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It has been a ridiculously, probably unforgivable length of time since my last post.  And, in my defense, it has been a pretty busy few months.  🙂  I went back to work in August and it has taken me some time to find the right balance of work, home, and foodie life.  While I miss the freedom to slow cook and take my time cooking, I feel re-invigorated by joining a team and an organization that I believe in.  Adjusting to the work schedule, I’ve had to modify my approach to getting home cooked meals on the table.  More labor intensive meals are saved for weekends and the weeknight meals are those that can be made under one hour.  I’ve found that a lot can be done in a hour.  🙂

This week’s posts will come in chunks and will feature one of the easiest and tastiest desserts ever – Chocolate Heath Bar Crunch, an updated recipe for homemade bread that incorporates my lessons learned in my attempts to have a 100% success rate with yeast :), a creamy, cheesy hot crab dip topped with toasted almonds, and, my family’s favorite holiday cookies – the thumbprints and cutouts with icing.

Thanks for staying with me and supporting my journey.

Cheers,

Meredith

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At the beginning of August, I returned to work after being a full-time stay at home mom for more than ten months.  In an instant, my life went from being completely focused on my two beautiful daughters to days filled with learning about a new nonprofit organization, getting to know new co-workers, meetings, and strategic planning.  The transition has been, while interesting and exciting also a mild shock to my senses.  Days centered on baby talk, infant milestones, dusting off the parental cobwebs, sleep deprivation, and testing new tasty recipes are now about me sorting through and balancing career and family.  In many ways, I feel useful in a way that I haven’t in a long time yet that comes with a bevy of conflicting emotions.

In these past few weeks, I have struggled to continue to explore my love for cooking while balancing all the rest.  And so I sit here now, presenting recipes that are representative of this new phase in my life: career woman, mother to two pretty perfect kids, and wife (not necessarily in that order) :).  I’ve had to be more intentional and create meals that can be put on the table faster without sacrificing my food principles of homemade, from scratch cooking while still balancing varying pallets.

As I’ve gotten older, my preferences lean towards more vegetables, freshness, and adventure, incorporating many different cuisines.  My husband has, for the most part, joined me on this part of the journey and has become much better at trying (and liking) my new creations.  My four year old, on the other hand, has recently adopted the truest, stereotypical toddler diet — chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, pasta, pizza, mac and cheese, meatballs, hotdogs and anything else that isn’t “weird”.  And my almost one year old will pretty much eat anything that comes within reachable distance to her mouth, including shoes, fingers, and magnets…  )She is my put-everything-in-her-mouth kid.  Oye.)  I am not normally a supporter of making multiple dinners but I do want my kid to eat and so I am occasionally guilty of doing that.  I typically give her the same thing we’re eating and sometimes, somewhere in the cooking process, I separate out her food before making it into something we grown ups actually want to eat.  And other times, I decide it’s just easier to give her a grilled cheese than have to convince her that the teeny tiny green fleck is not a vegetable that will kill her.  🙂

My mac and cheese with ground beef, jalapenos and cherry tomatoes is a different spin on the traditional.  I use a base mac and cheese recipe, portion out hers and then fancy ours up.  I mix hers with noodles, hotdogs and cheese sauce.  For us, I brown ground beef with onions, garlic, and crushed red pepper and then mix it with cream cheese, noodles, finely chopped jalapeños, and cherry tomatoes and then pour cheese sauce on top before baking it until golden.

On enchilada night, she gets her standard, non-fancy popcorn chicken and we get a spicy mexican dish of chicken cooked in a homemade enchilada sauce.  I shred the chicken and mix it with some of the sauce, cheese, and sour cream then roll it up in flour tortillas, smother it more sauce and top it with more cheese and bake it until bubbly and melty.  I serve it topped with freshly chopped tomatoes for a little freshness.

These are two easy yet satisfying meals that is perfect for during the week or a weekend meal.

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I just returned from a weeklong vacation visiting family in two states.  Both my husband and I were able to see our brothers and sisters and our kids were able to spend some quality time with all the cousins.  It was relaxing and stressful at the same time (as juggling many personalities always is), but the kids, fun and food were always at the epicenter.  At my in-laws, I baked Favorite Coffee Cake and my Best Ever Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.  Listening to the oohs and ahs and yums from my kids, nephews, and their friends validated my self worth.  🙂  For my family, I made egg, bacon and cheese breakfast burritos on Homemade Tortillas and Honey Whole Wheat Bread.  We spent as much time in the pool as possible, only taking breaks for meals.

When we returned home, we were greeted by a garden bursting with goodies – peas, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, jalapeño peppers, beets and baby fennel.  I spent half of my first day home weeding out unwanted visitors and harvesting my prizes.  I spent a good portion of the day deciding on the perfect dish to combine the incredible produce.

My offerings this week include my Best Ever Vanilla Bean Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting and Summer Orzo Salad with green beans, peas, carrots, tomatoes and feta.

Stay cool and enjoy!

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The tastes of summer…

This week features Four Bean and Grilled Corn Salsa, the perfect summertime picnic dish.  Marinated in a light dressing with a slight kick from the jalapeños, the beans and corn soak up all the flavor.  It’s perfect at room temperature and gets better the longer it sits.  I used dried beans which have a slightly firmer texture than those from a can.  The grilled corn is the unique part – sweet and slightly smokey with a little char gives it amazing flavor.  Funny as this may sound, the grill actually makes the corn taste more corny.  (hehe) But in all seriousness, boiling the corn leaves the flavor in the water.  The grill locks the flavor in.  Try it, it’s super easy and fast.  I added the salsa to my salad in place of dressing to make a really nice, low fat, flavorful topping.  Yum.

Summer also means summer vacation from school for many families.  Making homemade pizza is a fun activity for the kids and so easy.  My recipe calls for semolina which gives the dough really nice chew and crustiness simultaneously.  The skies the limit too for homemade pizza…  You can make individual pizzas so everyone can have what they want on top.  Or make larger ones just like your favorite pizza joint.  Or try grilling it for a nice change.  Or roll it up into a pizza roll and serve at room temperature with some marinara to dip as a great party snack.

Pasta Salad with Tuna and Peas.  Creamy from the mayo and sour cream with tiny bursts of flavor from the peas and added substance from the tuna.  I like to add carrots to mine for color and a little crunch and it goes really well together.

All of these dishes would work great for a summer get together or even a casual night at home.

Enjoy!

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I read somewhere recently that one of the top scents that best attracts a man is the smell of fresh baked bread (or any other homemade food).  Skeptical, I looked to Google to confirm my skepticism only to discover that a long list of websites and research projects to confirm the article’s report.  Even more, there are actual companies that sell cologne/perfume in fresh baked bread scents.  Isn’t that bizzarro? While I personally feel that there is no better engagement of my olfactory senses, I’m not sure that I want to be dabbing eau de fresh baked bread behind my ears and on other pulse points.  (As a side note, my husband seems to be the anomaly…  He is not a huge fan of baked goods so it feels good to know that I have other attributes that landed me a husband.)  🙂 That being said, I do take comfort in knowing that there others out there who love homemade treats just as much as me.

So last month I said that my ode to carbs would be my last for a while since the weather has broken, my garden is producing, and I am craving lighter healthier fare…  Well, I lied, sort of.  And it seems that I am an addict.  It’s true that this weather makes me want healthier food, but carbs are a nice accompaniment to any meal.  So it has meant that I have been simply finding ways to make healthier pasta dishes and starting my days with a piece of homemade whole wheat toast slathered with peanut butter.

My shrimp and angel hair pasta in a lemon, garlic, caper sauce is delicate, satisfying, and unbelievably tasty. Fresh basil and lemon zest give it a freshness that to me, is synonymous with summer.  A homemade shrimp stock adds depth of flavor.  A tip, if you are in the local Lansdale area and live close to a certain Korean market located in North Wales, you can get jumbo tiger prawns for less than $6 a pound.  You’ll have to do the clean up and shelling, but it’s well worth it because you’ll be able to make easy and quick shrimp stock.

My veggie lasagna layers noodles, a vegetable “ragu” of sorts, and gooey mozzarella cheese.  The best part is that you can use whatever veggies you have on hand – it’s a great way to clean out your veggie drawer.  My recipe features eggplant, artichoke, tofu, and carrots but if you don’t like any of those, substitute what you want.  Another tip: if you have professional veggie detecting children and husbands, dice the veggies small and you’re kids will never know it’s there.  And, although I know it’s bad, I told my kid that the tofu was cheese and she immediately scarfed it down.  🙂

My honey whole wheat bread is not actually mine.  It’s one that I’ve adapted only slightly from http://www.allrecipes.com (Simple Whole Wheat Bread), but it is easy and really delicious.  Seriously, my 4 year old won’t go near the store bought whole wheat bread, she fights me eating it and constantly asks how many more bites does she have to eat/have left because it’s painful for her.  This bread, however, she eats happily and quickly (when my daughter eats, I often day dream about all the things I could accomplish while waiting for her to finish – write a book, conquer the pile of laundry, save the world…).  Oh, and did I mention she eats it ALL?  Crusts and all!  Breadmaking is worth the effort just for this reason.  🙂

I hope you enjoy these lighter carb dishes.  Eating carbs doesn’t have to be heavy and unhealthy.

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It has occurred to me that I have shared more about myself through this blog than I have in person, face to face with the real people in my life.  I’m not sure why it’s been easier to expose my inner thoughts through the written word than in actual human interaction, but nonetheless, I find myself enjoying it, not wanting to hold on as tight to my secrets and emotions, and being more comfortable with myself.  And this week will probably give more insight into me than any other.

I had a strange experience this past week, a revelation of sorts, which may sound odd: when I prepare certain dishes, I realized that I feel notably more Asian than at other times.  You may think this is strange, but remember that I was adopted and raised in an American family with American customs and traditions.  🙂  Exploration of food has actually been a journey of self-discovery and I have learned more about my soul and my origins than I had ever anticipated.  But this education has come with a great deal of internal conflict and confusion along with all of the joy and intrigue.

When I got married, I recall a cornucopia of emotions – happiness, excitement, the rush of organizing and planning (did I mention that I can sometimes be OCD?), stress, and a little sadness.  Sadness, you ask?  While it may be a strange feeling to be having during such a joyous time in my life, I had considerable internal conflict over taking my husband’s last name.  After beginning my life born in Korea, then coming to the States living the only life in my memory as a Palmateer, an American in a tiny, homogenous town in Central NY, I would now after 25+ years, be gaining a last name that was reflective of my heritage.  On the outside I looked Korean.  Inside, I felt American.  I had experienced my adolescence, my teens, and most of my twenties as a Palmateer.  My closest friends often joked that I forget that I am Korean and they are completely right.  I grew up envying blond hair, long eyelashes, and creamy skin.  While I was fortunate not have experienced racism, my perception of beauty and the norm was vastly stifled.  It felt like I was shedding so much more than a name, but rather an identity that I had adopted at such a pivotal time in my childhood.  After all this time, my name would finally match my physical appearance and I just didn’t know I felt about that.  I was to become another Kim, which as many know, is the Korean equivalent to Brown or Smith.  But I still felt like a Palmateer, something unique and unexpected.  The truth was, it was a dichotomy, one that I wasn’t at that time quite prepared to face.

Exploring the beauty and the uniqueness of the Korean culture through food has taught me a great deal about myself and what I hope for for my children.  Although it is not without a fair amount of conflicted emotion, I do know that I want my children to be more comfortable with their ethnicity and to embrace it in a way that I have never been able.  It is a journey that I am still making and I am still challenged to find my path.  It is a constant internal push and pull, but the journey has been the vehicle for infinite self-reflection.

Making dumplings makes me feel Korean.  It is such a commitment and an art.  I remember a family gathering when my husband and I had just started dating when the women were doing just this.  I was a newcomer, an outsider looking in, watching these women craft what seemed like hundreds of the most delicious, delicate, beautiful handmade dumplings.  They would sit on the floor chatting as some would over coffee, mindlessly, skillfully crafting these pockets of yummy goodness.  There is something about the time and hands-on practice of dumpling making that makes me imagine a time when women and their families would share the tradition by sitting together on the floor and make mounds of dumplings together.  Yes, I can make them, but I am not an artist and there is very little soul in mine.  So when I was making them in my own kitchen with my oldest daughter munching on popcorn and talking nonstop about the latest Barbie and the Pink Shoes movie (I have also learned the incredible amount that a 4 year old girl can talk and I do a lot of my best thinking in the midst of her incessant chatter), I drifted off into the daydream of a time very long ago in Korea, perhaps something I would have done with my own biological mother had life turned out differently…

This week is an ode to all foods Korean…  What goes better with a delicious dumpling (http://wp.me/p34C1G-dv)?  Try some kimchee fried rice (http://wp.me/p34C1G-6B), or a bowl of short rib dumpling soup (http://wp.me/p34C1G-r).  And don’t forget the tofu (http://wp.me/p34C1G-2a) and spinach (http://wp.me/p34C1G-66)!

Enjoy!

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This week’s recipes have no connection in theme other than they both satisfied a craving I had last week. I created these two recipes to fulfill two goals: a) the chocolate cake as a way of conquering my goal for the perfect, moist, chocolatey bundt cake and b) the shrimp to incorporate my husband and my favorite ingredients – shrimp, gochujang and gochujaru.

Why a bundt cake (http://wp.me/p34C1G-cM), you ask?  What’s better than a pretty pan that doubles as the cake’s decoration?  There are tons and tons of bundt cake designs which make for beautiful desserts with minimal effort.  No frosting needed, just a drizzle of yummy deliciousness makes the perfect topping.  I’ve been working on the perfect chocolate bundt cake for a long time and I think I’ve finally found it.  This cake is to die for.  And I’m not just saying that because I’ve been through dozens of renditions. It is moist, fluffy, light, chocolatey, decadent and satisfying.  I seriously may never have been prouder of myself.  🙂  Yes, I am doing a bit of back patting and not too humble.   Maybe it is because I am still on the euphoric high that is chocolatey goodness, but I promise you, you will love this cake.  Buttermilk, sour cream and semi-sweet chocolate chips make for an incredibly moist, flavorful cake.  The decadent glaze adds the perfect final touch of sweetness.  The worst part of this cake is waiting for it to cool before you can glaze and devour it.  Try it.  Easy and irresistible.

And shrimp?  Well, it’s probably my favorite seafood.  The local Korean market always has it for a really good price and super fresh.  I always have to hold my breath when I walk through the seafood department because my eyes are often not prepared for the craziness — crabs clicking their claws at you, shrimp with their heads and beady little eyes still attached, huge flat fluke swimming in the tanks, octopus and squid still in their natural form…  I have never had the stomach for food that still looks like it’s in its natural state, but boy, do I love to eat it!  Sorry, I had a bit of a flashback that I just made you relive with me.  Anyhow…  Spicy Korean shrimp (http://wp.me/p34C1G-cQ).  Beware, it is HOT!  Two kinds of spiciness with soy, sesame, lots of garlic, and honey.  Nicely balanced and really fiery.  Served with rice, seaweed, tofu, and lettuce, it’s a complete meal that won’t weigh you down but is full on flavor.

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So it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted, and I’m so sorry!  Sometimes life gets in the way.  I’ve still be cooking, but haven’t been able to sit down to share it all with you.

You all know that I’ve been addicted to bread and pasta, but as the spring weather is breaking, I find myself moving away from carbs and towards to the idea and excitement of my garden.  I pay homage to my addiction by offering two of my carby recipes because they will become fewer as my garden begins to produce.  My roasted chicken with fresh linguini, basil pesto and tomatoes (http://wp.me/p34C1G-c7) is satisfying yet light but plenty delicious.  And my homemade semolina bread (http://wp.me/p34C1G-cu) speckled with golden raisins and walnuts has it all – chewy, crusty bread with a hint of sweetness and nutty crunchiness.

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Taco night is a favorite in our house.  But I don’t love the version I grew up with — overly salty taco seasoning with traditional ground beef, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, lettuce, bottled sauce, and store bought shells.  I prefer flavorful, tender beef topped with chunky guacamole, fresh spicy salsa, and cheese wrapped in a homemade flour tortilla.  Sure, it takes a wee bit more time but it’s well worth it.  It’s hard not to scarf down the warm tortillas as they cook (side note: they are delicious with a little bit of butter) and there’s nothing that compares to fresh guacamole and salsa.  These tacos are light, taste fresh, and are just incredible.  Topped with just a little sour cream, they are truly perfect.

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I had an epiphany this weekend…  Part of my culinary journey has been a subconscious interest and commitment to making as many things as possible from scratch.  Since I started this blog, I haven’t bought any pasta, bread, or baked good (with the exception of Girl Scout Cookies).  It’s been fun to revisit old recipes and freshen them up with homemade pastas, breads, and grains.  I’ve enjoyed tackling these tasks and have found that it’s actually quite easy.  And I have found myself wishing that I tried this a long time ago.

But I must be honest – while none of my recipes are hard and anyone can do them, they do take time.  And if you have it, give making fresh pasta and breads a try.  I like knowing exactly what’s in my food, having the chance to lighten it up with whole grains, and engaging my daughter in the process.  And I have felt immeasurable satisfaction in making these foods for my family.  My daughter is more interested in food and actually asks to make certain things now, rather than asking me to buy them (which is actually kind of difficult at times because now she thinks we can make EVERYTHING :)).

So this week is about carbs, carbs, and more carbs… Breads and pastas.  But they’re not unhealthy.  These recipes balance the carb with other deliciousness.  Pasta topped with lemony chicken and roasted asparagus on the side (http://wp.me/p34C1G-9C).  Handcut Korean noodles with moist, shredded chicken in a rich stock (http://wp.me/p34C1G-9d).  Warm flatbread in place of a bun for a turkey burger with refreshing, unique slaw (http://wp.me/p34C1G-98).  This week’s recipes are actually Three-fers – that is, there are three recipes in each.  Pick and choose, mix and match however way you wish.

Of course, you don’t have to make it from scratch.  Feel free to substitute your favorite pastas and breads and these recipes will still be just as delicious and satisfying.  But if you feel so inclined, give breadmaking and pastamaking a try.  It’s a unique experience and it’s so gratifying making your food literally, with your own hands.

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March 4, 2013

This week’s theme is speed and convenience – tips to help get a quick, delicious meal on the table without having to use store bought or prepared foods. (Above is one of my two reasons why getting dinner on the table is sometimes a real challenge :))

I used to think the only way to get dinner on the table in a hurry was to stock my freezer and my pantry full of ready-made foods.  And while yes, they were quick and easy, they just weren’t that yummy or satisfying and I felt like my family didn’t enjoy it as much.  And truthfully, as I started reading labels and understanding what they meant, I began to feel increasingly guilty that I was putting that stuff into our bodies.

High fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, high sodium, mystery ingredients…  Now believe me, I enjoy my fair share of junk food and guilty pleasures and any parent knows that it is pretty much impossible to avoid.  But, if it’s possible, why not try to at least minimize the amount?  By making things homemade instead of buying it, you control the ingredients and know exactly what’s in your food.

I know we’re all busy and we hardly have the time to make everything from scratch all the time. We live in a fast-paced world where many families are juggling multiple schedules and it’s challenging to find the time to sit together as a family and enjoy a meal.  But it’s not only possible, you can do it in a hurry, if you prepare ahead of time.

About once a month, I take a couple hours on the weekend to marinate my Korean meats – bulkogi, daeji bulkogi, kalbi – whatever I think we might want in the very near future.  Because the bulkogi and kalbi take the same marinade, I actually double the recipe and kill two birds with one stone — the ultimate multi tasking.  I portion out these meats into 4 person servings and freeze them in quart size bags.  Although the daeji bulkogi is a different marinade, I do the same with that (note: you can use the daeji bulkogi marinade on chicken too).   When I’m in a hurry, I can just pull one of these bags out from the freezer, defrost it while I am cooking some rice and making the very quick Korean spinach and just 20 minutes later, I have a full dinner ready.

Meatballs…  When you’re making the meatballs, double the batch.  Place the cooked meatballs on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 2-3 hours.  Remove from the cookie sheet and put into quart or gallon size freezer bags.  When you’re in a pinch during the week, start your water for your pasta and cook 1/2 large onion, 2 garlic cloves, salt and pepper, 2 cans of tomato puree, 1 T. of sugar, and dried parsley and basil (or your favorite jarred sauce) and then add the meatballs.  Serve with a salad and a couple slices of garlic bread and your entire dinner is ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

Take my Mixed Greens with Green Beans, Beets, Goat Cheese, and Candied Pecans and add a piece of grilled chicken to make it an entree salad.  Add chicken to my Couscous with Craisins and Toasted Almonds to make it a light and satisfying meal.  Minus the almonds, it’s very kid friendly – my daughter loves this dish.

Now dessert… Texas Toffee.  The one new recipe for this week.  Aside from a scoop of ice cream, a squirt of chocolate syrup, and a handful of peanuts, this is by far the fast dessert I have ever made.  Now, I cannot take credit for this recipe at all.  My dear friend Mary made this for me when I was pregnant with my first daughter (who is now four) and I was addicted from the very first bit.  I lovingly refer to this as Legalized Crack because it is really, really hard to stop yourself from eating the entire batch.  Made from Keebler Club Crackers, butter, brown sugar, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and chopped pecans, this dessert is sweet, crunchy, chocolatey and salty.  It is finger licking, stick to your badunka dunk good.  I made a batch for this post and it’s already gone.  Sigh.

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Next week will be full of carbs and pasta.  Stay tuned.  🙂

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February 26, 2013

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When trying to decide what this week’s recipes would be, my husband joked that my blog is making him fat and that being my guinea pig for various homemade pastas and decadent desserts was doing nothing for his waistline.  His words, joke or not, is my inspiration for this week’s offerings.

On my menu is Quinoa Salad with Green Beans, Tomatoes and Ricotta Salata (http://wp.me/p34C1G-7F); Pan Seared Salmon with Dill and Lemon (http://wp.me/p34C1G-7J); and a Mixed Greens Salad with Beets, Green Beans, Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans (http://wp.me/p34C1G-7H).  I created these recipes in recent years in response to old age :), two babies, and a slower metabolism.  It’s funny how the palate changes…

We all know that fish is really good for us and salmon is full of the “good fat”.  I didn’t really start liking fish until my early twenties.  My mother in law made this pan fried white fish for me with the bones still in and head sitting there on the side, just looking at me.  I looked back it thinking, “Ugh, how can I eat you when your beady little eyeball is watching me?”  Not wanting to be rude, I choked down my apprehensions and picked a minuscule bite off with my chopsticks.  It was really good!  Buttery, flakey and all around yummy.  Hmmm…  If I could eat and enjoy this, might it be possible that I would enjoy other fish?  And there began my exploration into fish.  We don’t eat it all the time because I am a bit of a fish snob and have a gripping fear of bad, fishy fish, but I try to incorporate it into our diets regularly.  (Side note, tonight we’re having a panko crusted Chilean Sea Bass, my favorite fish…  Recipe will follow!)

Quinoa is a really interesting ingredient – it is a South American grain that was known as the “gold of the incas”.  It is high in fiber, a complete protein, chock full of natural vitamins, and Gluten Free.  It looks and cooks very  similarly to couscous, which makes it a go to on nights when you’re in a rush.

The salad is light, refreshing yet substantial.  While pregnant with baby #2, my oldest daughter and I went to the Cheesecake factory for lunch during a day of shopping.  Their country salad is the inspiration for this…  Blanched, still crispy green beans, creamy goat cheese, earthy beets, and slightly sweet crunchy pecans over a bed of mixed greens topped with a balsamic dressing is the perfect addition to a light, satisfying meal.

I hope you enjoy!

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February 18, 2013

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My close friends and family know that in my professional life, I am direct, results-oriented, and approach decision making in a pragmatic, logical, and realistic way.  For those who don’t know, I am a fundraiser by profession – having worked long hours to raise millions of dollars over a 12+ year career for children and local communities.  I like to work hard, am committed to my career, and love the idea of helping others in need.  And until recently, much of my work personality seeped into my personal life too, but children and the unpredictability of life has required a certain agility and flexibility that wasn’t necessary before.

Now close to my mid-thirties, married with two children, my priorities are different and the way that I want to approach life has changed.  Everything I do I think of my children, wanting to pass along to them the values and experiences that I had growing up.  I want to share the kitchen with them, give the gift that my mother gave to me and my brothers.  I want them to enjoy sports and extracurriculars the way my parents did for all of us kids.  I want them to have as many laughs and giggles as I remember in my childhood.

I named my blog “My Culinary Journey”, but it has actually really morphed into is a discovery into myself.  In the short time since I conceptualized my blog to actually launching it, I have learned a lot about myself.  It has helped me to recall and reflect on memories that had long since been buried and almost forgotten, begging to be dusted off and brought into the present.  But more simply, it has also given me a new love and joy for cooking and shown me that I am capable of so much more in life, not just work.  Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved food, cooking, and the feeling that you get when you make something so incredibly delicious and you get to share it with someone you love.  But through this blog and my offerings to you all, I have experimented and tried things that I had always wanted to but just never did.

So today I am feeling sentimental and reflective and am offering two of the simplest recipes – Korean Spinach (http://wp.me/p34C1G-66), Kimchee Fried Rice (http://wp.me/p34C1G-6B), and Daeji Bulkogi (http://wp.me/p34C1G-77). The spinach was part of the first meal that my mother-in-law made for me during that first visit to their home.  I can remember it distinctly, so simple yet it was something I had never tasted before.  The Kimchee Fried Rice is method #345 of getting veggies into the husband in a tasty, deceiving way.  And the Daeji Bulkogi puts a smile on my face – reminds me instantly of my husband and our perfect wedding.  We chose this recipe as something we wanted to share with all of our loved ones during our special weekend.

I hope you enjoy these dishes as much as my family does!

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February 12, 2013

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I don’t love chicken.  I mean it’s okay and I really want to like it because it’s healthier than other meats, but I personally find it a bit of a challenge…  Easy to overcook and dry out, oftentimes too bland, and overall just blah.  And when I was pregnant with both my girls, forget about it, I couldn’t look at or think about chicken, let alone have it in my presence.  So it would be safe to say that I have a pretend, wannabe relationship with chicken.

Until recently…   Being home on maternity leave with a second child who happens to be an amazing sleeper (fingers and toes crossed that I didn’t just jinx myself) left me a lot of time to watch a ton of Food Network, write a blog, start knitting again, clean my house, and tackle many foodie challenges.

As I sat and watched Barefoot Contessa, vacillating between how much I liked her recipes but wished they were delivered by someone else, I noted just how much she and her husband loved chicken.  I mean, they have it almost every Friday night, for the love of all things holy.  Seriously?  Yuck.  Boring.  And she has about a thousand recipes for chicken.  I remember thinking, “wow, this woman has a ton of time on her hands — making her own stock, roasting whole chickens, and butchering her own chicken.”  Ah, the irony.  🙂  I watched her take an innocent little chicken, rip out its backbone, squash it down, slather it in seasoning and toss it in the oven.  And voila, one hour later, one of the most succulent, moist, beautiful flattened birds I had ever seen!

And then i got to thinking.  If she was offering this on her show, it had to be relatively doable for the novice homecook, right?  But the thought of cutting through the bird’s bone just made me shutter.  So I pushed the thought from my mind.

Fast forward a few weeks on a rainy, cold Saturday in January.  It was 4:00 and I decided I wanted chicken.  Not just any chicken, but a full, roasted chicken with stuffing and roasted broccoli.  But it was 4:00 and I didn’t even have any of the ingredients and it takes two hours at least to roast a chicken.  if I was going to have this meal my heart was set on, I would have to do conquer my fears.  I was going to do it!  I literally tossed my oldest daughter in the car, yelled to my husband that I was running to the store and bolted before I could change my mind.

Forty-five minutes later, I was staring at a whole, raw chicken on my cutting board with scissors in hand.  “Alright, just do it”, I said to myself and I jumped in.  It was actually really easy!  Scarily easy.  I rushed through it and tossed in the oven.

One hour later, I discovered something about myself…  I actually really do like chicken.  No, actually, I love chicken.  But it has to be a whole bird, butterflied and roasted (For recipe, click http://wp.me/p34C1G-5G).  Oh my gosh.  Deliciousness.

Paired with roasted broccoli (http://wp.me/p34C1G-5L) and buttered egg noodles with chocolate chip bars (http://wp.me/p34C1G-5R) for dessert, this is a comfort meal that won’t disappoint.

Enjoy!

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February 4, 2013

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Mmmm…  Spaghetti and meatballs.  Is there anything more yummy and satisfying and simple as a delicious bowl of perfectly cooked noodles and tender, flavorful meatballs?  This is a favorite in my household.  Both my husband and my four year old scarf down this comfort food.

And until recently, I thought that I had perfected my version with homemade meatballs and sauce over al dente store bought noodles.

That is, until I discovered homemade pasta…

I have wanted to make homemade, fresh pasta forever.  And for as long as I can remember, I have been intimidated by the shear idea of making pasta and had just accepted that it wasn’t possible and in the stars for me.  I told myself that I didn’t have enough time, it was too difficult, and that I would need to buy all this fancy, expensive equipment.  Well, I was wrong on ALL counts.

Yes, it takes a little time to make the pasta, but not as much as you would think.  But don’t all things that are truly worth it take some time?  To make the dough actually only takes 15 minutes – tops, then it rests for 30 minutes, and after the dough’s little nap, it’s ready to roll out.  In my mind, equipment is necessary, but I imagine you could make very basic noodles without one.  On impulse, I purchased a $35 hand-crank machine at Bed, Bath & Beyond.  I have my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer, but I just couldn’t justify spending a couple hundred dollars on fancy equipment for something I was pretty convinced I would suck at.  It is the best $35 I have ever spent.  But since that purchase, I have been absolutely addicted to making my own pasta. (Click here to get this recipe: http://wp.me/p34C1G-1V)

Now, meatballs.  There are infinite meatball possibilities and I could probably focus a month’s worth of this blog on meatballs.  I make one that’s basically thanksgiving in a meatball made with ground turkey, speckled with stuffing, and craisins; an asian inspired version with ground beef, scallions, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil dipped in an egg wash and pan fried; one for my daughter and husband when I am trying to sneak veggies past them with ground beef, ground pork, finely minced zucchini, carrot, onion, and garlic; and then the more traditional one with a mix of meats that is pan fried to start and then finishes cooking in my homemade marinara sauce. (Click here to get this recipe: http://wp.me/p34C1G-3T)

I know, I kind of sound like the Bubba Gump of meatballs, which may be surprising and confusing given my heritage.  But who doesn’t like a meatball?

My offerings not only include my meatball recipe, homemade pasta, but also banana cake (I recommend pulling out those stretchy pants (again)).  The banana cake (Click here to get this recipe: http://wp.me/p34C1G-1X) is a special request from a dear friend who has been stalking me for this recipe. 🙂  And I am more than happy to share.  I need to credit my sister in law gave me my first bite of this delectable treat.  Come to think of it, I stalked her for the recipe too…  I’m noticing a trend.  It’s irresistible!  It’s  basically a light, fluffy but moist banana bread made smothered in decadent cream cheese frosting.  Yum.  And it’s healthy (well, sort of).

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January 28, 2013

Today’s theme is comfort.  For me, as there is a chill and bite to the air and snow flurries fill the sky, comfort means a nice homemade sweet treat to accompany my cup of coffee or hot tea.  And then I instantly think of my mother.

My mom is an incredible baker.  She may not be that adventurous in the savory realm of cuisine, but boy, does she knows baked goods.

She instilled in all of us kids – my two brothers and I – that it is just as easy to bake at home what you want and, it will taste better because it’s homemade.  Growing up, many of my fondest memories are of my brothers and I in the kitchen with my mother baking sweet treats.  Cookies, cakes, coffee cake, homemade jam – you name it, we probably made it.  She claims that baking is just simply following a recipe, but I think most people agree that in general, that baking is actually a real talent.  And while I may not be her blood, she has passed on to me the gift and joy of baking.

Now that I have my own family, I want my kids to have the same warm memories in the kitchen.  When I cook dinner Alex (my four year old), helps me chop veggies, stir the filling for lasagna, measure out the flour for cookies, and often dumps my leftover ingredients with water in a pot to make her own imaginative creations.  I am trying hard to show her that not only are we making delicious food, but it’s fun and easy and we know exactly what’s in each yummy bite.

My offerings today are Favorite Coffee Cake and Snickerdoodles.  Favorite Coffee Cake is aptly named as it truly is the go-to breakfast treat for my family.  There’s just something about this moist, not-too-sweet cake topped with a brown sugary, buttery topping that sinks into the middle.  And don’t forget the Snickerdoodle.  I think that most people have had a Snickerdoodle before (because I probably forced it upon them :)), but there’s nothing like this freshly made cookie with the cinnamon, sugary crust.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and that they begin to make memories for your family too.

P.S. Don’t forget to follow the blog to get updates!

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January 24, 2013

I’ve already received many requests for recipes, which I love!  These requests have prompted reflection and a recollection of memories, many of which I haven’t thought about or felt in years.

Today, I am starting with two requests, which have a common theme of lightness and healthfulness.

Today’s menu will include: 1) my CousCous with Almonds and Craisins and 2) Korean Tofu.

Yuck, you say? Before judging, try these recipes.

Couscous is a tiny, pearl pasta/grain that makes a nice, light alternative to heavier pastas and starches.  I love to make this on days when my waistband feels a teeny bit too snug and I want to make an effort to be healthy.  But it is deceiving, it’s actually really yummy and filling without weighing you down.

And tofu, poor tofu. Bland, mushy, flavorless, yucky yet supposedly really good for you.  We’ve all probably felt this way abut tofu before.  But truthfully, tofu is misunderstood.  It wants to be loved.  I consider it a culinary chameleon.  It can take on whatever flavor you give it, making it actually one of the most interesting ingredients.  I combine the soft tofu with beef or turkey, scallions and garlic, dipped in egg wash to make a korean “meatball”.  I chop up the extra firm and combine with veggies, cheese, and pasta to make a vegetarian ziti (and you won’t even miss the meat).  It is one of the most versatile foods and you may just discover that you like something new.

So, try something different today.

P.S. Please don’t forgot to Follow this blog for updates!

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