Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been trying to eat healthier in preparation for my wedding, but anyone with a sweet tooth knows that it’s not easy! I decided to bake cookies using almond butter, and found this recipe. Almonds in all forms (e.g., raw nuts, milk, butter, flour) are healthier alternatives to other food and snacks. They contain monounsaturated fats, which are healthy fats that help lower cholesterol and even help prevent weight gain. They are also an excellent source of vitamin E, minerals, protein, and fiber. You can visit for more facts about almonds.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients for Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies:
10 oz (2 cups) whole almonds (or 1 cup almond butter)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
110 g (1/3 cup) honey
2 oz (1/2 cup) dark chocolate chips or chunks

Prepare the almond butter: Spread the almonds on a baking sheet. Roast the almonds, stirring once or twice, for 10 minutes at 350°F. Grind the roasted almonds in a food processor for approximately 15-20 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the ground almonds reach a smooth, creamy consistency. Place the almond butter in the refrigerator until it cools down.

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Make the cookie batter: Place the food processor bowl containing the almond butter back on the food processor, and add the baking soda, sea salt, and vanilla extract. Pulse a few items to distribute the mixture. Add the egg and honey to the food processor, and blend until a ball of cookie dough forms (this does not take long at all). Remove the blade, and fold in the dark chocolate.

Bake the cookies: Using a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop, place the balls of dough on a baking sheet. Gently press down on each mound of cookie dough. Bake the cookies at 350°F for 9-11 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Yields: 9 cookies

I love how these cookies are guilt-free and easy to make! My only mistake was not letting my almond butter completely cool down, which ended up melting some of the chocolate–I was too impatient to wait! Luckily, the cookies still turned out chewy and delicious. What are some of your go-to recipes for guilt-free desserts? Comment below and let me know!

Chocolate Protein Shake

Since I’ve been doing my best to eat healthier, I haven’t been baking or posting many dessert recipes. In fact, I have been on a protein shake rampage the last few months! It was tough to replace an entire meal with just a liquid shake, but my body adjusted and I’ve experimented with a few different protein mixes to figure out what tastes satisfying to me. Here is a recipe for a protein shake that is tasty and easy to prepare. I’ve been making my shakes with chocolate protein powder, but any flavor works well with this recipe!

Chocolate Protein Shake

Chocolate Protein Shake

Ingredients for Chocolate Protein Shake:
1 Tbs chia seeds
1 cup almond milk
2 pitted dates (optional)
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
4 large ice cubes

Make the chia gel: Soak the chia seeds in the almond milk for 5-10 minutes.

Prepare the shake: Combine all the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Makes: one 16 fl oz serving

The great thing about preparing these shakes is that you can adjust the amount and the ingredients however you like. For example, if you don’t mind the flavor, a frozen banana can be added to make a thick and creamy shake. In place of the banana, I used dates as a sweetener along with chia seeds and ice to thicken up the shake. A tablespoon of nut butter may be added as well, but I chose to leave it out to reduce the fat and calories. If you need more ideas on how to make healthy and delicious protein shakes (or smoothies), check out DailyBurn’s #ShowUsYourShake project or visit their protein powder page for various protein-based recipes. What do you like to add to your healthy shakes and smoothies? Comment below and let me know!

White Chocolate Brownies

I was so busy this past week, that I was at a loss for ideas on what to make for the baking club at work (yes, there are actually clubs at work—feels like being back in school). I wanted to bake something that wouldn’t require much ingredients or effort, but would still be a unique treat to offer to my co-workers. My fiancé suggested making White Chocolate Brownies, so I searched online and found this wonderful recipe. The use of white chocolate in the brownies, plus the sweet and slightly salty flavor, sets them apart from other brownie recipes.

White Chocolate Brownies

White Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients for White Chocolate Brownies:
14.6 oz white chocolate chips
210 g unsalted butter
275 g granulated sugar
185 g eggs, beaten
10 g sea salt
230 g all-purpose flour

Prepare the chocolate base: Place the white chocolate and butter in a double boiler and stir continuously, until the mixture is smooth and melted.

Prepare the brownie batter: Remove the melted mixture from heat, and stir in the sugar, eggs, and salt. Add in 11/2 tsp of vanilla extract, if desired. Add the flour to the mixture, and stir until evenly distributed.

Bake the brownies: Spread the batter in a 9×13-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for 28 minutes, or until the center comes out clean with a toothpick. Allow the brownies to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes: 20 pieces

While these brownies were baking in the oven, I realized I doubled the salt and left out the vanilla extract by accident! Although I misread the original recipe, this batch still turned out chewy, fudgy, and so decadent to eat. Luckily, leaving out the vanilla extract did not noticeably affect the brownies. In addition, the extra salt helped enhance the flavor and reduce the sweetness of the brownies. I love how they were so simple to make, yet turned out dangerously delicious and addicting!

Mexican Chocolate Fudge

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! Did you make anything special for the occasion? I had plans to make some treats this past week, but I was limited on time and ingredients. I decided to make chocolate fudge, with a bit of a spicy kick to it. I based my Mexican Chocolate Fudge off of this recipe. Luckily, I had all of the ingredients readily available and it did not take long to make.

Mexican Chocolate Fudge with Chopped Nuts

Mexican Chocolate Fudge with Chopped Nuts

Ingredients for Mexican Chocolate Fudge:
21/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped nuts

Prepare the fudge: Place the chocolate chips and condensed milk in a double boiler and stir continuously, until the mixture is smooth and melted.

Flavor the fudge: Remove the melted mixture from heat, and add the remaining ingredients (salt, cinnamon, chili powder, vanilla extract, and chopped nuts) to the mixture. Stir until evenly distributed.

Form the fudge: Spread out the mixture in an 8×8-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Chill the filled pan in the refrigerator for 4 hours or until hardened. Lift the fudge from the pan, peel off the paper, and cut the fudge into desired shapes.

Makes: ≤2 pounds

The fudge can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for about a week. I added only 1/2 tsp of chili powder, but those who prefer a strong kick can add a dash more. The fudge allows a lot of room for creativity, such as varying the amount or types of nuts, or even leaving those out and adding in other ingredients such as marshmallows. I personally prefer crunchy nuts to contrast the smooth, sweet chocolate.

This was actually my first time making fudge, and it was a success! Since it was for Valentine’s Day, I used one of my heart-shaped cookie cutters to cut out the fudge (this part may not be so easy if you wait until the next day to cut it like I did). This will be one of my go-to recipes for a quick and easy treat!

Pumpkin Macarons

It’s definitely nice to be back in the kitchen and baking again! I haven’t made any macarons since I baked large batches of rose and lavender macarons almost a year ago. This time, I made pumpkin spice macarons filled with a pumpkin buttercream as well as a pumpkin white chocolate ganache.

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin Buttercream and Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin Buttercream and Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients for Pumpkin Spice Macaron Shells:
125 g (1 cup + 2 Tbs) almond flour or 125 g (11/4 cups) blanched almonds
215 g (13/4 cups) powdered sugar
1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice
100 g (3 large) egg whites, aged
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
35 g (3 Tbs) granulated sugar
2-3 drops gel food coloring (optional)
chopped pecans for shell toppings (optional)

Prepare the dry ingredients: Grind the almonds, powdered sugar, and pumpkin pie spice together in a food processor for 2 minutes, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides. Sift the mixture twice, regrinding any large pieces of almonds if necessary.

Prepare the meringue: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites on low speed until bubbles begin to form (speed 4 on the KitchenAid mixer for 1 minute), then add the cream of tartar. Continue to mix on low speed until the cream of tartar has dissolved and the egg whites appear frothy (about 1 minute). Add the granulated sugar in three portions, while mixing on medium speed, until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites have soft-medium peaks (speed 6 on the KitchenAid mixer for 2 minutes). Continue mixing on high speed for 60-90 seconds, until the egg whites have firm, glossy peaks (speed 8 on the KitchenAid mixer). Add orange food coloring, if desired, then beat on the highest speed just long enough to evenly disperse the color (speed 10 on the KitchenAid mixer for 30-60 seconds).

Perform the macaronage: Gently fold the dry ingredients into the meringue in 2 to 3 portions. To properly fold in the ingredients (i.e., to evenly mix while deflating some of the air in the meringue), scrape the spatula along the bottom of the bowl, then bring the spatula to the top and press down into the batter. Check the consistency of the batter in between every few folds. The batter should slowly fall off the spatula in ribbons, and any peaks should flatten out in about 15 seconds.

Pipe the batter: Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a round tip (about a 1-cm diameter). Pipe circles on a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Use a template to ensure uniform circles.

Rest the piped batter: To eliminate any air bubbles, firmly rap each baking sheet against the counter (while keeping the sheet level). Sprinkle chopped pecans on half of the shells, if desired. Rest the sheets on the counter for 30-60 minutes (or as little as 15 minutes, depending on the humidity), until the tops of the shells form a skin–the batter should not stick to your fingers when lightly touched.

Bake the shells: Bake the macaron shells, one sheet at at time, at 275-300°F for 16-18 minutes, until the shells don’t wobble and can be easily removed from the parchment paper. Allow the shells to cool down before filling them.

Makes: 30-35 filled cookies

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin Buttercream

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin Buttercream

Ingredients for Pumpkin Buttercream:
100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
65-70 g (2 large) egg whites
125 g (9 Tbs) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
100 g (1/3 cup + 1 Tbs) pumpkin puree
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Prepare the meringue: Place the sugar and egg whites in a double boiler and whisk continuously, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 160°F. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk the egg whites on medium-high speed, until a stiff, glossy meringue forms and the bowl is cool to the touch.

Make the buttercream: Beat the meringue on medium speed while slowly adding the butter. Make sure each addition of butter has blended in before adding another chunk.

Flavor the buttercream: When all the butter has completely blended in, add the pumpkin puree (in multiple portions) and pumpkin pie spice to the buttercream mixture. Continue beating until the mixture is well-combined.

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients for Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache:
60 g (1/4 cup) heavy cream
30 g (2 Tbs) butter
100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1 tsp sea salt
7 g (2 tsp) cornstarch
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
80 g (1/3 cup) pumpkin puree
120 g white chocolate

Prepare the cream: Place the heavy cream and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the sugar, salt, and cornstarch until all the ingredients are dissolved.

Flavor the cream: Stir in the pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.

Make the ganache: Add the white chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted into the mixture. Allow the ganache to cool to room temperature and solidify.

Makes: 1.5 cups

There may be leftovers of both the buttercream and ganache after filling the macarons, but they both store well. Buttercreams can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for a few days, or in the freezer for a few months. To reuse the buttercream, simply whip it in the bowl of a stand mixer until it comes to the right consistency–this is especially important because of the moisture from the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache

Pumpkin Spice Macarons filled with Pumpkin White Chocolate Ganache

Prepare the fillings: Place the buttercream and ganache in the refrigerator if they are too soft to work with. When ready to use, transfer each filling to a piping bag.

Assemble the macarons: Match like-sized macarons to each other in pairs. Pipe the buttercream or ganache in the center of one cookie. Gently press down on the filled cookie with the other cookie until the filling just spreads to the edges.

Mature the macarons: Place the macarons in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 24 hours (to allow the flavor and moisture of the filling to infuse into the cookies). Allow the macarons to come to room temperature before serving.

At first I wasn’t sure if there would be enough pumpkin flavors in the macarons, but these tasted great and weren’t too sweet! My fiancé typically doesn’t care for anything with pumpkin, or sweets for that matter, but he actually loves eating these macarons. These are now on my list of holiday desserts that I plan to make every year!

Turkey & Shrimp Shumai (燒賣)

One of my favorite brunches is dim sum! Whenever I go out for dim sum, I always order turnip cake, shumai/shaomai (燒賣), rice porridge/congee, and various types of dumplings filled with shrimp. Unfortunately, I have to drive far to eat good quality dim sum at an affordable price–it would be fantastic if I could create an array of dim sum dishes from my very own kitchen! I have already come up with a simple and delicious recipe for rice porridge. Just recently, I created my own version of shumai using ground turkey.

Turkey & Shrimp Shumai

1 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb shrimp, diced
1 stalk green onion, diced
3 Tbs cilantro, diced
2 Tbs ginger, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs corn starch
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs ground pepper
1 package shumai wrappers

Create the filling: Excluding the shumai wrappers, thoroughly mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

Fill the wrappers: Place approximately 1 Tbs of the filling in the center of a shumai wrapper. Wet the edges of the shumai wrapper, then gather them up to form a pleated cup, leaving the top of the filling exposed. Continue wrapping the filling in shumai wrappers until all the filling is used up.

Steam the shumai: Line a bamboo steamer with cabbage leaves or parchment paper, then fill with a layer of shumai. Place the bamboo steamer over a pot of simmering water, and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Serve with favorite dipping sauce.

Makes: 50 pieces

I love how easy this is to prepare! The ground turkey can, of course, be substituted with pork or some other type of meat. I like to use turkey since it is slightly healthier, and I feel less guilty about eating so many!

Sunshine Award II

This is long overdue, but I’d like to thank Sam of Tea and Sesame for nominating me for the Sunshine Award! Sam’s blog features many recipes inspired by her multicultural influences. I was also recently nominated by Jayeeta of Cooking Delight for the same award! Jayeeta’s blog also features multicultural cuisines. I especially enjoy her homemade Indian recipes!

Sunshine Award

The rules are:
1. Include the Sunshine Award icon in your post and/or on your blog.
2. Link to the blogger who nominated you.
3. Answer 10 questions about yourself.
4. Nominate 10 other bloggers to receive the award.
5. Link to your nominees and let them know you nominated them.
6. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

I will be answering a combination of questions from both Sam and Jayeeta:

1. What do you look forward to most when you first wake up? A strong cup of coffee. If I don’t drink coffee within a couple hours after waking up, it makes getting through the rest of the day very difficult!

2. Are you a ‘night’ or a ‘day’ person? I try to make myself more of a day person, but I am naturally a night person!

3. Why did you start blogging? I decided to start blogging to document the dishes I make on my own in the kitchen. Blogging is also a great way for me to meet other bloggers and learn from them.

4. What would you like to see on my blog in the future? I’d love to see more unique desserts or baked goods that utilize an interesting combination of ingredients and flavors.

5. What was the last thing you Googled? “DIY card box wedding”…I’m starting to realize that my budget is not realistic for some of the wedding vendors in my area, so I need some budget-friendly wedding ideas to help offset the costs!

6. Flowers or chocolates? Chocolates, of course!

7. What has been your favorite blog post to write? My favorite blog post to date is my Rose and Lavender Macarons. I spent a long time practicing and prepping for this macaron project, and it turned out to be a great experience!

8. When was the last time you did a handwritten letter, who was it to? …This is sad, but I don’t remember! I am sure it was in a card to a friend.

9. What cheers you up on a dreary day? Being with loved ones always cheers me up.

10. What can we expect to find from your blog in the future? Definitely more restaurant reviews, and hopefully more recipes later this year!

These were great questions, and definitely thought-provoking, so I will ask my nominees to answer the same set of questions. My nominations for the Sunshine Award are:

La Petite Casserole
Improv Artz
The Blog Around The Corner
Maui Girl Cooks
Rammiegirl 2.0
Baker at Heart
My Simple Delights
The Reading Bud

Thank you, Sam and Jayeeta, for the award!