Lip-Puckering Lemon Bars


Happy Holidays from Alina! I’m home in west Michigan for Thanksgiving — on a short break from residency interviews, which means some free time = time for baking experimentation! My mom baked us a pumpkin pie last night, so today I thought I would gravitate away from the traditional fall pumpkin spice/sweet potato goodies and try my hand at one of my favorite desserts: the lemon bar. Smooth, delightfully tart custard with a buttery shortbread base… I start drooling just thinking about them. Local plug: one of my favorite lemon bars EVER is from Detroit’s Avalon International Breads — they add fresh raspberries on top.

Lemon bar from Avalon

Since this was my first time baking these and berries are a bit out of season here in Michigan, I stuck to a traditional, nothing-but-lemon version. I like my lemon bars super tart–hence the title of this blog post :)–so here we go:

– 1 cup salted butter, softened (if using unsalted butter, be sure to add a little bit of salt to your dough!)
– 1/2 cup white sugar
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp lemon zest

– 6 eggs
– 1 1/3 cup white sugar
– 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
– 1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 6-7 small lemons)
– 1 tsp lemon zest
– powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


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2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, blend the softened butter, 2 cups flour, and 1/2 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle with 1 tsp lemon zest.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until firm. Allow to cool in refrigerator or freezer for 10-15 minutes.


4. Meanwhile, mix the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, 6 tbsp flour, and 1 tsp (or more if you like!) of lemon zest. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice. Pour over the cooled crust.



5. Bake for an additional 30-32 minutes. Sift some powdered sugar over the top while warm (so it sticks!), and then allow to cool in the fridge for a couple hours before slicing.


Let the mouth-watering commence.



Lemon-y, tart, slightly sweet; pucker those lips!



Alina’s LA Whirlwind

Hey everyone! Since Marika and I are on different schedules with residency interview season headed into full swing, we will be sharing some eats with you from our travels and everything in between! I was recently in Los Angeles for a mere 36 hours for Step 2 Clinical Skills. As the name suggests, this is the second part of our board exams: 8 hours consisting of 12 timed standardized patient interactions and note-writing after each encounter. It was quite the day, but fortunately I had the opportunity to taste some signature LA fare during my short visit. I stayed with an old med school roommate who is now a first year resident at UCLA, so she showed me some of her favorite spots.


The night before my test, we went to Tsujita, a ramen noodle restaurant whose specialty includes tsukemen, which is a type of ramen where you dip your noodles in a separate bowl of broth before eating. At Tsujita, they simmer their tonkotsu broth for 60 hours (DEDICATION) before adding seafood for a subtle sweet flavor and thickness. I ordered their standard char siu (barbecued pork) tsukemen with an ice cold matcha green tea. 🙂


Thick, udon-like noodles with char siu
Thick, udon-like ramen noodles topped with char siu
Rich tonkotsu broth with a hard boiled egg
Rich tonkotsu broth with a hard boiled egg


That broth… should be pictured in the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition for umami. It was thick, creamy, rich, and bursting with savory flavor. On point, Tsujita.

We also ordered the negi ramen, a more classic ramen bowl with tons of thinly sliced green onions and a soupier broth. Also delicious. If I came when I was less hungry, I would definitely go for this.


To wash it all down, my refreshing iced matcha green tea.

Check out that green!
Check out that green!


Of course, you can’t go to LA without trying some Korean BBQ in Koreatown. So after my exam, we hit up Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. According to my friend, this is the best K-BBQ in the US; some say even better than the BBQ in Korea!

They’re known to have long waits, but luckily we were able to snatch a table right away (thank goodness, because I was starving). Our table had already been set up with multiple banchan: kimchi, a bean sprout salad with gochujang (sweet-spicy red chili paste), a bowl of broth with pickled radishes, pajeon (scallion pancake), and a large slice of kabocha squash topped with syrup and nuts.


If there is one thing I’ve learned from eating Korean food, it’s that they never skimp on sides: little morsels and bites here and there to go with your main dish. In addition to our small dishes of banchan, the grill was encircled with a trough divided into four sections. One contained more kimchi (because no such thing as too much kimchi), another contained corn topped with shredded cheese, another with raw peppers and onions, and lastly, a server came and poured an egg mixture into the final section as our grill heated up. As we continued to dine, the cheese melted over the corn, the egg mixture turned into velvety scrambled eggs, and the vegetables cooked down.

For the meat, we ordered the beef combo, which included marinated short rib, brisket, boneless short rib, and marinated pork collar. We each were given a small dish of a dark vinegary dipping sauce with fresh jalapeños, onions, and a smear of wasabi on the side to to mix in. The combo also came with a hearty seafood tofu stew, which was excellent. LA doesn’t get many cold days, but it was one of those soups I could picture myself cozying up with in the heart of a Michigan winter.

The restaurant was bustling!



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The brisket, my favorite
Pork collar
Pork collar

Undoubtedly, this was the best Korean BBQ that I’ve ever had. All of the meats were perfectly marinated and exquisitely tender. Between three of us, we finished every last bite. We certainly left with full and happy bellies that night.

But not too full! After dinner, we drove to the 85C Bakery in Gardena, since I had never sampled their baked goods before. They’re known to make some of the best Asian baked goods out there, so of course I purchased a large assortment to bring home to my roommates for us all to try (though I may have played a major role in finishing them all, oops).


So many to choose from!
So many to choose from!



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My favorite was the one that looks like a giant muffin — fluffy milk bread with a blueberry cream cheese filling. One “taste” turned into gobbling up the rest of the pastry in less than 60 seconds. Also pictured: chocolate chip loaf, milk bread with raisins, milk bread filled with white chocolate, coconut cream roll, honey loaf, matcha red bean roll, sugared cream cheese brioche, and chocolate bread with chocolate chips. Talk about carb nirvana…

All bundled up for the trip back to Ann Arbor
All bundled up for the trip back to Ann Arbor

It was all-around a great trip away from chilly Michigan, and I was very sad to leave LA. The few tastes I had assured me that I will NEED to be back again! But before I close this out, no trip to California is complete without In-N-Out. I had never been, so we took a late night jaunt on my last night to round out my visit. Animal fries anyone?

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Red or Green? A Southwestern Foodie Adventure.

Hi all! Marika here. It’s been far too long since our last post, but third year of medical school is no joke! We spend too many hours to count in the hospital, caring for patients, learning clinical skills, and taking endless exams. Sadly, there is often little time to eat so that means grabbing whatever is quick and portable in the cafeteria (chicken tenders anyone?!).

Needless to say, we haven’t been in the kitchen much lately. But the most wonderful time of medical school has arrived: fourth year! Yes, there are residency applications and interviews, but there is also precious free time. For the bogged down medical student, that means traveling, getting back to our beloved hobbies (cooking!), and cramming as much fun as we can into these few short months of freedom.

So, let me give you a glimpse of my most recent food escapade during a trip to my home state: New Mexico! The state’s official question is “red or green?” You can tell a native from a tourist by either their quick response or their puzzled stare. We are talking about red or green CHILE. New Mexicans put chile on everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.

My personal preference? Green! And I ate as much as I could during my three day trip.

First up, the beloved breakfast burrito. I have never found a breakfast burrito like the ones in New Mexico. They take hash browns, bacon or sausage, cheese, eggs, and chile — frying all the ingredients together on the grill to meld the flavors and then wrap it in a soft flour tortilla. Always order it SMOTHERED (aka covered in more chile and cheese). This one was from Palacio, a tiny, family run restaurant in Santa Fe. The authentic food is enhanced by the warm and welcoming couple who bus the tables, take the orders, deliver the food and man the register!

IMG_9316Next stop? An Albuquerque staple, Flying Star. It has everything from buddha bowls full of stir fried veggies and brown rice to green chile cheeseburgers and the best rhubarb pie I’ve ever had!IMG_9447

But to reach my goal of most green chile eaten in one weekend, I had to order the green chile stew. Their version is thick, hearty, and full of spice. I was so overwhelmed by the dish in front of me, I mixed in the cheese and sour cream and took a giant bite before realizing I hadn’t taken a picture yet!


A stop in Albuquerque’s Old Town isn’t complete without visiting The Candy Lady. This chocolate and candy shop has been around for over 30 years, and the white chocolate red chile fudge is a sweet and spicy treat that leaves your lips burning.


IMG_9467Next up, a place that was a childhood staple. The one place my brothers and I never disagreed upon for breakfast, and the restaurant I stop at every time I’m back home, without fail. Weck’s.

IMG_9460If I had to choose one last meal to have on this earth, it would definitely be the Papas Original at Weck’s. This is a mountain of fried hash browns, bacon, sausage and ham, topped with two fried eggs and smothered in cheese and green chile sauce unlike any other. A fresh flour tortilla cuts the heat and sops up the extra green chile. It is my own personal nirvana.


I took half with me to the airport as my final taste of home before heading back to Michigan, where green chile is a mysterious condiment rarely seen outside the canned food aisle of the grocery store.

And with that, I promise more regular posts to come as Alina and I rekindle our relationship with the kitchen (and all-around good eats)!

I’ll leave you with a view of the Sandia (watermelon) mountains, the backdrop of my Albuquerque home, known for their spectacular pink color at sunset.


Chewy Marshmallow Caramel Crisps

_DSC0390Bonfire night at Marika’s last night called for these delectable treats! Graham cracker bars topped with gooey caramel, marshmallow, almonds, and coconut. Yum! Alina’s mom found the recipe in an old cookbook years ago, and we modified it a little bit (i.e. added chocolate, obviously). From start to finish, these buttery bites will take you no longer than 30 minutes to whip up! It’s also such a versatile recipe that you could customize with all sorts of other nuts and toppings.

– 12 honey graham crackers
– 2 cups mini marshmallows
– 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
– 3/4 cup butter
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
– 1 cup shredded coconut
– 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an ungreased 15x10in baking sheet or dish with the graham crackers and sprinkle the marshmallows evenly over the crackers. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract over medium-low heat. Stir until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.

2. Pour evenly over the crackers and marshmallows, and top with the almonds and coconut. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

3. Cool completely and cut into bars.



Hellooooo Summer!

What a whirlwind the past few months have been! We studied for one of the most important exams of our medical career (USMLE Step 1 board), traveled to a tropical paradise in Kauai for a week to unwind, and have since started our 3rd year clinical rotations. Needless to say, that hasn’t left much time for cooking lately. But we were craving our nightly Hawaiian meals, which usually centered around poke. Since sushi-grade tuna is way out of our budget here in Michigan, this summer shrimp salad is a pocket-friendly alternative. 🙂

View from the Napali Coast in Kauai
View from the Napali Coast in Kauai
The whole crew enjoying a night out on the island
The whole crew enjoying a night out on the island

Ok, now for the good stuff: Asian-Style Summer Shrimp Salad


Ingredients (serves 4):
– 2 lb raw, peeled, deveined shrimp
– 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
– 1/2 tsp ground ginger
– crushed red pepper flake, to taste
– black pepper, to taste
– 3 small avocados, cubed
– 1 cucumber, sliced lengthwise
– 3 bunches green onion, chopped
– 2-3 tbsp lime juice
– 2 tbsp soy sauce
– 3/4 tsp sesame oil
– toasted sesame seeds
– seaweed salad (optional)
– coconut oil


1. In a large skillet, sauté the shrimp and garlic in some coconut oil. Season with pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and ginger. It should only take 3-5 minutes until the shrimp are fully cooked – don’t overcook! Transfer to a plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


2. Meanwhile, chop the veggies and toast the sesame seeds.


3. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the seaweed salad and mix well. Serve immediately or chill for later (it’s best the same day!). Garnish with seaweed salad and additional sesame seeds.



Healthy Breakfast Hash


Who doesn’t love brunch? We decided to do a healthy spin on the breakfast hash that’s just as hearty and satisfying as our favorite brunch spot version. Cozy up with a bowl of this simple and quick dish on your next lazy Sunday.


Ingredients (modified from Cooking Light; makes 4 servings):
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 medium red onion, vertically sliced
– a palmful of dried thyme
– 4 garlic cloves, minced
– 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
– 2 medium zucchini, cubed
– 1/4 cup water
– 4 oz kale, stemmed and chopped
– 3 cups fresh spinach
– salt and pepper, to taste
– 4 eggs
– your favorite hot sauce (optional)


1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add the thyme and garlic, and cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the sweet potatoes, zucchini, and water; cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.


2. Stir in the kale and spinach, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes until the greens wilt.

3. Meanwhile, make the eggs to your preference. We went with over-easy–can’t go wrong with the runny yolk!

4. Top each serving with an egg and some hot sauce, if you’re feelin’ spicy. We also mixed in some sliced avocado on the fly.


Super Bowl Sunday!


We didn’t want to be cliche and make the standard buffalo hot wings for the super bowl, so we decided to go with honey Sriracha wings! These sticky, zesty wings are baked to crispy perfection and finger lickin’ good! If you’re a fan of spicy, we promise you will go crazy over this glaze. Recipe is adapted from Damn Delicious.

Ingredients (serves 4):
– 2 lbs chicken wings
– 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1/4 tsp ground ginger
– salt and pepper, to taste
– chopped fresh cilantro (optional garnish)
– toasted sesame seeds (optional garnish)

– 5 tbsp coconut oil* This ended up being too much… try 3 tbsp!
– 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
– 1/4 cup honey
– 1/4 cup Sriracha (we also mixed in some Vietnamese chili garlic sauce)
– 1 tbsp soy sauce
– juice of 1 lime
– 1/2 tsp rice vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.


2. To make the glaze, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour until lightly browned, which takes about a minute or two. Stir in honey, Sriracha, soy sauce, lime juice, and rice vinegar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened. Ours seemed too oily at the top, so we had to skim some off so that the glaze would stick better to the wings.


3. In a large bowl, combine the wings, melted coconut oil, garlic powder, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.



4. Place onto a baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Next, drizzle the glaze over the wings, and broil for 3-4 minutes, until crispy.


5. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and/or chopped cilantro, if desired.