Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It's alive!

“It’s amazing how much success you have in the kitchen despite your dislike of measuring and numbers,” David remarked casually one afternoon.

“Yeah, well,” I replied, “It’s like Ms. Vu told me my last day of Chemistry class…”

“Wait…Who said what?”

If you had to ask me my favorite teacher in high school, it would have been Ms. Vu, my chemistry teacher. Despite my, shall we say, complete ineptitude for conversion factors, I still enjoyed the class. At least until I dropped it.

Ms. Vu was a feisty Vietnamese lady with a thick accent, and what she lacked for in height, she made up for in attitude. No one had names in her class. You were either addressed as simply “kid” or your element name, which you were required to pick on the first day (Fe, represent).

Between actual Chemistry lessons, she regaled us with stories of swiping her friend’s moped and driving it full tilt into a chain link fence, or diving into a giant tub of sprinkles at a certain national chain of donut shops in only her underwear. “I wanted to see what it would feel like.” She explained casually. I swear I’m not making this up.

One day, after a particularly bad week of quizzes which I barely passed, she pulled me aside and gazed at me levelly. “Iron.” She said gravely. “You will not pass. You need to drop this class. Drop Chemistry. Find something you like better.”

I was only too happy to agree after struggling through the latter half of the quarter. But Ms. Vu wasn’t finished.

Cocking her head to the side, she gave me an assessing look. “Kid, it’s OK Chemistry is not for you. You are one of those people who will either succeed in life….or fail. Miserably. Just...crash and burn!” She emphasized the last part. I nodded, filed that away, and much to my parent’s dismay, dropped Chemistry the next day.

it's better to burn out...than..well, you know.

I’ve found that Ms. Vu’s prediction carries over to this day. I make very few dishes in the kitchen, especially with baking, that are mediocre. What I turn out -- whether it is beer muffins, scones, 7-layer bars or coconut macaroons -- turns out spectacularly, or is pretty much a complete disaster (remember calling the fire department when I tried to make donuts?). Thankfully, this creation falls into the first category.

yo dawg, I heard you like cookies, so I put a cookie in your cookie so you could eat cookies while you were eating cookies

I took much of the work and risk out of the recipe by using a mixes, but this could also be done with your favorite cookie and brownie recipes made from scratch. The jumbo muffin tin isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s easier to make them with one. The bake time will vary depending on how large your muffin tin is, so make sure to keep an eye on the oven and check with toothpicks often.

*title courtesy of: 5chw4r7z

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sichuan Bistro:

Wordlessly, I handed David another napkin. I was getting a little concerned. As he was happily eating his way though his black pepper beef dish, he was starting to look a little...shiny.

"Should I stop this?" I wondered. I turned my attention to my plate of kung pao chicken, which was also formidably spicy. And that was when the coughing started.

It was like a wave, beginning at the back of the restaurant and moving to the front. Patrons started clearing their throats, then quietly coughing and reaching for their sodas. Even the 3 year old at the table next to us, who had spent most of the meal staring in fascination at my blond, spiky haircut, began coughing little toddler-sized coughs. We were the next hit, and I felt my eyes start to water. The waitstaff, who were observing the situation, just looked knowingly at each other and shrugged.

Someone had ordered a spicy sizzling dish. Which means the entire restaurant got to partake in the experience.

David and I had heard about Sichuan Bistro -- located in an inconspicuous strip mall in Mason -- from several favorable reviews. We had been on a mission to find authentic Sichuan Chinese cuisine, which was not an easy task. Many Sichuan dishes use the so-called “Sichuan pepper,” an odd spice which could not be legally imported into the United States until 2005 and, despite the name, isn't even related to either peppercorns or chili peppers.

The Sichuan pepper actually contains a mild natural anesthetic, and when paired with hot chili peppers, creates a highly prized sensation known as "spicy numb." Yes, the hot peppers are still hot. And yes, you may start sweating profusely like David, but as for the pain that can usually accompany an extremely spicy dish, the Sichuan pepper takes care of that.

Kung pao!

David and I knew we were in the right place for authentic Sichuan dishes when we walked into the packed restaurant. There are two menus available, one with common Americanized dishes on it, and the other with authentic Chinese cuisine. Both menus are brought to your table when you are seated, no secret password necessary.

David and I each got a dish off of the authentic menu. David picked the black pepper beef ($12.99), and I chose their authentic kung pao chicken ($9.99). We also got some tasty crab rangoon ($3.99), which I am partial to.

Both of the dishes were excellent. We’ll definitely be back the next time we’re in Mason.

Sichuan Bistro on Urbanspoon