After I gave birth last year, my parents took it upon themselves to cook for me during the first few weeks of mommyhood. After all, it’s Chinese tradition to treat the first 30 days after a woman gives birth with a special level of care. New mommies are expected to stay indoors, not wash their hair, and eat a special diet for 30 days. If you ask any Chinese mom about it, they’ll probably say that they consider it of the utmost importance for keeping the mom (and subsequently baby) healthy. 

Luckily, my mom didn’t force the issue with me too much. After all, you can’t expect a girl not to wash her hair after labor, let alone for 30 whole days. But I did let my mom blow dry my hair after every shower, which for me was a pretty big step. My favorite part of the 30-day period? The food, of course. 

Oh, the food. I thought my pregnancy cravings were pretty true to my normal tastes, but my postpartum cravings were a whole different story. All of the sudden, I couldn’t get enough red bean soup if I drowned myself in a pool of it. And I’m not usually a meat girl, but oh man, was I craving my mom’s Chinese braised short ribs. 

Of course, it might not have had anything to do with the post-baby hormones. I’m not even sure these short ribs are on the approved list of foods that you’re supposed to have during the 30 days. But my mom made them one day, and–wow. Poor woman didn’t know what she was getting into, because we ask her for them every time we see her now. These short ribs are so addictive that the new daddy also couldn’t get them out of his head.

The last time we went to visit my parents, my mom made sure to show me how to make them. Lucky for me (and for you), the recipe is pretty simple. Just one more thing: serve these with rice, so it can soak up all the mouthwatering sauce. 

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Orange Marmalade Roll Cake

I’ve got sponge cake on the brain! I swear, I never used to like this stuff that much. I mean, I enjoyed it. I would buy it at the Chinese bakery whenever I went, but it wasn’t like I had mad cravings for the stuff. Somehow it feels different now that I’ve been making my own. Ever since I nailed down my favorite sponge cake recipe, this humble cake has been elevated to favorite-status. I love it better than probably anything else I’m making at the moment (although admittedly, I’m not cooking nearly as much as I used to, considering that on some days it’s tough to even break out the rice cooker while handling a baby). 

It’s a little weird to me, since my tendency is to like things less when I make it myself, as opposed to having it made for me. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that I know exactly what goes into everything I make…which isn’t really appetizing knowledge when the ingredients are super fatty or sugary. I guess that’s one thing I like about sponge cake: the ingredients are simple enough, and not so ridiculously unhealthy that they distract me from fully enjoying the final product. 

Anyway, this orange marmalade roll cake is one of my favorite new ways to make sponge cake because (1) the cooking time is pretty short, since the surface area of the pan is so large, (2) it’s pretty darn fun to roll a cake, and (3) um, it’s really ridiculously yummy. I used this tawny orange marmalade because it’s not as sweet as regular orange marmalade, which is good for this cake since the cake part has all the sweetness you need. But if orange isn’t to your liking, I think this cake would also be fantastic with cherry or blackberry jam. 

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I’ll never forget the first time I got yelled at by my boss at work. To call it “yelling” is actually an understatement. He was slamming his hands on the table and calling me names. His face was inches away from mine and droplets of his spit were spraying in my face with every scream. There was cursing involved.

I didn’t deserve it. I don’t think there’s anything anyone could do to deserve that. But I probably should have seen it coming. After all, this was the same boss that was talking on his cell phone through more than half of my interview, while simultaneously playing fetch with his dog and yelling at his assistant to hurry up and order lunch already. 

Anyway, on my way home from work the day I was yelled at, I ended up coming home with ice cream and cheesecake. I never thought of myself as an emotional eater, but I have to say, something about the sugar and cream helped transport me away from the stress. And for the first time, I realized why they call it “comfort food”. 

I’m still not an advocate of stuffing yourself to bury the feelings, but I do think sometimes a treat can take the edge off of a stressful situation. I don’t drink much, so instead of drowning my sorrows at the bar, I bake.

These gouda scones were a really yummy way to wind down after one particularly long day. A decent amount of butter and smoked gouda make these scones rich in flavor with a surprisingly light and fluffy texture. Bits of chopped ham and dried pears give little hints of salty and sweet. I’d mention here that you should probably try not to stuff your face with these, but…if you’re having a bad day, you gotta do what you gotta do. 

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Strawberry Banana Bread

Sometimes when I’ve been baking, the house smells like butter and caramelized sugar at the end of the day, and when my husband comes home from work, the first words out of his mouth when he walks through the door are “Oh, no.” And then when he looks at the counter where the baked goods are sitting, he says “Oh, no,” again. And then after he takes a bite of whatever it is I’ve made, he chews, he swallows, his eyes roll back a little, and the only thing that comes out of his mouth is “Oh, no.”

“Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no.” That’s the category of baking that this strawberry banana bread falls into. 

This strawberry banana bread started as one of those use-up-what-you-have kinds of creations. I had a few overripe bananas in the fridge, which is always the starting point for some good banana bread. But I also had some frozen strawberries, and a handful of almonds lying around, so I figured that they might all taste okay together.

This bread is way better than just “ok.”

Just when I thought banana bread couldn’t get any better, these tart, juicy strawberries and crunchy almonds come and totally blow me away. This bread is moist and soft on the inside, with a slightly caramelized exterior and a crispy, nutty topping. I’m so so so happy that my random ingredients turned out such a yummy product… maybe a little too yummy, considering two people finished a whole loaf of this within maybe a day and a half. “Oh, no” indeed.

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I’ve been playing around more with my Silhouette cutter lately, and am getting used to all the different settings and possibilities. Can I just say again how much I love this thing? It’s so liberating to be able to design my own shapes, both simple and intricate. And it’s amazing how much they’ve built into this machine, like all the different kinds of cut settings for the different kinds of materials you can use. I feel like I have yet to fully explore all of the possibilities that are open to me through this tool.

Today’s project is a simple envelope that I came up with while I was experimenting the other day. Since it’s nearly February 14th, this project has  got a little bit of a Valentines-y bent to it, with a little folding heart to seal the envelope up. This mini heart envelope is 2 inches by 3 inches, so you can use it as a business card holder, or write a little note to put inside. For best results, make sure to score the envelope using a scoring tool and straight edge before folding it up. (The fold lines aren’t marked, but it should be pretty straightforward to figure out where the folds will go.)

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