Thursday, December 25, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Cookie 11 & 12 - Toll House Chocolate Cookies & Dried Fruit Cookies

Merry Christmas! Here is the assemble of the Christmas cookie gift tray! Almost time to go to the Christmas party! I did not get a chance to take the picture of the toll house chocolate cookies but you all know what it is anyway.

The last one is the dried fruit cookies. This is not your traditional fruit cake kind of cookie. It has dried figs, raisins, candied cherries, honey, chopped pecans, fresh lemon juice, dry sherry. all mixed into the sugar cookie base dough. Delicious! Hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Cookie 9 & 10 - Pina Colada Cookie & Thumbnail Cookies

It is Christmas eve! And the snow finally stops. It has been snowed for days and the snow piles are so high that it could bury a car. Here are the next 2 cookies. The first one is the thumbnail cookie. I make this one every year since it tastes good and looks nice as the gift for my co-workers and friends. It is the sugar cookie mixed with coconut flakes and topped with apricot jam, raspberry jam, black berry jam and cherry jam.

Pina Colada cookie is a new recipe I try this year. It is a cream cheese based cookie. Mix with coconut flakes and crushed pineapple. Taste great and very light. The sky is getting dark and all the Christmas lights have started to shine. Wish everybody has a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Cookie 7 & 8 - Apple Butterscotch Bar & Gingersnap Cookie

The snow just would not stop. It dumps another 3 inches last night and will continue to snow another 3 to 5 inches today. All the snow shuffling and work almost leave me no time to bake and post. No need to go to the gym for a while thanks to all the snow shuffling. I actually have completed the baking of all 12 Christmas cookies but could not find time to post them. Anyway, here is the apple butterscotch bars.
This is a very moisture cookie. The crust is made of butter, graham cracker crumbles. Then, sweet condensed milk, chopped apples, butterscotch chips, coconut flakes, and chopped pecans are put layer by layer on the top of the crust. Very interesting flavors! The next one is the gingersnap cookie. The name says it all! The dark molasses combined with ground ginger and crystallized ginger! Now it is time to go back to work so I can go home earlier to clean the snow of driveway again!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Cookie 5 & 6- Seven layer Cookie and Anise Cookie

At the end of the big snow we got yesterday, there was at almost 15 inches (38cm) snow on the ground, I just could help but jump on the snow and make a snow angel! That was just one the few fun we could get besides the hours of backbreaking snow shuffling. And the weather forecast says that the next snow storm will get to here again tonight and dump another 6-9 inches (15 cm to 23 cm) snow tonight to tomorrow morning. With the snow we just got yesterday, we would not be able to see the cars from the other directions on any intersections. Bad bad winter.

Continued the holiday cookie feast, here is the popular 7-layer cookie. What are the 7 layers? They are butter, graham cracker crumbles, sweet condensed milk, semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut flakes, and chopped pecans! Again, I replace the graham crackers crumble with gluten-free flour substitute mixture + brown sugar + salt + baking powder so even the gluten-free diet friends can enjoy it. It made the crust more soft and moisture but still very tasty.

Next is the anise cookie based on the recipe from one friend's grandmother. I have made it several years. It is a complicated cookie to make since it requires a long cold storage process to get a glaze on the cookie.

Friday, December 19, 2008

12 Inches Snow And 12 Days of Christmas Cookie 4 - Mint Chocolate Rice Crackers

Have I mentioned that I am so tired of snow already? It's the biggest snow storm so far this year. It drops 12 inches (30cm) of the snow since midnight last night and still comes down more. You cannot even see the road on this picture anymore. It causes a mess on the roads and all local schools are closed. The police department asks people to stay at home and off the road if possible. Guess it will be another day to work from home.

Here is another batch of cookies I made. They are the rice crackers covered by mint chocolate and sprinkled with ground mint candies. So even the gluten-free diet friends can enjoy them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Time Is Office Indulging Time!

Finally, we got the first Christmas gift from the vendors. It is a big 60oz glass jar of mixed-nuts. There are walnuts, pecans, almonds, and macadamia, all roasted with salt. Half of the jar has been gone in less 30 minutes!Talking about getting yourself some winter fat!

12 Days of Christmas Cookie 3 - Raspberry Chocolate Bars

This is my favorite cookie bar this year. The crust is made of brown sugar, vanilla extract, flour and oats. It is covered with a layer of semi-sweet chocolate chips then another layer of raspberry jam. Finally, the streusel made of the same ingredients as the crust on top. Yummy!

And it snowed another 5 inches (13 cm) last night and caused the usual traffic problem again this morning. The usual 30-minute commuting time became 1 hour. And the weather forecasts says that there will be another even bigger one tomorrow afternoon to Friay morning. It predicts up to 1 foot (31 cm) snow accumulation. If you like white Christmas, this will be your chance to visit mid-west!

Friday, December 12, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Cookie 2 - Lemon Heaven Dessert Squares

It is finally Friday! It is extremely cold today. The highest temperture is only 10'F (-12'C) outside. The clear sky just makes it even colder and the sun really does not help that much.

Here is the second cookie I made last night, lemon heaven dessert squares. Nice pastry crust made of flour, oats and lemon zests. The filling is made of condensed milk and lemon juice. It's the nice combination of sweet and sour. Happy weekend and no more snow!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Cookie 1 - Million Dollar Cookie

Another 5 inches of snow today. It has been snowing almost every other day so far in the past 3 weeks. I cannot remember the last time it snows so much and so early. The temperature falls down to bitter cold as well. It feels like early February but it is only early December! Look like it will be a long hard winter again.

And it's the time of the year again for 12 days of Christmas cookies! Since it snows so much outside, I work from home and make a batch of the "Million Dollar Cookie". It is basically the sugar cookie with find ground pecans mixed in the dough and rolled with cinnamon sugar outside. Yummy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

RSNA 2008

It is the annual RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) meeting at the McCormick Place in Chicago. It predicts about 62,000 people attend this year's meeting which takes over almost the whole McCormick Place. My workplace provided a bus to send employees down there for one-day meeting. It took almost 2.5 hours to get to there for the usual 1.5 trip due to the bad Chicago rush hour traffic and winter snow. Once we got there, as you can see from the picture, it was already packed with all the medical doctors and scientists.

It's always interesting to attend this kind of big show to see all the new products from the industry. There were lots of expensive equipments from the companies and expensive suits from attendants for sure. One of the interesting thing was this mock up of the MR scanner covering with all the fake fruits and flowers. Guess they want to go green too! Overall, it was OK since nothing special was shown. The good thing was that we got to go to Chicago Chinatown for a good lunch!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

German Apple Pie

The second Thanksgiving dessert is ready! Time to go! Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake

It's almost Thanksgiving time! I made this delicious peanut butter chocolate cheesecake. The crust is made of cocoa powder, ground peanut butter chips, vanilla wafer. And the marble kind of cheesecake contains 2 flavors: peanut butter and chocolate! Yum!

Note: As promised, here is the recipe:


* CRUMB CRUST(recipe follows)
* 3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
* 1 cup sugar, divided
* 1/2 cup dairy sour cream
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
* 3 eggs
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1-1/3 cups REESE'S Peanut Butter Chips(reserved from crust)
* 1/4 cup milk

1. Heat oven to 450°F. Prepare CRUMB CRUST.

2. Beat cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, sour cream and vanilla in large bowl on medium speed of electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs and flour; beat until blended.

3. Beat cocoa, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and oil with 1-1/2 cups cheese mixture in medium bowl. In small microwave-safe bowl, place 1-1/3 cups peanut butter chips and milk. Microwave at HIGH (100%) 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at HIGH an additional 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted when stirred. Gradually add warm peanut butter mixture to remaining vanilla batter; beat on high speed 5 minutes.

4. Spoon peanut butter and chocolate mixtures alternately over prepared crust. Gently swirl with knife or spatula for marbled effect.

5. Bake 10 minutes. Without opening oven door, decrease temperature to 250°F. and continue to bake 30 minutes. Turn off oven; leave cheesecake in oven 30 minutes without opening door. Remove from oven to wire rack; with knife, loosen cake from side of pan. Cool completely; remove side of pan. Refrigerate until serving time. Cover; refrigerate leftover cheesecake. 12 servings.

1-1/4 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1-2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) REESE'S Peanut Butter Chips, divided

With knife or food processor, chop 1/3 cup peanut butter chips (reserve remaining chips for cheesecake batter). In medium bowl, stir together
crumbs, cocoa, powdered sugar and butter. Stir in chopped peanut butter chips. Press firmly onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan or 9-inch square pan.

Monday, November 24, 2008

First Big Snow

It started to snow late last night. We got the first official big snow today. It is white everywhere. Even though it is only about 2 inches, it has already caused quite some traffic problems. Fortunately, lots of people have started the vacation either go deer hunting or leave for Thanksgiving. It is a quiet week in town. I have not quite decided what desserts I will make for the Thanksgiving dinner when I go to my friends' house. So far, it seems that I will make a German Apple Pie and Peanut butter Chocolate cheesecake.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Waited 2 Hours In Line But Could Not Get In To Vote

I waited in line for 2 hours this morning since 6:20am but still could not get even close to the poll place. There were almost another 100 people in the front of me when I had to quit and went to work around 8:30am. The line moves so slowly due to the problems of lots of unprepared people for registering to vote the first time. The preparation work of the poll place is really not good. They should have a separate line way outside the poll place for on-site register so the rest of the pre-registered people can just get in to vote and get out. I will try to leave work around 2:00pm to see if I can get in to vote.

Note: Got back to vote after work around 6:30pm. Got in and got out in less than 30 minutes! And Obama is our next president! Yay!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I made these cupcakes for my nieces and nephews for the Halloween. They were banana cake flavor with vanilla (orange) and chocolate (black) frosting as the spider webs. They all loved it. We went to trick or treat in their neighborhood and the weather was beautiful around 50'F (10'C) and clear sky. They got so many candies that they almost could not carry all the goodies home. It was just a fun Halloween this year.

Monday, October 27, 2008

No! What Is That?

I cannot believe my eyes! It is only October, not even Halloween yet. I don't like those cold white ice from the sky! Way too early for that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beautiful Autumn Colors

The autumn color is in its peak now. All the trees change to different layer of yellow, gold, orange, and red. We are very lucky so far that the weather is still sunny and warm around 60'F (15'C) during the daytime. Nothing is better than having a nice walk under the comfortable autumn sun in the woods. Now I just wish that I could get out of the work earlier. :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Back From DC

Came back from DC late last night. The trip was great and I really needed it. It has been almost 12 years since my last time there as a summer intern for several months. One of my friends there showed me around and things changed so much that I barely could recognize most of the places. None of the bars or restaurants we used to hang out with after the work exist there anymore. And the neighborhood surely changes a lot.

My friend and I used to walk from UDC to Dupont Circle to catch the Metro. It is nothing like what I used to remember. There are so many new condos and constructions going on that the whole area is just different. Lots of young people, even young family with kids and strollers, walk around the park, which you would never see back then. Even the National airport (before it was named as Regan airport) has expanded so much that I could not find the right terminal anymore. Guess I am getting old! LOL.

The leaves really start to change colors and head to the peak. It is just so beautiful to see all kinds of colors on different trees. And some of my co-workers start to bring in the extra apples from the apples in their yards. I guess it is time to make some apple pies!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Trip To DC On The Weekend

The nice maple tree in the front of my place has turned into gold and orange. And the weather is just great and around 70'F. I will travel to DC tomorrow and come back on Sunday. Just a short trip to visit a friend. Really need to get out of town and get away from the work for a while. Happy Friday!

Update: This is what the tree looks like now!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


All the mums in garden are in full bloom now since it has become very cool. The temperature is only about 55'F (12'C) in Wisconsin now. I have been back from Taiwan for almost one and a half week. However, I have been worked almost 14 hours per day since I came back. Really stressed. By the way, thanks for the nice comments about my mom's health condition. She is doing very well now. The doctor was able to remove the infection area and said that my mom should recover fully. She just has to go back to hospital every 2 months to get checked to make sure no more possible cancer cells are there. I will try to find some time to post some pictures taken back home.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Typhoon Approaches And Ruins the Moon Festival

The typhoon Sinlaku has turned into a 200 mph level 4 typhoon and will impact Taipei tonight and the following 3 days. It was supposed to be Moon festival on this coming Sunday but now I think all the celebrations, picnics and outdoor concerts will all have to be cancelled for local people here. I will just stay home with my parents and watch TV I think. The 60% high humidty and the 90'F (34'F) weather really drives me crazy. Even the smallest movement will cause me sweat a lot.

My sister and I accompanies my mom to her doctor appointment yesterday so the doctor could do a more detailed check and took more tissue samples from the possible cencer infected area. The result would take almost a week to come out but my sister has used her connections so that the result
will be available sooner. We will plan to go back to review the result with the doc to decide how soon the surgery can be performed to remove the infected area. Hope that they can perform the procedure before my planned flight back to US schedule.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Family Emergency

I have been home for several days and currently try to deal with an unexpected family emergency. My mom went through a routine health check last week and got a notice one day before I got home that she has very early stage of the cervical cancer. My sister and I are trying our best to get her into the hospital as soon as possible. So far, we are lucky to get the early appointment with one of the best cervical cancer doctor in the country on this coming Thursday to do more detailed check and maybe the surgery to remove the whole womb next week. I am just happy that the condition got found so early and I come home to visit at the right time so I can take care of her.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Head Back Home For Vacation

It has been 2 years since I went back home to visit my parents in Asia. I will start my 27-hour trip tomorrow morning. I will first leave from Milwaukee to Detroit, and wait for 4 hours at the Detroit airport to catch the next 15-hour flight to Osaka, Japan, then wait for another 2 hours there and catch the next 3-hour flight to get home. Once I get to the airport back home, it will be another 1.5-hour bus ride to get my parents' house. I cannot say that I will enjoy the long journey but it is worth seeing my parents again after so long. Maybe I will have some pictures to share when I am back to US.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Worked In Cleveland

I have been traveled quite some for work recently. Spent the whole week in Cleveland, Ohio for work last week. The leaves have started to change color even though it was only the end of the August. The weather there had become very cool at night and rained a little. The autumn seemed to be around the corner soon there. Fortunately, it was still fairly warm during the daytime when the sun was out.

I was actually there for the training of some work stuffs. The faculty took us all to a nice dinner at the last day of the training. We originally planned to go a Thai restaurant but we did not find out that it apparently was out of business when all about 20 of us drove to the place. We then decided to switch to a Caribbeans restaurant. It had this very big stone fire pit that we could all sit around and enjoy our food. The only problem was that the heat created by it was too much for us since it was still around 70'F (20'C). The restaurant manager came to turn off the fire but the heat was still lingering around for hours even after we left. Overall, it was a good training. I flew back home on Friday night and right got into all the hypes of the Harley-Davidson 105th anniversary biker week. The traffic jam was just bad. It will be the story of next post.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Strawberry Cranberry Pie and Garden Hibiscus

Summer almost reaches the end and the weather just stays cool this year. The hardy Hibiscus in the garden is in the peak now. It is covered by almost 20 big white with pink edges 10" diameter flowers everyday. Each flower is the size of an 8-year old kid (measured with my niece's head. :) )

It is also the peak season of the fresh strawberry. They are in decent price and look so delicious in the store so I have to buy some. I remember that I still have some frozen cranberries in the freezer so I make this strawberry and cranberry pie with oatmeal/brown sugar streusel on the top of the pie. The sour taste of the cranberry counter balances with the sweetness of the sugar and strawberry. Yum! Have several big trips coming up in the next several weeks so I guess it will be a busy September for me. Just wish that the summer can stay here longer. Really don't want the bitter winter comes back too soon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Work In Arab Festival

The summer passes so fast here that the fear of winter not far away is almost overwhelmed. OK, not try to write a horror novel here. This year is just very cool and wet so far. The temperature never reaches 90'F (33'C) so far and it is the 5th time that ever happens since the record of southeast Wisconsin weather exists. All garden flowers are significantly delayed to grow and bloom. Some flowers such as Cannas or Dahlias might not even get a chance to bloom if the early frost arrives in September.

Worked in the Arab festival on this past weekend as a Red Cross first aid provider again. The whole festival ground was very quiet despite the nice weather. It was sunny with mild breeze and the temperature was around 70'F (20'C). The music and food were good but just not many people there. My nieces and nephews were there and they had a great time to ride the camels. It was just a nice weekend. And as you can see from the picture, they are gearing up to get the festival ground ready for the upcoming Harley-Davidson 105th anniversary big event in 3 weeks. It will be quite a traffic jam again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Summer Movies Reviews

It has been a very busy summer so far. Outside the daily work, there are lots of yard works and volunteer works for the local Red Cross chapter. Even so, I still got to see lots of summer movies. Finally, I got a little bit time to spare to write reviews about some of them. Let's talk about the action packed one first, that is, "Wanted". I actually really enjoy this action movie directed by the Russian director who made the "Day Watch" and "Night Watch". It is full of the strangest stunts (CGI) you have never seen before. The fast-paced plots and interesting visual composure make this one even better than the "Hellboy 2". Now we talk about "Hellboy 2". It continues the monsters creation trend from the first one and some humor plots. However, the script seems to be tired and just not quite there. Some part of the movie actually is a little bit slow.

Now we come to some comedies. The first one is the bad "Love Guru". Even with the shameless promotion in the American Idol, its box office still tanked. It was one of the worst movie I have ever seen. Don't even waste your time to rent the DVD. Enough to say about that one. "You Don't Mess With The Zohan" is much better. The typical Adam Sandler comedy similar to his early work like "Big Daddy". It contains lots of sex related jokes. Don't expect too much from it then you will enjoy it. The last one is "The Dark Knight". There are lots of reviews out there already. As everybody else mentions, Heath Ledger did an incredible job to make "the Joker" very realistic. It is such a dark movie that you will be hardly to feel happy after seeing it. The only problem I have with it is the way they deal with the character, "Two-Faced". The character is rushed through and completely wasted. However, the movie has already reached the length of 2 hours and 32 minutes so I guess the director has done his best. Hope these help if you have not seen any of those movies yet.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bomb Stand-Off In City Hall Close To Work

There is apparently a stand-off in the local city hall cross the street from my work office here. No wonder multiple helicopters have been circled above in the air for almost 2 hours. We went out for lunch and the police blocked the main road so we had to make a big detour to get to the lunch place. We check on local news website and it seems that a person has locked himself in the city hall bathroom and claimed that he has the explosive device on him.

OK, they just report that the person has been taken into custody. And we just saw the police cars drove away and removed the road block. Good that nobody got hurt.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Guess What I Got?

Guess what I got? Saw it during the shopping at the Sam's Club and got one immediately. It talks, dances, sings, and does silly moving as you saw in the movie. It comes with a remote that you can even program different moves. By the way, its eyes will light up as blue when it moves/sings/talk/dance! Quite an interesting toy!

Also went to see "Hellboys 2". Very great visual effects and interesting monsters. Some parts of it was a little bit slow but overall was very entertained. The line for "Dark Knight" was too long so I would wait until next weekend when the everybody else has already seen it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lilies In The Garden

The summer is in its full strength now here finally. The sun blasts the hot heat around 90'F (33'C) and almost 70% humidity. It almost thunderstorms in the afternoon everyday, which is rare for Wisconsin usually. Plus the long snowy winter and the spring flooding, this year will be one of the wettest year in the recent history for sure.

The positive thing about the heat and rain is that all the plants in the garden start to grow fast and all the flowers start to bloom finally. This is the 2nd season of the Orienpet Lily in the garden. They really fully develop this year and carry lots of big flowers about the size of 8 inches (20cm) in diameter, or the size bigger than most of people's face. And it grows almost 7 to 8 feet high and reaches the roof.

Besides, the daylilies in the garden are in the peak blooming season now. All the different colors, sizes and patterns of the flowers really make the garden look great. At the night time, the garden is fully of the fireflies sparking all over the place. Of course, I also spotted a big buck eating some of the Hostas flowers the other night after dark. Guess the stupid deer was smart enough to pick the best salad bar in the neighborhood!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Kids Birthday Party

Had a great weekend to celebrate the birthdays of my 8-year-old nephew and the twin 6-year-old nieces. Since their birthdays are just one day apart, we celebrate their birthdays together. However, as you know, kids really do not like to share birthday cakes. So I made 3 individual furry aliens cupcakes with their individual favorite colors, blue, yellow, and purple.

In addition, I also made this orange marmalade cake with orange juice, zest, walnuts, and marmalade. It was decorated as the summer sun rings with the kids' favorite colors as well. I also made some of the cupcakes with the same ingredients. They were quite light but had great summer sweet citrus flavors.

Everybody seemed to love them since all the cakes and cakes disappeared so fast that I almost did not get to taste one. The weather was gorgeous, sunny, low 70s (22'C) and breezy. Kids got to play outside with their birthday gifts, the new scooters. I was just amazed how many tricks they could do on that small scooter. It was really a nice weekend.