Sweet Potato & Zucchini Fritters!

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After a series of fails (pie fail, tea cake fail, waking up early fail…), I’ve decided that it is just time to write what I know. Korean comfort food. Almost every friend of mine who enjoys Korean food has asked me if I can make Korean Seafood/Veg Pancakes (aka Pajeon). Weirded out? Don’t be. Think of it as a big delicious savory fritter!

There are a million and one variations of this classic Korean dish all over the Internet. Once in a while (aka my annual Korean feast), I will go all out and make my version of it with tons of green onions, fresh shrimp, red peppers, etc… But most of the time, I don’t want to peel and devein shrimp, or make a huuuuge batch. I just want a fritter or two – quick! So today. I bring you a simple sweet potato & zucchini fritter. If you’ve never made or tried Korean food, this is the perfect gateway drug. Perfect snack to nosh on with a friend or two!

Note: You can use any kind of potato for this recipe. I opted for Korean sweet potatoes (you can usually find them at most Asian markets). They are dark red or purple on the outside, and a pale canary yellow on the inside. They have a pretty high sugar content, and are delicious when made into fritters, baked, grilled, puréed…. They’re just damn good

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Ingredients:
1 medium sweet potato – chopped or julienned (approx 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium zucchini julienned (approx 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 egg
1 1/3 cup water
Vegetable/Grape seed/Sesame oil

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, rice flour, & salt. Pour the water into the flour in small increments, using your hand to mix all the ingredients together. Add egg to mixture and mix until the batter looks nice and even. Sprinkle in your sesame seeds. Add in the veggies, and evenly coat them in the batter.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drizzle in your choice of oil. Generally, vegetable oil works well. I chose to use a combination of sesame oil & grape seed oil. Generously coat your skillet in oil. Once the oil has heated, scoop 1/3 cup portions of the batter into your skillet. Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until both sides are golden brown!

Serve with this dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder, red pepper flakes can suffice too!)
sprinkle of sesame seeds

Happy Sunday!
Miran

Lunch with old friends + Bulgogi Potstickers!

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warning: today’s post is brought to you by Nostalgia.

You know what? I’ve decided – There’s nothing better than catching up with an old friend. Even an old you friend haven’t spent time with in over a year. We had seen each other in passing for quite some time, but it had been a while since we had actually sat down and talked. Relationships/school/life had put a little distance between us (which happens to everyone nbd). But this afternoon brought me back to sophomore year, watching trashy TV shows in my first (and very empty) apartment with my friend after a particularly weird break-up.

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Me & Ling post-concert a few years back.

We spent lunchtime munching on spicy crab onigiri (a la Molly Yeh) & bulgogi potstickers, talking about what babies we were a few years back. But really, let’s be honest, we’re not that much more mature. I’ve felt like bridges have been burning all around me lately, so comfort food with a good friend is exactly what this girl needed.

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Korean Bulgogi Potstickers

My mom and I used to make dumplings/potstickers from scratch every so often. Even as a kid, I remember how much fun it was. Although, mine would never turn out as pretty as mom’s. She’s just kind of ridiculously good at everything. Mine would just be doughy lumps with the filling somewhere in there.
I haven’t made them from scratch for years, so I figured… it’s time. I decided to fill the potstickers with bulgogi (Korean sweet/savory marinated beef), thus curing my craving for Korean food at the same time. It was totally worth the time. If you have a free afternoon or feel the need to catch up on this season of Homeland, spend it multi-tasking. Make some potstickers.

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Ingredients:
(wrapper)
2 cups all-purpose flour (+ some more for dusting)
3/4 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt

(filling)
2 cups minced beef (If you have a local asian market, they usually have pre-prepared cuts of beef specifically for bulgogi)
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1/2 medium diced onion
1/2 cup cooked korean-style sweet potato noodles (aka: japchae noodles)
1 cup diced cabbage
1/4 cup soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon freshly ground paper

For the filling: Combine all ingredients (except the beef) in a medium mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add in beef. Set aside & refrigerate while you work on the wrapper.
For the wrapper: Mix together flour & salt in a medium bowl. Pour in boiling water in small amounts, mixing with a fork, until you can form a ball with the mixture. Flour your hands and knead the dough for a few minutes, getting the dough as smooth as possible.

Flour a work surface (countertop or cutting board) and transfer the dough. Roll out a 1.5-2 inch log. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut the log into 1/2 inch pieces.

From this point, use a rolling pin to roll out each little piece into flat little dough circles. Place a spoon full of your filling on the rolled-out dough. Fold in half, and use your fingers to seal the potsticker shut. At this point, I just did my best to crimp/fold the potstickers to make them look nice. But there are like a gazillion ways to seal your potsticker. Here’s one to get you started!

Place a couple of cabbage leaves or parchment paper (with some holes poked) in a bamboo steamer. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place the bamboo steamer over the boiling water. Let steam for 10-15 minutes. Devour with lotsa sriracha! Keep the extra ones in an airtight container in the freezer. And then devour them later. Happy Tuesday!

Miran

Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding!

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Magnolia Bakery – made super famous by NYC-based T.V. shows like “Sex & The City” (which is a completely accurate depiction of every girl’s life in Manhattan….) While I was in high school, they opened a location in my old neighborhood, Lincoln Center (I realize they probably have about 200 locations by now…). They are pretty famous for their cupcakes and other baked goods. But to be completely honest, I rarely visited Magnolia for their cupcakes. (Note: I’m super super picky and snobby about cupcakes. I can’t help it…)

Their banana pudding was always my jam. It is bonkers good. At one point in my life, my need for banana pudding trumped my need to go to class. I’d sit there with a good cup of coffee, a friend, two spoons, and one pint of Magnolia’s banana pudding. Bottom line: It is delicious. It is rich, luxurious, and totally decadent. But super light at the same time. It’s dessert crack.

A couple of years ago, a good friend told me that:
(a) Magnolia Bakery released a cookbook, which included the recipe for banana pudding.
(b) It’s super freakin easy to make.
He then brought a tupperware of the stuff to our quartet rehearsal and I practically swooned. I hadn’t seen this stuff since I had moved away from New York. This is why we’re still great friends.

As it turns out, making the stuff is so damn easy. So easy that I will probably never ever purchase it ever again. It has become my go-to dessert because it is super easy on the wallet (attn: college students) and it feeds a good crowd. I’ve taken it to countless parties, birthdays, potlucks, etc… and it is always a hit.

I realize that I’m not leaving you with something particularly original/innovative. But countless people have asked me for this recipe. And I’m super happy to share one of my favorite desserts of all time.

(And… we had another party (that’s party #2 in one week!), I made banana pudding, and now I’m blogging about it…)

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From The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Note: This recipe requires you to plan ahead! I would recommend starting the night before you’re planning on serving your banana pudding.

Ingredients:
One 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
One 3.4 oz. package of instant vanilla pudding mix (Jell-O brand recommended!)
3 cups heavy cream
One 12 oz. box Nabisco Nilla Wafers (no substitutions)
4 cups sliced ripe bananas

Mix together (with an electric mixer or by hand) the sweetened condensed milk & water until combined. Add in the pudding mix and beat well, until you’ve gotten rid of all of the lumps. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight. You must allow the pudding mixture to set before you go on with the rest of the recipe!

Did the pudding set? Okay, good. Go on.
In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer (I don’t recommend doing this by hand – wayyyy too tedious!) until stiff peaks form. Fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until blended.

Assembly:
Use a wide/large bowl for the dessert. For presentation purposes, a glass bowl works well (you’ll be able to see all of the pretty layers!). Unfortunately, I didn’t have one handy…so I used a pretty blue mixing bowl. Arrange 1/3 of the Nilla wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, overlapping if you need to. Then alternate layers of pudding, sliced bananas, and wafers. Finish with a layer of pudding. Garnish the top layer with wafers or wafer crumbs. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours. Serve & Enjoy!

Happy Sunday!
Miran

Itsy bitsy Pumpkin Pies

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I have never made pies, full-sized or mini. Don’t get me wrong, I love pie. I want nothing more than to be able to form a perfectly flakey crust with a beautifully woven top. But honestly, I’ve always thought it was pretty time consuming. Just haven’t been up to the challenge until this year.

However, Thanksgiving is around the corner! So I decided to give it a go… starting off with tiny little pies that fit in the palm of your hand. Perhaps this is a new chapter for me. Now I just want to try and make as many pies & mini pies as possible. If you’re a pie novice like me, this is a great recipe to get your feet wet. Plus, they are pretty freaking adorable. Bring them to your next potluck. Wrap them up in little treat bags and gift them – force them onto your friends (like I do with all of my blog post foods). Or serve them with some whipped cream on top & a spot of tea for a party of one!

Ingredients:
(crust)
1/2 cup butter (melted)
2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/2 cup brown sugar

(pumpkin pie filling)
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons cinnamon
lemon zest

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Melt butter over low heat and set aside. You can crush the graham crackers with a food processor. I just put them in a ziploc bag and crushed them by hand. (I was catching up on a couple episodes of Blacklist…) Mix the brown sugar & graham crackers into the melted butter until well-incorporated. I found it easier to knead everything together with my hands. Messy? Yes. Effective? Yes.
I used silicone baking cups (used for cupcakes) to form the crust. Line a cupcake pan with the silicone cups. Scoop a spoonful of the graham cracker mixture into the cup. Use your hands to press the mixture into the bottom/sides of the cup, forming a shell. Don’t be afraid to use a little elbow grease! You want a somewhat dense shell, something sturdy! Fill all cups and form shells!

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Note: I actually forgot to par bake my crusts in my initial run of this recipe. They turned out fine, but I’m sure the crust would have been crispier had I par-baked. Next time, I will definitely bake the crusts before filling them for about 10 minutes. If you want to give it a try, please do and let me know how it goes!

For the pie filling:
Easy. Combine everything in a mixing bowl. Whisk together so that there are no lumps and everything is fully incorporated.

Assemble & Bake!
Scoop the pie filling into your graham cracker crust cups! Leave about half an inch of space.
Into the oven for about 15 minutes! Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake for another 35-40 minutes. The consistency of the pie filling should be firm, but still a teensy but wobbly. Remove silicone cups from pan and set on a cooling rack. The pies will continue to set as they cool. Enjoy at room temperature with whipped cream!

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More pies coming soon. Blueberry? Apple? Peach? My aim is to make the perfect pies for our Thanksgiving feast. And I don’t know, someone told me that practice makes perfect or something. But who the hell knows if that’s true. Time to put in my 100,000 hours!

Miran

HAPPY BIRTHDAYS & Oatmeal Raisin Muffins.

Yesterday was my guy’s birthday!! Yesterday also happened to be the busiest day of this season thus far. But it is alllllll good. Because somehow, I managed to make it all work. I had some wonderful friends come to my rescue help me out… Because let’s be honest: you can’t do things like this in life without your people. I would’ve been a wreck of a human being otherwise. I started planning a surprise party for John about a week ago. Of course, it didn’t occur to me that planning a party takes actual coordination. I was too ambitious. Note to self: start planning earlier!!! Thank god for that extra hour.

I started off the day by cooking a birthday breakfast. We used to have breakfast together all the time. But now that our schedules are so different, it’s hard for us to find the time to enjoy each other’s company in the morning. I woke up, whipped up a quick batch of oatmeal raisin muffins (recipe below!), some cheesy grits, and crispy bacon. I even had time to make coffee in the French press! So we spent the whole morning just catching up, drinking coffee, and enjoying a true Southern man’s birthday breakfast.

Then it was off to a dress rehearsal, matinee concert with the symphony, and then a chamber music performance. But that’s not that important. The surprise party was somewhat successful, though he figured it out when the whole house smelled like pizza. All of our friends came over and there was more than plenty of good stuff to eat/drink. One of his closest friends even drove up from 45 minutes away. He had a great birthday. And that makes me happy.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN WARD!
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I think that birthday breakfasts will have to become a tradition in this house. But with super rich/cheesy grits & bacon on the menu, I thought it would be best to go with a somewhat healthier muffin recipe. Oatmeal raisin cookies are my guy’s fav, so I figured why not turn them into muffins? There’s officially no butter in the batter. But I couldn’t resist adding this streusel to to it.

Easy Oatmeal Raisin Muffins
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Ingredients:
1 cup mixed white/whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cups apple sauce
1 1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until combined.

Mix brown sugar & apple sauce until you’ve worked out all of the clumps. Whisk in milk & vanilla extract. Beat in two eggs. In 2-3 batches, mix in the dry ingredients. Fold in oats & raisins.

Pour into greased muffin or cupcake pans, until about 7/8 full. (Add streusel if you’re feeling especially generous!)
Bake for 20-25mins until a toothpick comes out clean. Done! See. Super easy.

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Miran