Baked Plums with Blueberries and Mascarpone

I first fell in love with poetry when I was in middle school. I chuckled at William Carlos Williams’ silly-sounding name, but I loved his simple and tangible words even more. The first time I read his “This Is Just to Say”  aloud, I could feel the cold deliciousness of his icebox plums rolling across my tongue with the lines I spoke.

Ever since, I’ve viewed plums somewhat romantically, as strange as that might sound. Something about this fruit makes me feel safe and warm, evoking childhood summers as treats like condensed milk do.

These simpletastic baked plums make an effortless dish that perfectly suits a nostalgic evening. Not too sweet and not too sour, it’s a just-right summer dessert. Though I prefer this dish warm, the chilled mascarpone adds a little sweetness and a touch of the icebox-coldness from that poem I love so much.

Classic wonton soup

No kid grows up in Taiwan, where I spent my first 18 years, without learning how to make dumplings.

Yes, dumpling stands are ubiquitous on the streets of Taipei, but making this takeout favorite at home is a special kitchen project for most families. Especially when the Lunar New Year rolls around–dumplings are served at practically every traditional feast as an auspicious food–everyone gathers around the kitchen table, grabs a spoon for scooping filling, and gets busy wrapping.

I recently published a recipe for wonton soup in New York Family as a good indoor activities to do with kids. This thin-skinned and triangular-shaped variety of dumplings is easier to wrap than the thicker-skinned kind with scalloped edges. But the truth is that every so often, when I’m craving something cozy and familiar, it’s a whole of of fun for me and the Asian friends I rally into the kitchen, too. For us, the recipe is delicious and hassle-free–and it tastes like home.

Brussels sprouts braised with bacon and apple

Bacon makes everything better…even brussels sprouts.

I found this recipe in The Bacon Cookbook during my recent bacon frenzy and really loved how beautifully all its flavors came together. For those of you who aren’t usually fans of bitter veggies, the apple does a great job of balancing out the mini cabbages. And I know bacon speaks for itself, but I wanted to sing praises for how its savory smokiness adds delicious depth to the dish anyhow.

Since it was my first time cooking brussels sprouts ever, I wanted to make sure I was doing the prep work correctly. Because the sprouts I picked up at the market were rather large, I chopped them in half and scored them according to this video instead of cutting Xs on the bases.

All in all, it’s a deliciously buttery dish that’s hearty enough for a rainy spring day and bright enough for the luckier days of nicer weather. Mm mm good!

Bacon peanut butter truffles

There aren’t many ingredients I love more than bacon, so it’s not a huge surprise that I turned to The Bacon Cookbook for my next culinary project. Though I was looking for dinner dishes more than dessert, as someone who loves sweet-and-savory concoctions, I couldn’t resist some bacon peanut butter truffles.

These did turn out a little messier than I’d prefer. Part of this was probably due to substituting some of the butter with bacon fat, following The Wicked (Awesome) Whisk’s adaptation, for a stronger flavor of bacon. The chocolate coating didn’t set and harden perfectly, since the recipe doesn’t call for tempering, and I opted to skip the cocoa powder. I’m guessing it didn’t help that I used chocolate chips instead of bars, which are better for tempering, or that I might’ve been a little impatient and heated up the chocolate a little too quickly.

Some other notes: I didn’t have a food processor, so I chopped the peanuts with a knife. Because the peanuts weren’t ground as finely as they would have been if they were put through a blender, the truffle filling was slightly lumpy. Next time, I’d up the peanut butter and use less peanuts. The bacon was easy to handle, since it was so crispy.

Despite the messiness, the truffles were amongst the most delicious things I’ve made. What can I say — bacon never ever fails to please!

My favorite cheap eats in Taipei

I could hardly believe when I “met” Kelsey Freeman on Twitter last summer that she was about to embark on a 10-week trip to France on $1,000. I wanted to know her secret — I’m young, I’m poor, but I’m an insufferable Francophile — how did she do it?

She realized that traveling is about priorities. She’d rather people watch than go to a museum, for example, and she’d rather enjoy the countryside for a month than Paris for a week. It’s all about what’s most important to you and what you are or aren’t willing to give up. It’s a simple but brilliant point, and in planning my recent trip to Europe, I made similar judgment calls: saving on housing was more important than being in the city center and walking is preferable to paying for public transportation.

But the one thing I always have a hard time compromising on is great food — which is why I’m always so happy to visit my hometown of Taipei. When it comes to eats on this tiny Asian island, you rarely have to choose between taste and price. Sure, the city has it’s share of tremendous fine dining establishments, but a more than satisfying meal can easily cost less than $3 to $5 (tax included).

One of the first stops I always make when I’m home is a small mom-and-pop eatery right next to Wellcome supermarket in Tien Mu Square. I’ve been a loyal customer since my high school days at the nearby Taipei American School, when my friends and I would make a lunch outing here every couple of weeks. Even now, I usually opt for the wonton and bean sprout guo tiao, or thick rice noodles, with some shared sides to round out the meal. The noodles themselves are less than $2, and the bill’s rarely come out to over $3 per person.