 tsp. five spice powder
  • salt and white pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Combine 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour, water, and 1 tbsp. oil in a bowl and knead with hands until there are no lumps. Do not over knead. Cover with a damp paper towel and place on the side for an hour.
  2. Combine all the pork filling ingredients and set aside for a minimum of 1 hour to marinade. You can prepare the meat filling as early as you want because the longer the meat marinades, the more flavor there will be.
  3. In a pan on medium heat, heat 3 tbsp. all purpose flour until slightly brown and then add the oil until a paste forms. Set aside.
  4. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface into a rectangle that is 1/2 cm. thick. Spread all of the oil-flour paste onto the dough, covering all of the dough. Roll up the rectangular dough, rolling so that the dough is horizontally longer. Once the dough is rolled, cut the dough into 8 even parts.
  5. For each dough ball, flatten and roll flat into a circular shape, about 1/2 cm. thick. Try to roll so that very little to none of the oil flour paste spills out. Scoop about 1 1/2 tablespoon meat mixture in the middle and bring all sides of the dough to the middle. Pinch the middle so the meat mixture is completely sealed inside.
  6. Roll out the ball of dough into a flat oval so the dough is 1/4 cm. thick. Do this step carefully so the dough does not tear.
  7. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the dough and press  into dough w/ fingers or rolling pin.                              IMG_8592
  8. In a nonstick pan on medium low heat without oil, place the pancakes inside. I fit 3 or 4 in my pan so I made 2 batches.Cook for about 10-15 min. or until the bottom is golden and you begin to see the layers of the crust. Flip to the other side and cook for about 10-15 min. Once both sides are cooked, repeatedly flip back and forth about every 2 min to ensure the pancake is fully cooked. The whole cooking process should take about 35 min.
  9. Place pancakes on a cooling rack for 3 min. and eat the pancakes when they’re hot.                           IMG_8597

Wow… yes that’s a lot of steps, but the entire process is quite fun if you love working with dough. The steps seem tedious but they are actually simple to follow and you end up with a lovely pancake that you can use to serve, and surprise your friends and family!

-Jamie

 

 

Broke College Student #4: Movie Night

Broke College Student, food, healthy

I watched Safe Haven on a Monday Night. Seriously? A Monday night? Do you even study? Yes, I do. But I had just finished an exam and my class on Tuesday isn’t until 2 so I needed to treat myself and celebrate! As the ultimate foodie, of course there were loads of food as I and a couple friends brought our food stash together to create a delicious movie night. Pizza came into our minds, but we’re all quite health conscious so we had a healthy movie night sponsored by Trader Joe’s. And by “sponsored” I just mean we bought our products from the store… they didn’t send us snacks or pay us (I WISH).

Our food stash consisted of:

  • Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger snaps
  • Trader Joe’s Raises the Bar Chewy Granola Bar W/dark Chocolate Chunks
  • Trader Joe’s Beet Hummus (This tastes like heaven) and baby carrots
  • Blue Diamon Pecan Nut-Thins
  • Baps Shayona salt + pepper banana chips
  • dark chocolate covered cashew, walnuts, and almonds
  • pears
  • oranges
  • oatmeal raisin cookies
  • “Grilled” cheese sandwiches (Made of toasted bread and provolone cheese, melted in a microwave- wasn’t soggy though)

As I snacked on every single food item and gasped at the thrilling scenes in Safe Haven, I physically felt good eating these items instead of a pizza. The total cost of all these items was close to the price of a Large Papa John’s pizza- around $12, and we had plenty of leftovers that aren’t perishable such as the granola bars, nuts, banana chips, etc. Eating healthy can be completely affordable for a college student, especially when shopping at Trader Joe’s. I highly recommend swapping chips for Nut-thins or hummus and carrots. Go to Trader Joe’s or whatever affordable grocery store nearby and get your cheap and healthy snacks for your next movie night!

-Jamie