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Happy Birthday, Ben!

7 Feb

What we ate:

Main course: Wine Braised Pork Chops (from the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated)

Sides (not pictured): Sweet mashed potatoes w/ butter & maple syrup, and a side salad w/ MIL’s Lime Vinaigrette.

The verdict: Wine braised pork chops were a complete let down! Bland and overcooked.

Ugh, I can’t stand it when this sort of thing happens. More so being that it was Ben’s birthday and having spent 3+ hours in the kitchen on it. I studied the recipe weeks in advance and shopped for the goods at our local Whole Foods. The butcher gave me the wrong cut… twice (I had to drive back to exchange it). I needed shoulder BLADE chops and not a single one of them knew what I was talking about. That may have been the problem. I was limited on time and hurried out of the store with bone-in and what seemed to have a good amount of marbling. Lesson learned. Do not cook something you’ve never made before on a special occasion for the 1st time. I felt awful because his mom and brother also had to endure the tasteless cardboard-like meat. Luckily, they were all sympathetic and greatly appreciative of my efforts. Everything was eaten!

This made up for it…

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake via Ina Garten

You can never go wrong with Ina Garten. She’s my hero… even though the woman is butter-happy (I use less than called for).

All in all, it was a great day. I was exhausted in the end. My dish rack was piled high, the dish washer was full & running, and more dishes were in the sink and on the counter patiently waiting their turn.

I am thankful for:

  1. My understanding boyfriend.
  2. My understanding MIL and BIL (brother in-law)- bless their hearts for finishing their plates.
  3. Our newly revived iRobot vacuum.
  4. My dishwasher- I know a lot of people out there who are without one.
  5. Ina Garten.

Happy 33rd, babe!


Birthdays! Birthdays! Birthdays!

5 Feb

Lately, it’s been overwhelmingly busy between work and family birthdays. Not complaining here.

My mother  can sure cook up a feast! Tonight, we celebrated my brother, Inok’s, 31st birthday.

Shrimp & cocktail sauce (made with Korean go-chu jjang), Jap-Chae, pan fried Pollock fish, pan fried zucchini, oysters, Korean kimchi pancakes, pork kimchi tofu, lettuce with go-chu jjang vinaigrette, kalbi (not pictured), and various side dishes: kimchi, anchovies with walnuts, lotus root (not pictured), dried Pollock, fish cake.

Magnolia Bakery’s Red Velvet Cupcakes made by yours truly.

…and also, Happy 3rd Birthday, Chip!

Next up: Ben’s 33rd Birthday celebration on Super Bowl Sunday! On the menu:

  • Decadent chocolate cake w/ buttercream chocolate frosting

My Mama’s Bday Cake

29 Jan

“엄마” is ‘mom’ in Korean.

We celebrated my mom’s 57th birthday over the weekend. I promise you she does not look a day past 40! I asked her in advance what kind of cake she wanted. She responded with, “Banana cake!” So I did some research and found a recipe with rave reviews online. It’s called the “Best Ever Banana Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting.” You’ll need to clear your freezer beforehand (great cleaning project; kill two birds with one stone) to make room for your cake pans. The trick to keeping this cake extra moist requires you to place them directly in the freezer from the oven upon completion. I wouldn’t recommend using glass bakeware for this recipe due to the drastic temperature change.

Temporarily rooming with frozen edamame beans!

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from

Serves: 16

**I used two 9″ x 2″ round cake pans to make a layered cake**

For the Cake:

  • ripe bananas- 1 1/2 cups mashed
  • lemon juice- 2 teaspoons
  • unbleached flour- 3 cups
  • baking soda- 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • salt- 1/4 teaspoon
  • unsalted butter- 3/4 cup softened
  • sugar- 1 3/4 cups
  • eggs- 3 extra large
  • vanilla extract- 2 teaspoons
  • buttermilk- 1 1/2 cups
  1. Preheat oven to 275° (I have a separate oven thermometer hanging inside. No matter what kind of oven you have, the real temperature will always vary from what you set it to. Mine has about a 30 degree difference. I highly recommend having one for accuracy.)
  2. Grease your pans. I lined the bottom of mine with parchment paper & sprayed the sides with Baker’s Joy. Far better than Pam’s baking spray in my opinion.
  3. In a small bowl, mix lemon juice with mashed bananas. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  5. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar-with a handheld mixer or stand alone w/ paddle attachment- until it get’s light and fluffy. Pour sugar in gradually and mix on low speed then increase it to high once all of it is in the bowl.
  6. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  7. Add vanilla extract.
  8. Alternate between pouring in the flour mixture & buttermilk until all of it is incorporated into the batter.
  9. Stir in the banana mixture.
  10. Pour batter into greased pans and put in the preheated oven for approximately 1 hr. Insert a toothpick in the center to test. If it comes out clean, you’re done! If not, leave in the often for 2 extra minutes at a time and check again until it comes out clean. **If you have a separate oven thermometer inside, keep an eye on it to make sure it’s consistently at 275°. If so, the cake will be done at exactly the 1 hr mark.**
  11. Place directly into freezer for 45 minutes.
For the Frosting:
  • unsalted butter- 1/2 cup softened
  • light cream cheese- 8oz. package
  • vanilla extract- 1 teaspoon
  • powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)- 2 3/4 cups
  1. Cream the butter & cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  3. Beat in powdered sugar on low speed and gradually increase to high until it get’s fluffy.
  4. Make sure your cake is completely cooled before spreading the icing on.
To assemble Cake:
  1. Using a serrated bread knife cut the dome part off of one of the cakes to create a nice flat surface. This will be the bottom half of your cake. Spread frosting on top evenly.
  2. Take the second cake and place it on top of the one you just frosted.
  3. Cover the entire cake with frosting and decorate to your heart’s content
**Garnish with your choice of toppings! Almonds, walnuts, chocolate chips, strawberries, sprinkles… the possibilities are endless. I bought a tube of pink gel frosting from the baking aisle to write on the cake.**
What I learned:
  • If you plan on transporting a cake, be prepared and have one of those tupperware cake carriers with a lid attachment. Don’t forget the bottom liner, too. You should’ve seen me sitting nervously in the car as the cake slipped half way out of my hands… twice!
  • Figure out exactly how you want to decorate the cake. Draw it out if you have to.
  • Make it a day in advance- especially if you plan on making other dishes on the day of. It will taste even better! Keep in the fridge until it’s ready to be served.

In addition to baking a cake, I also made a traditional Korean birthday soup called Mi-yeok guk, and lastly, chocolate covered strawberries! <— Recipes soon to follow. It was a busy day for me but I enjoyed every bit of it. My family was shocked that I made all those, and impressed that it actually tasted good! If you were family you’d understand. It wasn’t too long ago that I didn’t know how to make scrambled eggs.