olympics trip recap!!!

Ok!! I am back from the Olympics, and holy buckets, this has been the craziest wildest ride. I am so excited to tell you all about it!!! First I’m going to reel in the exclamation points because I’ve officially used up my allotted amount for the year but just know that literally every sentence here is said with 12 imaginary exclamation points. 

Prologue, four days before we left Grand Forks: I had just found out from the Olympic Channel that they were looking to have me do a few arts and culture segments in Korea but I had also just found out that my passport was going to be missing the expiration deadline by two weeks! It needs to be valid for six months after traveling from the United States to Korea and mine would have been valid for five months and two weeks. Oy vey! So I immediately flew down to Minneapolis to go to their passport office, crossing my fingers and toes that I’d be able to get a new passport in time, and also carrying Passport shaped cookies to hand out to the office. Duh. That all went swimmingly! Everybody at the office was so gosh darn pleasant, especially in explaining to me that they weren’t actually allowed to accept my cookies, and I was in and out of there with a new passport in an hour. It made me love Minnesota even more.

So then! We quickly figured out all of our details with the Olympic Channel which was bonkers with the 15 hours time difference between Grand Forks and PyeongChang, but we got it done and by Tuesday night we had confirmed flights. Seven hours later, we were on our way to the airport! 

We saw our friend Ben on the plane and I gave him a passport cookie. 

It was a 14 hour flight and my dad advised me to absolutely, under no circumstances, sleep on that plane so that when we arrived at night in Korea, we could just have a good night sleep on their local time and then ideally avoid bad jet lag. It took one movie for me to pass out for half the flight. But we still had time to watch Three Billboards (dark), Ingrid Goes West (also dark), and When Harry Met Sally (classic!), and then also eat bibimbap and a little ice cream sundae and quiche. We arrived just as the sun was setting in Seoul and then drove east across the country, through the mountains, to PyeongChang. 

When we rolled into town, we saw the opening/closing ceremony stadium, the ski jump thing, and a bunch of ski slopes all lit up. Our hotel was in a cute Alps-inspired area at the bottom of a ski hill, right next to the big luge slide. 

Day 1: In the morning we drove the hour or so over to Gangneung, where all of the ice rinks are (figure skating, curling, speed skating, and hockey each have their own arena there). It was the men’s short program for the team figure skating event, AKA NATHAN CHEN LIVE. From the moment he walked into the arena, I couldn’t stop omg-ing, I couldn't believe I was seeing him irl. Even just watching him warm up and skate in circles around the ice was magical and beautiful. Like, imagine Yo-Yo Ma playing scales, even the simplest things were incredible. 

We spent the rest of our day seeing the huge broadcasting center where the TV stations have offices, having our first sit down meal (an amazing sweet beef stew at a little restaurant near our hotel), and then going to the Opening Ceremony. 

My favorite parts about the Opening Ceremony were: the food (spicy rice cakes! chicken skewers! sweet yeasted pancakes!), the drummers, and then screaming my head off when Team USA walked in. “Gangnam Style” was perfectly timed for their entrance. Ooh and then we all lost our minds when the shirtless oily Tongan flag bearer walked in.

Day 2: I interviewed Tara and Johnny!!!!!! We talked all about food and you can see that video here. They were so sweet and I just couldn’t stop smiling the biggest smile. After that, Eggboy and I explored the Gangneung Olympic Park. We ate lunch in the spectator’s cafeteria, where I was really hankering for some bibimbap but it was sold out so I got the lasagna which was fine because it’s the year of lasagna 🤷🏻‍♀️. And then we traded some of our Olympic Channel pins for some gems from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics: funeral potatoes and bologna sandwiches. These pins were made for me. For dinner, we ventured outside of the Olympic park and found an adorable family owned BBQ restaurant where we communicated to the owner via a translation app that you speak into and the lady in the phone translates it and spits it back out. The owner’s mother grew all of the vegetables used in the side dishes and everything was delicious. 

That night we had our very first short track speed skating experience and it was mind blowing. Have you ever seen it?! I thought we were in the future. Or in space. Or in another galaxy. Starlight Express! Their speed and smooth movements were completely superhuman. And what made it even more exciting was that speed skating is huge in Korea, so the place was packed and loud and everyone was going nuts and the South Korean president was there. So were the North Korean cheerleaders. There was so much energy in that building.

Day 3: Sunday broke down into two parts, part 1: watch figure skating, part 2: eat everything at the food market. I can’t possibly imagine a better way to spend a day, can you?? The skating included seeing Bradie’s clean Olympic debut, the Shib Sibs in the sparkliest sparkle outfits I’ve ever seen, and the Knierims’ beautiful long program. I couldn’t stop bouncing up and down, being in shouting distance of these skaters and seeing a lot of the things that you can’t see on TV, like their talks with their coaches, the reactions of their team members as they’re skating, and all of the warmups were so cool. And I got to meet Ashley Wagner, who was so sweet, and explained to me that, yes, all of her super awesome Nike warmup outfits are available to the public.

Even though we were trying to save room for the food market, we got so hungry during the skating and needed a snack, which, at the ice arena concession stand, meant our options were Pringles or bunless hot dogs. Lol. We ate so many bunless hot dogs throughout the various skating events that I'll probably associate live figure skating with bunless hot dogs for a really long time.

After the skaters crushed it, we went to the Gangneung Central Food Market and ate a bunch of tasties!! Olympic Channel posted a facebook live of their editor Marc and me eating some of the most popular things there. Check it out here.

On Sunday night, my friend from college June visited!! It’s been at least like six years since we’ve seen each other, way way too long. June is the best! <3 <3 

Day 4: More skating!! And I really shouldn’t have worn mascara because between Mirai nailing her long program and Adam being his stunning self, I was so weepy. It was amazing. The Shib Sibs, of course, were totally great and clean, and then what happened at the end was that I was completely won over by Virtue and Moir, from Canada. I mean, I’ve always known they were good, but usually when they’ve been on TV in the past, I’d be busy tweeting about the Shib Sibs or, before that, Meryl and Charlie. But seeing them live, they had this globe of energy around them that radiated throughout the arena. They didn’t just compete, they performed, and I couldn’t not fall in love with them right then and there. (And like, they’re definitely in love irl, right?? right?!!!)

In the afternoon, we went to the Olympic Village to interview Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureaux who are on the Team USA hockey team and from Grand Forks!!! I’d heard their voices on the local radio station tons of times but never actually met them so I was soo excited to meet them. They were so nice and cool and they also love cheesy pickles :) Watch the full interview here

I tried so hard to sneak into the dining hall when I was in the Village, I desperately wanted to see what the athletes were eating and show all of you but only the athletes were allowed in and I’m really awful at trying to sneak into things. But I was able to see the Village snack shop where I found coleslaw flavored popcorn, chocolate bamba-y things, Emmental cookies, and things called “mayo shower potato sticks.” Obviously I bought them all and so far I’ve only tried the mayo shower potato sticks, which were light crunchy salty sticks that tasted like mayonnaise and onion, I loved them.

That night we ate BBQ with Ben and Josh in Gangneung. We talked about all of our hot takes on the ice skating and ate spicy crab and bulgogi.

Day 5: On Tuesday we explored Yongpyong, another area in the mountains, where the alpine skiing takes place. The Swiss hospitality house is there, which is set up like a little Alpine village where you can eat Rösti and Raclette and shop for Swatches. And the Swedish hospitality house has a Swedish meatball stand set up outside, it's so cute. The Team USA house is there too but we weren’t allowed in because we weren’t athletes and finally that was our cue to start brainstorming sports that we could try to qualify for in the next Olympics in. Do you think that Pita from Tonga would want to be on a Curling team with us?

I made a new friend, Rosie, who is competing in the cross country 30k on the last day!! She told us to go to the cross country sprint that night so we put on all of our layers of clothes (it was so windy!) and made our way to the other side of the mountain that was right outside of our hotel window, which required a whole lot of schlepping against the wind. We thought, “ok, we’ll cheer on the Americans for a few events and then we’ll go warm up and get bbq in town” but then when we arrived, it was like we had found the best party in PyeongChang and we never wanted to leave. The K-pop was blasting, the Norwegian fans were decked out in Viking outfits and being rowdy, everybody was drinking, and we found pork buns at the concession stand!! It was totally insane. And I suddenly felt really short because the place was packed with really tall Scandinavians. Eggboy, who is half Norwegian, blended right in and we cheered for the American and the Norwegian skiers. It was so fun, it made me want to go to Norway and also learn how to cross country ski.

We ate late night dumplings that night, it was the best Valentine’s day eve ever.

Day 6: We visited our new friend Brett, who is a nutritionist for the ski team and their chef, Andy. We learned about how the skiers eat (lots of good fat and protein!) and what they have on their birthdays (healthier cupcakes). And Andy told me about a corn dog casserole that he made a few Olympics ago for one of the athletes. I’m going to make it.

Then we ate bulgogi pizza and booked it to the airport! I slept almost the entire way back and now we’re home. We avoided norovirus, which I attribute to excessive usage of hand sanitizer and A+ hydration, and terrible jet lag, which I attribute to limiting my coffee intake (sounds counterintuitive, but my quality of sleep and ability to fall asleep when it was night time in Korea was suddenly remarkable).

And there it is! I truly didn’t think it’d be possible for my excitement for the Olympics to grow, and yet here we are. It’s so cool watching the broadcasts now from home and being able to spot the seats that we sat in, and of course our new bffs Tara and Johnny hehe. 

For more of my photos and vids, check out the Olympics highlights stories on my Instagram. And of course, I cannot thank the Olympic Channel enough for this insanely awesome opportunity!!! Check out their site for tons more Olympic vids and pics :) 

-Yeh!!

valentine's day almond cake

After last year's Valentine's cake disaster, there were some things at stake: my pride, my confidence in my ability to carry on my family's decades old tradition, my craving for this almond cake which had only grown stronger after having to practically miss out on it last year. Sure, it wasn’t the worst Valentine’s day situation there ever was (that’s what boys are for! hahaha, jkjk Eggboy), and sure I’d recovered from effed up Valentine’s cakes in the past, but gosh geez I just really wanted to make a fun pretty cake and once again justify my annual Valentine’s day candy aisle raid. 

My friend Randi asked me how I get through the winters up here. Usually when someone asks me that my knee jerk reaction is similar to how some people go gaga over the ~summer~ and that whole summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language Henry James mushy shit. My version of that is WINTER EVENING! WINTER EVENING! GOIN TO BED @ 8, F YEAH! But *I* will even admit that this winter has been particularly nutso bonkers extreme stir crazy-ish and there were some mornings when I woke up with a hint of that dragging feeling that I’d wake up with in Januaries during college when I’d have to put on clothes and go to orchestra rehearsal and sit through three hours of Alfred Schnittke. 

So I threw even more weight behind Valentine’s Day. And decided that’s just what I’m going to do from now on anytime I have a winter blue and don’t have the option of weekending in Hawaii. I put out all of our red mugs, our heart shaped cocotte, the red tea pot, etc., and day dreamed endlessly about my cake. 

I knew I wanted to use this opportunity to get a cake ring and acetate and make a milk bar-inspired cake. But past that I was stumped. Should it have a border? Should there be lovey dovey animals on it? Should I add a couple of roses? I spent weeks looking for inspiration and nothing felt right. 

Until this dress arrived from Carleen

Kelsy, the designer, is a friend of a friend and she makes the coolest clothes, some are made out of reclaimed quilts, and they are all so lovable and unique. Valentine-y red has never been my color but I am so into the idea of a navy blue valentine sitch with just some red and purple. Navy is my color this year.

Anyway, so I drew from the pattern of the colors on this dress and used it as the inspiration for the sprinkle design on this cake. I used every sprinkle in my valentine’s day sprinkle collection and my 90s sand art training, and it was the most fun ever. The abundance of sprinkles added nice crunch. 

I was satisfied. I was also satisfied by the texture of the almond sponge cake. The more I think about it the more I think I over-beat last year’s yolks, not just the egg whites, which is why it was dry. One key is to not beat the yolks and the almond paste into such oblivion that the almond paste chunks disappear. You want some chunks because they’re good! They prevent the cake from being a sad dry one-dimensional thing. 

That’s all.

Ok, have a gander at Valentine’s day cakes through history: 2017's, 2016's2015's, 2014’s, 2013’s, 2012’s, 2011’s, and 2010’s.

And get to it.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!! 


valentine's day almond cake

serves 10-12

ingredients

cake:

1/2 c (64g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz almond paste
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c (100g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

chocolate ganache:

5 oz semisweet or dark chocolate chips

1/4 c (60g) heavy whipping cream

whipped cream:

1 1/2 c (360g) heavy whipping cream
1/2 c (60g) powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract

pink food coloring, optional

assembly:
sprinkles of all sorts

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and line the bottom of a 9” springform pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks and then gradually beat in the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating to stiff peaks and then set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I usually just scoop the whites out of the bowl and transfer them to a separate bowl and then reuse my stand mixer bowl without having to wash it for this step), combine the almond paste and egg yolks and beat on high for 2 minutes until pale and fluffy (but allow some almond paste chunks to remain in tact), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla and almond extract. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture and then fold in the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the pan and then bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove to the rack to cool fully.

To make the ganache, combine the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a saucepan and heat over medium low, stirring continuously until melted.

At this point you can refer to the photos above and use a cake ring and acetate to help decorate your cake, or you can just pour the ganache right over the cake. Let it cool in the fridge or freezer until it's no longer hot (it doesn't need to be totally firm) and then you can go onto the whipped cream step.

To make the whipped cream, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and almond extract to stiff peaks. Add a few drops of pink food coloring if desired.

Spread the whipped cream on top of the cake. To do some sprinkle-y sand art, freeze the cake for about 20-30 minutes, or until the whipped cream is mostly firm (it doesn't need to be totally hard--rather, it shouldn't be so that the sprinkles stick, but if you do freeze it solid then let it soften just slightly before moving on) and then stick some parchment shapes or stripes on it, cover it with sprinkles, brush off any stray sprinkles that are lingering on the parchment, and then carefully lift the parchment off. Voila! 

Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days.


 

-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett!

soft almond sugar cookie cutouts that are very thick and glazed and fun

hello from korea, friends!!!!!!!! the last few days have been totally bonkers as the olympic channel has made every single one of my dreams come true and brought me over to pyeongchang to help cover the olympics. i am freaking out, it is still soaking in, and i have no idea what time it is where you are, but for now i have to dash over to gangnueng to watch nathan chen's short program, so i will tell you more about this later! follow along on instagram!

i really need to quickly tell you about these valentine's day cookies though because they are our new favorite cookies hands down. they are so freaking soft and thick and almondy, and i realize that i should just admit that this is an almond flavored blog already (yes, the annual almond cake is coming soon!!) but i know as soon as i do that i'm going to start hating almond. (haha, never!) but if you do hate almond, rest assured, this is actually about to become an ice skating blog this week.

i like these cookies because you can cut out thick shapes with them and you don't have to worry about refrigerating the dough (you can if you want) so these come together extremely quickly. the trick to getting the best texture is to take them out of the oven when they are just starting to think about turning brown but haven't yet. or maybe they have around the bottom edges but that's it. they will be too soft to handle immediately out of the oven but as they cool they'll firm up just slightly and achieve that perfect softness that's lofthouse-esque but way denser.

the thing i'm still working on is the decorating part. when i pipe freehand glaze lines i feel really clumsy! and i'm trying to figure out how to get the outlines of the glaze to zhoosh into the rest of the glaze better. michelle says to use a toothpick to help blend it. i tried it for two cookies and then got impatient! oh well, the good thing is that clumsy lines and poorly zhooshed glaze still taste really good but if you have ideas for how to make the outlines blend in better, please @ me.


soft almond sugar cookie cutouts

makes about 22 large (3" ish) cookies or 30 smaller (2" ish) ones

ingredients

For the cookies:

3 1/2 c (448g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/3 c (150g) almond flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp kosher salt

1 c (226g) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 c (137g) granulated sugar

2/3 c (80g) powdered sugar

zest from 1/2 of a lemon, optional

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp princess emulsion (or another tsp vanilla)

3/4 tsp almond extract

for the glaze:

2 cups (240g) powdered sugar
2 tb (40g) corn syrup
2-3 tb whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Pinch of kosher salt
Food coloring

Sprinkles!
 

clues

To make the cookies, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the sugars until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the lemon zest if using and mix to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each, and then add the extracts.


Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until blended. At this point you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour, or up to two days, or you can get going on rolling out your dough and cutting out your cookies immediately. 

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350ºf. Line two baking sheets with parchment or a silicone mat and set aside. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2” thick. Cut out your shapes and then transfer to a baking sheet, 1" apart. Re-roll scraps and cut out more shapes. Bake until they’re just thinking about starting to turn brown, begin checking larger cookies for doneness at 12 minutes, and smaller cookies at 10 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, corn syrup, 2 tablespoons milk, vanilla, almond extract, salt, and a few drops of food coloring until smooth. It should be very thick but just thin enough that when you lift up your spoon it falls off in smooth ribbons. If it’s too thick, add a couple more drops of milk, and if it’s too thin, add a few more spoonfuls of powdered sugar. Spoon a couple of spoonfuls into a piping bag and snip off 1/4" tip. Pipe around the borders of your cookies to make an outline. Thin the remaining glaze out with another teaspoon or so of milk, until it's easily spreadable. Fill in the outlines with the thinner glaze and top with sprinkles immediately before the glaze dries.

Let dry and enjoy!! 

These will keep at room temperature for a good few days, but you can also freeze them once the glaze is dry and they'll stay fresher longer!
 


-yeh!


team usa cake!

two. days. until. the. olympics!!!!!!!!!!! have you been following all of the ig stories of all of the skaters flying to korea and going through team processing and getting all of their fancy team outfits and rings and stuff?? it is so fun, i love looking behind the scenes.

but starting thursday, everybody please keep your voices down, i have to focus on every single figure skating event and also hockey and some speed skating and chloe kim and her great hair. it's going to be great. it's all in my ical.

please enjoy this cake that is my ode to team usa!! it's basically a big soft loaf of an italian almond cookie that's been shaped into an american flag and and topped with a marzipan olympic-y logo. it's sooo rich and almondy and requires so much butter (!!!!!). you're going to think that your stand mixer is gonna overflow, but don't worry, it won't (it shouldn't if you have at least a 5 qt), and this recipe makes two cakes so you can enjoy one during the opening ceremony and one during the closing ceremony. or share one with a friend who is equally excited about team usa figure skating. (are you that friend?? can you also be my friend? i think my friends are sick of me talking their ears off about axels.)

i thought it'd be easiest to show you how to build this cake rather than try to write down every direction, so my friend paul and i made the above video that will walk you through the steps! and the music is by my super cool bro-in-law, john cwiok! everybody check out his tunesthanks, paul and john!!! also big thanks to eggboy who did his best to be the rafael arutyunyan of this scenario. 


team usa cake

makes 2 loaf cakes

ingredients

6 large eggs, separated (see note)

1/4 c (50g) plus 1 1/4 c (250g) sugar

2 c (450g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

16 oz (450g) almond paste, chopped or torn into pieces

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tb lemon juice

1 tsp almond extract

3 c (384g) all-purpose flour

1 c (240g) whole milk

1 tsp blue liquid food coloring or a few drops of gel

1 tsp red liquid food coloring or a few drops of gel

1/2 c (150g) apricot or raspberry jam

 

Ganache

10 oz semisweet or dark chocolate chips

1 c (240g) heavy whipping cream

 

Topping

Marzipan kneaded with food coloring

Gold sprinkles

clues

preheat the oven to 350ºf. grease two 8” by 12” quarter sheet pans and one 8” by 4” loaf pan and line them with parchment paper that comes at least 2 inches up two of the sides of the pan.

in a large bowl or in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. with the mixer running on medium, gradually add the 1/4 cup of sugar. increase the speed to medium-high and beat to stiff peaks. set them aside (see note). in a large bowl or in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, almond paste, salt, and remaining 1 1/4 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. reduce the speed to medium and add the yolks, one at a time, beating well after each. beat in the lemon juice and almond extract, then reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the flour and milk in 2 or 3 alternating additions. mix to combine. use a rubber spatula to fold in the whites.

transfer 780g of the mixture to one of the quarter sheet pans and use a small offset spatula to spread it out evenly. transfer 525g of the mixture to a separate bowl and fold in the blue food coloring and spread evenly it in the loaf pan. fold the red food coloring into the remaining third and transfer it to the other quarter sheet pan, spreading it out evenly.

bake until the tops are just set and no longer shiny. begin checking for doneness at 15 minutes. the blue layer will need at least 5 more minutes than the other layers since it's quite a bit thicker. let cool in the pans.

refer to the above video on how to assemble, spreading the jam between each of the layers. wrap the loaf firmly in plastic wrap, weigh them down with a big cookbook, and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. tip: placing the loaf cakes on rectangles of cardboard will make transferring them easier!

trim the edges of the cakes and place them on a wire rack that's been place on top of a sheet pan. make the ganache: place the chocolate chips in a large heat safe bowl or measuring cup. bring the heavy cream to a boil in a medium saucepan (keep a close eye on it and remove it from heat as soon as it starts to boil otherwise it will boil over), pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for about 30 seconds. then stir it up until you have a smooth ganache. Pour it over the cake, allowing any excess ganache to drip down onto the sheet pan (you can reuse the ganache, reheating it if it firms up), and using an offset spatula to smooth it all over.

Top it with marzipan olympic rings and sprinkles. Enjoy immediately or stick it in the fridge for a few minutes for the ganache to firm up.

Leftovers will keep at room temp for a few days or in the refrigerator for a little longer.

Note: with any recipe that calls for beating something else in the same mixer, I do a few steps to cut down on dishes and ensure that my egg whites don't have any bit of yolk in them, which will cause them not to beat to stiff peaks. I first separate an egg into 2 medium bowls. I then pour the white into my mixer bowl. then I repeat for each egg, adding the whites one by one so that if one gets contaminated, they're not all ruined. and then i beat the whites to stiff peaks first, scoop them out of the mixer bowl, and then use the mixer bowl for the next step. if you use a rubber spatula to get 95 percent of the whites out, there's really no need to rinse the mixer bowl for the yolk step.


-yeh!