PictureDolsot bibimbap--yum!
Hi there! Mama here.

So in case you didn't know, we here at the Sweet Home kitchen absolutely, positively, LOVE Korean food. Yes, Korean food. How, you ask, did we get to know and love this perhaps (undeservedly) lesser-known of foreign foods here in the Midwest? Well, let me tell you.

Before Papa and I were, well, a mama and a papa, we did a year-long English teaching stint in Daegu, South Korea, or The Land of the Morning Calm (so named for its "spellbinding natural beauty of picturesque high mountains and clear waters and its splendid tranquillity, particularly in the morning"). The description is quite accurate; Korea is a breathtaking country and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

But again, I digress. This post is supposed to be about delicious Korean FOOD! So you see that picture up there? That's a dish called "bibimbap" and it's one of my favorites. It literally means "mixed rice," but really it means, "mixed rice and vegetables with beef, chili pepper paste, and a fried egg on top." It's one of the first meals you'll have if you visit Korea, whether it's served on the plane ride there (thank you, Korean Air!) or at one of the gazillion Korean restaurants that serve it as part of their regular menu. It's a popular, easy-to-handle dish for both natives and foreigners, and can be wonderfully customized for carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike!

My favorite version includes shitake mushrooms, zucchini, bean sprouts, spinach, and carrots (all sauteed separately), ground beef, and a sunny-side-up egg, all mixed in a sizzling stone pot (like you can see in the picture above). This version is called "dolsot bibimbap" which means "bibimbap in a sizzling stone bowl." The great thing about dolsot bibimbap is that the bowl is so hot when you serve it that once you put the egg on top and start mixing, the rest of the egg actually fries inside the pot and the rice gets all crispy crunchy on the bottom. Delicious!

Because they had just opened up Shin's Korean Restaurant in our home town of Mount Pleasant, Michigan literally within months of us coming home--weird, we didn't really have a need to learn to cook Korean food ourselves for a couple of years. Here in Grand Blanc, though, sadly there is no Korean restaurant in sight. There is, however, a great little Korean grocer less than ten miles from our home and an AWESOME Korean cooking website with all of the recipes we know and love!

After first trying her recipe for japchae and having wild success, I returned to Maangchi's Korean cooking website in search of her bibimbap recipe. To make sure you're able to properly cook authentic and delicious Korean dishes, Maangchi posts detailed ingredient lists, clear instructions, great photos, and short videos with each recipe to make sure your meals turn out just as great as hers. Once I found the recipe I was looking for, I set out for Seoul Oriental Market in Flint to gather the ingredients.

You should be able to find most of the ingredients at a regular grocery store (I was able to get the rice, eggs, zucchini, garlic, ground beef, shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach, sesame oil, and soy sauce at our local Meijer), but some of them, like the gochujang (red hot pepper paste) and kim (seaweed), might be tough to find in some areas. I would recommend visiting a Korean grocery store simply because a) there are a ton of great things you can buy there (Korean rice cakes, plum juice drinks, and sweet red bean pastries for starters) and b) Koreans are great to talk to! (I'm not trying to generalize...it's just that I've honestly never had a bad experience in the hundreds of Koreans I've spoken to.)

In any case, I followed Maangchi's recipe and the bibimbap was a huge success! It was definitely a lot of work (if I could chop veggies half as quickly as Maangchi I'd have finished a lot sooner), but it was well worth it once I tasted the results and saw the satisfied look on Papa Blond's face. Score!

So if you're feeling adventurous and want to give Korean cooking a try, I suggest you check out Maangchi.com and give it a whirl!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama


Have you tried Korean food? If so, what's your favorite? Have you made it at home? Feel free to leave a comment and share your story if you've successfully (or unsuccessfully!) tried any Korean dishes yourself--I'd love to hear about your experience!
 
 
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Hi there! Mama here.

Okay, so I've recently finished a mammoth project to revitalize our home-cooking agenda. Before, I would spend hours trying to come up with new and exciting meals to make each week, feeling very much like I was reinventing the wheel each time. What I've done recently has made that a whole lot easier.

Instead of racking my brain for seven distinct meals to prepare at the start of each week, I've now identified seven distinct types of meals that we serve here in the Sweet Home kitchen, and I've assigned each day of the week one of said meal categories in the hopes of easing the task of weekly meal planning.

To make the process even easier, for each type of weekly meal I listed, I made a spreadsheet with a list of all the specific recipes I currently know how to cook in that category, along with some I'd like to learn and test out. Sound too good to be true? It's not. I did it and now meal planning has become so much simpler!

Here's a sneak peak at my meal plan for this week. Feel free to re-create one for yourself, or if you don't have even the teensiest desire to do that, I have personalized templates available for a $5 instant download at my etsy shop. ;)

I hope this helps some of you in your own home kitchens as much as it's helping me, and happy planning!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama


What do you do to organize your weekly meals? Have any great ideas that help you out? Feel free to leave a comment and share!
 
 
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Hi there! Mama here.

Okay, so it turns out I've got a new obsession...well, it's not so much the obsession itself (good home cooking) that's new as it is the most recent inspiration--it's sort of like adding fuel to a well-stoked fire. You all know by now that I love to cook, but if I find a new means by which to do so or a particularly talented chef from whom to amass a broader collection of oh-so-mouth-watering recipes, well, expect nothing else from the kitchen that week but an onslaught of drool-worthy goodies! (Okay, so maybe Baby is the only one actually drooling...)

In any case, I headed over to smittenkitchen.com after a Google search for homemade Goldfish crackers, and boy, oh, boy did I hit the jackpot! It's run by Deb Perelman, a home cook who believes that cooking should be pleasant and simple. This website has some of the most delectable-looking homemade goodies I've found anywhere on the web (and trust me, that's saying A LOT), and I'm all but ready to chain myself to the kitchen counter until I've tried every last appetizing one.

Last night I tried the Smitten Kitchen recipe for whole wheat goldfish crackers and had incredible results. Not only are they the perfect size for Baby's nimble fingers (or Mama's, or Papa's, for that matter!), but the whole wheat flour gives them this hearty texture that tastes just like homemade should.

The only changes I made to Deb's recipe were out of sheer convenience. I couldn’t wait until our next shopping trip to make these babies with the recommended "loud" orange block of cheddar, so I used our leftover shredded Mexican blend from tortillas the night before and BAM! Delish.

Also, since we didn’t have any cookie cutters that small (and since I ran out of patience after hand-carving just two of the fishy shapes with a paring knife), I used a good old-fashioned apple corer to make sun-shaped crackers instead. The finishing touch was a few pokes with a 3-tined wooden fork to make air holes in each cracker, and voilà! About a hundred tasty little crackers as cute as buttons that everybody seems to love. They turned out great and I'm thinking that next I'll try a parm-and herb version...since it seems likely I'll be making these buggers weekly from here on out. ;)

Since I'm now super pumped to try as many Smitten Kitchen recipes as possible, I'm planning to pre-order Deb's cookbook, due out at the end of October. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Deb Perelman, for sharing your recipes, pictures, and talents online and now in print!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama


Have you tried any Smitten Kitchen recipes? Leave a comment and let me know which ones you've tried!
 
 
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Hi there! Mama here.

For most people, the thought of black beans in a brownie would be an instant deal-breaker, but consider this: One serving of black beans provides 42g of protein (that's 84% of your daily need!), as well as over 100% of your daily need for folate, thiamin, and manganese! Plus...they're super good.

With that in mind, I took a cue from a friend and added a pound of black beans to my usual go-to brownie recipe: a rich blend of dark cocoa powder and sweet chunky walnuts that makes a perfect combination of moist and fudgy but also soft and cakey brownies. When the black bean addition yielded rich, tasty results (seriously, you would have no idea those beans were in there!), I decided to take things one step further in an effort to intensify the heathful-ness of these chocolatey goodies.

Okay, so our other secret brownie ingredient is perhaps even more surprising than the first. *Hint* It's green, but it's probably not what you're thinking! ;) It's actually...are you ready for this? Zucchini! Sounds weird, right? It's actually not as strange as you might believe.

Think about zucchini bread. In theory, vegetables baked into bread doesn't sound super appetizing (well, to some of us health nuts it might sound pretty exciting), but once you taste it you realize it can add a surprisingly sweet quality. Same deal here. Not only that, but zucchini is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals, most notably Potassium and Vitamins A and C, all important parts of a balanced diet.     

So if you're in the mood for something rich (and cholesterol-free and vegan, might we add!), give our new cakey, fudgey, quarter-pound Beany Zucchini Brownies a try!

Until next time,

Sweet Home à la Mama