Cream Cheese Cut Out Cookies


It’s starting to snow, so today seems like the perfect time to share my Breaking Bad snowmen from Christmas. The mister saw me icing the top hats and thought they bore a striking resemblance to the pork pie hats Heisenburg wore in Breaking Bad and requested some custom cookies on the fly.

I think I have found a new form of expression – royal icing on cookies. My kind of art – edible and not too serious. I’m not usually a fan of cut out cookies. I usually find their flavor to be lacking for the amount of effort involved. Mix the dough, chill the dough, clear off a counter, roll the dough out, cut the cookies out and hope they don’t break or morph while transferring them to the sheet, re-roll and repeat until dough is gone. Hope cookies keep shape and don’t brown while baking, cool, make frosting, decorate, let dry. So much work for what isn’t much flavor other than carb and sugar. A drop cookie is usually so much more satisfying!

But a friend made cut out cookies using this recipe for Cream Cheese Cutouts from Taste of Home, and I liked them enough to endure the process of sugar cookie baking.


I baked them and froze the baked cookies a few days before I needed them, to make the process easier on myself. I find it so much more relaxing to prep and bake stuff ahead of time and have “fun” assembling and decorating at a later date. Plus it seems like less dishes. I know it’s the same number of dishes, but it’s less at once.


These are my sugar goth children. Black powder coloring for this. Oh, and by Royal icing, I mean I used water and powdered sugar until it was viscous, then let it dry. I also used some of the buttercream from the recipe, but the royal icing was more fun to play with and came out easier.


Oh, shooting stars! All nice and red, white, and black. It’s a vaguely goth Christmas in my house.


Bite sized cookies. These would be perfect for a tea party. The nice thing about these cream cheese cut outs was that they didn’t brown in the oven while still baking up firm and not soggy. Any way, I like food I can paint on. This was fun.


The cream cheese cutouts provided a nice base layer to the tiered cookie platter. Vegan toffee on top, pumpkin gingersnaps and chocolate chip cookies in the middle, and cream cheese cutouts on the bottom. It’s not the holidays in my house without a side of possible diabetes.

Cream Cheese Cutouts
8 oz butter3 oz cream cheese
7 oz sugar
1/4 t salt
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
10.625 oz all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)

Cream together butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract & mix. Add flour.
Chill a few hours in the fridge.
Roll out, cut, and bake at 375F 7-10 minutes.

The Cookie Experiment

Chewy cookie 350

I don’t know about you, but I like a little science with my cookies.  I was curious to see how I liked my cookies baked: At a higher or lower temperature? I baked some cookies at 350F and 325F.

Chewy Dough Label

I started off with some soft batch cookie dough (you swap out 2 T or so of cornstarch for flour in a given recipe to make them soft batch). Refrigerated for a day, and ready to bake.

Chewy Dough

Hmm, someone’s been eating my cookie dough. Par for the course in Albany Jane’s house.

Chewy Cookies 350 scoop

I also picked up a small cookie scoop and was curious/skeptical of its portioning abilities. Turns out it’s great and man do I ever love it. The cookie above on the left was scooped out with the scooper, the one on the right I scooped out by hand. The right has a little more character, and the one of the left is pretty damn uniform.

chewy Cookies 350 pan

Good amount of scooping size consistency, too. Any way, the cookies above were baked at 350F. They had crisp edges and soft, gooey interiors. My kind of cookie. Mmm.

Chewy Cookies 325 350

Then I let them go 2 minutes longer at 325F.

Chewy Cookie 325

OH NOES I DON’T LIKE THIS COOKIE. The cookies cooked at a lower temperature but for a bit longer wound up puffier and less chewy and gooey. If that’s your thing then, well, bake ’em at a lower temperature for a little longer. Very uniform texture. Not very pliable.

Chewy Cookies all

My favored cookie on the right. 350F gives the cookie a chance to fully cook, while leaving the interior delightfully chewy and soft. The cookies baked at a lower temperature developed slightly more caramel undertones, but were overall less pleasing to me because of their uniform texture.

So how do you like your cookies? A little crisp on the edges, and gooey in the center? One texture? Crunchy? Or maybe straight out of the container?

It’s A Tea Party


What do adults do? Throw tea parties with copious amounts of sweets, of course. At least, that’s how I adult. I spent the better part of a week off and on over the course of a month prepping cookies and cakes. Wanna know how to whip out a tea party with the majority of the foods baked the morning of? Prep everything ahead of time. I made cookie dough and froze it in 32 oz yogurt tubs. I cut and froze scones. Baked them all off in the morning. I baked cakes ahead of time and decorated them that morning (defrosted), too. You can also prep frosting a few days ahead of time, too. Prep, prep, prep!

Above we have red velvet cookies (with white chocolate chips); gluten-free, vegan quinoa raisin cookies; and below we have savory garlic chive scones.
Behind them is a white cake with guava paste filling, and vanilla buttercream. So moist!

Matcha green tea “blondies” or “brownies” with white chocolate chips. Super fudgy and not too sweet.
Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies courtesy of R.
Sweet scones.


Mudslide cake with kahlua chocolate and irish cream frostings. So much frosting. I used a recipe from Butter Baked Goods – holy cow, that’s an awesomely moist chocolate cake.

Quince jam shortbread bars on the top, and more garlic chive scones on the bottom. By the by – I made these tiered tea stands using some old plates from a thrift store, and some hardware from Amazon. Super easy, and super cute!

Daniel B was a champ and drove up to TC Bakery for their last retail day and picked up an array of treats: Paris-Brest.

Berry tart

Famed lemon tart, and a bunch of macarons after I had lamented earlier that my house was too humid to make macarons so that they wouldn’t be on the menu. So sweet.

Overall, the older I get, the more I realize that adulting doesn’t have to be all about paying your bills and saving for retirement. I suppose the reality is that things are always changing. People age. They have kids. You buy a house in the ‘burbs. But you can still have bursts of whatever you think is fun in between all of that responsible adulting. And the best part is having lots of people to share these fun times with.

Happy New Year, 2014


I know it’s almost the end of January, but how was your new year?  Mine was spent up in a cabin at Dippikill, the campground SUNY owns up in Warrensburg, NY. Since NYE was on a weekday, we got the White Pine cabin at a steal – $270 for a night! We split it so it came out to something like $20 per person, which is a cheap way to spend New Year’s eve with all of the friends you like.


But first, there was dim sum at Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro before we left with Amanda M. and her guy, plus another friend. We feasted well, and ended up getting out of HK Bakery for $12 per person with tip included!

Turnip cakes on the left, stuffed tofu-skin on the right.


Veggie & shrimp-filled rice flour dumplings, I think that’s ribs on the right.


Har Gow. These were massive. Not as good as Ala Shanghai or Taiwan Noodle, but freshly made. The skins were a bit thick and gummy.


Endless plates of cheung fan with shrimp and duck, and steamed pork buns on the right. Such a good way to kick off a relaxing day. I am SO, so, so happy to have a place in the area that makes their own cheung fan! So quivery, tender, and good.


Then it was time to hop on the road! White Pine is able to handle 25 people. What I didn’t realize about this cabin is that there is lodging attached for staff in the back. But they didn’t seem to mind our noise. This is also one of the few cabins with parking right on site. No hiking in!


It was cold when we got in. We never got it to sauna-level like we did with the last cabins, despite loading the fire up with logs.


I made some crostini – focaccia (made with this recipe by Julia Zeigler-Haynes on Vice) was awesome, then I topped it with some ricotta and sauteed gai lan (in place of broccoli raab). Gai lan is a bit lighter and not so bitter when cooked, and it shows in this application. Eh, okay, but broccoli raab would have been better.


And lots of cookies, because who doesn’t like cookies. Cacao nib eggnoggy sables in front, green tea sables and coconut-lime cookies in the back.


Fire. Lots.


Pulled pork in banana leaves with pickled onions. So good!


I foisted cooking a duck off on one of the guys, and yum!


Just ducky.


We hung by the fire most of the night, drinking and playing a few board games. I haven’t been drinking much lately, so two shots took their toll on me. Man, late 20s = even less of a tolerance than ever.


Champers at midnight.




And then Twister until the wee hours of the morning. I’m sure you can guess which one of these three I am, hee hee.

Maytag Aqualift Electric Oven From Home Depot


So you may have read my first take on my monster oven from Montgomery Ward.
This is the oven that came with the house, and while it was nice to save a few bucks during closing and have something to use, I quickly found out that I needed a new oven for my cooking needs.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t planning on a kitchen renovation quite so soon, so I opted to look for another electric range that wouldn’t drive me crazy until I can renovate the kitchen entirely and get a commercial gas range (Hey, I can dream).


Here’s the oven I pulled from the wall because when I went to Sears they told me I had to tell them the cord type. I found a model I liked at Sear’s, but I found their pricing structure to be annoying. Here’s the price, but then find a coupon online. Oh, but then we add delivery fees and extra fees for this and that, and all of the savings from Sears seemed to get negated with all of the little extras.

Home Depot was having a Black Friday sale in November for the entire month (yeah, I didn’t really get it, but okay) and they had the convection model of the Maytag Aqualift 6.2 cu ft electric oven & range that Sears had. And for a lot less. It wound up being about $777.56 with tax at the end of the day with delivery and removal included. Really decent sale. And my mom helped me cover close to 40% of the cost of the new oven as a housewarming present, so that was pretty sweet.

I went to Home Depot a few times to gawk, and different sales reps each time gushed about how great this model was and how happy customers were with it when I asked them about it. The Sears rep was pretty blase in comparison.


The younger delivery guy’s first reaction was “Oh my god.” The older delivery guy told me he’d moved tons of these exact Montgomery Ward beasts up and down 2nd, 3rd, and higher walkups in the city when he was younger.

It was cool watching them remove it – they both wore harnesses and had a strap that went under the range and on both of their harnesses. They also told me that the Sears sales rep shouldn’t have told me to move the oven and specify outlet type because they always have both models on hand, and their company delivers/installs ovens and ranges for Home Depot, Sears, and pretty much all of the big box stores in the area. Nice to know.

Behind the scenes. I had time to grab the shopvac and clean up all of that before the new oven got installed.

They were really focused on getting the trip guard installed, which I found a little pointless for me, but maybe it was their company really pushing it. They mentioned it several times during setup, and even had to call and verify that it was set up, and I had to confirm.


Ahh, all nice and shiny and new. The delivery guy said I should take the protective coatings off within an hour, otherwise it could damage the oven cosmetically and leave residue. All of my other Asians out there know how much we hate removing the protective film! I didn’t want to, but for the cosmetic beauty of the oven, I did it, hahaha.

Tada! All shiny and new! The 6.2 cu ft interior of the oven has been such a huge improvement over the old teensy interior of the Montgomery Ward oven. I’ve had it about a month, and overall I’m happy with my purchase.

I wasn’t too crazy about the glass stove top range, but it’s nice not having “pockets” to clean or collect grime. It came with a special cleaning product that helps keep it shiny and new looking. I’ve put some marks on the burner lines, likely from stuff baked/cooked into the bottom of my older pans. But so far I haven’t really noticed any scratches.


The Aqualift technology makes it easier to clean the oven interior on the fly. One of the things I really like about this oven is that there is no heating coil on the bottom. It’s porcelain interior, so I can  only scrub with special pads, and mainly use Mr. Clean magic sponges to clean it. Sometimes it can take a while to clean, but most of the stuff does get cleaned off. But sadly I’ve defiled it recently and have baked turkey wing grease into one corner that 30 minutes of scrubbing/rubbing couldn’t get off.

But overall, using the convection setting is great – I just lower my temperature about 25-30F for baked goods and shorten the cooking time. Cookies have been turning out wonderfully – crumbly shortbread with almost NO browning on the bottom, woo hoo! Roasted chicken comes out amazingly moist and evenly cooked. I am a convection convert – it really does cook food more evenly and faster.

The cat was even a fan of the oven when it first came in. Here’s a shot of her jumping on to the oven door… :X Kitty, nooooo. I’m not that guy!

Gingerbread Tardis

Gingerbread Tardis!

Holy moly, were these ever a time-consuming effort.
Had to make the dough the night before and chill it in the fridge (I just found a recipe online for gingerbread house making – a stiffer dough). I was making a mess with my sis-in-law Maka in Queens a little bit before Christmas.
Ta Da! The icing was kind of hard, mainly because it had to be pipe-able, but stiff and quick to dry because it’s a cement for the boxes. Clearly I need to work on my cookie architecture, because these look like The Stuff is oozing out of each tardis.

Green Tea Macarons

Green Tea Macarons!

These are so awesome, recipe goes first, blathering later!

Green Tea Macarons

90-100 g egg whites (3 eggs)
200 g powdered sugar
50 g granulated white sugar
110 g almond flour
20-30 g matcha powder

Whip whites to stiff peaks, adding the granulated sugar in slowly.

Almond flour with powdered sugar and matcha.

Bake at 300 F for not very much time at all. Check on them after 7-8 minutes.
Plops! Ploparons! This was before I let them rest. Word to the wise, matcha powder absorbs water differently than powdered sugar, so… you might want to go easy on it or else your mixture might be a little more magma-like in texture than you really want.

Fluffy whipped egg whites! So pure and fluffy. If you can flip the bowl upside down and nothing moves, you’re good to go.

This is what it looks like when you mix in everything else. It was a little more deflated than I wanted it to be. I also didn’t sift out the almond bits in the flour, so there was some coarseness. I was just too lazy to break out the food processor and get it all fine.

WTF is this?

It’s my fave method for piping things. A Ziploc baggie in a cup makes it easier to pour batter/icing into. And you can just throw it away when you’re done. Easy clean up. Yay!

Just make sure you use Ziploc baggies. Maybe Reynolds is okay, but Ziploc is one brand I’ve had that never bursts or distorts in any way when I need to use it for decorating, etc.
Tada! Keeps the air out, and now it’s all in one easy place! Just snip off a corner and you’re ready to pipe out the batter.
More unrested macaron plops.

They were pretty intense without any filling. Like, so bitter I thought I’d maybe overdone it. But with a white chocolate ganache they were quite good. Even though my ganache refused to set, so I had to add powdered sugar and almond meal to thicken it up.

Oh well. They still turned out pretty well. Kind of crackly and ugly, but good in the mouth. Hehe.

Cosimo’s, 5 Burros, and Maple Bacon Ice Cream

This weekend my future sister in law Maka had her bridal shower. Very cool thing to be a part of. Her family is fairly large and went all out in throwing her a party at Cosimo’s in Poughkeepsie (120 Delafield St, right off of the highway). Mama Amherst and I were there reping the groom’s side! Girly weekend! One of my girlfriends used to work at a location further down state, and I’d never managed to try it, so I was excited to give it a whirl. Salad. Little heavy on the dressing for me, but lots of flavor. It was some kind of a prosecco vinaigrette. Tasty.

Got a margherita pizza. Nice thin crust and chewy edges with cornmeal on the bottom. It was a large “personal” pizza. I ate about half of it and took the leftovers with me. Tomatoes were nice and bright. I’d get it again.

Dessert! They brought in a cake for the bride, and the menu came with tiramisu. Good tiramisu. Lots of kahlua flavor, hee hee.

And then we packed my car with all of the gifts Maka received. I wish I’d taken a shot of the car. It was so packed! We drove from Poughkeepsie to Queens. She never would have made it on the train with all of that stuff.

See? I told you. It was a LOT of stuff! haha. Thank goodness for granny carts. We made it within three trips.

Then we met up with some of my bro-in-law CVS’s friends who were VIPs at 5 Burros (7205 Austin St, Forest Hills, NY). I’d been there once before for drinks and it was jam packed. It was pretty much impossible to get a table for more than two people during prime time hours (like, the only time I’m ever there to visit)… unless you knew someone.

We still had to wait about an hour (brr!), but man. I don’t even wanna know how long we’d wait if we didn’t know someone.

We crammed into a table in the back and got a pitcher of strawberry margaritas. Frozen. Yum! I only wanted half a drink because I’ve got this stupid head cold that won’t go away, but they were way too generous and gave me a full glass. They give you a little toy in the drinks. I got a goldfish, he he.

I got tacos al pastor ($14). Three tacos stuffed with deliciously moist pork meat and some minced red onion and cilantro. So freaking good.

At first, I was kinda like “Eehh, $14 for three tacos?” But the tacos were so good and so generously portioned, AND it came with a side of rice, beans, some mild salsa, guacamole and sour cream. I quickly changed my tune. Everything was flavorful enough for me to taste something, even with the nagging head cold. I even liked the rice! It was like fried rice, but Mexican. And really good. Sadly, I could barely make a dent in the sour cream and guac because of the cold (texture weirded me out).

Albany John was hanging with his folks in Amherst, and I missed his dish nibbling. I don’t think I’m used to eating an entire meal on my own when I go out to eat! I had a whole taco left. It seems kind of wussy (who can’t eat three tacos?), but they were so big! If Albany John were there, he could have helped me out.

Oh, and Maka gave me some goldenseal, and that stuff really helps drain your sinuses! I could actually breathe through my nose that night!

The next day I went to Flushing to meet up with my Dad, Uncle, and Yeh-Yeh.

I checked out a Chinese Medicine doctor guy before we went to breakfast just because this stupid cold won’t go away and nothing is working, and it’s one of those colds where if I go to a Dr. Dr. they’re just like “Yeah, you’re sick, drink some Gatorade, there’s nothing we can do.” I figured why not? Worst case scenario I spend some money on some herbs that won’t hurt me any way, and best case scenario is that I get a homeopathic cure that’s been used by people for thousands of years.

So they said we should get breakfast because of blood sugar levels or whatever, so we went to Jade Asian Restaurant for yum cha. Got some har cheung (shrimp rice rolls). Oh man, those were good. Really silky and tender noodles. They must make them there.

Joong. Maka and CVS joined me, and they really liked this dish.

Steamed chicken and rice. I wasn’t really hungry because of the cold. I just don’t get as much motivation to eat when I’m sick because I can’t really taste anything and my throat hurts, so what’s the point? But I guess that’s what family is for, because Yeh-Yeh and my dad were piling food on my plate and encouraging me to eat. That was really sweet of them. You’ll never go hungry in a Chinese family.

Steamed spare ribs, tripe, and shrimp dumplings.

Chow fun to end the meal. Again, really silky noodles. I want to get more fun dishes here. And by fun I mean rice noodle, although eating good food is fun too. Hee hee.

Oh, so this is the place I went to see the Chinese herbalist. Shing Fat Trading, Inc., located on the corner of Prince and 39th Street. Who’da thought, right? They’d readied my herbal “prescriptions” for the next couple of weeks and gave me some quickie accupuncture. I’ll do another post on this in a few days with some more detail.

The short of it, though, is that I did start feeling a little bit better. Still sick, but just not as sick. But at that point who really knows if it’s the work or just the psychosomatic effects? I mean, either way, whatever works to get rid of this cold. Seriously. Cold. Go away.

Then it was time to head to Amherst to pick up Albany John. I cut through Connecticut on I-95 to I-91. It wasn’t much longer than my normal route home. It usually takes me about 4 hours to get home from Queens with the routes I take, and this only added, like, an extra hour (maybe) of total travel time. Plus I always like trying a new way home. Keeps the drive more interesting. Unless there’s traffic on the way to the Whitestone Bridge. It took me about half an hour to go like, two miles. Ugh. C’mon. Let’s speed it up! But slow goings on a Sunday around the city isn’t exactly surprising.

Funny thing is, after this E-ZPass sign was another sign saying “No Picture or Video”. Hmm. Okay.

It was still a little slow once I got on I-95, but not as bumper-to-bumper.

Once we got into CT it was a lot faster. Yay! Although CT drivers: WTF. Can no one maintain their speed on the highway? I know some of you have cruise control.

Blessedly, I made it to Amherst and was greeted with happy faces. And Maple Bacon Ice cream. Albany John picked up the weirdest sounding flavor from Maple Valley Ice Cream.

Can I just say how much I love MA dairy? They nail dairy products. I love getting ice cream in MA. It’s always so ridiculously rich and awesome.

Ingredient list. Cream, milk, cane sugar, maple syrup, bacon, vanilla extract, and some unnamed natural stabilizers. I like the local lables. Too cute.

I still couldn’t taste very much, but the texture was great. Creamy with bits of bacon in it. I’d get it again. It really wasn’t all that odd.

And then I got FLAN ON A COOKIE!!! Papa Amherst made them. SO DELICIOUS! And then I made Albany John drive back so I could nap in the car. Good man.

Sugar Cookies. Good Ones.

I’m a sugar cookie hater. They’re usually too bland, too flavorless, too … meh. But guess what? I made some un-meh sugar cookies. The secret? Add a ton of nutmeg (I’m a nutmeg ho), cinnamon, allspice, and ginger powders! Instant yum and the ground powders completely disappear into the dough and the cookies come out incognito, like regular sugar cookies, except they taste good.
Royal icing is also insanely easy to make and really easy. Give it a try. I was a little hesitant on the whole raw egg in icing thing, but the stuff dries almost instantly (well a few hours, but we’re talking Rock. Hard. Icing.) and tastes really good, too. The white stuff is royal icing, and the colored icing is just frosting, milk, and flavoring. Plus color.
Trust me – use Ziploc baggies to pipe out your icing if you go that route, every other non-brand bag I’ve used has split almost instantly or eventually. The Zipliocs last.
I got in a cookie frenzy and while I usually hate doing cut out cookies, I had fun making these. Just used a straw to poke holes in some of them to make into christmas tree decorations. Actually, I think I ended up eating most of them since they tasted good. A few angels (my fave cause they held the most icing!), sugar cookie men and women (and one sad Pitpat looking guy), snowmen, trees, bells, stars, “waving santas” (I’m kind of dubious about that one), and sleighs that looked like doves.
Okay, and maybe I broke out the penis cookie cutters and made a few sugar cookie penises. I would apologize, but I have no shame to begin with.

Hollow Root Vegetable

The first time I tried hollow root vegetables was at a restaurant with my Dad’s side of the family somewhere in Flushing. It was after a weekend of pizza, bread, and other heavy items, and the lightly cooked greens were a godsend.

Cooked in a little broth with some garlic and ginger, they were salty and refreshing. I like to think they worked as little scrubbing bubbles on the plaque that had accumulated in my arteries over the weekend.

I hadn’t expected to find them in Albany. You know how it goes. We have some Asian stuff up here, but if you want the legit and authentic “good stuff” you gotta go to NYC.

So imagine my surprise when I was walking around the Asian Food Market (Colvin Ave, Albany, NY) and saw “Ong Choy $1.79/lb” for sale. Hmm, what? Hollow, light green stems, and some large leafy greens… maybe this was like what I had in Flushing. They were pre-packaged in bundles, so I grabbed one that was about two hands around.

I didn’t get a picture of the ends, but they’re completely hollow all throughout the stem. In Cantonese they’re known as Tong Choy, and in English you might call it Water Spinach. I tend to like most spinachy kind of greens.

Here are the leaves. They’re kind of shaped like spades, and are thin and tender. They don’t need much cooking, so I chop off the bottom halves and cook them first.

If you don’t know how to cook Chinese veggies, it’s really easy, with no right or wrong method. The way I’ve been cooking my veggies lately has been like this:

Sear chunks of garlic until outsides are browned.
Toss in some of the veggies (like the firmer stem ends) and stir-fry until softened.
Add some water or chicken broth to speed up the process. Once those start to soften up, add in the leafier greens and cook until desired doneness.
Maybe a little salt, white pepper, sesame oil, oyster sauce… whatever other condiments you want can get tossed in, too.

You end up with something like this. A bowl of cooked Chinese veggies. I like the tong/ong choy because it doesn’t need any blanching (I like to blanch some of tougher or bitterer veggies before stir-frying), and has a great light texture. The garlic becomes softer, since the liquid will steam it up and cook it through. Still a lot of garlicky flavor, but it’s mellower and you don’t need to reach for the parsely when you’re done eating.

Are there any stem lovers up in here? I usually go for the stems of vegetables over the leaves or greener parts when they’re cooked like this. Broccoli, bok choy – doesn’t matter. I want the firm crunchy bottoms and not the leaves. It’s like the leaves are too soft for me. I don’t mind it when it’s all one texture, like just spinach leaves, but on the whole, If there’s diced broccoli, I want the stems. I didn’t really have the problem with the tong choy – the leaves and stems were both enjoyable.

I can never get Chinese veggies to taste as buttery and light as they do in Chinese restaurants, but I am guessing that might have something to do with a very flavorful and salty chicken broth, and oil.

Eat it when it’s fresh. I made the mistake of only making half of the amount I’d purchased and letting the ong choy sit in the fridge for a week or so. They stems turned woody, and some of the leaves got a little gooey/melty. Not ideal flavor or texture in the final product.