It all started with some green tea powder. A member of the geography club knew that I was learning how to bake and so she gave me some green tea powder from her’s family’s business. I then decided to make cupcakes with it. Usually I’m not a fan of green tea by itself, but in combination with other flavors, it’s strong bitterness is diluted a bit. Looking online I found several recipes for green tea cupcakes and even found one with green tea frosting as well. I decided to go with Teaglad’s recipe. Reading through the list of ingredients, I was a bit alarmed at the amount of butter needed but figured since this was a special occasion item, I could splurge on the butter just this once.
Green tea. Image from Google Images.
Green tea powder. Image from Google Images.
While green tea is popular among the Asian American community and even among non-Asians in California, for those of you who may not be as familiar with it, I’ll discuss the history of green tea. Green tea originated in China and is made from Camellia sinensis leaves that haven’t gone through the same withering and oxidation that is done to oolong and black tea. There are several varieties of green tea, which differ due to the variety of the tea plant, growing conditions, horticulture, production processing, and time of harvest.
In many ways, my desire to write about culinary geography has been one of the main reasons I have tried to learn to cook more and better (and because one can only stand so much of ramen, chips and pizza rolls). One of my favorite recipes I have found online has been this Korean Beef Bowl recipe by Damn Delicious. It is super quick and easy and doesn’t require many ingredients. As is stated on the original site’s page, this recipe is meant to be a cheater’s version of Korean BBQ/bulgogi, which requires thin slices of marinated sirloin. You can read more about Korean BBQ from a previous post of mine, “Cultural Nights 2015-16“.
Korean BBQ. Image from Google Images.
There is probably nothing quite so glorious as the combination of chocolate and peanut butter. Which is why I had to put them together in a brownie. My previous attempt at making brownies (without peanut butter) had been rather disastrous. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and it was quite obvious that I had screwed things up. They had tasted dry and almost sugarless.
Afterwards I vowed to redeem myself and make a batch of brownies that actually tasted like brownies. This meant getting a bag of chocolate chips (for the first version I only used cocoa powder, which was why they were so dry). Sitting among the chocolate chips on that grocery store aisle were also bags of peanut butter chips. When I was younger I use to get these peanut butter chips and eat them straight from the bag. Now that I’m older and can actually cook (mostly), I decided they were the perfect addition to my brownies. Now I had even more incentive to not screw up my brownies. I couldn’t dare waste those precious peanut butter chips.
Reese’s peanut butter chips. Image from Google Images.
Reese’s peanut butter chips. Image from Google Images.
I love mushrooms. I tend to add them to almost any dish: pizza, pasta, soup, bread and so on. So when I found this recipe for Mushroom Garlic Risotto on Not Your Average College Food, I was ecstatic. This is a fairly simple recipe that does involve some chopping but it is definitely worth it. As with most recipes I find online, I altered this one a bit to better suit my taste.
While I love mushrooms, they have not always been loved back thanks to the many poisonous varieties out there. According to an article by PBS, there tend to be two kinds of people out there, those who love mushrooms, called mycophiles, and those who fear mushrooms, called mycophobes. Despite being a mycophile myself, I would never dare try to find edible wild mushrooms due to the deadliness of some. In part because of more ease of access to edible mushrooms in grocery stores and the rise of using locally sourced and organic foods, mushrooms are now more popular than ever.
Types of mushroom. Image from PBS.org.
Ok, so I kind of lied in my last Cultural Nights post, “Cultural Nights 2015“. The three mentioned were not the only ones the Geography Student Association (GSA) attended in 2015. I forgot about two more that occurred later that year. So here are three more Cultural Nights, two from 2015 and one from 2016.
In September 2015, the GSA went to Los Compadres, a Mexican restaurant located in Long Beach. This restaurant is a favorite in Long Beach and fills up quickly during the dinner hour. The wait can be over an hour and it’s almost impossible to find parking. Many times people have to park in nearby residential areas and then walk back to the restaurant. You know that is a sign that the food is good. Los Compadres serves traditional Mexican food as well as specialty margaritas in flavors like lime, mango and strawberry. The lollipops they hand out at the end of the meal are also said to be amazing with unique flavors.
Los Compardes Sign. Image from Google Images.
The members of the GSA at Los Compadres. Photo taken by a GSA member.
Los Compadres in Long Beach. Image from Google Images.
These days Mexican food can be found almost everywhere in America but the history of its spread throughout the country is long and complex and of course directly tied to the immigration of Mexicans into America. Because of the length and complexity of Mexican food history, I can’t explain it all here but you can read more about it in this NPR article, “The California Taco Trail: ‘How Mexican Food Conquered America”. I also highly recommend the book “Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food” to learn about its spread all around the world.
I have always been a bit of a picky eater. Not such a good quality to have when you travel the world and have to try different foods all the time, such as I had to do when I lived in Japan. Having a sneaky dad who likes to throw the foods I do not like into various dishes did not help either.
Today’s recipe will be one of my dad’s favorites and one he made himself, Blue Cheese Tuna Pasta. I have never been much of a fan of blue cheese (despite that fact that I love blue everything else). Nor do I enjoy bell peppers. But as I have gotten older I like to think my sense of taste has evolved and that I can enjoy things now that I once hated. So I decided to give my dad’s recipe another try. The biggest difference this time would be that I was making it myself, no assistance from my dad (since he’s living in another country), and that I would get to alter the recipe a bit. It turned out better than I expected. But that may have been because of the alterations I made. I’ll provide both my dad’s version and mine so that you may try out either one.
Blue Cheese. Image from Wikipedia.
When it comes to eating blue cheese by itself, I just cannot do it. The pungent taste and smell are more than I can handle. After reading about how blue cheese is made, I am even more thoroughly disgusted by it. But then this is just my opinion. If you love blue cheese then you’ll love this recipe and that’s great! I’m sure my dad will be very happy.
I’ll return to my culinary posts with this multiple dose of cheesy goodness. This all started thanks to biscuit bread, you know the kind in a can. These biscuits are also known as American biscuit bread because they are soft and leaven while biscuits in other places such as England are hard, flat and unleavened. American biscuits are made with baking powder or baking soda rather than yeast and are also known as quick breads because they don’t need to rise before baking.
Biscuits are especially popular in the south. They are great with butter, jam, mashed potatoes and gravy or as a sausage sandwich. Basically biscuits are the best (says the woman who grew up in the south). One reason for the popularity of biscuits in the south may be due to the better climate for growing the soft winter wheat, which produces the flour used in not only biscuits but also cookies, cakes and muffins. In the north, the colder climate means that hard spring wheat is grown there, which is used in all-purpose flour.
Biscuits. Image from Wikipedia.
I love biscuits with butter. To quote Nora Ephron: “You can never have too much butter”. Never. But after a while, even I got tired of the plain old biscuit and butter routine. One day, I decided to shake it up. I raided my pantry and fridge in search of ingredients I could mix with my biscuits. What I found was shredded cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, salt and of course butter. Not much to go on but it was worth a try.
My ingredients. Photo by Laylita Day.