EATS: Crème brûlée


We got into watching Master Chef Junior recently.  In one of the episodes, Christina Tosi was astonished that a child made a crème brûlée under 45 minutes.  I was astonished that a child could make a crème brûlée.  I mean, I only get to eat crème brûlée when I go to a fancy Franch restaurant or bistro, so of course I have to investigate how to actually make a crème brûlée during Memorial weekend.

After leafing through a bunch of cookbooks and watching homemade youtube videos, here is my version.  Hope you find this useful!

EATS: Crème brûlée

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar (100g) for the custard part
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar (50g) for the brulee part
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 whole vanilla bean (optional)


  • Preheat the oven to 325F and boil water for the loaf pan for baking later
  • Place your ramekins on the loaf pan, taking care that there is enough room to fit all the ramekins
  • Whisk the yolk and granulated sugar in a bowl until smooth; set aside
  • Heat the heavy whipping cream with salt in medium heat.  If you want to elevate your dessert with the luscious speckles of vanilla bean, halve a whole vanilla bean with a paring knife, scrape out the vanilla seeds, and place the entire content into the cream pot
  • Watch the cream and turn off heat immediately when it starts to simmer.  This is when the recipe is testing your patience, I know.  Maybe this is a good time to practice your tree pose, or call your mom or dad.
  • Stir in the vanilla extract and take out the vanilla bean if you had it in there before
  • Start whisking the yolk mixture with your dominant hand, then add a ladle of the heated cream with the other hand into the bowl in a steady, measured motion.  The point is, you need to be using both hands: whisking the yolk mixture while pouring the hot cream in.  You want to temper the yolk so that it’s not cooked like scrambled eggs.  Don’t get nervous!  Just keep whisking and don’t pour the cream in too quickly, and it will all work out.  Promise!
  • Keep stirring in more ladlefuls until the egg mixture is warm.  Mine took about 3 ladles.  Then pour in the entire content of the bowl back into the pot with the cream, all the while whisking the pot steadily.  Some recipes call for heating them again.  I did not.
  • Pour the cream mixture into the ramekins.  Go ahead, fill to the top!
  • Pop and break any bubbles; or scoop them out with a tiny spoon.  This step is optional, since you’ll be covering the top with brûlée sugar anyway.  But I want my custard to come out looking smooth (must be my upbringing as an chawanmushi enthusiast growing up in Taiwan).
  • Fill the loaf pan with the water you boiled to about 1/2″ in height; taking care not to get the water into the ramekin.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 min and check.  The middle should still jiggle a bit.  If the middle looks firm, you’ve over cooked it.
  • Place the ramekins on a cooling rack; then place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 3 hours (see, I am as shocked as Christina Tosi now!).
  • Right before you serve, pour enough granulated sugar to cover the top of the ramiken.  Shake the ramiken horizonally to distrute the sugar evenly.
  • Torch the sugar until the surface is golden brown.  Like this:


  • Let cool for 5 minutes
  • Now go enjoy all the ooohs and the aahhhhs from your admiring guests
  • Crack that golden delicious sugar shell, dig in, and enjoy!
  • If you are married to a drummer, he might show his appreciation for his good luck by doing this:
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Every Day I Don My Armor- A Physician’s Account

covidWe leave to go to war every morning knowing our risks. I did not sign up to be a soldier, yet here I am.  My job is to heal and I took an oath.  In Fabruary, I purchased three new pairs of scrubs and a new pair of clogs, because there was no more mixing of street and hospital clothes.

MK and I went over our contingency plans over wine in mid March; then more contingency plans over tears (mine). We went over with the then 12 year-old Plumster (she is 13 now!) on how to take care of herself: how to do laundry; how to disinfect the kitchen; how to leave food at the quarantined door and quickly leave. I don’t know how not to be scared, but I need to push on.

With the #stayhome order we are avoiding a surge, thus allowing scientists and doctors to figure out how to combat this pandemic. There are new solutions, new problems, new insights, new possibilities, new symptoms (CDC just added a few more!), hitting at us every day. I have FB on all day now because it seems to be the fastest, most centralized place to get the most up-to-date information from all the national physician news groups.

On a much less horrific scale compared to the frontline healthcare workers in Brooklyn, every day really does feel like Groundhog Day.  I walk into my office, decontaminate my entire workstation with bleach wipes( keyboards, phone, chair, faucets), then I wipe down all the doorknobs around my office, up and down the hallway, including the staff bathrooms.

I try to use telemedicine inside my office as much as I can. If I really need to see an inpatient face-to-face, I need to be mindful of the different levels of possible viral load: the elevator, the floors, the emergency room, the ICU.  Keeping track of my fingers and where they land: all the buttons I have to press, all the keyboards I need to click, all the doors I have to open.  Hand sanitizers, hand washing, hundreds of times a day.  My fingers cracked; my ears raw; my nose dented.

I try to remember every conversation I have with my patients so that I get all my work done at my own desk, the one I bleach-wipe at least twice a day. I try not to breathe too deeply all day.  I try not to let the fogged eye shield, nor my pinched nose, nor my squished ears bother me.

When I go home, I change out of my shoes inside my car. My family is used to not coming near me when I get home, though I do have to yell at my dogs for licking me.  I strip and rush to the shower as soon as I get home to decontaminate myself and hot wash everything my body touches.  I feel like a robot sometimes. Actually, scratch that, I feel like a robot most of the time. Do not feel, just proceed. Do not introspect. Do not fear.

And I do all of this from a relatively clean environment. I can’t fathom what will happen if our hospitals are packed with COVID-19 patients, filled to the brim with horrors and sorrows. I check up on my mom daily who lives alone in NYC. There is no cure and no vaccine for COVID-19, so all we can do is to flatten the curve to give healthcare providers and scientists more time to come up with ways to fight and to protect.

With states lifting their social distance orders, I am stricken with worries about what awaits us in the near future.  I fervently pray that the COVID-19 epicenter scenario will not repeat elsewhere.  Please do your part in reminding your community how important it is to keep our neighborhood safe. Please wear masks, wash your hands, and be safe.  Spread love, not germs.

Thank you.

Posted in CAREER, NEW ERA | Tagged | 1 Comment

EATS: Smokey Spicy Garbanzo Snack

Ever since we watched The Game Changer, Plum and Monkey King have dived whole-heartedly into the blissful world of plant-based eating.  So if you love your whole roasted chicken, brisket, pork shoulders, duck confit, beef tenderloin, quail, seared salmon, dover sole, clam bake, lobster (can you tell how much I miss these?), DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, let your family anywhere near that movie.  But if you want something to convince you and your loved ones that being a vegetarian is a heatlhy choice, by all means, head on over!  This movie will transform and energize your resolve to become a vegetarian.   With our drastic shift in food consumption, I started looking to beans and other proteins sources. 

Garbanzo, also known as chickpeas, is packed densely with nutrients, providing rich protein, dietary fiber, folate, iron, and phosphorus.  Soaking and cooking garbanzo beans increase their protein digestability, essential amino acid index, and enhance protein efficiency ratio.   I am a big fan of those savory roasted green pea snack that you typically find in Asian food markets, so I want to make my garbanzo bean a little spicy and savory that we can snack on, or put in a rice bowl with green veggies.  After several tweaking and multiple requests from Plumster who is addicted to this snack, here is recipe.  Hope you find this helpful!

EATS: Smokey Spicy Garbanzo Snack

Ingredients (serves 1-4, depending on how good you are about sharing)

  • 1 can of 15.5oz Garbanzo beans (or dry beans soaked overnight)
  • Paprika powder, 2 Tbs
  • Salt, 2 Tbs
  • Garlic powder, 2 Tbs
  • Cayenne pepper, 1 Tbs or nore if you want it more spicy
  • Tumeric, 1 tsp
  • Ground ginger, 1tsp
  • Extravirgin olive oil, generously drizzled, approximately 2 Tsp


  • Preheat the oven to 350F
  • Rinse and drain the garbanzo beans
  • Lay out the beans in a single layer on the rimmed sheet pan and pat dry well
  • Mix the dry powders in a bowl; this recipe can give you enough leftovers for a second round
  • Sprinkle 2 Tsp of the powder mix evenly
  • Drizzle about 1 to 2 Tsp olive oil, enough to cover the beans
  • Wash your hands carefully again ((please soap for 20 seconds during the COVID 19 outbreak!) and dry.  Then carefully MASSAGE the spice oil together, watch the video below.  Your hand will get quite messy.  
  • Sprinkle another Tsp of the spice powder mix all over

  • Roast in the oven in 350F for 40-45 minutes
  • Resist the temptation to open the oven door while the aroma infuses the kitchen
  • Before cool down, you may add a sprinkle of sea salt to taste.
  • Enjoy!  We eat it both as an afternoon snack and as a side dish to our dinner.  Either way, you’ll be glad that you have that extra powder mix to make another batch soon (tomorrow?)! 


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Snowboard Trip Woes

How do you nurse a sprained ankle and knee,

Not to mention the ribs that are bruised and sore,

The answer is simple enough to see:

A fireplace, wine, and a movie, of course!


Because of this fall, by my last count,

The days I missed snowboarding: three.

Although I was tucked up safe and sound,

It was FOMO agony.


Although relaxing is a perk,

There is no denying that:

It’s much better to sweat and work,

And to have fun, to bat.


Poem credit: Plumster!








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A Story of How My Daughter Won Her Case of Doubling Her Dessert Intake


Plumster was not feeling well yesterday.  I decided to make her chicken soup, followed by one of her favorite desserts: cupcakes!  I would like to say that her favorite cupcake is the one lovingly prepared by me from scratch.  But no, she prefers the mini dozens that come in a clear box from our local supermarket.

Me: Plum, after you finish your chicken soup, you can have a cupcake.

Plum, eyes lit up: Cupcake!  The mini ones that I like?

Me, feeling triumphant: Yes!

Plum: Can I have two?

Me, now a little irritated: Two?  I give you an inch and now you want a yard!

Plum, without missing a beat: Mommy, I am only asking for two inches!  If I were to ask for a yard, I’d ask for thirty six cupcakes.



Posted in EATS, Fun Math, KIDS, PARENTING | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lean IN?

Life of a physician mother:

2pm, BOSS sees me heating up my (late) lunch in the common room, stops by to talk (me, starving, wishing I can get a minute ALONE to eat): I eat a big breakfast and big dinner, so I don’t have to eat lunch.

Wait, is he trying to tell me NOT to eat my lunch?

Me: I don’t eat a big breakfast because I don’t have time to both 1) make the breakfast; and 2) eat the breakfast.

I did not point out to him that I was at the office like, two hours before he showed up.

BOSS: When I get home, my wife has my dinner ready at 5:30. I wash my hands, sit down, and enjoy my meal. That’s the way to do it. She prepares a nice soup, and yeah, she is great cook.
Me: Well, I pick up my daughter at 5:30pm on my way home, take her home or to her afterschool activities, make sure she does her homework, then I make dinner for my husband and my daughter.  And yeah, I enjoy my meal, too.

4pm, boss leaves for home to wash his hands to enjoy his dinner prepared by his lovely chef wife while I try to get my work done.

Yup, work-life balance is a bitch.

Posted in CAREER, HEALTH, HOME, MUSING | 2 Comments

Dead in the Yard?

In the middle of the night, my husband came by my desk as I was wrapping up some work, looking alarmed:

MK: There is a dead possum in our yard. I believe our dog killed it.
Me, not fully comprehending the implication (rabies! blood gushing out! ewww!), but excited at the prospect of going outside to get some fresh night air: WHAT? Let’s go see!
MK and I walked out to the backyard and lo and behold, there was a small animal lying stock-still on the ground.
Me: How does one dispose of a dead possum? Do you think the police will laugh at us if we call them?
MK chuckled: Yeah, for sure.  Maybe it’s playing dead. I’m not going to touch it.

After silently staring at this ugly animal for 3 minutes in disbelief, both of us crouching on yard chairs, we decided to come inside in case it was playing dead.

Me to the dog: I can’t believe you killed a possum!
MK to the dog: It’s ok, I understand.  It’s in your nature.
Me to MK: but if she killed the possum, shouldn’t we have heard them?  It was so quiet!

I examined the dog, and didn’t see any blood nor scratches on her.  I fed her a Dental Chew™ as a test: if she happily chowed down the treat, she probably didn’t bite off any animal meat; but if she didn’t care for her favorite treat, then chances were high that she might have had a midnight snack (eeewwww!).

MK to the dog and me: Oh, good idea, she needs to clean her teeth!

She happily (might I add, lovingly) chowed down her treat.

Went back to the desk, googled “dead possum in yard”.  Apparently, you leave them there for four hours in case it’s not dead.  HA! So Monkey King was right.

I walked to the room with a view of the yard and turned on the outside light. A pair of beady eyes the color of squid ink stared straight back at me.  Its head moved an infinitesimal millimeter, but I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating, willing it to move so that we didn’t have to deal with a dead possum tomorrow morning. I called out to Monkey King to come take a look.

MK: oh yeah, the head is in a different position!
Me exhaling, turned to the dog: Wait, you just let a possum come wandering into our yard without notifying us?

Back to the desk, googled: “live possum in yard.”

Do you have possums in your yard? How do you get rid of them?

Also, 30 minutes later, the possum was gone.

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