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Archive for the ‘recipe’ Category

Thanks to the lovely Christmas care packages we received from our siblings, Evan and I had more than enough supplies to plan a stellar Mexican food night, and just in time too because it had been so long…

I started the process by cooking up a few chicken breasts with some diced green chilies from California. Yum!

Next, I warmed up some refried beans — the first I’ve had in eight months. They were perfect, smooth and creamy. The buttery texture paired nicely with the chicken. My happy orange spoon helped keep them from sticking to the sides of the pan :)

For toppings, I kept it simple with sliced pepper jack cheese and diced cherry tomatoes. Ole!

Last, everything was wrapped up in a soft, warm flour tortilla. The final product was truly a taste of home — and comforting after a long day at school and the gym.

Speaking of which, I ran three miles without stopping for the first time this weekend. I brag only because eight months ago, I was terrified of treadmills, and avoided them at all costs. It may have taken twenty-five years, but I’m finally starting to like running! I’ve even started reading fitness/well-being blogs like the (never home)maker for motivation to keep moving in the increasingly cold weather. Who knew I would take such a priceless gift home with me from Korea?

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This year, I was feeling a bit bummed to be away from my family on what is probably our biggest holiday — so to put ourselves in the holiday mood, Evan and I decided to celebrate with two dinners.

The first meal we had on Thursday, actual Turkey Day, and it was an intimate affair. We headed to E-Mart after school to pick up the essentials that would make our dinner comforting and delicious, all while keeping up with the holiday theme.

I drooled over the cheese section for a bit, before picking out some for our friend’s birthday party.

Soju was also a must for the holiday weekend.

Since turkey wasn’t available, we opted for a pre-roasted chicken that we have been meaning to try for weeks. To go with the bird, we picked up some potatoes, butter, cream, carrots, bread and of course, some PIE (with freshly whipped cream).

We also picked up some firm, Asian pears on the street.

Once we got home from the store, Evan went to work on slicing and boiling the sweet potatoes, while I worked out what to do with the pears. My father has previously made a mouth-watering dish of squash, onions and apples that I would have liked to replicate, but I was sans squash. So after pondering over my ingredients, I threw a white onion in a pan over low heat to caramelize, and got to work dicing the pears.

After the onions were becoming translucent, I added balsamic vinegar, which created a sort of glaze. Then, in went the pears and more vinegar, to simmer into a chunky almost-sauce.

The taters mashed up nicely with lots of butter and cream.

We nibbled on the loaf of bread while we worked, singing along to Miike Snow and the new Arcade Fire CD. We tossed the carrots with rosemary and olive oil, roasting them until they were soft and fragrant. The bird went in to our tiny toaster oven next to warm up. Cluck, cluck!

I was quite impressed with our final plates. The buttery, creamy potatoes were balanced perfectly with the tangy, fruity onion/pear compote, and I could not stop eating them together until I was nearly licking the plate. The chicken had a hearty flavor from the roasting, the carrots were wonderfully herby, and the soft bread sopped up nearly a bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Heavenly.

We curled up on the couch, thankful for our lives together, and watched television until we were able to shove down some of the spicy walnut pie topped with fresh cream. It was our first Thanksgiving alone together, and who better to share that with than the person I am most thankful for?

Plus, we got to celebrate my favorite of gluttonous holidays again at our friend Jenny’s birthday the next day!

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Since we have said goodbye to a number of our friends since returning from Japan, Evan and I have either gone out to dinner with our pals or made simple salads at home. Well, one night Evan got the genius idea to make burgers at home, complete with cheese and caramelized, balsamic onions. Um, DONE.

Since we wanted to get the onions just right, I started them early, dicing them up and throwing them into an oiled pan on low, low heat. I tend to burn onions when I want to caramelize them, so for me I always play it safe by doing a long time with a light flame.

Once the onions began to soften and turn translucent, I seasoned them and poured in some balsamic vinegar, stirring frequently until a lot of the liquid had burned off. I added water, and continued to let the onions cook.

After multiple times of adding vinegar, burning it off, and doing the same thing with water, our onions had a melt-in-your-mouth consistency and were a nice brown/purple color. Basically, they were perfect!

While I tended to that, Evan got to work on the meat (man stuff, obvi). We decided not to splurge on beef, but went with pork burgers instead. No matter, because the were still excellent! He tossed together the meat with garlic salt, pepper, and an egg to bind the ingredients.

Into a hot pan they go!

Once the burgers began to brown and cook through, we added thin slivers of creamy farmhouse cheddar on top, which we had splurged on at E-Mart. We needed something gourmet! The cheese had a nice bite, and went well with the bowl of cherry tomatoes we snacked on as a side dish.

We purchased what we thought were rolls to fill with our hard work, but instead they turned out to be cream-filled and sweet. I can’t wait to be able to read labels at the grocery store once again.

The final product was ah-ma-zing. It was the perfect amount of food, and delectably decadent. I’m sure that if we had made this with the high-quality beef in this country, there would be no stopping this burger. I would have it every night, licking the plate clean when I was done.

A. Definite. Repeat.

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On Sunday night, I was feeling emotionally drained after a day of homesickness, too lazy to run to the store and grab some protein for dinner — we were all out — and too cheap to go out. So I rummaged around in the fridge, and made a hodge podge open-faced sandwich with the contents!

I started by slicing up an onion, mushrooms and garlic and tossing the vegetables in a pan with some garlic. I turned the heat on low.

While those sauteed, I dropped two English muffins (leftover from a delicious Saturday breakfast made by yours truly) into another pan to start toasting.

Once the inside of the muffins got nice and toasty, I flipped them over in the pan and added a pinch of mozzarella to each one, finishing off a bag we’ve had in the fridge for awhile.

Once the cheese started melting and bubbling, I tossed on the mushroom/onion/garlic mixture.

I moved the sandwiches to a plate, and topped them with some chopped green olives — because there isn’t anything on earth better than green olives. I can eat them on anything. Is it any wonder my favorite cocktail is a filthy martini?

Yummy! I served the sandwiches with a bowl of sliced cherry tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I contemplated cooking the tomatoes, but they were so good fresh that I decided against it.

The sandwiches were so good — crispy and earthy and cheesy comfort food. When I worked at Telepictures, I frequently made something similar for lunch. The night before, I would saute onions, garlic, mushrooms and bell peppers together, let it cool and put it in a tupperware container. The next morning, I would bring an untoasted English muffin, a container of goat cheese and the tupperware to work. Thanks to the toaster and microwave I was able to assemble my mini sammies quickly on my lunch break.

Mmmm… this was almost as good. I miss goat cheese though — really nothing tops it.

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If a creamy, perfectly ripened, unblemished avocado was a person, I would be its stalker. Has there ever been a more perfect fruit?

This week marked the first time I bought and ate an avocado since coming to Korea. Pricey? You bet — it cost about $6 for two. Worth it? Every penny.

On Monday night, we used half of an avocado in a chicken salad for dinner. I cooked chicken breasts in lemon, olive oil, rosemary and garlic. Once those were done and diced, I tossed the chicken with bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, green olives, a pinch of cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The results were so good, we had it two nights in a row!

After the first night, I rubbed half of the avocado with some olive oil, and stuck it in a bag in the fridge. It came out looking like this:

Neat trick I learned from the Huffington Post! It barely oxidized. I will be doing that again in the future!

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Today marks the end of our second month living as expats in Korea, and I am shocked at how quickly time has passed in our new home.

Sometimes it feels like we have been away from our friends, family and American culture for a lifetime, but those are the rare, dark days filled with pangs of homesickness and and overwhelming urges to be “at home.” Most of the time, I am happy and content in our new life — our cozy apartment is home, and we belong to this community.

As I lay here lazily in bed, thinking up a grocery list and planning on which corner of the apartment to tackle first today with cleaning supplies, I wonder about all of you. What are my friends up to? When will be the first family barbeque of the season in Long Beach? For me, summer has always marked an even greater emphasis on get-togethers with my loved ones — dinners with fresh fare from the garden, concerts in the park, long days at the bay, etc. A daydreamer since birth, I tend to fall into periods of reminiscing in my alone, quiet time.

Today, a group of us have plans to cook tacos and hang out. The weather has finally warmed up for good — I think — and nothing says “hello summer” like sizzling steak and fresh veggies wrapped up in hot tortillas, topped off with icy cold beer.

Last night, after an unsuccessful attempt at going to the gym (it was closed), Ev and I listened to mellow tunes and made Ginger-Carrot Risotto for dinner, a favorite of mine from “Almost Vegetarian: A Primer for Cooks Who Are Eating Vegetarian Most of the Time, Chicken & Fish Some of the Time, & Altogether Well All of the Time.” The cookbook, given to me by my sister Betsy, is packed neatly in a storage unit in Lemoore.

One of the most useful tricks I’ve learned with the Internet is how to grab my favorite recipes from even the most obscure cookbooks when they’re out of my reach. Simply search the book on Amazon, choose the “Look Inside” option and search for your recipe. Easy as pie!

I started out the recipe by simmering a pot of “broth” (still don’t have any), green onion tops, sliced ginger and orange juice together on the stove.

Mmmm… it smelled so good bubbling away! Next, I minced up more garlic, the white part of the onions, a carrot, and orange zest to go into a large skillet with some butter.

I love the bite that ginger has. Usually, I put so much ginger in my food that I end up coughing when I eat it. Dee-licious. When I first shopped at the grocery store, I thought that they didn’t carry carrots. It wasn’t until a fellow teacher told me where to look that I found them — covered in dirt. They were black! Easy to wash, but if I hadn’t been told, I would’ve never known there were carrots under all that grime.

Once the veggies sauteed a bit, I tossed in the rice, and reduced some wine in the mixture.

Next, I began adding the broth (which I had strained through a strainer) very slowly, while listening to my Jams playlist :)

The risotto thickened up beautifully after simmering in the orange-ginger broth. Since I used spicy ramyeon seasoning for the broth, the end result had a nice kick to it. A splash of cream made the risotto delectable!

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Today was Election Day here in Korea, which meant a vacation day for us. We went out last night to celebrate, and spent today in bed, watching Mad Men and fully ignoring our original plans of cleaning the apartment. It was lovely.

I did, however, make it out to E-Mart to stock our dwindling food supply. We really needed protein, so I grabbed some chicken breasts, lemons and a few other essentials during a quick supermarket trip.

Since it wasn’t a work day, I decided to spend time on dinner and make Sunshine Risotto. My dad made something similar to it while we were staying in Long Beach before the move — it is a heavenly mushroom risotto brightened by the additions of artichoke hearts and lots of lemon juice. The sunny colors and flavors inspired the name.

Some of my favorite moments with my father were spent in the kitchen, pouring wine, mincing garlic, sauteing onions, rolling out pie dough… and talking. About life, politics, travel, religion, and even tricks of the kitchen trade. Everything I know about food pairings, chopping, slicing, and simmering I learned from my dad. His love of cooking has really inspired me to be adventurous with food, something I will always be grateful for. If you never try to cook something, you’ll never discover dishes you never knew you can’t live without!

Over the years, I have found comfort in the slow, methodic and rhythmic ways of the kitchen. I love spending copius amounts of time prepping, cooking and eating food — closing my eyes, stirring a simmering pot, and slowly drinking in all of the wonderful aromas as they fill the room. It is relaxing, and good for the soul. I favor savory dishes over sweet, since baking requires a calculated level of precision, and I feel like all those exact numbers take some of the fun out of it.

Risotto has become a dish that I can make with my eyes closed — no measuring required. I always begin the same way, with an onion melting in olive oil (or butter if I need extra comfort) and broth bubbling slowly on the side. Its not a complicated dish, but one that requires patience, which I actually find soothing (only in the confines of the kitchen though — I’m impatient everywhere else). I had to tweak this particular dish due to the lack of some ingredients, but thanks to my crafty cooking skills it turned out wonderfully (if I do say so myself).

1 onion diced (I let this sweat in a pat of butter), throw in a handful of minced garlic and chopped up mushrooms (and more butter…obviously), toss in about a half can of roughly chopped canned artichoke hearts, sprinkle a palmful of arborio rice in (let the rice sit until the edges turn translucent), next in goes a couple glugs of white wine (normally I like the cheery citrus flavors of sauvignon blanc, but today I used chardonnay).

After the wine has sizzled off, it is time to start adding the stock, chicken or vegetable, slowly — start with a cup, wait til that evaporates, then pour in a half cup at a time (this is where things got tricky — there is NO stock to be found here! So first, I cooked our chicken breasts in the water, then used the seasoning pack from instant ramyeon noodles and ta-da! Broth! It worked). Season liberally with salt and pepper, always. Once the liquid is nearly gone, and your rice is soft but has a slight bite, turn off the heat, squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon, and a few splashes of cream (I only had the nondairy stuff I swiped at Coffee Bean), then top with a little grated parmesan and there you have it — sunshine on a plate.

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