Chinese Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup (Yup, Soup for Dessert)


Growing up in Hong Kong, I was always aware of Chinese dessert soups. But aside from sweet tofu and black sesame tong yuen, I wouldn’t touch the stuff. I used to think, beans? FUNGUS? That’s not dessert. But cheesecake and chocolate cookies? Now those I can get down with.

Since moving back to Hong Kong this year, I’ve learned that there are a lot of little stores dedicated just to Chinese dessert soups. One in my neighborhood is particularly famous, so I mustered up the courage to try it out. And you know what? Red bean soup is delicious. Papaya and snow fungus, despite the name, is lovely. I must be getting old, or I’m starting to truly understand the crappy effects sugar has on the body, because I’ve started to enjoy these simpler and less sugary desserts.

But my absolute favorite discovery is Sweet Potato and Ginger Dessert Soup, which my friend Rach’s auntie introduced me to. You can serve this hot or cold, but even if it’s still 80 degrees everyday in Hong Kong in October, I love having this soup hot. With a hint of sweetness and strong ginger kick, it’s like a warm hug in a bowl! It’s traditionally made with a slab of raw brown sugar, or in Rach’s auntie’s case, Red Sugar. She was disgusted to hear that I used regular brown sugar in mine and handed me a bag of Chinese “Red Sugar”, saying the soup would taste bad with gwailo sugar. Seeing as red sugar is basically brown sugar with food coloring, I’d say we’re all OK using brown sugar, hehe. Feel free to adjust the amount of ginger depending on how much you like. I personally like to add more than the below recipe, but not everyone does!

Chinese Sweet Potato and Ginger Dessert Soup
Makes 2 servings (can be easily doubled)

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 inch piece of ginger, skinned and sliced
1 3/4 cups water
2 tablespoons of brown sugar

Pour the water into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and ginger, and lower the heat. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes have softened. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Take off heat, remove the ginger if you wish, and serve! Dassit.



No Spring Fruit Yet? Make Vanilla Panna Cotta

Vanilla Panna Cotta and Chess

Spring has been slow to arrive in NYC. The weather has been getting better, despite the fact that I was wearing a leather jacket just two days ago. But just as of a few weeks ago I still didn’t find any fun spring fruit at the farmers market. I’ve seen some since, but what if you live in a place that still doesn’t have spring produce? Or you wake up late like me and it’s all gone by the time you get to the market? I decided to make vanilla panna cotta. It’s such an easy yet elegant dessert–light and refreshing, yet rich and creamy.

Vanilla Panna Cotta
Makes 4 servings

3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoons gelatin
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
8 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream

Pour milk into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let it sit for a couple minutes until it looks like the gelatin has absorbed some liquid. Add the vanilla beans as well as the empty pod. Stir in the sugar and heat the milk over very low heat for about 1 minute. When both the sugar and gelatin dissolve, turn off the heat and whisk in the cream. Discard the vanilla pod and pour into 4 small ramekins or dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least a few hours.

vanilla panna cotta


No Hearts of Darkness Here! My 2013 Valentine’s Treats

My seventeen year old self would be disgusted with me. Back then, when my college dorm roomies suggested we cut out paper hearts and color them red and pink to decorate our suite for Valentine’s Day, I proceeded to color one black and wrote on it: “HEART OF DARKNESS“. Guess who was the most popular roommate. (Not I.) Fast forward a decade later, I listen to a lot less death metal, LOVE pink, and own a heart shaped muffin tin. Yikes.

Valentine's 2013 chocolate strawberries and muffins

I decided to start a new tradition last year: to spread the love on Valentine’s and make treats for everyone. Last year it was heart shaped chocolate chip cookies and homemade “Milano” cookies. This year I decided to make chocolate dipped strawberries, which is awkwardly sexual for my coworkers I guess, but I figured the weight-conscious people would appreciate an alternative to baked good. But I had to do some baking too, ’cause c’mon, that heart-shaped mini muffin tin is just too cute.

I even made some Valentine’s crafts. Take that, seventeen year old Iris.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I hope this day and everyday of your life is full of love. <3

Valentine's 2013 strawberries and muffins

Chocolate Cranberry Mini Muffins
Makes about 36 muffins

3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing tin
10 ounces sour cream
3/4 cup chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease mini muffin tin with butter. (Bonus points if it’s heart-shaped one like mine, but a regular tin is just fine!) Put dried cranberries in a bowl and cover with very hot water. Set them aside to plump while you make the batter. Drain before mixing in with other ingredients.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg in a second medium bowl, then add the sugar and whisk until thick. Add the 4 tablespoons of butter and whisk to combine. Add the sour cream, whisking just to combine.

Add the chocolate and drained cranberries to the dry ingredients and gently mix to combine. Pour in the sour cream mixture and gently fold it in with a spatula or wooden spoon until the batter comes together and the chocolate and cranberries are evenly distributed.

Divide batter among the muffin cups. If you do have a heart-shaped muffin tin, I’ve found that filling each cup about 3/4 full gets you better heart-shaped muffins. Depending on the number of cups your muffin tin has, you might have to do the baking in a few batches. Bake until light golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through the baking time. Check if they are ready by inserting a toothpick into the center of a muffin–it should come out clean. Invert onto a wire rack and let them cool for 5 minutes.


Joy the Baker’s Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies

joy the baker book

I said a while ago that I was going to rely more on my cookbook collection rather than the internet for recipe inspiration. Err, that didn’t happen too often. Oops. But I’m ready to recommit to this plan. Now I have extra motivation–I’m relocating in a few months and I won’t be able to take most of my books with me. Sad! I’ll have to make good use of them while I can.

I have a not-so-secret love for the Joy the Baker blog, as well as Joy’s podcast. (I also have a not-so-secret OBSESSION with podcasts in general. It’s a sickness, really.) Ironically, I’ve owned Joy’s book for a while now and had only made one of the recipes. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that all her recipes are sinfully delicious, and I’m convinced I won’t be able to stop myself from inhaling it all. But last month I decided to give this book the attention it deserves and made a few more of the recipes.

So far, my favorite has been her Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies. They are to die for. And, though far from being healthy, I like that they don’t have flour. It’s nice to switch it up in the kitchen like that, you know? They’re the perfect dessert for dudes, too. Well, who doesn’t love peanut butter and bacon?! Oh yeah…my vegetarian friend with a peanut allergy. But everyone else will love them, so go make a batch now!

Peanut butter bacon cookies

Breakfast, Dessert

I Got My Ebelskivers On

Chocolate Æbleskivers Danish Pancakes

My dear friend Vicky got me an Ebelskiver pan for my birthday. I hadn’t heard of ebelskivers, but they kind of looked like the poffertjes I had in the Netherlands. (Yes, another crazy foreign word all up in this post.)  I have since learned that ebelskivers are small spherical pancakes pancakes, typically eaten with jam and a dusting of powdered sugar. At first I felt bad that it took me six whole months to get around to using my birthday present, but Wikipedia says they’re common before Christmas, so what do you know! Perfect timing.

Vicky had also gotten me pre-made chocolate ebelskiver mix. All I had to do was add a few fresh ingredients and cook them up in the pan. I used SQIRL’s Wild Blueberry and Tarragon Jam as a filling for some, and chocolate chips for the rest. This jam is the shit, by the way.

They turned out pretty good, and I liked that they weren’t too sweet. I think I’m going to make it completely from scratch next time, because I’m a control freak like that. Here’s some recipes I found, if you have a similar pan and want to get your ebelskiver on!

ebelskivers Danish pancakes chocolate

Breakfast, Dessert

Ontbijtkoek: Baking Inspiration from Europe

It’s been almost a month since my vacation in Europe and I haven’t talked about it on the blog yet. Life has been crazy! After coming back from vacation, I got sick and spent a couple of days unwell and unmotivated. The next week I found my social calendar out of control, though I love to see people and can’t complain about that. Then Hurricane Sandy came to visit us, leaving a trail of destruction. But better late than never.

I had a fantastic vacation, albeit a short one. We spent two nights in the north of France, near Belgium, for my childhood best friend’s wedding. The reception was at a beautiful farm-chic venue, and instead of a sit-down dinner we got to sample all kinds of delicious treats (pictured above). I didn’t know savory macarons exist! With such great people and good wine, we had a blast. Even if we were hurting the next day. Next, we took a train to Amsterdam. We only had two nights there too, but we crammed in as much sightseeing and Dutch cheese as we could.

I think the best thing I ate this trip was at the wedding: foie gras on a speculaas cookie (yup, the cookie butter stuff) or on a slice of ontbijtkoek. Hot, rich, savory foie gras paired with spiced sweetness…YUM. I used to eat ontbijtkoek quite often as a kid, but had since forgotten about it until this trip. It’s a sweet, almost sticky cake eaten for breakfast, and with cinnamon, cloves, and molasses, it reminds me of gingerbread. Maybe that’s why it feels so perfect this time of year. It’s easy to make, tasty, and not as bad for you as some other desserts. It’s perfect smeared with warm butter. Or foie gras, if that’s how you roll. Smakelijk!

Makes one large loaf

Adapted from My Dutch Baking Blog

Butter for loaf pan
1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, ginger, and/or coriander (optional, if you have them)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 300°F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix ingredients into a smooth batter with a wooden spoon. Place on a lower oven rack for about 80 minutes or until the cake is done.

Remove the ontbijtkoek and let in cool completely in its pan. Slice and serve with butter. Wrap the rest aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or store in an airtight container


The 2012 Ice Pop Project: Maple & Squash Pumpkin Pie

I know you must be wondering why I’m still making ice pops when it’s cold. But I promise, this is the last one for 2012. I saw  this recipe for Maple & Squash Pumpkin Pie Popsicles during early summer. I absolutely love squash so it looked delicious, yet the thought of buying a butternut squash in June felt ridiculous. So I saved the recipe for several months, waiting for winter squashes to arrive at the farmers market.

It wasn’t the most irresistible ice pop I made, but as a fan of squash and pumpkin spice, I find this ice pop to be tasty nonetheless. Considering it’s about 250 calories each and is mainly made up of a vegetable, I’d say this is pretty healthy for a dessert. And if you use quality maple syrup and heavy cream too, go ahead and enjoy this with zero guilt!


The 2012 Ice Pop Project: Watermelon Mint Julep

Happy Labor Day! I hope none of you American readers are seeing this until tomorrow and are out enjoying your long weekend. Labor Day is a reminder that summer is winding down. And that I don’t care about fashion rules and will continue to wear white in the coming months.

As my ice pop season is coming to an end, I thought I’d squeeze in one more boozy ice pop. This time, a watermelon mint julep ice pop. Never mind that I’ve never actually had a mint julep. (What? I’m not a cocktail girl). It’s time for me to to get into bourbon.

Is it cocktail? Is it a dessert? I don’t know! But it may have been one of my favorite ice pops this season. It is so sweet and juicy, but thanks to the bourbon, it tastes so much boozier than other alcoholic ice pops I’ve made in the past. Then you bite into a mint leaf and it adds another layer of freshness. Mmmm.

Make these ice pops. Sit outside and eat them with a loved one. Play Wild Nothing’s new album. Watch the last days of summer slip away.


I Did It For The Fruit

There’s a reason why I switch to ice pops in the summer. It’s dang hot! I still want dessert but I don’t want to turn my oven on. However, now that we’re in late, late summer, I’m feeling sad that I will no longer be seeing gorgeous berries, peaches, nectarines, and watermelons at the farmers market. I’ve been enjoying summer fruit raw, but it would be a shame not to bake something delicious with them while they’re still around. So as gross and hot as it is, I turned on the oven. I did it for the fruit.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m totally obsessed with the Joy the Baker podcast. So here’s a recipe from Joy’s partner in crime: Tracy from I’ve had a bag of black sesame seeds sitting in my cupboard for God knows how long, so I saw her Peaches and Plums with Sesame Crumble recipe as a good excuse to use some.

It turned out really good. Even better with a dollop of whipped cream. Why do people buy the pre-made stuff anyway? It takes like 10 seconds to whip up.

P.S. I got a new toy! And by toy I mean camera. Still have no idea how to use this thing, so the photos came out so-so. But I have high hopes for the future of photography at Eating Clean in the Dirty City.



The 2012 Ice Pop Project: Mocha

I am a serious coffee lover. While I’m pretty plain when it comes to drinking it (black espresso in the cold weather and black cold brewed coffee in the summer), I do love coffee flavored desserts. I’ve been dying to make another one since last year’s crazy delicious Thai Iced Coffee Pops. Thankfully I came across A Cozy Kitchen’s Mocha Popsicles.

It’s a tasty but simple recipe, but sometimes simple is good. My only complaint–I would love to eat this for dessert but am scared it’ll prevent me from falling asleep. I guess this is my weekend ice pop!

Wait, summer is ending soon. Noooooo! Only a few more ice pops left to go. Sad. Let’s make the most of the last days of summer, people!