When I first came out to Beijing to study abroad, I was absolutely terrified about what I’d eat. My Chinese wasn’t very good then (still isn’t, who am I kidding?), and ordering anything in a restaurant seemed like a daunting task.

I arrived at my school’s campus and slowly began to find my way around. Every morning before classes started at 8, a woman and her husband would push a little trolley cart to the gate of the university, and set up shop for the morning.

They sold jidanbing – a crepe-like pancake made mainly of egg with scallions and crunchy, crumbly bits laced with a dark sauce – and while for the first few mornings I dove in with excitement, I soon started missing breakfast foods that I had come to know and love. Cheerios, most notably. I have always had a thing for Honey Nut Cheerios, and being away from breakfast cereals started to get old fast when I discovered what exactly people meant by “Beijing Belly.” (Google it if you must, but I don’t recommend it.)

After I started dating Walker, he introduced me to the world of Carrefour and Jenny Lou’s, where, for upwards of $12 US, I could buy a box of Western cereal to munch on in the dorm rooms. I think that accounted for a lot of my initial attraction to Walker, to be honest – he held the key to cereal.

I started to feel silly though, spending $12 for what was essentially 4.5 bowls of cereal. Surely there were better fast breakfast options.

Though removed from student life now (but only just barely – and boy do I miss it), spending that much money on cereal still feels absurd to me. Do we still by Honey Nut Cheerios? You betcha. But it’s really a once a month thing, if that. More often, we pull together a breakfast ourselves – albeit without any corporate mascots or games on the back of the box.

And that’s better, isn’t it? You know exactly what you’re eating, even if what you’re eating is chocolate.


Dark Chocolate, Almond and Cranberry Biscotti
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped roughly
1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup toasted almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and arrange a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Beat egg and sugar with a handheld or standing mixer on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture. Beat until no traces of flour remain. Stir in cranberries. The dough will be very wet and sticky.

4. Scrape the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, forming a thick line in the center. Wet your hands and pat dough into a 9-x-3-inch rectangle. Bake until puffed and dry to the touch, about 25 minutes. Cool on pan for 15 minutes; keep oven on. Peel off parchment and carefully transfer rectangle to a cutting board. Cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices.

5. Lay slices flat on unlined baking sheet, and bake until dry, about 10 minutes. Flip slices and bake for 10 minutes more. Let cool completely. Cookies will crisp as they cool.

6. Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.

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