Whew! It’s officially 2016! I know each year I say this…but… where does the time go?!? We just keep blinking and years are flying by. Is this another adulthood realization/moment that stinks? ….I think so!
We, much like you, have got so very many blessings in 2016 to look forward to! Perhaps our best baked goods yet…
So, What exciting things did you do to ring in the New Year? Did you get all dolled up? I was loving the sparkly dresses posted on Social media! How about making it until midnight to snag that good-luck kiss? Wink-wink. Tell us!
Well…we loved living in our own little world this New Years Eve. We went out in style New Years Eve. Yep. Total party animals here! HAHA…We celebrated by cooking up a storm in our cozy kitchen at home. An outstanding homemade four course dinner. We toasted (way before midnight) with sparkling cider and Belgium beer.
So what was this dinner we devoured and taunted our friends and family on Facebook with? Oh boy! Glad you asked, because you are now going to get a play by-play!
The first course up was hot bacon dressing using homemade mustard, bacon, shallots and vinegar. For those of you not familiar with hot bacon dressing, it is a very nostalgic memory of Sunday dinners in our families Pennsylvania kitchen. We modified and tweaked a bit to feature Korean pork AKA Samgyeopsal. It was excellent if we may say so. If you’re curious, this cut of meat is thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat. Oh and it just melts in your mouth when grilled to perfection too! Order this next time cut of meat when you find yourself in a Korean restaurant.
The second course was sous vide tarragon butter lobster tails (yep, here we go cooking our condom foods again). The lobster tails were seasoned with fresh parsley, chervil and of course melted butter. Much like its friend escargot, it’s an amazing little vehicle for melted butter! Mmmmm!
The third course, seared ahi tuna crusted with sesame seeds and black pepper. The marinade was sesame oil, soy sauce and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Just when I thought the meal couldn’t get any better the tuna made its cameo and completely blew our minds.
If you follow along on our Instagram account, you’d see that we had a really quaint Christmas eve dinner at home, just the two of us. A clove ham simmered away half of the day making the home smell heavenly! When I got home from work I got right to it whipping up some sage sweet potato gratin, creamed spinach, and a nice green salad. Everything was decadent yet pretty light and healthy. Mmmmhmmmm Getting in all those greens! (Sorry all the photos are over on Instagram here..)
Christmas Morning we were pretty casual and leisurely opened our gifts. Being just the two of us here not off jet-setting our holiday, it sort of felt short this year? I can’t really explain… It was absolutely lovely, just a different sort of feeling that’s hard to put into words. Honestly, this time of year you can’t pay me to leave the living room. I LOVE the Christmasy feeling in our home, the decorations we’ve collected from our travels around the world, The tree glowing in the evening making it even more cozy. Ah! I just LOVE it! ….Now the only thing we’re missing is a roaring fireplace to cuddle up next to. Perhaps our next place/residence will have that? Wink-wink.
Mr. B made sure that he got the traditional Christmas B breakfast going. Anyone following along, outside of our family, that is familiar with dried beef gravy, or SOS? Mmmm it’s their family tradition that I absolutely love and have definitely become accustom to! For not having a local Pennsylvanian butcher near by, I’d say he did an awesome replication.
We had a really nice time helping cook an incredible dinner together. It’s really hard to pick a favorite, but if I HAD to give you some show stoppers… I’d have to say the ham with its excellent glaze and the British sticky toffee pudding. Mmmm but seriously, everything was delicious and made even better with the great company! Oh and we did our first Christmas crackers complete with crowns too! What fun!!
Merry Christmas dear friends!
Ps: We didn’t have a white Christmas, but did wake up this morning (the day after Christmas) to this…. Just as GOOD!
If you’ve been following along with this blog for a while, you know that our annual tradition is to have Friendsgiving, rather than a family-filled Thanksgiving, due to our logistical separations. We kept our theme to our meal to a smaller scale this year and also kept it centered around everyone’s traditional Thanksgiving fare. Eek we just get so excited for in the weeks that lead up to our dinner.
We live for the menu planning, the prep and yes, even those million little last second details that keep us buzzing around here and there. Year after year when all of our guest have left for the night, we head off to bed, we both look at one another and smile talking about how everything was so worth it in the end.
This year we hosted 8 at our table…well 9 if you are counting 😉 little Miss B. We extended our dining room table by one leaf, it worked out perfectly.
The spread consisted of: Mr. B specialty Mashed potatoes; my side of the family family’s broccoli casserole and baked corn, My in laws homemade dressing (because it’s outside of the bird) my grandmothers stick to your ribs macaroni and cheese, my great grandmothers raw cranberry sauce, my homemade applesauce made with local Korea apples, sage leek and onion balls made by Mandy, the deep fried Cajun turkey, a ham prepared by George, crescents, a spinach pie baked by Jovone, pumpkin pie, cheesecake, vanilla and sparkly golden hazelnut macaroons, and an almond raspberry cake. Using the word delicious for this feast is just an understatement!
Typically we wait until the day after Thanksgiving to put up our tree, well except the past two years. Last year Mr. B got excited and insisted we purchase another tree because he had crossed the 5 year mark in Korea and I think he realized that the one we had sitting in storage wasn’t going to be making an appearance anytime soon in Korea. He also declared that he wanted to put it up before we had hosted our Friendsgiving. It was really sweet.
This year i’ve noticed many of our friends posting photos of their cozy homes all decked out with their Christmas swag. At first I thought ALREADY?! Then this past week it got me and sucked me right in. I’m guilty, i’ve had Charlie Brown’s Christmas music on and have changed out our pumpkins for red berries and greens.
After I decorated the first tree, I decided something needed to be filling the air with its Christmasy flair. I’m not talking about a candle, it needed to be homemade and baked for the right feel to go along with the good vibes.
As you know, I adore our cookbook collection and of course consulted my gal-pal Isa and whipped up an orange chocolate chip bundt cake. The cake uses orange zest and really added that hint of citrus spiciness you think of around the fall/winter holidays. Just enough to tickle the nostrils and stimulate your taste buds! Plus Mr. B is a huge fan of chocolate. Win-win!
You can find the link to her recipe here. I highly recommend you pick up her book, even if you check it out for a bit from your local library. I tweaked the recipe due to the availability of items in our kitchen. I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk, homemade vanilla extract, tangerines in the place of orange for the zest, used Ghirardelli Chocolate 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips in the place of semi-sweet, and I cut back on the sugar. I also didn’t end up adding in the ground flaxseed. Digging into the cake that evening was a treat! Next time I’m going to make sure I have oranges on hand just to taste the difference.
We are not skipping or discounting any part of Thanksgiving this year, but as i’ve seen and recently have felt, it’s never to early to get excited about something as important as Christmas! What are your feelings, or are you waiting until after Thanksgiving to get in the Christmas spirit?
I’ve come to a realization after many, many, years of denial…I truly think it stems from some form of divorce child syndrome….(hey, we all have some dysfunctional childhood syndrome, it happen!). Sorry mom and dad.
There I was, I found myself drying dishes in our kitchen, after washing them moments before, having a conversation with Mr. B about organizing and cleaning up. I said aloud without even realizing it was coming out of my mouth, “If my home, office, car, etc. are clean and tidy, then everything will be all right, because I’m in complete control of those spaces and the things that fill them. Everything’s in the place it needs to be.
Can we pump the brakes for a moment? If this ever was a moment that a weekend cake and break from reality inside my organized little head was needed… This. Was. It.
Hence my adventures in making the French weekend cake, this past weekend. Do I have you scratching your head yet, questioning, “weekend cake” is there even such a thing? Yes, indeed and of course it’s delicious too!
In France le weekend cake, or gateau de voyage is traditional french pound cake that’s rich and buttery. The cake itself got the name because it’s a cake that can be made ahead of time and easily transported throughout the weekend on your picnics.
In the states, Sarah Lee and Starbucks mass produce a really sad spongy pound cake (that people love? Hey, I was one of them too…) that is very dense and heavily flavored with butter, but it essentially is the same concept and will keep for a few days.
Isn’t there just something so special about baking and getting to use your hands to create and transform something as simple as dough into something so delicious and beautiful? Plus baking is something that takes me completely out of my mind and worries of clutter and unorganized couch pillows and unmade beds. (Yep, I’m that girl).
Finally, everything was finished and the oven was cooling off. We both waited for this very moment and huddled eagerly together around the table and with every bite, there were waves that swept us away in pure citrusy ecstasy. Now that’s a weekend cake!
As apples are coming into season, leaves are transitioning over to their Burt-orange and yellow shades, and (the U.S) Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I thought I would share my most recent kitchen adventures with the tarte aux pommes (French apple tart). I think it’s such a nice counter-partner to the traditional “apple pie”, but comes off a bit more rustic and showy.
Hopefully I won’t get any backlash for this statement, but in my opinion the tarte aux pommes taste practically identical to the U.S version of apple pie. The exception is that the tarte aux pommes has wafer thin apple slices neatly arranged in the open on top of the tart, a buttery crust, and a caramelized glaze to give the whole thing that irresistible eat me sheen.
To start we made a sweet short crust pastry. Rolled everything out by hand. Carefully Arranged dough in our tart ring and mini tartlet pans. We then popped them all into the refrigerator until we were ready for them again.
We added our diced apples to pots on the stove with a mixture of butter, sugar, and cinnamon. The warm baking smells of the mixture slowly cooking happily danced up our noses. I wish I could just share that experience alone with you all.
Once the apples were soft on the stove top we then pulled out our chilled pastry dough and started to really get to work.
We filled the center of the tart with smaller diced warm apples and then continued on aligning and arranging the top ring of thinly sliced apples. It took me two attempts to get what I was looking for visually. Don’t fret if you end up doing the same.
Lastly brush the top of the apples with melted butter and generously sprinkle sugar over the tarte. We used the deck oven again and baked until golden brown. When it was finally finished, it looked incredible!
The last step was to lightly brush an apricot nappage–(an apricot jelly diluted with a bit of water and heated to near-boiling) over the tart tops. This nappage will help seal in the moisture and give it that stunning sheen that I mentioned above.
You can serve this French tart with a nice dollop of whip cream, or vanilla bean ice cream. Or, do as we did and invite your dearest friends over after a dinner out and serve casually with tea, coffee and good stories around the dining room table. Together we swooned with each bite of the buttery crust and heavenly scent of apples and cinnamon that encouraged us to just go ahead and indulge!
When we pulled up outside I immediately noticed the restaurant had a traditional Hanok roof, and once we stepped inside was wide open with the traditional korean style floor seating. Everything was bright, wooden, and simple. I made my mind up that I liked it already, even if I hadn’t yet experienced the food. The service was prompt, pleasant and very helpful. Even when one of our skewers fell into the pit….oops….
Just like the style of the restaurant, the food was simple but soooooooooo delicious. The duck roasted on skewers as my friend and I had the chance to casually catch up. Little metal trays the lined the outside of the roasting pit allowed garlic, onion, and rice cake to simmer. It was perfect! (Check out the video I captured on Instagram). Besides the duck, the makguksu was a show stopper in my book and absolutely recommended if you find yourself here.
Honestly, I don’t know if I can ever live another place where there isn’t good traditional Korean cuisine located within a 10 mile radius. It’s a life changer and yes, it’s just that good! (Go ahead…ask anyone who has ever lived in S. Korea).
So I realize I’ve done what I said I wouldn’t do with the blog, and that is let it sit. My poor grandparents looking week after week for something, anything! Sorry guys. So I’m trying to get some thoughts and updates posted and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to post about my first private lesson baking Madeleine’s.
I have a teeny confession to make… We visited France and never once ate a Madeleine. I know! I do believe we’ve committed some sort of cardinal sin! I think we need to start looking for a ticket back and get this mistake sorted out right away.
…Okay, okay… Maybe it wasn’t necessarily a sin, but a girl can try her luck to get back to France again, right? Wink-wink Mr. B.
Luckily in the meantime while Mr. B looks for tickets we can enjoy these perfectly sized, lemony delightful sponge cakes.
I was rather surprised by just how simply the recipe comes together. There isn’t a ton of fuss to get the perfect puffed shell shape. My instructor teased me and first said we’d use the KitchenAid mixer when we’d blanchir the eggs and sugar (French culinary meaning: to whiten), but we did it all by hand and in the end it was worth it.
We started out by prepping/ measuring out ingredients, gathering tools, etc. We then moved onto melting the butter, mixing the sugar and eggs, adding in the flour and baking soda, extracts, zest of lemon, and of course melted butter.
After everything was mixed we double wrapped the mixture and put it promptly into the refrigerator to chill. The secret I learned was that you need to shock it from a room temperature to the cold and then into the oven to get the gorgeous raised shell shape we were after.
We used two different types of ovens, a convection and deck. We wanted to get a side by side comparison throughout the baking process. The results were equally scrumptious so I cannot judge purely on that, but what was noticeable was that the deck oven yielded a bit softer result, while the convection a more firm and crispy edge result. Again still no complaints from my tummy or Mr. B’s. I would say in the end, I do prefer the deck oven as it bakes bread and pastry marvelously!
Madeleines are the perfect afternoon delight to accompany a cup of tea and a good book, don’t you agree? Not only are they semi quick, they also can be customized to whatever you are feeling in the moment, or have on hand. I came across flavor like pumpkin, rose, various types of tea flavored, pistachio, blueberry, just endless possibilities! Have you ever tasted or baked Madeleines? If so, what flavors, and what is your favorite?
How was your 4th of July? Did you get to celebrate with a good ol’ cookout? Take in the local fireworks display? We hope it was possibly your best one yet!
We didn’t do a typical Independence Day celebration this year, but then again are we ever doing the typical over here? Nah… But boy did I miss me some grilled cheeseburgers, bratwurst, and fresh corn on the cob, oh and our families too! Thursday evening right after work we grabbed some snacks and hit the road south to meet up with our friends at a ferry port. We purchased ferry tickets to visit the island of Ulleungdo and Dokdo. These islands are located off the coast of Korea have been on my bucket list since moving abroad. Yippee I get to now cross them off! I love getting to cross things off my list!
Friday morning we woke up early, ate our Korean breakfast consisting of a rice porridge, kimchi, fresh tomatoes, and coffee. Lol…of course we tried it, but as you know there are just something’s you can never shake…mine is an American style breakfast. I opted for yogurt, a banana, and coffee.
We boarded the ferry that took us 3 1/2 hours to reach the island of Ulleungdo. Here is a link to see more about the island. http://wikitravel.org/en/Ulleungdo
The island was absolutely beautiful! We loved how preserved and untapped it still is! There is hardly any industry, except for tourist and fishing. However even with the tourist there isn’t a ton of large luxury hotels eating up the land. The water was so clean, so blue, the air was so fresh, and the land was so lush and so green! I really had to keep pinching myself to remind myself that we were still in Korea. It was just that breathtaking.
We rented a large passenger van and cruised around the one main “highway” stopping off at all the little must see marks on the map from our car rental guy. It’s really easy to travel to all the locations, park, and walk. You honestly could do the island in one day if you rushed it, but we took our time, plus we had the entire weekend.
The guys got in some dives and were really excited about the clarity of the water and just how much sea life there was. Mr. B is already putting together a fun dive trip for the 38th Parallel divers. Something to stay tuned in for.
One morning we took another ferry, another hour and 40 minutes to Dokdo island. Here is the link http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264142 . The really awesome history about Dokdo is that Korea is constantly fighting with Japan over it, and still is. Japan has even wrote in history books that they teach their children that the island is theirs.. But Korea unfairly took it….but it’s not the case, and they found historical documents showing otherwise. While it is rather close to Japan, Japan would love to have it for the fishing rights. It’s pretty interesting. Oh and Korea has one resident living on the island. Also Korea is manning the island with stationed Korean police.
The ferry ride seemed much longer because we ended up cruising over two fishing nets that got wrapped up inside of the propellers. Oops. They did a number on the boat because it delayed our trip significantly. In the end they couldn’t cut away all of it and decided they needed to service it once we docked back on Ulleungdo. I felt sorry for the group leaving Ulleungdo that night that was scheduled on that very boat.
I think the a-ha moment was when someone decided to take a smoke break in the restrooms and the smoke detectors went off. I just sat looking up waited for the overhead sprinklers to kick on, luckily they didn’t. I’m not sure where the disconnect was with the passenger and all the signs posted in Korean not to smoke, smoke free vessel, etc. Eh…. I guess sometimes the struggle is that real.
We were nervous because the day we took the ferry to Dokdo island the waves were larger and there was the possibility we wouldn’t be able to dock on the island to get our chance to set foot on it. Thankfully we were able to dock and had some time to snap a few photos. It was really neat!
We met an older Korean gentleman, actually two different ones. Both such characters absolutely worth notating for future memories. The one worked on the ferry and kept a personal log book of guest he’s spoke with, said hello, blessed. He insisted we sign his log book and that we tell him where we were from in the states, after responding he proceeded to give us many thumbs up. We felt loved nonetheless. The other character sought us out while in line awaiting to board the boat back to mainland Korea. He handed us his business card and stayed he wanted us to return back to the island in August for a 5k that we could run or walk, all expenses paid. This man meant business and stood there wanting confirmation with guarantee we were coming. Sweet man. He then pulled us out of line insisting we get a photo with him in front of the boat, again posing with the thumbs up. Lol, I see a pattern here… So we got the photo, he seemed happy, but then later pulled just the two men out for a photo. It was harmless, but the joke was that our faces were now going to be on some Korean noodle restaurant sign that endorses just how delicious the noodles are. Do us a favor and keep your eyes peeled for us if ever in Korea. So that wasn’t the last of him, once on the boat he then purchased us all cold canned coffees and passed them out to our group. Too kind!
Fortunately and unfortunately, MERS the Middle East respiratory syndrome, has really made a dent in the tourism for Korea. Its made for some pretty fantastic advantages for travelers such as less people and discounted prices at some attractions. Almost all the attractions on the island were empty and we almost always had a discounted price.
The entire time we were on the island we ate what the locals ate, mostly seafood. Honghapbap-mussels with steamed rice, haemulcheon- seafood/green onion fried pancakes, sanchae bibimbap, ojing-eo bulgogi -squid grilled at the table with vegetables and hot pepper sauce. We tried the local flower shrimp, chicken shrimp, tiger beef, and frequented and befriended a local coffee shop.
The shrimp was out of this world! We were blown away by the taste and the fact they were only boiled. No old bay seasoning here folks. We would have ate sooooo much more, probably our weight in shrimp, but at 80,000 won a kilo…. Eek…bit pricey.
The tiger beef was outstanding as well! Again pricey coming out at 100,000 won per couple, we had three couples. But where else are you going to get to sink your teeth into a local delicacy like the island tiger beef? Nowhere but Ulleungdo so you just have to do it once.
The coffee shop was fantastic! The owner so nice and had excellent taste with his quality of bean choice. We highly recommend getting a nice treat there after a meal. Try the waffle, trust us it will not disappoint!
All and all the trip was wonderful and getting to pal around on the island with some good friends made the trip that much more! So if you find yourself needing to get away from Korea without getting to far away, check out the mysterious island of Ulleungdo.
More helpful information about traveling to Ulleungdo Island: