Honey Yogurt Berry Pops

Happy 4th of July folks!  The biggest Summer holiday that celebrates all the important essentials-- swimming, BBQing, soaking up the rays while sipping on some ice cold beer lemonade.  Are yall feeling me?  Aside from getting a day off work, 4th of July is actually one of the most important holidays in America as it celebrates the legal celebration of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain.  Pretty big deal guys, without the the Declaration of Independence America wouldn't be the land of dreams and opportunities known to so many people today.

With that in mind, we must be sure to celebrate her marvel and grace that is America.  Raise your glasses this year and celebrate your patriotism to the US of A -- be loud and be proud for being an American no matter what race, color, or religion and make a vow to be the best citizen you can be.  What we have here is beautiful and we should always take the time to cherish and appreciate what our founding fathers have done for us.  I hope you enjoyed that Independence Day PSA, I felt really patriotic after watching Team America last night: I am officially ramped up for this weekend.

Honey Yogurt Berry Pops
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Joy Zhang
Serves: 8
Bring on the fireworks, slather on that sunscreen and party hardy with family and loved ones. And if you're experiencing the same sweltering hot weather as we're having in Texas you'll appreciate this recipe for Honey Yogurt Berry Pops. It's a healthy way to stay cool and it literally takes a few minutes to make. I used the Norpro popsicle molds and they worked great, I recommend letting the pops defrost for 3-5 minutes before trying to pop them out.
  • 2 cups 0% Greek Yogurt, I used Fage (Chobani will work as well)
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1 cup mixed berries, washed (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)
  1. Blend yogurt and honey together in a large bowl. Fold mixed berries in. Transfer into a container with a spout so the mixture can be poured into popsicle molds. Fill popsicle molds close the top and put in popsicle sticks. Freeze for 3 hours or overnight.
  2. You can use any of the remaining mixture and blend it with some ice for a yogurt berry smoothie!

I love the wholesomeness of this recipe -- just 3 simple ingredients: fresh berries, fat free Greek yogurt and raw honey.  It truly is simplicity at its finest.  Since Greek yogurt has a thicker and creamier consistency and flavor than regular yogurts, these popsicles taste absolutely decadent without the guilt.  Using honey as a natural sweetener, it adds a nice floral body to the yogurt and brings out the sweetness of the berries even further.











Strawberry Lassi

Growing up, my relationship with my mother was far from harmonious.  We seemed to clash about everything: anything from curfew, clothes to taking summer school, piano – and oh yes, food.  From a young age I’d remember my mother telling me “You cannot eat candy or potato chips, they are bad for you and make you fat.”  So what would I do?  That’s right.  Eat candy and potato chips behind her back.

She was always nervous about my weight – I am a rather big-boned girl for an Asian but while I learned to embrace it, it completely geeked my mom out.  “You must watch what you eat, you big bone you get fat.” As she would scoot the fried dish away from me and smoothly replaced it with something steamed or boiled – “See, you mostly eat this and not that.”

I’d hate her for it.  I wanted to eat what I wanted, when I wanted without the pestering voice over my shoulder asking “SHOULD YOU EAT THIS XIN-XIN?”  Damn it, yes I should!  So from as early as I can remember until I was 18, my mom controlled nearly every meal I ate except for the occasional outing with friends and family.  She made sure I ate mostly vegetables that were both low in oil and flavor, we never had juices or sodas, and pizza night?  Forget about it, I never even experienced “delivery food” until my first sleepover in 3rd grade.  It drove me crazy and as I reached adolescence I started to take her pestering personally and began the downhill cycle of an eating disorder.

A lot of things were going on back then; my parents were fighting, I was still trying to figure out where I fit in at school, oh and the whole awkward puberty thing didn’t make matters any better.  My mother’s pestering soon became hurtful and her once “suggestions” became “attacks” to me – the only words I heard were “You’re fat.”   Combine that with the influx of magazines I’d read with the gorgeous leggy models and soon enough it became true: I’m fat.

I obsessed over every little thing I ate, or lack thereof.  I desperately wanted to be a size where my mom wouldn’t give me suggestions anymore – week after week, pound after pound, and before I knew it I was struggling to keep a pair of size 0 jeans on.  It’s the lightest I’ve ever weighed: 103.5 pounds yet it had to be one of the lowest points in my life.  I didn’t feel good, look good and was constantly tired.

I couldn’t take it anymore.  I went into my mom’s room one night and screamed “I’ll never be good enough for you! No matter what I do it’s never good enough.  You think I’m stupid, you think I’m fat! WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?”  She looked so confused – “When I say you stupid?  When I say you fat?”  I didn’t realize it at the time but she really didn’t say those things, or mean them rather.  But her reaction made me angry; I couldn’t believe she didn’t know what I was talking about.  I left it at that.  I eventually got over trying to please her and with the help of friends I eventually maintained a weight of 130 pounds by the end of my senior year in high school.

Going to college away from home was a huge milestone for me.  It forced me to make my own decisions without the constant watchful eyes of my parents.  Most importantly I was free to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, wherever I wanted.  Think of it like a kid and his very first time at a candy store – I didn’t even know how to handle it.  Late night snacks at 2 am, breakfast and lunch buffets at the cafeteria, deliveries to your dorm room, my mother would’ve been appalled.

By sophomore year, I had gained a whopping 35 pounds -- my mother’s worst nightmare had come true.  I was officially fat.  What the hell?  How did it happen so fast?  Just yesterday I was fitting into my size 4 jeans and looking fabulous and suddenly I find myself trying to hide my muffin top as best as I could under the fold of my size 10 pants.  Freaking lame, all the pesky suggestions I use to hate hearing from my mother were suddenly ringing in my head again – “Do not eat those fried things!  Oh tsk tsk, fast food Sooooo bad for you.”  Okay mother, you win.

It wasn’t until I went back home to visit her a couple years ago when I finally understood why she always pestered me.  By then, I’ve reached a comfortable weight of 135, worked out 4-5 times a week and ate a healthy balanced diet with the occasional treat.  For the first time in my life she said “Xin-xin, you look good.  Mommy no worry about you anymore, you take care of yourself.”  I lifted my shirt to show her my abs – “What do you think of those apples ma?”  She shook her head and laughed.  She sat down next to a box of pictures she was organizing “Sit down, I show you something.”

She handed me a thin, worn down tiny album – I opened it and gasped: there I saw my mom, FAT.  Mind you, my mom has maintained her weight of 130-133 pounds from age 30 to 55.  She has never fluctuated outside of that range in 25 years.  THAT my friend is called magic.

“You see why mommy always worry about you now?”

I couldn’t help it, I had to laugh “Mom, you can’t even see your eyes.”

“I KNOW!  I so fat back then, I embarrassing. I don’t even like to show these pictures, soooo ugly.”

I smiled and kissed her – “You’re not ugly mom, you’re beautiful.”

“NOOOooo...” She giggled as she playfully pushed me away – “But seriously!  You see why I tell you you cannot get fat???”

It all made sense now.  She just didn’t want her daughter to be her old chubby shadow, why didn’t she just say so?  In every dark cloud there’s a silver lining, without this experience I would’ve never learned to be creative when it came to cooking healthy.  I would’ve never learned to allow myself to eat what I wanted in moderation.  I would’ve never learned the negative effects of being underweight and overweight.  Most importantly I would’ve never learned to just love my body for what it is: big boned, curvy, beautiful.  So what if I’m not “petite” like the other Asian girls?  So what if my arms are kinda big?  I can still strut my stuff like Beyonce in some 4-inch heels any night and feel just as sexy as Adriana Lima (of course with the help of my Victoria’s Secret Miracle Bra!).

Embrace your body for what it is, love yourself because you’re fabulous, and if you want a piece of chocolate cake at the end of a long hard work day, treat yourself -- but to a small piece instead of the whole dang cake.  I love this Strawberry Lassi because it’s not as decadent as a strawberry milkshake, but just as satisfying.  The tartness of the yogurt immersed with the floral cardamom notes and fresh strawberries, makes this the perfect, healthy drink to welcome the simply beautiful Spring weather we’ve been having here in Texas.  So enjoy this recipe, sit back and relax and think about the importance of living a healthy life through food, exercise and spirit.   You only have one life to live, let’s make it a good one.

Ingredients for Strawberry Lassi (serves 4-6):

Prep Time: 10 minutes; Total Cooking Time: 10 Minutes

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries, trimmed and halved (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (whole-milk or low-fat)
  • 1 1/4 cup ice cubes
Purée strawberries with honey, cardamom, and a pinch of salt in a blender or hand held immersion blender until smooth. Add yogurt and ice, then purée until smooth again.  Serve immediately.  Feel free to garnish with honey, cardamom seeds or fresh strawberries. 

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with Brandy Soaked Strawberries and Chantilly Cream

If there's one thing in life I can't live without (besides french fries) it would have to be cupcakes.  Even on my worst days, if there was the perfect cupcake waiting for me at home all my troubles would melt away during that brief moment when I'm stuffing my face.
Let's get real people, life is too short to go on those crazy "no carb, no meat, no sugar aka nothing fun" diets.  I feel anything in moderation is fine, but don't get me wrong -- this recipe will definitely be hard for any normal person to resist from just eating one.  The secret ingredient for this chocolate cake is coffee, it really makes the chocolate taste richer adding a nice body to it and BOY is it moist!  Not to mention the grownup filling of the brandy soaked strawberries topped off with a sweet chantilly cream, these cupcakes would be perfect for any occassion.
I think one of my favorite parts about desserts is the give-ability factor.  Not only does it save YOU calories but you are spreading the love to others.  Whenever I bake I usually send some to my neighbors, friends and family -- it's kind of a nice unexpected "pick me up" for maybe a stressful, boring, or busy week.  Plus, when you give these bad boys away I can gurantee you will suddenly have many "best friends", hell, girls you may even win a husband with this recipe.  Anyways, enough talk about how freaking delicious these cupcakes are -- here's the recipe!
(I don't know why I can't revert my text out of italics -- WP is being strange, but I kinda like it :) ) Have a great weekend folks :)
Ingredients for Moist Chocolate Cupcakes: (Makes 12-18 cupcakes)
  • 1 3/4 cup All-Purpose flour
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup coffee

Preheat the oven to 350F.

For the chocolate cake, mix all of the dry ingredients together so they are evenly distributed.  Add the wet ingredients one at a time as listed, until fully incorporated.  This ensures the batter comes out nice and smooth. Line the muffin pans with cupcake liners and pour the batter about 3/4 of the way, leaving room for the cake to rise when baking.  Place in the oven for 20 minutes, you can check the doneness by inserting a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean it is ready (Because oven temperatures differ, if the batter is still wet leave for 5 minutes longer, repeat until done.)  Set aside and cool.

Ingredients for Brandy Soaked Strawberries:

  • 1 lb container fresh strawberries, cleaned thoroughly and hulled
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup honey

In a large container or bowl, whisk the brandy and honey together.  Small dice the strawberries and immerse completely in the brandy honey mixture.  Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour.

(You can use any remaining strawberries you don't use in the cupcakes as an ice cream topping!)

Ingredients for Chantilly Cream:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Using an hand held beater or electric stand mixer, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add in the sugar and vanilla and beat until just stiff.  Be sure not to over whip your cream, if your cream curdles gradually beat in more cream until it becomes smooth again.

To assemble cupcakes first cut a cone like shape off the top of each cupcake in order to create a space for the strawberry filling. (Baking Bites offers a nice step-by-step photos here.) Carefully spoon the brandied strawberries into each cupcake and place the lids on top.  Using a pastry bag with a star tip, apply the chantilly cream on the top of each cupcake -- you can be creative as to how you would like to apply the topping, I chose to do a simple swirl.  Decorate with chocolate sprinkles and sliced strawberries if desired.

Warm Mixed Berry Crumb Cake

Food Blog 183 Have you ever had one of those desserts that are so addicting that you could finish off the whole darn thing if no one was standing around to judge you? Every time I make this cake my fiance, Collin polishes the entire thing off within the first night.  It has never made it to see a second day hahaha.

I found this wonderful recipe on Food and Wine and just fell in love with it.  It is so delectable and would be perfect for the upcoming Holidays.  This week I will be featuring Thanksgiving food since it is right around the corner!  I am having my annual feast this weekend with friends and family so there will be a lot of good stuff posted this week :) Be sure to stay posted!

Food Blog 109

Ingredients for Berry Filling:

  • 3 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved (8 cups) **I used 2 pounds strawberries, 1 pint of blueberries (Thanks Kristan ^_^)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 1/2 tablespoons of water

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch mixture and allow the berries to stand for 30 minutes, until the juices of the berries have been drawn out a bit.   Pour the fruit filling into a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and set on a sturdy baking sheet to catch any overflowing cake batter or crumbles.  Meanwhile make the crumble topping.

In the original recipe, it asks to add fresh vanilla bean.  They are quite pricey so I decided to leave them out, you can always use a teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.


Ingredients for Crumb Topping:

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled


Mix all of the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Using your fingers, break the butter and form the mixture into a coarse clumps or "crumbles".

Ingredients for Cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups buttermilk


Mix the flour, baking powder and salt thoroughly in a medium bowl.   In a  beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and scrape down the bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk.  If you do not have buttermilk, you can use yogurt as a substitute!


Spread the batter over the fruit filling to the edges of the baking dish.  Sprinkle generously with the crumb topping and bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  The fruit filling will be bubbling, the crumb topping should be golden and test the doneness by sticking a toothpick into the center of the cake.  If it comes out clean it is done! Allow the cake to cool on a cooling rack.  You can serve it warm with a scoop of ice cream or eat it plain.

Food Blog 182

This dessert is an absolute delight -- it has a delicious crunchy topping with a moist crumble cake hidden underneath.  After breaking into the crust, the rich fragrance of the mixed berries rushes to your nose.  In every bite you get the warm berry filling with the gooey yellow cake with the nice buttery crunch at the end.

Food Blog 181

You honestly can't stop eating it, my fiance is living proof.  He walked up to the empty cake pan last night and looked upon it with sad eyes and said to me " Why is there never any leftovers for this cake?" -- that's because you eat it all Collin :).