Friday, November 28, 2014

Mel Makes Apple Pie (Video)

Apple pie, what could be more classic American. If I had to pick one baked good to represent America, it would be Apple Pie. Actually, maybe it would be a tie with the chocolate chip cookie. For the coming Thanksgiving, I went in to pie baking mode and had to peel and chop 16 apples. But the pie turned out so nicely so it's all worth it. I made a video about pie making fun and you should watch it (and like my FB page).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Soybean Milk Recipe (with Video)

I love soybean milk. I used to have every morning, sometimes I like it so much I get for lunch, too. I've read a lot about the benefits of soybean milk, it's rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, and most importantly, it tastes good. Since coming to U.S., I haven't really had any good soybean milk. Sure, you can find Silk at your local supermarket, but it's just not the same, or as good, as the soybean milk breakfast shops in Taiwan would make fresh every morning. Therefore, I thought I'd make my own, and it turns it out to be, it was pretty easy, and I am very pleased with my soybean milk, it's just the way I want to be, and when you make it, your kitchen smells delightfully warm and sweet. The smell of fresh soybean milk.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


在美國,如果十月十號沒和其他的台灣人一起過,就像任何的一天。今年決定要召集在學校的台灣研究生,讓十月十號變得不平凡! 想台灣駐各國使館在國慶日都有國慶酒會,但從沒機會參加過。那時還沒到捷克做交換學生時,看到已經在捷克做交換學生的同學在問有誰要去國慶酒會,我也好想到布拉格吃國慶酒宴,但根本人都還沒到歐洲。所以現在我要再次在國外,決定自己來辦國慶酒宴!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chicago: Bar on the 96th Floor and Chinatown (Video)

This weekend I went to Chicago for official business, but of course I took time to enjoy myself at the Windy City. Chicago is just as beautiful as ever, and I got to sip cocktails and admire her beauty from the 96th floor. I also took advantage of Chinatown for good dim sum and stocked up my Chinese cooking supplies.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

National Postal Museum

This is my favorite Smithsonian Museum, there is so much more to postal service than just stamps and letters! The museum is housed in the beautiful old Main Post Office of Washington, full of fascinating things to see (Postal dog? Mail police?), and the interactive elements are really fun.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Art-O-Mat, the Vending Machine That Gives You Art

Vending machines gives you cool drinks, small packs of chips, and chocolate bars, but some special vending machines can also give you art; real art-- we're talking 100 percent handmade, original art. At the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 5 dollars gives you a small piece of art that fits in a cigarette box.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kayak on the Potomac

The Potomac river divides Washington D.C. and Virginia, and kayaking on it in the late afternoon was relaxing, fun, and the Potomac River is actually quite pretty. For 15USD, you can rent a single person kayak and enjoy an hour of water floating freedom. I've also made a happy video of my kayaking adventure and you should check it out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Water Lilies-Wall Art DIY

With a giant canvas I had bought from Hobby Lobby when it was on sale (about 30 USD) and inexpensive acrylic paint I found at Walmart (about 1USD each), I created an impressionism artwork, inspired by Monet's water lilies, here's how I drew mine.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Thing About Traveling Alone-Pt. 1-No Photographer

I travel with friends, with family, with acquaintances turned friends, and sometimes alone. Recently in D.C. I have been traveling, or maybe more appropriately, doing tourist activities, alone. Being the D.C. lone tourist makes me lazy, I don't visit as many places as I have the potential too. Some afternoons have turned to visits to the mall instead of tourist D.C., simply because it's more comfortable, and easier to do than traveling alone. Not that I don't like traveling alone, I do, sometimes, but not always. Once a while exploring a new place alone is quite lovely, but continuously being alone in a new place is not so enjoyable. In this post series, I write about the good things, and also the slightly lonely things about being a independent traveler.

First and foremost, there's no one to take pictures for me. (Selfies!)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Island in D.C.--Theodore Roosevelt Island

 There's an island in D.C., did you know? It's got lovely trails and once you're on the island you forget that you are Washington D.C. The Theodore Roosevelt Island is a small island in the middle of the Potomac River that has a very diversified landscape: woods, uplands, and swamp. The trails are easy to follow and walk on, but the whole island feels "wild and natural" enough that you feel like you're on a little adventure.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pusheen Roll Cake

I don't know when it happened, but I started to like the character Pusheen immensely. That gray tabby cat that you see as Facebook stickers? Those are the stickers I ever use. Then I saw this roll cake video on YouTube, and decided to make one myself. And which adorable character should I make? Pusheen of course!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Italica-Day Trip Seville to Roman Ruins

Italica is just 9 kilometers out of Seville, it's easily accessible by the public bus and if you like Roman Ruins, you'll enjoy Italica. Italica used to be a great city, it is after all the birthplace of Roman Emperor Trajan and probably Hadrian as well. While its pretty much in ruins today, there is still an amphitheatre you could look at, and some beautiful tiled floors and some pillars.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

World Cup 2014: Support your team with cookies!

Tomorrow is the U.S. versus Germany game, we are having a viewing party at where I intern, and donations of dessert are welcomed. Since I love sweets I know I will be eating a lot of desserts. To not feel guilty about eating other people's desserts, I feel I should provide some desserts as well. An opportunity to make something sweet and yummy? Of course, I don't mind at all! Instead of just bringing some baked goods, I wanted to bring some themed baked goods. I challenged my self to make world cups cookies, and here is what I came up with. An very important tomorrow, since it's the U.S. team playing, so I shall take the viewing party seriously and make seriously awesome cookies.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Paella Sunday

Passing Jaleo, a Spanish tapa restaurant on my way for beach volleyball, I passed by Jaleo, a Spanish tapa restaurant. I do like tapas, and was curious about the restaurants. My friend tells me the restaurant has a special Sunday menu, where it's 20 USD for all the paella you can eat. What? All you can eat paella? I need to go there.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Flamenco, amazing architecture, Star Wars movie scene, and Roman ruins. Seville was amazing.In this post I share with you all the Seville must sees, and some other spots off the beaten path (Roman ruins!)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dim Sum near D.C.

In this post I share 3 dim sum places near and in D.C. I have always enjoyed dim sum, those delicacies that come in small steamers, or petite plates of fried crispy goodness or stir fried freshness; crunchy, soft, hot, cold, seafood, veggies, ducks, pork, beef--oh, the variety! Since everything is so small and dainty, you order many of the dishes and share with your friends so everyone gets a bit of everything. Sip hot tea, and eat so many snacks that it makes a proper entree, lovely.

Natural History Museum

Now that weekends are the only times I can visit museum, and with summer approaching, I have to get used to crowded museums. The Natural History museum greeted me with a big elephant in the middle, and the halls were filled with furry animal specimen, animals without fur as bone specimen, mummies, shiny rocks, and live butterflies.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Botanic Gardens--Take Your Lunch Here

I encourage myself to leave the office  for lunch, spending a whole day in a closed environment in the same chair is not ideal. I have found 3 fantastic green spots around the National Mall/Dept. of Edu./American Indian Museum/Air and Space area in the Botanic Garden. Shady benches, and wooden chair and table sets under umbrellas, lush green and birds; it's very refreshing to eat your lunch in that environment. So no matter if you're taking a lunch break from work, or eating lunch during your D.C. visit, you'll love these spots. Also, the Botanic Garden is something you should include in your itinerary since it's so close to all these D.C. tourist hot spots.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cordoba: Pillars and Arches and Allies of Flowers

Cordoba, with its mosque cathedral with a thousand pillars and arches, greeted me with orange trees. Making my first visit to the South of Spain, the bright, round fruit lined the streets and rolled off pave ways. Along with the famous mosque-cathedral, I also visited the Alcazar, and saw the flower patios famous to the area.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day Trip Madrid--Segovia: Awesome Aqueduct, and Disney Castle

There are two towns near Madrid that are popular day trip destinations for Madrid: Toledo and Segovia. Of the two, Toledo, the town described to be trapped in time, seems to be the more popular one. But when I saw the majestic Roman aqueducts in Segovia, I immediately decided to go there. Some say you just need half a day to see everything, and that might be true, but I spent a whole day there wandering through the streets and just enjoying the wide, dry, hilly Mediterranean landscape and had a wonderful time.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cheap Eats in Madrid

Free tapas at El Tigre, a lot of chocolate and churros and San Gines, and the tourist packed San Miguel Market that is not cheap.
I didn't really go to any sit down proper restaurant kind of place when I visited Madrid because I had a tight budget. But I am going to share two yummy places that are inexpensive and will leave you pretty satisfied, too.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

American History Museum & Rolling Thunder Parade

Memorial Day long weekend and I only visited one museum, the American History Museum was quite busy on Memorial Day. I also got to Pennsylvania Avenue at the right time to see Roaring Thunder, the motorcycle parade. The name Rolling Thunder couldn’t have been a better name, those bikes were LOUD. I got there just in time to see the very start of the parade, and at that parade I saw more than a life’s share of heavy motorcycles.  The Rolling Thunder raises awareness for POW (Prisoners of War) and MIA (missing in action), basically, personnel who have not returned from war but are not dead. I stood there for about 90 minutes and the motorcycles just keep on coming, I have no idea how long it went on but 90 minutes of non-stop motor bikes was enough for me and I went in the museum.

Cutest Panda Cookies

The last semester I baked cookies for my students (I’m a TA, you can learn more about me under the “About Me” tab), so I thought I should do that again this semester. Everyone likes chocolate chip cookies, but I wanted to wow my students and give them something memorable, so I made panda cookies. There is nothing complicated about these cookies, they are just your normal sugar cookies, but with some creativity, time, and love, I made your plain sugar cookie in cookies that are super cute and would bring a smile to your face.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Freer and Sackler Gallery & African Art

Freer and Sackler: The Smithsonian's Museum of Asian Art Office Site
National Museum of African Art Official Site

I had set my day for visiting the monuments of D.C. and the White House, and also the Freer and Sackler Gallery of Asian Art. I knew I would be pretty tired after walking half a day to see the monuments, so I picked a smaller museum to visit. Accidentally I visited two museums because the Freer and Sackler Gallery was connected to the African Art museum, and I went in one museum and came out from another. I did not look up any information before hand to the museum, and it turned out to be a lovely museum whose layout and atmosphere I really enjoyed. It was quiet, spacious, elegant, and with dim lighting at some parts and natural sunlight at others.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Let the Museum Tour Begin

Museum, museums, museums. That is what I said I will be doing all my weekends here at D.C. With the fine collection of Smithsonian museums that are all free, I have been visiting quite a few so far. It’s my second week here at D.C. and I have been to four museums. Not bad. There are a total of 18 museums in D.C., and two more Smithsonian institutes in New York. My goal is to visit all of them and write about them, and the idea is I will have a little D.C. museum guide here. There are also other museums that require (quite a bit of ) money to enter, such as the Newseum and Spy Museum. I do think I will eventually visit those but for now, the free ones. For this post, I introduce to you two museums: American Indian, and Air and Space.                                

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Learning the Science in Cookie Making and Testing it Out in D.C.

New city, new kitchen, new people, new job (internship). But making yummy food for myself and to share and make other people happy hasn't changed.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Steamed Cake: Forget About the Oven

Most people think of cake being made in the oven, but today I'm sharing a new option: steamed cake. Steamed cake is delicious, it's got a texture different from baked cake, it's dense, soft, and perhaps a healthier choice than baked cake since there is much less oil involved. Steamed cake is somewhat of a traditional Chinese sweet pastry, in the Chinese household (or Taiwanese, East Asia in general) a oven is not a standard appliance in the kitchen, in fact, very few kitchens in Taiwan have a oven. Therefore, if you are a oven, and you really feel like some cake, give this recipe a try. When I was an exchange student in the Czech Republic the dorm kitchen did not have an oven, yet one day I felt like making pastry so bad and I thought of the steamed cake. I found a recipe online, and improvised a bit making my own chocolate steamed cake. I made mine using a traditional rice cooker, which is basically a rather simple apparatus that involves a big pot with a smaller pot inside, and water between the two pots heated by electricity. You just need a big pot, and a big bowl that fits inside the pot.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Recreating Flavors of Spain: Arroz a Banda (is not Paella)

On my last night in Spain, I wanted to take some food goods back with me to the U.S. Specifically, I wanted some easy prep type paella mix. Searching in the aisles of Corte de Ingles fancy department store style supermarket, one of the very few supermarkets that are open on Sunday, I found some paella goods. However, they were juices. Yes, big cartons of liquids, seafood and spice infused stocks in large juice like cartons. Many choices and brands were offered, all kinds of paella from the golden color kind to the black ones infused with squid ink. Carrying that much liquid would add too much weight to my luggage, but I could not find the powder kind I had wished for. Then I saw this: Arroz A Banda, it looks like paella, and it comes in a convenient pouch of powder! That was the only kind I could find in the super market, so I took two to take back with me to the U.S.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Museums in Madrid (are sometimes FREE)

One week in March, I made a visit to Spain for eight days. With Madrid as my starting point, I went to Segovia for a day trip (Roman Aqueducts, pretty castle that is said to be one of the castles that inspired the Disney castle), and a three day trip to Cordoba (with the amazing mosque turned cathedral) and Seville (the largest Gothic cathedral, and 30 minutes away by bus the Roman Ruins of Italica, birthplace of emperor Trajan). The rest of the days I stayed in Madrid.

I did not have the most generous budget for the trip, but with careful planning my trip turned out very well and I have nothing to complain. In this post I would like to focus on Madrid and its museums. I took advantage of the many free museum hours, and being a student often means half price tickets. The super big and famous museums like Prado are lovely, but I'd like to talk about some other smaller museums that are just as charming and worth a visit. Please note I did not have a chance to visit all the museums in Madrid, so don't forget to explore other museums that I didn't get to visit, and tell me what you think about them so maybe I'll check them out next time.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I was in Spain! Sneak Peak and Video

For spring break I went to Spain, to be specific, Madrid, Segovia, Cordoba, and Seville. I had planned this trip a while ago and started saving money for it. It was a perfect trip and I had a wonderful time. As a student traveler with limited budget, I took advantage of free museum days and student discount and booking early for good train deals. I will be doing a detailed post on the museums of Spain, and share some tips and fun stories of how I saved money while I traveled, but still had a fantastic time! So do subscribe to my blog so you can be updated when I share more about Spain! But before that, here's a video trailer of my awesome trip, and a few pictures as a sneak peek.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Easiest Strawberry Tart+Video

Hurray! My first baking video!

This strawberry tart is super easy and super fast. It's basically just putting things together. To put in plain terms, this tart is just a store bought crust, vanilla pudding, and lots of strawberries, but put them together, it looks quite fancy! I feel almost a bit guilty revealing how simple my tart is.

Store Bought Crust
Vanilla Pudding Mix. I used two boxes of pudding mix to fill my crust.
Milk for your pudding mix
Jam (optional)

So the instructions are very straight forward here:
1. Have your crust ready.
2. Prep your pudding mix according to instructions. Usually it's just stir with hot milk.
3. Pour slightly chilled pudding mix into crust.
4. Cut your berries and arrange them in a pretty way in to your pudding filled crust.
5. It's optional, but you could brush your berries with some jam, this gives your tart a glossy look.

See my video on how I made my tart!
I made a strawberry rosette for the center of the tart.

Requested by the grad student association whether I could make a dessert for our Valentine's day party, I said yes. Of course I said yes, it's an excuse to make something that's too much for me to finish and a chance to try something new. Since it is spring (more or less) and the season of berries, I decided to make something with strawberries, and red is a good color for Valentine's.

It may be pass Valentines, but a lovely strawberry tart is good for any time!

I've been having lots of academic things to read and write, so I hadn't had enough time to write here. But I do like writing here, so I am trying to update as often as possible! There has been some interesting food/recipe things happening and I'd love to share, so subscribe to this blog if you'd like to know when I update.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year! Chinese Couplet Cookies Recipe 春聯餅乾

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The biggest and most important festival of all in Chinese and Chinese influenced societies....Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year is on its way! This year the New Year's Eve is on Jan. 30. Even though I am far away from home, I will be celebrating this important holiday with fellow Taiwanese students with a big dinner. I also decided to celebrate and share this wonderful holiday by making some Chinese couplet inspired cookies! Chinese couplets, or chun-lian, or 春聯, are pieces or red paper with lucky words or phrases written on with calligraphy, or nowadays, printed. These are put on doors and hallways or basically just anywhere when Lunar New Year is close, they bring such a festive cheer to the holiday with the bright red color. These are basically sugar cookie shortbread hybrid dyed red, with chocolate piping. Yum.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Catonese Egg Tarts on a Snowy Day+Recipe

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I love potlucks, so when I got invited to one last minute, I knew I couldn't say no. Potluck means I'll get a chance to try a new recipe (a fancier one, too, because you want to impress people), eat great food made by friends, and ask the creator of the great dish how it is made and hopefully add some cooking knowledge and recipes to your pocket. It's also a great chance to find out who is a great cook, or a chance to prove to your friends you are a good cook. As you can see, a potluck involves a lot, so I always start thinking early on as to what I should try and make. But this potluck I only got notified the night before, and I didn't have the chance to go to supermarket, meaning I'll have to create some presentable food using only what I had on hand (*gasp). Since it was a Taiwanese people potluck, I wanted to make something that would remind us all of home, and egg tarts came to my mind. Searching the internet for recipes, and running to the kitchen to see if I had butter (oh my, just enough!), I wanted to bring the egg tarts we have in Taiwanese bakeries to the American living room.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I am the Midnight Baker

I'm Melissa, I'm the midnight baker. I call myself the midnight baker because in the last semester I would bake cookies and cupcakes in the middle of the night. I'm a full time grad student, first year Masters, also half-time TA, and I've got to say, grad school course work is no joke. That's part of the reason why I bake in the middle of the night; tired of all the readings and essays, sometimes I like to make myself some yummy food. And what what is better for the tired grad student to snack on and enjoy then some nice chocolate chip cookies? Warm and sweet, right from the oven...and with a glass of milk, I can go to bed, or do a bit more of reading and writing. And as I've always said, baking is creating beautiful things that will bring a smile to people's faces. Also cooking, which I like a lot, too; and art.

I'm currently studying in the US, but I'm from Taiwan. I wasn't born in Taiwan, but now being in the States I'm starting to realize how Taiwan is in me, after having lived in Taiwan for 20 years, I don't realize how much Taiwan is a part of me until I am no longer in the country. But that's how things work, it's almost like, you have to loose it to know that you had it...just a little bit though, because I have not lost Taiwan.