From Cupcakes to Traditional Korean Food and Everything in Between

Easy Traditional Kimchi + Q & A

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What is kimchi?  Spicy fermented napa cabbage.  It is a living food, preserving the nutrients of the vegetables going into it while self generating other health benefits.  

What is in kimchi?  It primarily consists of cabbage and salt but you can also include Korean radish/mu, scallions, sesame seeds, onions, garlic, ginger, Korean pepper flakes, fish sauce, baby brine shrimp, raw seafood, Asian pears/apples, and so much more depending on the kind of kimchi you want to prepare as different regions also prepare it differently.

What does it taste like?  It is bright, briny, soured, and spicy.  Not exactly, but kind of like a spicy sauerkraut.  There are hundreds of different kinds and each one has its own special characteristics.

How do you serve it?  Kimchi is a side dish that is present for every single Korean meal.  Some people enjoy it like a salad while others enjoy it in a recipe.  You can use well fermented kimchi as a topping for hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza or tacos to more traditional applications like kimchi stew or pancakes.

What are some of its health benefits?  It is high in fiber, probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins a, b, c, and calcium and iron while being low in calories and fat.  A well-fermented kimchi has anywhere from 100 million to 1 billion bacteria of genus Lactobacillus.

How long does it last?  My grandmother would have kimchi buried in the ground and some of it would be 2 years old or more.  Film yeast was never a deterrent for her.  My mother has a kimchi refrigerator that is specially climate controlled for preserving kimchi and hers tastes just right for up to 6 months or more.  There are tons of debate on the matter but use your own discretion.  It’s a good practice to regularly turn over the leaves of prepared kimchi and spoon over the juice to re-saturate leaves.  It is after all, a controlled pickling environment.  Over fermented kimchi is definitely an acquired taste and Koreans have a name for each stage the kimchi enters.  Please use your discretion, sight, and smell.

Here are a few other noteworthy tidbits.

  • Health.com listed kimchi as one of the top five healthiest foods in the world.
  • Studies have shown that kimchi has compounds to fight and prevent the growth of cancer.
  • When getting your picture taken in Korea, it’s customary to see “kimchi” instead of “cheese.”
  • Koreans consume around 40 lbs or more of kimchi each year.
  • When the price of napa cabbage rose in 2010, it was considered a ‘national crisis.’
  • Kimchi is so adored in Korea, that they have an entire museum dedicated to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.0 from 3 reviews
Easy Traditional Kimchi + Q & A
 
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Ingredients
  • 5 lb napa cabbage
  • ½ c coarse sea salt
  • ¾ c cold filtered water
  • 2 tb sweet/glutinous rice {not regular rice} flour
  • ¾ c Korean red pepper flakes {adjust for less/more spicy}
  • ¼ c fish sauce {or baby brine shrimp or soy sauce}
  • ½ c fresh garlic
  • 1 tb fresh ginger
  • ½ c vidalia onion
  • Half of an Asian pear/fuji apple
  • Extra additions: ½ c each of green onions/carrots/daikon/leeks/Chinese water celery/raw oysters, squid or fish/etc
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl/basin, chop the cabbage in desired pieces, discarding any wilted/brown outer leaves. Sprinkle with salt and toss to coat.
  2. Allow the cabbage to soak up the salt for an hour ½ to 2 hours, depending on how salty you like it. {I usually take 1½ hours.} It's important to toss and turn over the leaves every 30 minutes or so.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the water and stir in the sweet rice flour until cook until the mixture gets thick, smooth, and milky. Set aside.
  4. In a food processor, add the fish sauce, garlic, ginger, onion, and pear. Pulse to puree.
  5. To the cooled sweet rice flour mixture, stir in the Korean red pepper flakes and pureed mixture. This will be your kimchi paste.
  6. After the cabbage has finished soaking, rinse several times and drain well.
  7. In a large bowl, carefully begin coating the cabbage with your paste. Add in your veggies. Toss to coat, taking care not to squeeze the leaves. If using, this is the time to gently add in your raw seafood.
  8. Mix until everything is nicely coated. Transfer the kimchi to glass containers/bpa free plastic containers and gently press down and seal.
  9. Allow the containers to sit at room temperature for 1-2 days to jumpstart fermentation then refrigerate.

Love,

Your Squishy Monster

2014 in Review

This year was the best yet.  This was the year that I won Charlotte’s 30 under 30.  The year we moved to the beach.  The year that I traveled to Rome and Italy.  The year I got engaged.  The year I reached over 1.4 million views and 26k subscribers.  The year I got to collaborate with some really amazing people like Amber from SweetAmbsCookies and Rachel from KawaiiSweetWorld.  The year I renewed my partnership with Tastemade.  The year that I was voted one of the top 5 emerging cooking channels.  The year I developed my own food app on ifood.  The year I was published in The Asian Herald and Elevate Magazine.  I am blessed and couldn’t have done it without the loves in my life–including all of you!

Here are some of my favorite pictures from this year.

Beach

 

Home.

Lounging

Lazy days at the beach…the best!

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Daddy and mama on their first visit.

Filet Lobster

 

Mama’s special filet & lobster supper.  This was one of the most lovely and memorable suppers.  The family lingered over dessert and candlelight, laughing under a black velvet lit sky.

David

Baby brother singing his heart out.

David Birthday

His special 21st birthday supper of Beef bourguignon, birthday cake, and his “first drink.”

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In front of the Spanish steps after some of the best amarena gelato ever.

Cheers to a great year and an even better year in 2015!

Love,

Your Squishy Monster

Black Eyed Peas

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Happy new year, friends!  I hope that your holiday season has been bright and happy, filled with amazing people and delicious food.  Christmas morning was spent eating sweet and sticky monkey bread on our parents bed {no Christmas tree this year as they’re preparing to move into another house} as we unwrapped our homemade gifts from each other.  I’m completely and utterly blessed and I hope that you are too.  Cheers to the best year yet!  And just to ensure that we kick it off the right way, I bring your black eyed peas which are set to bring about good luck.

 

 

 

 

 

5.0 from 4 reviews
Black Eyed Peas
 
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Serves: 6 Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb dried black eyed peas
  • 4-5 oz pork belly {bacon/pork shoulder/smoked turkey/etc}
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ ts smoked paprika
  • 5 c chicken stock {homemade or low sodium}
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Optional: Ham hocks, jalapeños/hot sauce
Instructions
  1. Soak the peas overnight or at least 6 hours. Alternatively for a quicker soak, you can bring all the peas to a rapid boil with 6 cups of water for 2 minutes then remove from heat, cover, and allow to sit for 1 hour. Afterwards, drain and rinse the beans.
  2. In a large pot/skillet, fry the pork belly with the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika. When it becomes browned and aromatic, toss the peas to coat.
  3. After 3-5 minutes, add the stock, bay leaves, and ham hock {if using}. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for about an hour.
Notes
Prep does not include the overnight soak.

Love,

Your Squishy Monster

Homemade Reeses Peanut Butter Cups

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With the flurry of activity during the holidays, it’s easy to get swept up in the insanity of it all but I always insist on making homemade gifts for all my friends and family.  The only want to maintain a semblance of sanity here is to keep it simple, {especially if you’re building several gift baskets like I am.}  These homemade peanut butter cups are heaven sent as they only ask for 2 ingredients and couldn’t be simpler to whip up on the fly.  These babies are getting wrapped up and tucked into baskets filled with other goodies to share and spread the joy this holiday season.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

5.0 from 7 reviews
Homemade Reeses Peanut Butter Cups
 
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Serves: 1 Dozen Minis
Ingredients
  • 1 c semi sweet chocolate
  • ½ c peanut butter
  • Optional: finishing salt and instant espresso
Instructions
  1. In a heat safe bowl, slowly melt the chocolate in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between. Heat until almost all the chocolate chips have melted but allow residual heat the melt the rest.
  2. In another heat safe bowl, gently heat the peanut butter for 10-15 seconds, just until its loosened up a bit so it pours easier.
  3. Layer the chocolate and peanut butter in a lined cupcake tin. Only pour the first bottom layer of chocolate and second peanut butter layer.
  4. Rap the tin on a flat surface to dislodge air bubbles and smooth out the surface.
  5. Pop the entire tin in the freezer to set for about 15 minutes.
  6. Smooth on the top layer of chocolate and repeat.
  7. Enjoy at room temperature.

Love,

Your Squishy Monster ^.~

Cheesecake Red Velvet Cupcakes

Cheesecake Red Velvet Cupcakes

When I couldn’t decide whether to bring pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake to a holiday party last year, I brought my pumpkin pie cheesecake instead.  These cheesecake red velvet cupcakes were created in the same spirit.  They feature a bottom layer of classic cheesecake with a moist red velvet cake layer in the middle with an ultimate crowning of fluffy cream cheese frosting on top.  When decorated with an edible chocolate snowflake, they’re perfect for the season for so many reasons!

 

 

 

5.0 from 3 reviews
 
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Author:
Serves: 1 Dozen Cupcakes
Ingredients
Cheesecake
  • 8 oz room temperature cream cheese
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 1 ts pure vanilla extract
  • 1 room temperature egg
  • ½ tb unbleached flour
Red Velvet
  • ⅓ c neutral oil
  • ½ c + 2 tb sugar
  • ¼ c sour cream/buttermilk
  • ½ ts baking soda
  • ½ ts fine salt
  • 1 room temperature egg
  • 1 ts pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ ts apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tb + ½ ts red color
  • 1 c + 1 tb unbleached flour
  • ½ tb unsweetened cocoa
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz soft cream cheese
  • 1-2 c *sifted* confectioners sugar
  • 1 ts pure vanilla
  • 1 tb room temperature heavy cream
  • ¼ ts fine salt
Instructions
  1. In the first bowl, make the cheesecake layer by mixing the cream cheese and sugar together.
  2. Add the vanilla, egg, and flour.
  3. Next, make the red velvet layer. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil and sugar together.
  4. Combine the dairy with the baking soda and salt.
  5. Mix in the egg and dairy mixture.
  6. Add the vanilla, vinegar, and finally your color.
  7. To this bowl, slowly add the flour and cocoa in batches. Do not over mix.
  8. In a lined cupcake tin, scoop in the bottom layer of cheesecake followed by a top layer of red velvet cake. Make sure to add in more cheesecake than red velvet as the red velvet will rise but the cheesecake wont.
  9. Bake at 350 for 16-19 minutes.
  10. Cool completely and frost.
  11. To make the frosting, break up the cream cheese and sift in the powdered/confectioners sugar. Add in the vanilla, heavy cream, and salt. Whip until light and fluffy.

Happy holidays!

Love,

Your Squishy Monster

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