Cupcakes and Gratitude

Last Updated: March 25, 2021

When I was pregnant last year, there were so many reasons it felt like a cloud was hanging over us, the pandemic being just one of them. Most of the time we powered through, busy with work, getting the house ready for the baby, and like everyone else in the world, tracking down toilet paper and disinfecting our groceries took up 80% of whatever time was left over! The upcoming early months with the baby seemed very daunting at the time, especially since we were not going to have anyone to help out at home, so to make it fun and to have something to mark the milestones and celebrate the fact that we were “surviving” early parenthood, I planned this very special little side project: I decided that for each of our baby’s monthly birthdays (the 25th of each month), I would make a seasonal cupcake recipe, and take his picture with the cupcakes!

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Wontons with Sesame Sauce

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Few times a year I spend the better part of a Saturday assembling wontons. I try to go seasonal with the fillings, but if not, I fall back on the classic fillings: usually a combination of ground chicken, ground pork, diced shrimp, fresh ginger and scallions, and finely chopped water chestnuts. Ever since I took the “Wonders of Wontons” class at the Civic Kitchen in San Francisco, I’ve felt super empowered to experiment with wontons and potstickers. They are easy to assemble (time consuming, sure, but oh so rewarding), easy to freeze, and if you fold them a certain way, can double as boiled wontons as well as potstickers.

This year I tried adapted a recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine, which suggests adding sesame oil as well as vegetable oil to the filling and whisking (almost beating) it till the fat is fully incorporated in the filling. When cooked, it makes for a really lush wonton. I switched the pork for chicken so maybe mine weren’t as fatty as the ones from the original recipe, but still very comforting and delicious!

I usually drop my wontons in a quick chicken broth, but I really loved the Sesame Sauce here – a quick little sesame paste condiment that takes less than a minute to assemble, and I imagine will be delicious with a great number of things. You can always substitute tahini or even peanut butter if you don’t have sesame paste on hand.

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Infinitely Adaptable Instant Pot “end of the week” Soup

This is a template to employ some good ol’ chop therapy, clear out your fridge, and make some soup while you are at it. I call this a template because the base recipe can be adapted to any ingredients you have on hand that you want to use up, that have nowhere else to go. Random sausage links, throw them in. 2 ugly carrots, sure. Stale baguette that’s too dry to do anything with, absolutely! Old can of black beans with no future, use it up!

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Sweet Pongal (Sakkarai Pongal)

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Sakkarai Pongal is a rice and lentil pudding sweetened with jaggery, spiced with ground cardamom and tempered with cashews and raisins, a Tamil delicacy made for its eponymous festival, Pongal! This is the sweet variation of Ven Pongal, which is savory (tempered with cashews and black peppercorns), and usually made all year round.

It’s a warm, sweet and comforting pudding, and can be made as simple or as decadent as you prefer, simply by adding more ghee (clarified butter) and dry fruits and nuts. A friend of mine made this for Makar Sankrant/Pongal over a decade ago, and it still remains one of my favorite Indian desserts of all time!

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Duo of Hot Chocolate

Quick and simple recipes to make really decadent White Hot Chocolate and regular Hot Chocolate! Follow along.

The past few months have been exceedingly busy – what with bringing this li’l guy into the world and everything – I haven’t had a whole lot of time to cook, let alone shoot and write up a post! We’ve been making lots of simple meals though, mostly of the hearty, one-pot variety, and given the constant time crunch, I’m learning so much about shortcuts and cooking in small bursts (hello, nap time!), I definitely have the desire to share more in this space.

So, I have made an executive decision to override pre-baby Zezoo, and from here on out, I’ll be sharing whatever I have! I may not have the prettiest pictures, or everything decked out in each one of my 11 identical pinch bowls, or the bandwidth to write cutesy backstories (who is reading those, anyway?), but I will allow myself to share less-than-perfect but still delicious fare!

Starting with these 2 hot chocolate recipes that I make around the holidays – I particularly love the white chocolate one because it is feels more festive to me than regular old hot chocolate. But don’t sleep on this regular hot chocolate below – the addition of cocoa powder and chopped bittersweet chocolate, especially with a pinch of sea salt, makes it totally drool-worthy! Bring on the marshmallows!

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Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

A nice little Fall treat to accompany your afternoon coffees and breakfast alike – comes together in no time, no special equipment needed!

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