Taiwanese Cold Cucumber Salad (涼拌黃瓜)

taiwanese cucumber salad

涼拌黃瓜 (liáng bàn huáng guā), or cucumber salad, is a very common appetizer at many Taiwanese restaurants and is a personal favorite of mine. Because I love this simple dish so very much, I’ve gone through many a trial trying to get the perfect balance of tangy, sweet, salty, and spicy down pat. And the number of recipes I’ve found online have varied so wildly that I feel as if I’ve tried every conceivable version of this appetizer… really, you’d be surprised at how many ways you can make this (and how many of these versions are definitely not worth the time or effort).

The biggest thing I learned on my cucumber journey (which is what it felt like at times) is that these are not pickles, they’re a salad. Hello, Captain Obvious! But seriously, this tastes best when the cucumbers are freshly tossed with the sauce and served immediately after. The cucumbers are at their crunchiest, and their cool, fresh flavor still stands up well to the strong flavor of the sauce.

taiwanese cucumber salad

The second most important aspect of this dish is the way the cucumber is prepared. If you’re using your standard dark-green English cucumber, you’ll need to peel and de-seed the cucumber before tossing it with the sauce. The seeds hold a lot of water and dilute the sauce if you leave them be. And getting rid of the peel allows the cucumber to soak up the sauce on all sides… yum!

You can also choose to use Persian cucumbers; these do not require peeling or de-seeding and tend to have a much crispier texture. The flavor of Persian cucumbers is a little stronger, but I think it’s just as delicious–and less work! They’re a little more expensive, but worth it if they’re available to you.

These taste great as an appetizer before any Asian-style meal or even alongside the meal, especially if you’re serving it with rice or the main dish is especially salty or strong-flavored. I love these so much that I eat them on their own and can finish this amount in one sitting… but I wouldn’t use my habits as an example!

Taiwanese food is amazing, and this cucumber salad is just the very basic tip of the iceberg. Look forward to me posting more recipes as I work my way through them, and I hope you enjoy this one!

taiwanese cucumber salad

Kale Fruit Shake

kale fruit shake

 

Just look at how… how green that shake is.

Yum…?

Did I do a good job of guessing your initial thoughts on seeing my newest health concoction? Don’t worry, you’re not alone–my husband is not a fan of the appearance, either. But don’t let the color or those conspicuous little dark flecks of green fool you: this shake is basically strawberry-banana-flavored with a healthy dose of protein to boot.

So I’ll be honest: I can’t do juicing. I think that the green juices are especially… not enjoyable to drink. It’s all the rage in LA right now (and everywhere else at this point, I’m sure), but I’ve never had a problem with eating vegetables in the first place. If I like eating veggies, and enjoy preparing them in different ways, then why on Earth would I drink them instead–barring a medically-necessary all-liquid diet?

kale fruit shake

But when I wake up in the morning and I want a shake… well, why not take the opportunity to “power it up” with some healthy protein? Also: ‘Hm, what’s lying around in my fridge?’ And that’s how this shake came to be!

It’s a bit tart due to the greek yogurt, but the tartness balances out the sweetness of the pineapple and banana very well. And it’s all-natural, friends–no added sugar or 2% fruit juice here! The frozen pineapple, frozen strawberries, and yogurt give the shake body and prevent it from being overly thin, and the kale blends in so well that you can barely taste it. If you want to pump your shake up with even more protein, I’ve thrown spinach into the mix as well–but it definitely leaves more of a leafy aftertaste in the mouth.

The last thing I’ll mention is blender technique–yes, there’s technique to it! Make sure that you can always see a vortex at the center of the blender when it’s on. This ensures even mixing of the ingredients. If you don’t see the vortex or it looks like the ingredients aren’t moving around, try adding a tablespoon or two of water and turn the blender on again. That should do the trick!

Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

strawberry rhubarb barsApril has been the craziest month–no lie. With all of the traveling I’ve been doing recently, it’s been hard to muster the energy to make or bake anything in the kitchen (as you can see by my prolonged absence). It’s been even harder for me to convince myself to make anything more indulgent than vegetable soup or chicken breasts, since we’ve been doing nothing but gorging ourselves on junk whenever we’re away. But sometimes, I need a break: I need something that’s indulgent.

Sometimes, a baker’s gotta bake.

strawberry rhubarb bars 2I was writing an article on how to make pie crust from scratch for DIYready.com (hello, plug!) and it put a little idea worm in my head–sure, making pie is a bit of a commitment for some, but making crumble bars is quick, easy, and easy to share. And since I’ve been mulling over the idea of using strawberries and rhubarb together recently… this recipe popped out of my head and into the oven!

If you really want bars but don’t want to make the preserves from scratch, I completely understand–you can easily substitute 1½-2 cups of strawberry preserves (or whatever you prefer) and still get a fantastic bar out of it. But if you’re willing to put in the ~10 minutes of work to get fresh strawberry-rhubarb preserves, I highly encourage it. I love the sour, spiky flavor of the rhubarb with the tart sweetness of strawberry. I love it even more with a little bit of cinnamon and pepper–yes, pepper!–to sharpen the flavor. The sharpness of the preserves, paired with the mild sweetness of the crumb and bottom crust, make for a very tasty bite.

strawberry rhubarb crumble 3If you do end up having leftover preserves after spreading them on the bottom crust in the baking dish, it’s okay–you can put them in an airtight container and use them up to a week. Or…

A Great Idea: pairing the preserves with vanilla ice cream.

An Even Greater Idea: pairing the preserves with vanilla ice cream and eating the ice cream with the crumble bars.

Hey, when I say I’m indulging… I like to go all-out.

I hope you get the chance to try these–they are pretty delicious! And they’re a great way to make friends at your next potluck, office party, or what-have-you. I made James take a large batch of them with him to his lab meeting today and they were a hit. Or, you know, you could just keep them at home and share them with yourself. I’m not here to judge…

strawberry rhubarb crumble 4

 

Chinese-Style Boiled Peanuts

chinese boiled peanutsJames and I are avid board game fans; yes, we still outdo our own nerdiness on a frequent basis. We always invite friends over to play board games and are often recruited to others’ places because of our board game collection. Recently, we were at a friend’s house playing Clue for nostalgia’s sake. Everything was going swimmingly until hunger struck…

…and then I, in my hangry state, murdered Mr. Body with the candlestick in the library.

Well, that might be a slight exaggeration on my part. My stomach growled like it wanted to kill something in order to feed itself, and we went on a scavenger hunt to see what we could forage from my friend’s snack collection. The final product? Crispy, salted seaweed and roasted peanuts. It wasn’t filling, but I think that actively eating something made me feel less murderous.

We started talking about how we enjoyed eating peanuts in various ways, and I remembered how much I loved eating boiled peanuts when I was younger. My mom would boil peanuts in salted water on the stove for hours, and I would eat them one by one, gorging myself on the boiled peanut bounty until I was peanut-bloated. I resolved at that point to boil some for myself the next day.

Right before I started to cook the peanuts, however, James pointed out that I should make the peanuts more interesting–and so I thought immediately of star anise and Sichuan peppercorns. Because it was late, I figured that I could let the peanuts cook in the slow cooker overnight as well. And so… this recipe was born!

If you’re not a fan of Sichuan peppercorns or that numbing-spicy (má là, or 麻辣) sensation, feel free to leave it out. Honestly, I’m in the middle of a twisted love affair with Sichuan food so I would double the amount I’ve listed… Also, I’ve done some research online and apparently these very closely resemble Hawaiian-style boiled peanuts. Since I’ve never had them, it’s hard for me to have a basis of comparison… but if you’ve eaten them before, it sounds like you can expect a similar concoction of flavors.

You can also use a pressure cooker to cook these peanuts (~1 hour) or a stovetop and pot (~4-5 hours on medium low, covered). I really liked the ease of “set it and forget it” that slow cookers bring to the table, however, and found that I was able to get the same kind of soft consistency in the peanut that I normally do when boiling it on the stove.

Regardless of how you cook them, these peanuts are amazing, flavorful, and hard to put down! Perfect for your next board game finger food list or just for snacking while watching something on TV.

chinese boiled peanuts

 

Puttanesca Sauce

puttanesca[Note: This is a follow-up of sorts to my spaghetti squash noodle recipe–hence the use of spaghetti squash noodles in the pictures.]

James is not the “yay, diet foods!” type. A lot of the time, I feel as if I need to make a compelling argument via taste test in order for him to believe that healthy substitutions are great diet solutions. I definitely heard a lot of nay-saying before I converted him to the Cauliflower Rice Religion (!), and I dealt with a similar amount of skepticism regarding spaghetti squash. So I knew from the start that I needed to pair the noodles with a sauce that would knock it out of the park for his taste buds… and for my purposes (and my taste buds), that sauce is puttanesca.

puttanescaSo what is puttanesca? What does it even mean? Well, you may giggle about the etymology of the name if you don’t know it already. Puttana (or putta) means ‘whore’ or ‘prostitute'; I’ve seen quite a few recipes and cookbooks refer to this as ‘whore’s spaghetti.’ Pretty colorful, right? According to Wikipedia, a restaurant in Italy claims to have created the sauce in the 1950’s because they were low on ingredients and customers insisted, Facci una puttanata qualsiasi,” or ‘make any kind of garbage.’ So yes–the name itself is not the prettiest. Thankfully, the sauce itself is very tasty!

When you initially see the list of ingredients, it literally looks like a recipe for disaster: anchovies, olives and capers? What is this, salt with tomatoes on the side? But the tomatoes mellow out the saltiness of the ingredients quite well–enough to where you’ll find yourself adding salt to taste right before serving. The sautéed onions at the beginning of the recipe add just enough sweetness to counterbalance the salty ingredients, too! And I know that anchovies aren’t on everyone’s “Top 10 Favorite Foods in the Whole Wide World” list, but believe me–the briny, savory flavor that they impart to the sauce are irreplaceable. These components may have been thrown together for lack of ingredients, but they taste like they belong together.

puttanesca

James & I love anchovies–but I accounted for the rest of the world’s population that isn’t in love with hopelessly salty fish and reduced the amount for the recipe listed here. If you want it our way, take some blood pressure medication and double the amount of anchovies! I also added a dash of dry white wine to deglaze the pot–make sure you use a dry, low-sugar wine like sauvignon blanc. And if you can hold off on eating the sauce until the next day, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do so. After making this sauce a few times, I noticed that the flavor is more rich and complex after sitting overnight in the fridge.

I had an amazing pun at the end of my last entry, but all I can think of for this sauce are “easy” jokes… so I’ll just leave it at that… ha. Enjoy!

puttanesca

 

 

Spaghetti Squash Noodles

spaghetti squashTwo weeks. Two weeks… ish.

Well, more specifically, 17 days. Until this.

For those of you too lazy to click the link–don’t worry, I completely understand–I’m talking about Coachella.

No matter where you stand on the spectrum of opinion regarding Coachella (which usually boils down to ‘Yaaaasss!!’ or ‘Ugh, pretentious and privileged hipster playground’), we can all generally agree on two things about this festival:

  1. Man, Indio is hot this time of year.
  2. Wow, people do not wear very much because of the desert temperatures.

So whenever Coachella looms on the horizon… and I have a ticket in my grubby hands… I like to use Coachella as my motivation to get in shape as a segue-way into the summer season. But working out is only 50% of the hard work involved–and honestly, I’d even go as far to say it’s even less than that.

Goodbye, carb and alcohol-based diet…

spaghetti squash

…and hello, sustainable healthy substitutes! (Well, at least for the carbohydrates.)

I’d tried making spaghetti squash once before a few years ago and was thoroughly turned off by it. So I figured that when I started eating less carbs, I’d have to give up Italian pasta-based dishes as well. I resigned myself (and James) to a plethora of vegetable-based soups and salads for the unforeseeable future.

Well, that got old… really, really old. And so, I found myself at the grocery store the other week, frowning in thought in front of the squash produce. Well, what did I have to lose?

I surfed around a few food blogs to look for suggestions on how to cook the squash best and ran across a few sites that suggested baking the squash in rings as opposed to 2 halves. ‘Hmm… well, why not give it a try?’ I thought. And I’m really glad I did–because all of the issues I had previously with spaghetti squash were fixed by this different method. The noodles were long, not short… they were more “al dente” as opposed to mushy… and they tasted fantastic!

Obviously, using spaghetti squash noodles is more labor-intensive than boiling a pot of salted water and throwing in dried pasta. But if you’re looking for a viable substitute for pasta, I can’t think of a better way to still enjoy your favorite pasta dishes.

spaghetti squashI’ve found that microwaving the squash for a few minutes first makes it much easier to cut into–which is really important when you’re cutting the squash into rings. Don’t forget to poke holes around the squash before you place it in the oven, though–otherwise you’ll have a giant, exploding squash-y mess on your hands.

spaghetti squashBe sure to handle the squash with oven mitts when you take it out of the microwave and slice it. It’s going to be quite hot! The rings need to be at least 1-2½ inches in thickness–otherwise, the ‘meat’ of the squash will overcook and become mushy.

spaghetti squashBefore you bake the rings, be sure to thoroughly scoop the slimy pulp and seeds from the center. You can clean and bake the seeds later if you’d like–they taste and roast just like pumpkin seeds.

spaghetti squashAfter they’re baked, use a fork to gently pull the strands toward the center of the ring. Since the striation of the ‘meat’ is goes along the width of the squash, the noodles will pull apart very easily and end up just as long as regular noodles!

I like making these noodles at the beginning of the week and keeping them in the fridge to use as needed–that way, I’m less tempted to opt out of making something healthy later. Obviously, the consistency and flavor are going to be a lot different from pasta… but the ‘mouthfeel’ of the squash noodles is similar enough to pasta for me. And they function much in the same way regular pasta does–they carry a hearty sauce very well.

So whether you have Coachella coming up… or you just want to give yourself healthier options… spaghetti squash noodles are a great option. Actually, this recipe reminds me of a joke:

What do you call fake noodles?

impasta!

Okay, I’ll see myself out now… :)

spaghetti squash

 

 

 

 

 

Fried Shrimp Cauliflower Rice

cauliflower fried rice with shrimp

I might as well drop the pretenses and call this website Cauliflower Holiday at this point, it seems. Will I never tire of cooking with cauliflower? Well… not as long as it continues being an excellent food for a variety of diets: paleo, low-carb, Atkins, South Beach, and so on. Every time I think that an application of cauliflower will fail miserably, it passes with flying colors. Cauliflower rice is the best example of that for me. Never could I have anticipated how much I’d rely on and really enjoy eating this rice substitute even a year ago, when I initially posted the recipe.

Let’s be truthful–I would still eat regular rice over cauliflower rice almost any day of the week. I grew up on white rice, and it is the staple food of both my personal culture and that of my husband’s. Nothing between heaven and earth could change that. But in the interest of leading a healthier, more active lifestyle, it’s really not a bad trade-off. Really! Man, am I not convincing you yet?

That picture above should do the convincing for me, even if my words keep contradicting themselves.

cauliflower fried rice with shrimpYou’ll notice in the recipe that instead of throwing everything in at once, as most are inclined to do with fried rice, I cook the protein elements of the dish deliberately before I add everything else. This prevents the end result from tasting homogeneous–the shrimp adds a burst of flavor, the egg adds another, and so on. It’s also important to leave the shrimp undisturbed when you first place them into the pan, as the cornstarch crusts at the touch of heat and gives them that nice, golden color and slight crunch.

I also added a lot of garlic to the recipe to kick up the flavor of the cauliflower. Otherwise, its blandness would be overwhelmed with the addition of the shrimp. The soy sauce is another flavor boost for the cauliflower, but is optional if you prefer to not use any.

cauliflower fried rice with shrimpThe final result is pretty amazing; everything comes together in a harmonious bite. And the last thing that comes to your mind when you eat it is “bland”, “boring” or “bitter”… three common descriptions for cauliflower that I hear. The cauliflower rice becomes the glue that holds all of these separate elements together, just like regular rice. You’ll be surprised at how you won’t miss the addition of regular rice in this version (and you definitely won’t miss the carbs).

I made a version of this without shrimp for my mother-in-law and she was surprised at how much she liked it–which I take as a compliment, since she used to make shrimp fried rice daily at their family-owned Chinese restaurant. I hope that is endorsement enough for you to give it a try! This dish is an awesome way for you to have a cheat day favorite (Chinese take-out) without cheating–and who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it, too?

cauliflower fried rice with shrimp

The recipe below omits the initial recipe for cauliflower rice, which you’ll find here on my site.

Happy cooking!

Crunchy Cinnamon Pecans

crunchy cinnamon pecansEvery holiday season, my family and I would inevitably end up at an overcrowded mall in a quest for Christmas presents. And every time, I would notice a little stand that proudly proclaimed “HOLIDAY NUTS” in big red letters… with an aroma that still brings a smile to my face whenever I reminisce. We would order a paper cone filled with cinnamon-sugar spiced nuts and devour the entire thing before making it back to our car. As I got older, I tried to savor them by eating them slowly; I would tell myself that I needed to make them last, since they only came once a year.

Well… I suppose it’s better that I’ve only now learned how to make these pecans, because I have much more self-restraint now as opposed to my childhood. Even with said restraint, I can barely keep myself from eating this entire batch in one sitting!

crunchy cinnamon pecansThe only difficult part about this recipe is patience, because it requires a few hours in the slow cooker to get to its crunchy, delectable best. But I promise you–it’s worth the wait. If I can wait all year for them, three hours is no big deal for you… right?

Not only are these crunchy cinnamon pecans delicious, but they’re the equivalent of lighting a warm cinnamon-sugar candle in your kitchen. The scent of cinnamon lingers both during and after you’ve cooked these to perfection.

IMG_1880It’s very important to stir the pecans in the slow cooker every half hour to keep the pecans from sticking to each other. And definitely don’t forget to spray the slow cooker with non-stick before you throw in the pecans! It’s nothing that water won’t be able to wash out after the fact, but pecans sticking to the sides of your pot are more likely to break off–and scraping pecans off the sides and bottom is arduous work.

crunchy cinnamon pecansI’ve made these with pecan halves and pecan pieces before, and I definitely recommend using the halves (unless you like digging the bowl for tiny pecan pieces). A friend mentioned that the pieces would make a great ice cream topping, however… and I thought that was worth mentioning! Whether you serve these as finger food or as a topping, I’m sure you’ll love these just as much as I do.

I’m just grateful I don’t have to wait for Christmas to eat these… but now I have to figure out how to tell myself to stop making them!

crunchy cinnamon pecans

 

Kimchi Fried Cauliflower Rice

kimchi fried cauliflower rice

James & I have been a pair of jet-setters over the last year and a half; thanks to the lax hours he currently has during research, we have pretty open schedules to travel whenever and wherever we want. After having so little of his time during the first two years of his residency, these months together have been amazing all-around… that is, except for our diets.

Since the two of us are so food-centric, we absolutely insist on eating well and eating often when we go on trips. (And I do not mean well for our well-being, unfortunately.) When we come home, we always come home a little heavier and full of remorse. ‘Was that burger really necessary?’ ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten a burrito and three tacos plus all of those cocktails.’ But alas, remorse does not a flat stomach make.

Thankfully, I’ve got a few recipes up my sleeve that we jump back to whenever we’re on the rebound from our trips (and our wrecked diets). This kimchi cauliflower rice recipe definitely tops his list of favorites–in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had enough leftover for the next day!

IMG_8598

If you were to scroll down the list of recipes I have on this site, I’m sure you’d notice that kimchi is a repeat guest star… I can’t help it, I’m an addict. Before I decided to throw cauliflower rice into the mix, I made kimchi fried rice more often than I’d like to admit. (With Spam, of course! Best flavor combination ever.) But now that I’ve found cauliflower rice to be a good substitute for regular rice, I feel much less guilty about indulging.

The gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) is optional–but if you have it, I would encourage you to add it where the recipe directs you to do so. It adds a nice, sweet spiciness to the sour flavor of kimchi… gives it some heat and complexity. The cheese at the end is ‘crazy’ (according to James) but since I love cheese in any iteration and with any food, I happen to think it tastes delicious. Of course, if you think otherwise, feel free to leave it out. I have actually added Spam to this version of kimchi fried ‘rice’ and been quite satisfied with the results. Certainly not the healthiest version of the dish, but if you’re looking to avoid carbs but are less concerned with fat or sodium… the world is your oyster.

This dish was hard to photograph–no matter what way I plated it, it looked like vegetable scramble. But I guarantee that it tastes fantastic, despite its humble appearance. Hopefully, you give it a try!

kimchi fried cauliflower rice

 

Los Angeles Cookie Con & Sweets Show, Part 2

Cookie Con 2015

#thatbakelife. (insert baker thug pose, however that looks)

[You can find Part 1 of my Cookie Con coverage here!]

The Cookie Decorating Contest: As I mentioned earlier, I took off like a shot as soon as the convention floor opened in order to walk around before the crowds arrived. I wanted to get a chance to talk to vendors, try samples, and buy cookies or baked goods at my leisure… most importantly, I wanted to take pictures before the amount of people at the con became too restrictive. While this was mostly a success, I profess that I spent more time than I thought I would at the entries for the cookie decorating contest. Here are the pictures of my favorites, in no particular order. The theme was “Love”, which was timely for Valentine’s Day!

Cookie Con 2015

Cookies by Cookie Couture by Sarah.

I really loved the ‘shabby chic’ style and color palette of these cookies. The sugar flowers were gorgeous!

Cookie Con 2015

Cookies by Sugar Dayne.

By far my favorite entry…. which mysteriously didn’t win Fan Favorite or the official contest :( Again, I really loved the colors… muted pastels are my thing right now. The details were stunning–from the gold-kissed roses to the tiny, perfect seashells… and the sprayed gold pattern on the icing… the blue feathers on the cookie towers even had “LA Cookie Con” and the artist’s name hand-printed on them! I think my heart would break if I ever had to watch someone eat these…

Cookie Con 2015

Cookies by Whisk Sweets.

This entry won the decorating contest; while I didn’t find the execution as flawless as the cookies by Sugar Dayne, I did find the story quite moving. (A better overhead picture can be found here.)

Cookie Con 2015

I thought the colors and the letters were very cute for this entry… and man, am I a sucker for nice handwriting…

Cookie Con 2015

The Non-Edible Portion of the Con: The convention floor also played host to various food-related merchandise, goods, and gadgets. I stopped by the Nomiku Immersion Circulator booth to say hello… and definitely felt a twinge of regret for being too impatient and buying the Anova instead. (WiFi-connected sous vide, so fancy!)

Cookie Con 2015

Happy Pantry had an adorable set-up that included aprons, necklaces, towels, artwork, and more. The coffee latte apron was so cute! But I definitely have way more aprons than any one person possibly needs, so I had to pass… sigh. They advertise themselves as a ‘kitchen-themed brand featuring kawaii (cute in Japanese) characters,’ and kawaii is the only way I can accurately describe how cute their merchandise is.

Cookie Con 2015

Cookie Con 2015(This is the goodie bag they shared with press passholders… my inner child is squealing!)

Even More Samples: After my digression into the contest entries and merchandise, it was back to doing what I do best–sampling!

Cookie Con 2015

 

Cookie Con 2015

Cookies by Stuffed Cookies.

[I actually bought the Oreo BDay Cake cookie shown above, but somehow lost the bag during the convention… still pretty bummed about it, because it was sinfully good!]

Cookie Con 2015

Cookies by Munch Bakery.

As a fellow Filipino, I was super-excited to see that Munch Bakery had ube (purple yam) and buko pandan (young coconut leaf) flavors! I probably came on a wee bit strong in my enthusiasm, but the ladies of Munch Bakery answered all of my questions with a smile.

Cookie Con 2015The pound cake at Orange Clementine was one of my favorite things to try at the convention; one of my friends even bought several of the cakes to share with her family. Not only was the cake moist and flavorful, but the clementine flavor was perfect–not overwhelming nor too light to detect. The glaze on top was literally the icing on the cake; the clementine zest in the glaze cut the sweetness and balanced it well.

Cookie Con 2015

The press goodie bag also included two adorable citrus-themed sugar cookies that were promptly devoured later that night… pretty sure I ate my week’s worth of sugar in one day.

Cookie Con 2015

Now, if you’ve ever met me or my husband, you know that neither of us really subscribe to the idea of gluten-free being healthier or better for you in any way. Okay, now that that’s out of the way… I have to admit that these gluten-free Habanero Peanut Butter & Jelly cookies from Velvet Rope Bake Shop were my favorite cookies of the Con. Gasp!, you say. And gasp you should–it’s not an easy feat to make cookies without flour that are delicious. But man, were these cookies good. I suppose the flavor combination isn’t for everyone; the habanero salt paired with the strawberry preserves definitely throws your taste buds for a loop. But as a sweet/salty/savory fan, these cookies hit all the right notes for me.

Like Fish in a Barrel: As the day wore on, the crowds swelled and pushed the aisles between the booths to their limits; if I had to describe it in one word, it would be “smooshed.” It became harder to receive samples and talk to the vendors at each booth because they were overrun with other con attendees. The aisles became a little more bearable during specific programming times (we definitely saw everyone bum-rush the seats for Mr. Ben-Israel’s featured talk), but otherwise, the crowds and the lines were easily my least favorite part about the convention.

Cookie Con 2015

My friends and I left the show closer to 2pm after finding ourselves exhausted from the crowds on the floor. (One of my friends even ended up with a bleeding wound on her leg–man, are cookie fans vicious or what? Just kidding, we’re still not certain how she was injured.) When we walked outside, the line was still going out and around the block! We were even stopped by a few folks that asked us whether it was worth it to wait; apparently, the registration inside had come to a stand-still and the line hadn’t moved for some time.

Was it worth it? The million-dollar question (or however much you paid for your ticket, I suppose).

I think that the organizers behind Cookie Con did a great job for their first year. Like I mentioned in Part 1, I believe there are kinks that are tough to anticipate before the event itself occurs. If I were to suggest anything for next year’s con, I would definitely recommend getting the event staff and volunteers on the same page. From time to time, I would ask for directions or information and ended up with several different answers. I also believe that the VIP lounge wasn’t handled as well as it could have been; I didn’t even realize I was in the lounge until my friend pointed it out! The location of the lounge wasn’t optimal either–since it was not in a corner or in a separate room, people freely walked in without any clue that entry was restricted.

Perhaps I missed it… but I didn’t receive a map of the booths with a corresponding list of vendors, nor did I see a printed program with the events schedule on it in the bag I received when I registered. I think it would’ve enhanced my experience and certainly made it a bit less hectic if I’d had these references on hand. In the future, a short book with each bakery listed and a short blurb about each bakery would be great as well! Great advertising for the bakeries and very informative for con attendees.

Cookie Con 2015

The largest problem I had with the con was space, but again–completely understandable for a first annual event. In a post-event email, one of the organizers mentioned that next year’s event would span 2 days and be held at a larger venue… so it looks like this problem is already solved!

In the end, I had a wonderful time with my friends and at the con itself. The samples were amazing, the vendors were friendly, and my personal experience as press was very positive! I’d like to thank LA Cookie Con for a very fun Sunday, and I already look forward to next year’s event.

socialbooth

Whew! And that’s all she wrote. :)