Food on NPR

8 Feb

Growing up, my dad always listened to NPR around the home and inside the car as he waited for my mother to finish her grocery shopping. And now, Ben listens to the station every time he’s driving- which is quite a lot. Even if you’re not interested initially, you can’t help but find yourself caught up in whatever topic is being discussed. I’ve discovered their wonderfully produced food segments and some of them sound completely soothing and real as if you’re in the kitchen right there beside them. I refuse to get out of the car until the program comes to an end. A lot can be learned from those stories and afterwards, you will find yourself a little bit more diversified in the food culture.

One of my favorites is on how to make a Scandinavian winter drink known as “Glogg.” Listen and just imagine yourself in the warm and cozy kitchen as it’s being made right under your nose. Amazing. I can’t get enough of these.

The Dirty Dozen

8 Feb

I follow the Huffington Post on Twitter and one day, this popped up in my feed:

Dirty Dozen: The 12 Fruits And Vegetables With The Most Pesticides

It really stood out amongst the other jibber jabber I normally get from TMZ, People, Forbes, Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain, Drunk Hulk, Shit Girls Say, OXO, Neil Patrick Harris, Kourtney Kardashian (don’t judge), Lil Wayne, Bon Appetit Magazine, Kelly Choi, Shit My Dad Says, etc… you get the point. I follow a wide array of people.

Anyways, I just had to click on it. The list was enough to convince me to go organic on whatever was on it. The top 12 fruits and vegetables most contaminated with pesticides are:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Imported Grapes
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Domestic Blueberries
  11. Lettuce (most likely to retain pesticides. Eeeek!)
  12. Kale/Collard Greens

My MIL is big on fruit & veggies and always has a basket full of them waiting for us when we see her (love that woman). I know most of it usually isn’t organic but I can never say no to free produce! I’m not that snobby to reject fresh food from family for that reason. What I usually do is wash them with baking soda before consuming it. I’ve looked into produce wash that come in a spray bottle or concentrate but am a little skeptical that it comes that way to begin with…all formulated in a bottle ready to go… used to clean your produce. Something about that concept still bugs me. I might cave one day and go for it.

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!

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Covered Strawberries

6 Feb


February 14th, 2011: Ben gave me an adorable mini Orchid plant. He also attempted to make me chocolate covered strawberries.

The plant has come into bloom again for the first time since entering our home and it reminded me of those strawberries Ben so thoughtfully made. We don’t really celebrate V-Day but he always finds little ways to make them memorable. Last year, I put in a small request for a couple of those chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva. Ben chanted how easy they were to make at home and offered to whip up a batch for me. I was elated!.. but I should’ve known better. Turns out that he melted chocolate directly inside of a sauce pot and ended up burning most of it. We still laugh about it today. For the most part, they were edible and quite good, actually. Looks were lacking but who was I to judge his skills (back then)?

If you don’t already know, the correct way to melt chocolate is over a double broiler. I don’t own one so I use an improvised one. All you need is a heat proof glass bowl set over simmering water. My version of chocolate covered strawberries does not require any shortening or butter. Just plain melted semi-sweet chocolate & fresh strawberries. And some sliced almonds, if you’d like.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries:

Makes approximately 20-25

Ingredients:

  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)- 2 cups
  • Fresh strawberries- 20 to 25 medium size. Washed and patted dry with a paper towel. Pull back green stems.

Optional: Crushed/sliced almonds

  1. Melt chocolate chips in a double broiler. If you don’t have one, place a heat proof glass bowl on top of a sauce pot filled with about 1.5″-2″ of water. Pour chocolate chips into bowl and bring water to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Stir occasionally until all the chocolate chips have melted and then gradually reduce heat to low.
  3. Line a rack with wax paper or parchment paper and set near the stove on the counter.
  4. When the chocolate has completely melted, begin dipping each strawberry 1 at a time.
  5. If you want to roll them in almonds, do so right after dipping in chocolate.
  6. Place gently on lined rack. Continue until all the strawberries are complete.
  7. Cool entire rack in the refrigerator for approximately 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.

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

Sous Chef

29 Jan

Meet my sous chef, Ollie aka Ollie Wollie.

Jealous?

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 food.com)

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.