Oct 042013

Sriracha Mac and Cheese Baked

Mac and cheese is quite possibly one of my favorite comfort foods. And hot sauce? Hot sauce is my best friend. This sriracha mac and cheese has it all.

For many of you, autumn has arrived and pumpkin spice everything is everywhere. Leaves are probably turning all of those pretty fall colors. But in San Francisco? It’s summertime! For about 2-3 months out of the year, we get some warmth and sun in this foggy city. And even though I’m soaking it up while it lasts, I’m starting to crave those cold weather comfort foods. Ergo, sriracha mac and cheese.

Sriracha is added into the cheesy béchamel sauce and then extra hot suace is also drizzled on top right before serving. Spicy perfection!

Sriracha Bechamel for Mac and Cheese

I got this idea from my friend Cassie who is awesome at whipping up great meals. She invited a huge group of us over and made multiple batches of this good stuff. It was so delicious that I had to make some myself. The subtle sweetness from the green onions rounds out the spicy kick in the sauce. But I also threw in a diced jalapeño for good measure.

Spicy Sriracha Bechamel for Mac and Cheese

This recipe calls for whole wheat macaroni but that’s only because I predicted that I would be eating a lot of the dish myself (which I did!) and I didn’t want to feel THAT guilty. Of course, if you’re not a fan of whole wheat, regular macaroni will work perfectly.

Sriracha Mac and Cheese Recipe

Hot sauce. Cheese. Crispy bread crumb topping, More hot sauce. More cheese. Pasta.

I mean, what else is there to say? :) Happy Friday!

Sriracha Mac and Cheese


Sriracha Mac and Cheese
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 Lb whole wheat elbow macaroni (can use regular elbow macaroni if you'd like)
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons All-Purpose flour
  • 4 Cups whole milk
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 medium jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 4-5 Tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce (3 if you want it milder)
  • 1 Cup green onions, sliced
  • 3 Cups of shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (I got a 12oz bag and it was the perfect amount). Extra is always encouraged though :)
For the Bread Crumb Topping
  • 1/2 Cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 Cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
For Garnish
  • Sriracha hot sauce
  • Sliced green onions
  1. Cook the pasta about 1-2 minutes less according to the package (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. In a large pot melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour and combine until it's lightly bubbling and just starting to smell a little nutty.
  4. Whisk in the milk, 1 cup at a time, and turn the heat up to medium. Let the milk come to a simmer so that it can thicken up a bit. (A great way to tell if it's thick enough is if it coats the back of a wooden spoon and it doesn't run down the spoon).
  5. After the mixture has thickened, add the salt, black pepper, garlic powder, jalapeño, and sriracha. (Add more or less sriracha to your liking--remember you will also top off the dish with more sriracha!).
  6. Remove from heat and mix in 3 cups of cheese, 1 cup at a time. Then stir in the green onions.
  7. Put the pasta into a 9x13 in baking dish and then pour the cheese sauce over it. Incorporate everything together with a spoon.
  8. Mix the panko and plain bread crumbs together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and then pour over the breadcrumbs. Mix well and then spread evenly across the top of the pasta and cheese.
  9. Place baking dish in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly and the bread crumbs start to turn golden.
  10. Drizzle extra sriracha and sprinkle some green onions over each plate before serving.


South America: Turning 25 Years Old in Cotopaxi and Quito, Ecuador

 Food, Friendship, Life, South America, Travel  Comments Off on South America: Turning 25 Years Old in Cotopaxi and Quito, Ecuador
Sep 242013

Cotopaxi Ecuador

I got to hike the second highest volcano in the world on my 25th birthday with amazing friends–this day is going to be a hard one to top!

Megan, Kristina, and I hopped in Paul’s car around 6am so we could get an early start to Cotopaxi, a national park just outside of Quito. Paul and Santiago, Kristina’s classmates, navigated the roads while the three of us tried to sleep a little more in the backseat. We had to get to the volcano early in the day because if you arrive too late, the fog covers up the entire thing and you miss the beautiful view. The five of us planned to leave even earlier than 6am but struggled to wake up on time. Hikers intending to climb to the summit usually spend the night at the base camp and start their trek at midnight or 1am in order to avoid the thick fog.

An hour of driving brought us to a small town called Machachi. We stopped there just as the breakfast stands were opening up, and we ordered a few bowls of encebollado mixto con concha y camaron, a seafood stew filled with large chunks fish, shrimp and shellfish. A bowl was only $3.00 USD! The stew is served with ketchup and mustard (weird, right?) and it also comes with a side of popcorn that you’re suppose to throw into your soup. The popcorn addition was amazing, but I was reluctant to mix in the ketchup and mustard. We also enjoyed music from a live band that played while we ate which was sweet treat in the morning.

Encebollado Mixto

Once we arrived at the entrance of the national park, the security guard almost didn’t let us through because Megan and I were tourists–apparently, you need a guide if you’re not a local. Paul and Santiago motioned for us to go wait in the car, and when they came back we were told that we were fine to drive through. Not sure what they said, but I’m so glad they let us in!

The dirt road leading to Volcán Cotopaxi was beautiful. We constantly stopped to take pictures, and you can see below that the fog was already starting to cover parts of the volcano so we were definitely racing the clock.

Road to Cotopaxi


After driving up a few windy roads to a parking lot where other cars and tour busses that carried mountain bikes stopped at (I think people can bike back down the volcano!), the fog had cleared a bit and we were ready to go.

Cotopaxi Elevation Sign

It was freezing (the volcano’s summit is at 19,342 feet), and the parking lot sits at such a high elevation so we could feel the temp drop immediately after stepping out of the car. The view was worth it though, and then we began our hike up to the base camp!

Cotopaxi Climb

The path was made of loose dirt/gravel so it felt like you were climbing up a sandy beach. With the strenuous (and slippery!) road and thin air, we took a few breaks along the way…but eventually we made it to the base camp (which is at just under 16,000 feet in elevation)!

Paul Santiago Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi Meg Steph

Cotopaxi Panorama

Meg Steph Cotopaxi

The view from the base camp was breathtaking and truly surreal. We also walked up the glacier path a bit and saw some camp sites set up, ready to hike to the summit of the volcano.

It was lightly snowing when ventured back down to the car, and when we looked back, the volcano was almost entirely covered by the fog so we had barely made it on time to catch the killer views. On the drive back to the main roads, Santiago noticed that the brakes were not working properly (luckily, we were driving very slowly at the time) but it was a little startling. When adding additional brake fluid didn’t work, we thought we were going to be stuck in Cotopaxi all day. After about an hour of just hanging out, the breaks were working again! Turns out that the brake fluid had been frozen from the cold and needed some time to warm up. Lesson learned! :)

After arriving back in Quito, Paul and Santiago took us to their friend’s restaurant for an early dinner where we were given the VIP treatment. We only ordered a few plates of mote con chicharron (pictured below) but so many more dishes came out. It was amazing!

Mote con Chicharron

Mote con Chicharron

We shared a huge bowl of soup, and I even got a special birthday plate of carne colorada!

Carne Colorada

Carne Colorada

Santiago also had one of the servers sneak out and buy me a birthday candle…a question mark birthday candle, that is :) It was really sweet! I’m guessing that either the server was unsure of how old I was turning or that the question mark was the only candle at the store. Regardless, the dish was ridiculously delicious–I’d be ok eating this instead of cake on every birthday going forward.

Steph Bday Meal

After stuffing ourselves until we couldn’t eat anymore, we headed back to Kristina’s and just hung out for the rest of the night. The next day, we all stopped by the local craft market before Megan and I headed to the airport to catch our flight back to California. It was a bittersweet departure, but I’m SO thankful that we got to visit Kristina and meet all of her wonderful friends on this trip. What an amazing adventure!

GNO in Ecuador

South America was incredible, and I’m so grateful that I was able to experience this trip with my best friend.

Hasta pronto, SOUTH AMERICA!!! I guarantee that I’ll be back. <3

Group at Cotopaxi

[This is the final post of the South America series. Click here to see the entire recap of my trip.]

Sep 202013

Savory Bacon Cheddar and Green Onion Pancakes

Breakfast might possibly be my favorite meal of the day. I’m more of a savory (vs. sweet) type of gal though. And I love bacon so this recipe totally hits the spot. The pancakes are savory, with a little bit of sweet, and a lot of spicy (if you choose to douse it in hot sauce like I do).

This is a simple and tasty recipe that will change up your weekend routine in a good way. Just make a large batch of pancakes, brew a strong cup(s) of coffee, and enjoy. It’s the weekend so you owe it to yourself to indulge a bit!

Bacon Cheddar Green Onion Pancakes

The idea for this recipe came from St. Francis Fountain’s menu in San Francisco. This local spot offers Upside-Down Hog Cakes which include bacon, cheese, and green onion. Every time my friends and I would go to brunch here, I’d be tempted to order them so I figured that it was time for me to make some of my own!

Topping the pancakes off with your favorite hot sauce and maple syrup is is the cherry on top to this delicious dish so don’t forget that part!

Bacon Cheddar Pancakes

This recipe doesn’t take much more time than making regular pancakes so there’s really no excuse for not trying this recipe. The outcome is fantastic.

What’s your favorite breakfast meal? Happy Friday! :)

Savory Bacon, Cheddar, and Green Onion Pancakes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • 1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese + 1-2 tablespoons extra
  • 1/2 Cup green onions, finely chopped + 1-2 tablesoons extra
  • 5 Strips of bacon, fried and crumbled (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Large egg
  • Maple syrup
  • Hot sauce
  • Extra crumbled bacon, cheese, and onions for garnish
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.
  2. Then using a wooden spoon, stir in the milk and melted butter. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl and then add it to the pancake mix. Be careful not to overmix the batter too much.
  3. Add the cheddar cheese, and green onions to the bowl and stir everything together.
  4. Lightly butter a large pan or skillet and then warm it up on medium heat.
  5. Scoop about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle at a time, and then sprinkle pieces of bacon over the top each pancake (as much or as little as you want). Then add just a FEW pieces of green onion and a light sprinkle of cheese to give it some color on that side.
  6. Cook each pancake until you start to see the bubbles popping on top then flip it over and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes on the other side (or until the outside is slightly brown and the middle is cooked all the way through).
  7. Repeat for each pancake until the batter is gone.
  8. Top each pancake stack off with some extra crumbled bacon, cheddar, and green onions.
  9. Serve with maple syrup and your favorite hot sauce!


South America: Mitad del Mundo in Quito, Ecuador

 Food, Friendship, Holiday, Life, South America, Travel  Comments Off on South America: Mitad del Mundo in Quito, Ecuador
Sep 182013

I’m sure some of you have already noticed, but this blog has been pretty quiet due to an unexpected (but much needed) blogging hiatus. This is actually the longest I’ve ever gone in 2.5 years without posting, which is kind of startling but I’m absolutely ok with that. I didn’t mean to take a blogging break but something just told me I had to. As rewarding as this blog is, it takes a huge amount of time and effort. And sometimes, I really enjoy stepping away from the computer screen and it’s difficult to balance my time. But I find that I come back to this space every single time, and when I do, I’m glad I did.

So here I am, refreshed and determined to finish my South America Recap (just one more post after this!), and I’m also looking forward to posting some fun recipes that I’ve had on my mind lately.

So thanks for sticking it out with me :)



Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador – June 2013

Mitad del Mundo South America

After spending the night at the Lima airport and running off of about 4 hours of sleep, Megan and I finally arrived in Ecuador. Kristina, our very close friend from college, picked us up and drove us back to her apartment. Kristina’s studying for her Master’s degree in Quito so when we were planning our trip, we knew we had to visit her. We relaxed in her apartment while she went back to school for a few hours. Later that night, she and her friends took us for a quick night tour of the city. We got to see her school and a bit of the beautiful, historic buildings of old town Quito. Then we went to bed pretty early that night so we would be well rested for our day trip to Mitad del Mundo (aka the center of the world) the next day!

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador

Kristina’s friend picked us all up the next morning and we ventured towards Mitad del Mundo. It’s a few hours outside of Quito so we got to see a lot of great scenery on the road! There are actually TWO Mitad del Mundos–one was established by French explorers and is distinguished by a huge monument (pictured below) and the other spot, which was later determined by official GPS calculations, is about 240 meters north of the first line. We visited the monument first and walked around the area for a while.

Mitad del Mundo Ecuador

Mitad del Mundo Equator

Straddling the equator!

Mitad del Mundo Monument

The second center of the world location offers a tour with more history about the area and fun activities that you can only do along the equator line. We got to see water spin in different directions on each side of the equator (not that exciting) and also got a chance to try balancing an egg on the head of a nail (really, really fun!). Some say that these activities are a hoax, but it was really cool to partake in them anyway.

Mitad del Mundo Line

On the drive back, Kristina and her friend raved about the helado (ice cream) in the area so we kept an eye out for heladerias along the side the road. Once we found one, we pulled over and each ordered two scoops. The ice cream was so refreshing and really delicious–a perfect ending to our little adventure!!

Helado Ecuador

When we got back into Quito, we headed to Old Town again but this time to enjoy some food and nightlife. There was a lot of excitement on the streets and it was awesome to see some of the culture in Quito. While walking around, we ate a bunch of empanadas, drank some morocho (a warm rice drink), and shared a plate of mote con chicharrone. Then Megan and I stumbled upon skewers of strawberries that had just been freshly dipped in chocolate. Each skewer was only $1.25 and the strawberries tasted fantastic so we treated ourselves to a few skewers–we really could have eaten the whole batch!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Quito

This day was also the eve of my birthday so we gathered at a bar that was playing live music and ordered a round of canelazos, a hot drink made of naranjillas and sugar cane alcohol. It was realllly tasty and warmed us up right away! At midnight, a birthday toast was made (ah, 25!!!!) and then we headed home to get some rest before having to wake up at the crack of dawn to head to Cotopaxi, a national park in Ecuador that is the home of the world’s second highest volcano!

Old Town Quito

Celebrating my birthday at midnight – Megan, Kristina, and I on the right with Kristina’s friends!

A birthday volcano hike and a fantastic Ecuadorian birthday meal to come in the final post of this South America series!

Aug 162013

Lima Peru

Hey guys! I just spent last weekend attending Outside Lands, a music festival here in SF. It was so much fun! It’s also been over a month since I’ve been back from South America but I still can’t stop thinking about our trip. I was going to write this post and then finish with a recap of Ecuador but I’ve decided to split Ecuador up into two posts (there’s just so much to share!). Sorry it’s taking me so long to get all of these recaps out! Thanks for your patience as I slowly post these recaps–it means a lot to me that I get to share them.

Lima was probably our least favorite city to visit but it could have been because a bunch of our friends told us to spend as little time there as possible or because it was so gloomy/rainy the entire time we were there. We stayed in the Miraflores district, a nicer and very safe district that’s popular with tourists. Although it wasn’t the best city to explore, we had one of the best meals in Peru here! And churros! We ate so many churros…like until we almost threw up.

Miraflores Lima

Restaurants in the Miraflores district

We arrived in Lima around midnight after leaving Huacachina and went straight to our hostel, Piriwana (the sister hostel of the Piriwana hostel we stayed at in Cusco). The bar/dining area at this location has huge windows and we enjoyed our last breakfast in Lima looking out at the streets, drinking coca tea, and slathering our breads with margarine and jam.

Lima Breakfast

We were only in Lima for a day and had decided to spend the night at the airport that night to save some money since our flight to Quito was at 5am  the next morning. Since we had less than 24 hours left in Peru, we set a spending budget for the day, determined to only exchange enough Peruvian Soles to last us the rest of the day before leaving the country. When we finished breakfast, we found a bank and after a bunch of my $20 USD bills got rejected for having slight rips, we strolled to Kennedy Park to check out the bus tours. Megan and I had exchanged enough money for two meals, a bus tour of Downtown Lima, and a cab ride to the airport. After visiting the ticketing office for the bus tours, we actually decided to take a cheaper and shorter tour that consisted of 4 Lima districts instead of going downtown.

After we figured that out, we walked through Kennedy Park (which we thought was going to be very cool but wasn’t even really a park) and checked out all of the feral cats that were just hanging out everywhere in the grass (SO many cats!). Meg and I then headed to the beach and walked up and down the coast a bit. It was foggy but still exceptionally beautiful. Lima sort of sits on a cliff so you have to walk down a bunch of stairs to get down to the water.

Lima Beach Van

The place we picked for lunch wasn’t open for dinner so we knew that we had to start heading in that direction if we wanted to try the food. We went back up the stairs towards the heart of the city and stopped at Parque del Amor, a small park that has a huge statue of 2 people making out and overlooking the ocean :) After that, we walked over to Punto Azul, the highly-recommended lunch spot. The wait was only 20 minutes and after looking over the menu, we decided to forego our dinner plans and put all of the money we had allotted for the day on food towards this one meal. The menu was that appealing!

Punto Azul Ceviche Mixto

We ordered the Punto Azul ceviche mixto which came with mixed seafood, a spicy aji sauce, sweet potatoes, and plantain chips to start. We also split a chicha morada, a traditional purple corn drink which was so amazingly tasty. For our main dishes, I ordered Parihuela (for 26 soles or about $9 USD), a seafood stew served with giant crab legs and TONS of seafood including shrimp, fish, squid, mussels, etc. The flavor sort of reminded me of hot and sour soup but a little more stew-like if that makes any sense.



Megan ordered the baked fish with artichoke hearts and cream sauce (29 soles or about $10 USD). We ate so much during those few hours that we literally felt like we were going to vomit all of the delicious food we just scarfed down but we couldn’t stop eating. The prices were incredible for the quality and quantity of food we received. I highly recommend going to Punto Azul if you’re ever in Lima!

Fish in Artichoke Sauce Punto Azul

After lunch, we staggered back to Kennedy Park to catch our bus tour. Shortly after we boarded the double decker bus, we realized that the bus tour was a huge mistake. We had eaten so much food which caused an intense food coma, the weather wasn’t very cooperative so we were pretty cold on the top floor, and we realized that we should have just saved our 20 soles and walked around instead. We saw multiple “very important schools” and “important hospitals” about every 15 minutes along the route. The bus did take us along the coast for a little bit so that was really great but overall, I think the most exciting part of the tour was when the whole top floor of the bus had to duck because of the numerous low-hanging olive tree branches that would sweep into our bus throughout the tour.

Lima Bus Tour Ocean

Once we finished the tour, we hopped out and ventured to find the churro place we passed earlier in the day. We couldn’t leave Peru without getting a final churro fix! And this place hit the spot. After ordering 3 churros (dulce de leche, chocolate, and vanilla), we realized we needed more. One order of churros con chocolate (6 plain churros with piping hot chocolate fondue) and a cortado later, we were ready to hit the road.

Dulce de Leche Churros Lima Peru

Dulce de Leche Churros

Churros con chocolate

We walked back to our hostel to grab our bags, bargained a cab ride from 60 soles to 40 soles, and then headed to the airport.

Next stop…the center of the world! Quito, Ecuador.

[2 more travel posts and then normal blog posts will resume :) Thanks for reading!]

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