Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Snickerdoodles

Among all the holiday desserts and Christmas cookies surrounding us, these pumpkin cream cheese snickerdoodles are a distinct standout.

They are a pumpkin-y spin on the classic snickerdoodle, with a dollop of cream cheese at the center. I mean c'mon, pumpkin and cream cheese, who's not into that? As the cookies bake, they fill the home with pumpkin and spice scents that call forth the joys of wintertime.

For real, these may be in my top 5 cookies of all time. In fact, if you end up making these, may I request that you send a few my way? Thanks.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Snickerdoodles

print this recipe

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
a pinch of cardamom
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cinnamon-sugar coating:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash of allspice

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom together. Set aside.

In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugars on medium high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Blend in pumpkin puree, beat in egg and then add vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients on low speed just until combined. Cover and chill dough for an hour.

To make the cream cheese filling, blend cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together. Chill for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and spices for the coating and set aside.

To make the cookies, take a tablespoon of the cookie batter. Flatten it like a pancake and place a teaspoon of the cream cheese in center. Form another tablespoon of the cookie batter into a flat pancake shape and place on top of the cream cheese. Pinch the edges together sealing in the cream cheese and roll into a ball. Roll in the cinnamon sugar coating and place on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. Repeat until the dough is gone.

Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes or until the tops start to crack. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack. Makes about 24 cookies.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Speaking Out Because It Matters

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, 
but the silence of our friends.” 

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Today I am adding my voice to the ones crying out for justice. In the aftermath of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and too many others, I am joining with those who are saying "Enough is enough!"

I've stayed silent for a while. Why? There are lots of reasons, if I'm honest with myself. 

I've been silent because I'm an Asian American who has the privilege of choosing to ignore problems because they "aren't mine." I haven't experienced painful interactions because of the color of my skin. I am neither white nor Black, and don't know where my place is in the race conversation. 

I've been silent because there are lots of vocal people around me who have insights and opinions, and I haven't known how to add to the dialogue. Media, Facebook, and Twitter are rich with people taking a stance, so what more could I say? 

I've been silent because in my anger, sadness, and confusion, I've felt stuck in how to even put words to everything. I've started typing several posts, but end up deleting them because they don't accurately convey what I want to say.

I've been silent because I am afraid. I am afraid of getting off the sidelines. I am afraid of stirring the waters and getting uncomfortable. I am afraid because taking a stand for something puts you in the line of fire. I am afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I've been silent because the problem is so huge, and I feel so small. I don't know what to do, so inaction has felt like the best option.

But no more. 

Today I refuse to sit silently while so many people around me suffer, weep, and struggle. Silence and neutrality isn't simply inaction - it communicates that things are okay. And thing are not okay

So here is what I need to say:

I am joining with my Black brothers and sisters as a friend, advocate, and ally. I am horrified by what is happening to the Black community in our country. It is evil and deplorable. Black lives are being devalued, and that is not okay. Black boys and men live in fear of the justice system, and their basic human rights are not being protected. We are NOT in a post-racial society. I stand in agreement with Jim Wallis who writes America, We've Got a Problem, and believe that the problem is one that we all share.

I hear the outrage and pain, and I care. I may not know how exactly to respond, but I'm committed to trying. In whatever ways I have influence, power, and a voice, I am choosing to use those to respond and take action. I am willing to listen and learn.

There are some things I do know that I need to do. 

I need to help my family engage in dialogue about race. I will help my kids be aware of justice and power. I will help them develop compassion for the marginalized. I will help empower them to rightly see themselves as influential in the world around them. 

I need to repent of being silent, and cease abdicating my own voice and responsibility. I will speak out on behalf of those that are hurting, and assume some responsibility in advocating for what is right. 

I hope there are others outside of the Black community who will join in. Injustice for some means that there is a problem that needs to get addressed. 

Even if all we have is our individual voices, may we each add our own as we work toward change. It's time to speak out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

10 Things I Learned in November

At the end of each month, I write about things I learned. This practice has helped me pay attention to life, myself, and God's presence. In no particular order, here are things I learned in November:

1. How to cut hair at an 11 o'clock angle. I learned this while researching hair-cutting techniques. Snipping with your scissors angled at a slight 11 o'clock angle creates the most natural looking trim, without being too blunt.

2. There is no such thing as too many Thanksgiving leftovers. I want more turkey and stuffing.

3. Getting to spend time with my grandparents is limited and precious. My Goong Goong (grandfather) has lots of health issues, and was taken to urgent care recently. He got transferred to hospice care, and is hanging in there, but we all are very aware that the time he has left is waning. It feels like a special gift to be with him, and have our kids get to know their great grandparents.

4. Alex, our two-year-old daughter, has entered into the "NO, I DO IT!" stage. Lord, help us.

5. How to make a homemade gingerbread latte. YUM. Since I've made it my holiday goal to consume as much gingerbread as possible, this discovery was good news.

6. An animated movie (Big Hero 6) can make me cry five times. 

7. Most of my Facebook friends/acquaintances have thoughtful and challenging insights about the racial tensions in the U.S. I'm grateful for people who can have healthy dialogue about difficult matters.

8. House of Cards Season 3 is being released in February. Oh happy day!

9. With each passing year, I have increasing distain for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and general holiday consumerism. 

10. Our family thrives when we live in community with friends. Our housemate Ryland moved in earlier this month, and it's been great to have him here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hair Matters

In very important news, I cut my hair last week. By myself, with a mirror and scissors. After years of not doing anything at all with my hair besides growing it out, I decided that bangs were in order.

A hearty thanks to my sister-in-law Seisha - she suggested I try the Taylor Swift/Heidi Klum blunt bangs. Seisha and I are hair buddies...I cut her hair, she gives me hair advice. There's lots of trust.

Okay, back to the hair. I watched several helpful YouTube tutorials on "how to cut bangs," and learned some helpful techniques. Then choppity-chop, and I did it.

My naked forehead looks huge. Bangs to the rescue!

I can still wear my hair up, which is a must in Honolulu's hot humidity.

Guess how many times it took to get this shot with my hair just so 
(and not blowing around in the wind) with the pretty sunbeams? 
Too many for me to feel okay about. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Happy Things for the Solo Parent

Steve is away this week on a work trip. He usually has these trips about once a month, so we're learning how to make it work with our family life. On my end, even though we've done this a few times, I still need to intentionally find ways to help the kids and myself thrive. Here are a few happy things I've been doing this week to enjoy the solo parenting:

1. Go on a walk with my toddler.
2. Take a trip to Starbucks and guiltlessly splurge for a gingerbread latte.
3. Try a new haircut. 
4. Bake and cook with the kids. Aaron wanted to make mochi, so that's our fun activity for this afternoon. 
5. Facetime or text with Steve when I need to connect with my faraway spouse. 
6. Do spontaneous things with the kids. Unplanned trip to Costco because the kids enjoy the samples...why not? Say yes to things they want to do (unless it's Aaron asking if I will play the card game War with him. Then it is ALWAYS no.)
7. Have lots of story time with the kids on the couch. 
8. Take naps while my toddler naps. 
9. Ask a friend to watch the kids so I can be alone for a few hours. 
10. Cook simple, quick meals.
11. Go to sleep earlier than usual. 
12. Connect with friends who get me.
13. Watch Top Chef, Parenthood, or other fun, mindless TV.
14. Be okay with less showers, messier floors, and dirty laundry.
15. Stretch and do yoga. 
16. Give kids some crayons, Scotch tape, and paper. Let them create!
17. Read.
18. Take a few deep breaths and let go of expectations for how things "should go."

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Stores are already stocked up on Christmas decor, but can we revel in pumpkin season for a little bit longer? Spicy pumpkin desserts deserve their heyday.

I'm going to risk being heretical here, but I say skip the pumpkin spice latte (gasp!), and make this pumpkin chocolate chip bread instead.

I've made this pumpkin bread many, many times, and it is delicious. It's sweet, spicy, and moist. Add in chocolate chips, and it'll take you to new levels of joy. The recipe makes 2 loaves. One for you, one for a friend if you feel like sharing. The bread also freezes well, so you can enjoy some later.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

print this recipe

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9x4 1/2 (or 8x4) loaf pans. 

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla extract, and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. 

Pour into the prepared pans, and bake for 60-70 minutes (or 50-60 minutes if using smaller loaf pans) until a toothpick inserted in the loaves come out clean. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Empty Yet Full

"I feel like I have very little energy, but still so much to give."

This is what I told a friend the other day while we chatted on the phone.

Physically, I am downright tired. Halfway through this pregnancy with our third child, I am waddling around with a heavy belly. Every movement takes more effort, sleep is an uncomfortable battle, and I need to muster up all my internal resources to just make it through the day. After our two kids get into bed, and the dishes are done, and I can finally just lay down, I feel spent.

And yet...

There is something happening in the deeper parts of me that is energizing. I feel my spirit filling and stirring with love and joy and hope. I have a growing sense of vision for my own life, and a confidence that I have so much to pour into other people. When I think about our growing family, relationships with friends and neighbors, and even interactions with strangers, I get excited about the possibilities of experiencing more of this love, joy, and hope. And I feel certain that the pool of resources doesn't come from me, but that I have unlimited access to it.

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." This is the invitation that reverberates in my soul these days. Embrace your emptiness, and be filled.

And as it goes from a nice thought to an experienced reality, the invitation and Inviter seems like the best gift I could ever dream of receiving.