Holidays, Family, & New York

Coming home to New York during the holidays is probably my favorite thing to do of all time.  I know it has been said time and time again: New York really is magical this time of year. This time, I was lucky enough to stay for a whole week. I had all these crazy plans to explore new neighborhoods, discover new eats, etc... But as soon as I stepped into my family's apartment, all I wanted to do was change into my pjs, eat a home-cooked meal, and binge-watch grey's anatomy with my sister. Some things never change! 

I did manage to stop into some of my must-go-or-i'll-regret-it places. I enjoyed my favorite pistachio macarons, black sesame lattes, the most perfectly light Russian tea cookies, curry chicken empanadas, waffles&dinges (with tons of speculoos - duh), so many dumplings, and so much more... 

But my favorite part of this trip? The Korean food.  Despite being completely booked with church holiday events, my mother was a one-woman culinary machine this week, making sure that I stuffed my face with all of my absolute favorites: braised short-ribs, braised pork belly, rice-cake & dumpling soup... I would have captured some pictures, were it not for my eagerness to just dig in! This was probably the most Korean food I've eaten in a span of a week since I was in high school. And it was awesome. There's always something about your mom's cooking that can never be replicated. Though I'll be damned if I don't try!  I'm definitely bringing home some tips & recipes, so we'll see how they fare when I'm back home in Houston! 

You guys. I could not have asked for a better Christmas. I had my family, the comfort of a warm home, deliciously festive food, and all of my absolute favorite things (except for my guy!) I'm writing this slowly, hoping that if I procrastinate long enough, I won't pack, and I just won't be able to leave. But I miss my kitchen too much, so time to wrap things up! 

Hoping everyone had a wonderful & delicious holiday as well. Bring on the stretchy pants.

 

bouchon bakery's pistachio macarons

bouchon bakery's pistachio macarons

black sesame latté!

black sesame latté!

minna, aka my giant & adorable sister. 

minna, aka my giant & adorable sister. 

columbus circle

columbus circle

curry chicken empanadas. she's in love.

curry chicken empanadas. she's in love.

minna, overwhelmed by the amount of studying that needs to be done (but probably won't get done while I'm here)

minna, overwhelmed by the amount of studying that needs to be done (but probably won't get done while I'm here)

dad surprised us with the cutest & yummiest Christmas cupcakes.

dad surprised us with the cutest & yummiest Christmas cupcakes.

New Look & My FIRST GIVEAWAY!

Sooooo I'm sure you've noticed - HudsontoHouston now has a new look and a new home! Long story short... I was having some super annoying technical issues, said screw it, and impulsively decided to switch servers. FYI, I'm totally happy to have switched over to SquareSpace.  

So now you know why we don't have any new recipes today.  In other news, THANKSGIVING is around the corner! AKA my favorite holiday of all time. This weekend = recipe testing! So stay tuned because I'll be updating as I go!

To celebrate the new & improved blog, I am hosting My First Giveaway! 'Tis the season (almost), right? 

First of all, let me just be real for a second - I have insanely talented friends.  And I'm incredibly happy to feature Lilu Cards, a handmade card company run by a friend of mine, Sarah Ludwig - aka: musician by day, card maker by night.

The minute she opened her easy store, I sent her a text asking if she'd be interested in taking part in a blog giveaway.  Her cards are so adorable/glittery/festive, you'll have a hard time sending them to your friends.  There are tons of different cards available, so you'll definitely be able to find the perfect one for your loved ones and friends! 

Make sure you enter because, well, who doesn't like free stuff?

GIVEAWAY RULES:

  • You have one week to enter! The giveaway will end 11/29/14!
  • Go visit LiluCards & 'Like' them!
  • Once you've done that, leave a comment below answering the following question:   What is the most non-traditional dish you've had on your Thanksgiving table?
  • Make sure to leave your name and email address! I have to be able to reach you if you win! :D
  • Winner will be chosen at random! Good luck :)

Itsy bitsy Pumpkin Pies

20131105-193419.jpg 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.

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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.

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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

My favorite green smoothie

20131029-234637.jpg I was a vegetarian for 3 years. Survived veganism for 3 weeks. Tried to eat 'paleo' this summer, and made it about 20 days before I needed a big plate of pasta. Obviously, balance is not really my strong point. I guess what I'm trying is to say is that I've tried almost every foodgroup-limiting health trend. But here's the thing, I just cannot give up my favorite things so easily.

Things I could never ever give up forever: - ALL korean food - thanksgiving feasting - chocolate - boyfriend's home-made fried chicken - my occasional dirty chai latte - cheese - bahn mi sandwiches - great lakes christmas ale

The list goes on and on... And the older I get, the more I'm tired of hearing that everything is terrible for me. So now, I try to follow this mantra: everything in moderation. I'm just a happier and healthier person that way.

So today, I bring you one of my favorite ways to keep my diet balanced: the green smoothie! This is my every-day little win. All you need is a blender. I use a Vitamix, which basically pulverizes everything in its path. It's the most useful & versatile kitchen gadget ever... But that is a whole different post just waiting to be written.

I love drinking one of these with breakfast. It's is a no-fuss way to make sure I'm getting the vitamins & nutrients I need. It's great for incorporating more fruits/vegs into your diet. Or if you just wanna go raw for a meal. The best thing about this smoothie? It is so yummy. And with super-foods like kale, chia seeds, and flax seeds, you can't go wrong. It makes me feel like I am starting off my day in the best possible way. Then, I can proceed to eat all the Halloween candy & cheesy grits I want. Kidding. Kind of. Here are the ingredients (quick & dirty) 20131029-234347.jpg Throw everything in a blender. Just a few tips: core the apple squeeze juice from lemons (but remove seeds)

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You can substitute any ingredient you'd like. Sometimes, if I'm craving something a little sweeter, I'll throw in orange juice instead of coconut water. If I want something richer/creamier, I'll add in some almond milk & yogurt. Post workout, I'll throw in some whey protein powder. What are some of your favorite smoothie add-ins? Leave me a comment, I'd love to know!

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Miran

Cinnamon & Apple Butter Braided Bread

20131027-003420.jpg This week is another one of those crazy weeks. But that's okay. I've realized that baking yummy treats makes long days so much more bearable. Yesterday afternoon's three-hour break was spent working on my first loaf of bread!

Bread-baking has always been a little daunting to me (even though according to my guy, it's fairly simple). He regularly bakes gorgeous loaves of sourdough, brioche, and multi-grain seed bread. There is nothing more comforting than opening the doors of your home to the aroma of freshly-baked bread. It pretty much commands you to put on your pjs, curl up on the couch with your feet up, and binge-watch a whole season of something on Netflix.

I wanted to bake something pretty for my first attempt, so I opted for a braided bread with filling. It was definitely not as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be. Turned out beautifully. You can fill it with anything you want. I went with apple butter, walnuts, and cinnamon. I'm sure it would be delicious with raisins, figs, and any other dried fruit or preserve. I can't wait to try a savory version of this braided bread (stay tuned) - perhaps with some sort of cheeeeeese?

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Ingredients: [DOUGH] 3 1/2 cups flour 1/3 cup sugar 2 teaspoons active dry yeast 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon 3 tablespoons softened butter 3 tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce 2 eggs 1 1/4 cups warm almond milk

[FILLING] 2 tablespoons softened butter 3 1/2 tablespoons apple butter 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

[EGG WASH/GARNISH] 1 egg 2-3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine + whisk together flour, salt, yeast, and cinnamon in a medium-sized mixing bowl. In a different bowl, whisk together softened butter, sugar, and apple sauce. Fold dry ingredients into butter/sugar bowl and mix until evenly incorporated. Whisk in both eggs. Pour in warm almond milk and mix in until batter is smooth. Gently knead the dough with your hands for 3-5 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, and set aside.

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For the filling: combine everything into a small mixing bowl. Mix until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Back to your dough. Sprinkle a handful of additional flour onto a smooth surface (a large cutting board or countertop should do just fine!). Lay the dough onto the floured surface. It's important to keep sprinkling flour throughout these next few steps, so that a minimal amount of dough sticks to you, your rolling pin, or your surface! Using your palms, press the dough and flatten out the best that you can. Use a rolling pin (sprinkle some flour on it first) to flatten the dough further, until the batter is about an inch thick. You want to aim for some semblance of a rectangle/oval. Flour! Transfer your dough to a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a silpat. Important: You won't be able to move the dough after you've braided it without damaging it.. so move it over to your cooking surface now!

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Imagine that your dough's surface area is divided length-wise into thirds. Spread the apple butter filling mixture evenly along the middle third. Be generous with the filling. Using a bench scraper, cut the outer thirds of the dough into 1 - 1 1/2 inch wide strips. Take the first strip (I started on the right!) and lay it diagonally over the filling. Then, take the corresponding first strip on the left and cross it diagonally OVER the first strip. Continue this process, until you have braided your pieces all the way to the bottom of your dough. Take the last piece, flatten it out between your fingers, and tuck it under your loaf. Pinch the very top of your loaf, flatten slightly and tuck under. At this point, you will probably be so enamored by your beautiful craftsmanship that you won't be able to do anything further. That's totally fine. Leave it alone for 30-35 mins, allowing it to rise. Whether you choose to stare at it adoringly during this time is completely up to you.

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Whisk the remaining egg & a teaspoon of water in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash onto the top and sides of the loaf. Coat evenly. Take a few pinches of turbinado sugar and sprinkle liberally. Into the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the top is a golden brown. Let the loaf cool for approx 15-20 minutes before you dig in!

This is perfect for an inexperienced bread-baker. So go ahead and have fun with this one! Give a loaf to your friends. They'll be impressed. If you try it at home, let me know if you substitute other fillings. Enjoy with a strong cup of coffee!

Miran

Butternut squash + Barley Baked Risotto

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If you haven't noticed already, I love butternut squash. I also love carbs. So I bring you a happy marriage of both. For this risotto, I opted for a slightly healthier version, using pearled barley instead. Personally, I love the chewy texture of barley. Contrasts really well with the creamy butternut squash purée. But feel free to sub in whatever grain you want!

Ingredients: 1 butternut squash 2-3 tbsp olive oil 2 slices thick-cut bacon 1 diced shallot 1 diced medium onion 2 tbsp chopped sage 2 tbsp chopped chives 2 cups pearled barley 4 1/2 cups chicken stock 2 tbsp sherry vinegar 1/2 lemon 1/4-1/3 cups freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Peel & cube butternut squash (making sure to remove the seeds!), then toss in a mixing bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to an oven-safe pan and cook for 20-25 minutes, until squash is tender.

Meanwhile, slice 2 pieces of bacon into slivers. Cook over medium heat until crispy in a med-large oven-safe skillet. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside. Add shallots & onions to skillet. Toss in sage + chives. Cook until shallots/onions are browned (6-8 mins) Add in barley and toast for about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, mixing occasionally.

Remove butternut squash from oven. (Check doneness with a fork - it should slice through without much resistance). Throw into a food processor or blender with butter, salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup of water. Process until the squash is a smooth purée. Don't worry if there are still a couple chunks (delicious). Add to barley and mix until evenly incorporated. Mix in sherry vinegar & lemon juice. Grate in some fresh parmigiano reggiano, salt & pepper to taste.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F, cover skillet, and place into oven. Let barley finish cooking/tenderizing for about 30-45 in oven.

My recommendation? Garnish with crispy bacon pieces, more grated parmigiano reggiano, and freshly ground pepper. Serve with roasted asparagus, cauliflower, or your veggie of choice for a super comforting meal. Keeps really well in the refrigerator. Reheat in a non-stick pan. Try it with an over-easy fried egg on top & a drizzle of your favorite hot sauce. Yum.

Miran

Chai Sugar Cookies!

20131023-183401.jpg A couple of hours ago, my mom called me with some amazing work-related news that made my day. I wished I could have been in NY to give her a big hug and take her out to celebrate. I had so much energy bubbling inside of me that I decided to celebrate on my own. So, I baked cookies.

But not just any cookies : Chai Sugar Cookies My friends know that I am 100% addicted to chai tea and everything chai-flavored on this planet. If I could start each off with a "dirty chai" (ie: a chai latte with a couple shots of espresso), I would. Alas, spending $6 every morning doesn't seem like the right thing to do. And until I get my dream espresso machine, it looks like my daily dirty chai will not happen for a while. I have been obsessed with this spicy & sweet flavor since high school, and decided it was time to incorporate it in some baked goodness. It is a super easy recipe (quick too!) and perfect for the fall/winter season. Basically, it is the molasses-less aromatic little sister of the gingerbread cookie.

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Ingredients: 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 1 cup light brown sugar 3/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground cloves 1 teaspoon allspice 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper 1 stick unsalted butter (at room temp) 1 egg 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 tablespoons apple sauce 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Note: I did not have cardamom in my kitchen, and my local store was out of it. If you have some ground cardamom, go ahead and add a teaspoon!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl and whisk together. Whisk in spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, pepper). Set aside. Soften the butter and mix together with brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the apple sauce, egg, and vanilla extract, mixing well until everything is evenly incorporated.

Fold the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture in 2-3 small batches, until the batter is smooth & even. Using a small spoon, scoop small amounts of batter onto a greased cookie sheet (parchment paper or a Silpat works great too!), leaving about 2 inches between scoops to account for the batter expanding.

Cookie sheet into oven! Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Take the cookies out of the oven and sprinkle each with a pinch of turbinado sugar. Back into the oven for 5 more minutes. The cookies should be a nice deep brown when they are done. Let cool for a minute or two, then transfer onto a cooling rack.

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The texture of this cookie is crispy on the outside, yet super chewy on the inside. It's perfect to enjoy with a little cup of tea. Not to mention, your whole home will smell delicious!

Miran

Bouchon Bakery Banana Muffins!

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New York's Bouchon Bakery has a really special little place in my heart. Even in my high school days, I was constantly there, enjoying their baked goods (the gigantic pistachio macaron is my favorite) & deliciously strong coffee. This bakery is always my first and last stop during my New York visits, and I am almost always bringing back a bag full of treats for my friends. So when Thomas Keller released his Bouchon Bakery Cookbook with Executive Pastry Chef Sebastien Rouxel, I was thrilled. All of my favorite treats in one book!

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I bought it as a birthday gift for my boyfriend last November. But let's be honest, I basically half-gifted it to myself. So far, we've enjoyed the oatmeal raisin cookies, shortbread cookies, double chocolate chunk & chip cookies, TKOs (Thomas Keller Oreos), bacon cheddar scones, and the Multigrain seed bread.

I had no intention of tackling a recipe from this book this week (I'm still trying to catch up on sleep from last week...), but the brown bananas sitting in my kitchen begged to differ. So, I scratched plans for basic banana bread and decided to go with Bouchon Bakery's Banana Muffins with a streusel topping. I had almost everything that the recipe called for, so I decided to substitute the few ingredients I could and save myself a trip to the grocery store. I used chopped pecans instead of walnuts, vanilla extract instead of vanilla paste, and sour cream instead of creme fraiche.

20131022-214517.jpg Adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook:

Ingredients

BATTER 1 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon (168 g) cake flour 3/4 teaspoon (3.6 g) baking soda 1/2 teaspoon (2.4 g) baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoon (4.4 g) kosher salt 4.2 ounces (120 grams) unsalted butter at room temp [1 stick of butter + change] 3/4 cup (144 g) lightly packed light brown sugar 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (80 g) eggs 1 1/8 teaspoons (7 g) vanilla extract 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons (24 g) creme fraiche 1 cup mashed bananas (approx 2 bananas)

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Note: the recipe calls to use a mixer, but I had no issues doing it all by hand. Sift cake flour, baking soda, baking powder together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk in Kosher salt. Cream the butter to the consistency of mayonnaise (should be fairly easy at room temperature). Add sugar and mix until fluffy, scraping down the sides as you go. Add eggs and vanilla extract until just combined.

Add dry ingredients in 2 batches until just combined. Add the creme fraiche & mashed banana to the mixture until evenly distributed in the batter. Transfer the batter into an airtight container. Refrigerate overnight (up to 36 hrs).

Note: When I told the bf that I was going to make banana muffins over dinner, he told me to 'read the entire recipe carefully' beforehand. I did not. Therefore, I did not know that the batter needed to be chilled overnight. And was so so so sad that I would not be munching on something sweet after dinner...

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20131022-221618.jpg if you own a scale, definitely break it out for super exact measurements

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PECAN STREUSEL TOPPING 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons (100 g) all-purpose flour 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar 3/4 cup (100 g) pecans (finely chopped) 1/8 teaspoon (0.4 g) kosher salt 3.5 ounces (100 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces.

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Combine all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add the butter, incorporating well until there are no more large chunks. Transfer mixture to a covered container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line large 6-cup muffin pan with muffin papers and spray with nonstick spray. Spoon batter evenly into cups, stopping about 1/2 inch short from the top. Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of the streusel topping on top of the batter. Or, even more if you're feeling generous ;) Place pan into oven & lower the temp to 325 degrees. Bake for 35-38 minutes, until golden brown. Insert a toothpick or skewer into one of the muffins - if it comes out clean, you're done! In first read through, I also ignored the lowering-heat part of the recipe... Don't do that, unless you want them to be a teensy bit dark on the bottom....

Delicious Sour cream/creme fraiche + not too many bananas = perfectly moist and fluffy muffins. Not the banana-overkill dense muffins I'm used to. Takes a little bit of planning ahead (oops), but so worth it! Store in a covered container. Should last for up to 3 days in room temperature or up to a week in the freezer. Enjoy!

Miran

Butternut squash couscous & Radio!

Every once in a while, you come across a week where everything somehow happens at the same time. Between a zillion rehearsals, 5 concerts, and a radio segment, I've hardly had the time to catch my breath. I've seen the boyfriend for about 30 mins each day, I've run out of clean clothes, and I've been eating like crap... But here's the thing, I would not trade it for anything else. Yes - It has been an incredibly challenging week. And I am ready to sleep for about 20 hours straight. But as a really awesome person once told me, "it'll make the muscles bigger". Today started a lot earlier than I'm used to. I've been preparing for a recital with a couple colleagues from the symphony. We were given the opportunity to promote this recital by Houston's classical radio station, Classical 91.7FM. I wanted to feel warmed up enough for the live performance segment, as well as alert enough for the interview portion. So yeah, not much sleep. Nonetheless, the radio segment went smoothly and we were out of there before lunchtime.

20131018-154700.jpg Here's what I learned from today's radio adventure: 1. It is totally possible that you will have a brain fart when asked a question on the spot. It's also possible that you will involuntarily say, "uhhhhh... I got nothin!" (smooth) But that's all ok. Because luckily, your host is incredibly understanding & generous. He will simply pause, then repeat the question. And by that time, your brain will be working at turbo speed, and you'll have formulated some semblance of an answer! 2. Always always always bring one person who is a natural storyteller. Radio gold. 3. I have the voice of a newborn baby. 4. Bring a sweater!!

After the radio segment, I found myself with a few hours off before the next thing! So I decided that I was going to cook myself something delicious & comforting. I should probably mention that this week has been so much more bearable because of the weather. It is finally starting to feel like FALL in Houston! I have been wearing boots, sweaters, and scarves all week! Makes me insanely happy :)

What else makes me happy? Butternut squash! It is one of my faaaaaavorite veggies, so I thought I would feature it in a rich and comforting couscous! PS- about 2 weeks ago, I discovered that I really like Israeli couscous - but had no idea what to do with it. So, I asked blogger extraordinaire, Molly Yeh for some help. She suggested this deliciousness, which I devoured. Then I just began to play around with it.

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Ingredients: 1 butternut squash (peeled & cubed) 3 slices thick cut bacon (sliced into small 1/2 inch slivers) 1 cup Israeli couscous 1 2/3 cup chicken stock 3-4 cups chopped brussels sprouts 1 shallot minced (approx 2 tbsp) 1/2 lemon 1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a large mixing bowl, coat the butternut squash with 1/4 cup of olive oil. Mix in a good pinch of salt & pepper. Pour into oven-safe pan, and cook for 25-30 mins until tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Cook bacon until done and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked bacon and set aside (keeping the fat in the pan). Couscous into pan. Toast couscous in bacon fat until slightly browned (4-6mins). Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and allow the couscous to fully cook, stirring occasionally. Fluff with a spoon, remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour a little olive oil (or bacon fat!) into pan. Shallots into pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until they start to brown. Brussels sprouts into pan. Cook until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine the couscous, bacon, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, shallots and remaining olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Add in a generous pinch of salt & pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and the chopped parsley. Mix until everything is evenly distributed. You can enjoy this as a side dish, or devour a bowl of it on its own (like I just did) :)

I leave you with this gem my mom sent me last night. Because what says HAPPY FALL more than this picture??

 

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Miran

Kimbap!

20131016-005014.jpg Now that I live so far away from home, I find myself intensely craving my mother's cooking. Though the Asian markets and Korean restaurants are aplenty in Houston, nothing comes close to mom's. My Korean cooking is pretty good - my mom's cooking is stellar. No comparison. The other day, I found myself craving one of my favorite comfort foods: kimbap. My mom used to make these for road trips - it was and will always be our travel food. She'd pack a cooler full of these sweet and savory rolls at 6AM, just so they'd be ready for our annual trip to Cape May. I have great memories associated with kimbap, and I'm so glad to feature it as my first food-related post! I suppose you could call it the Korean version of sushi. It originated from the Japanese futomaki roll during the Japanese occupation of South Korea. Japanese sushi rice contains rice vinegar, giving it that delicious slight sour taste. Kimbap rice is made with a little bit of salt, and a generous drizzle of sesame oil.

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Ingredients: 4-6 sheets packaged seaweed laver 1 cup white rice 2 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp honey 1/2 cup sesame oil 1/3 cup sesame seeds 1 package pickled daikon radishes 1 package imitation crab meat 2 cups carrots (julienned/matchsticks) 12 oz. spinach 1/2-3/4 lbs. ground beef 3-4 eggs

*Note: It might be challenging to find the daikon, imitation crab meat, and/or seaweed at your local grocery store. Most Asian (specifically Korean/Japanese) markets will carry these items.

Prepare rice by rinsing. Place rice in bowl and cover with an inch of water. Use your hands to mix the rice around (you will see the starch in the water). Drain the water. Repeat 2-3 times. Put rice in saucepan or rice cooker with 1.25 cups water. Bring to a boil and allow rice to fully cook. Once cooked, transfer to a mixing bowl, and use a spatula/spoon to fold the rice around, releasing as much heat and steam from the rice as possible. Once cooled, add a pinch of salt, drizzling of sesame oil, and sprinkling of sesame seeds. Warning: the rice is delicious, may be hard to move past this point.

Heat nonstick pan or well-seasoned skillet over medium heat. Beat eggs well. Give the pan a glug of sesame oil. Drop eggs in pan, and basically cook as a frittata. Let one side cook until you can flip and finish the other side. Remove from pan and set aside. Turn pan to medium-high. Carrots into pan; sauté until softened. When done, set aside. Spinach into pan; wilt (add another bit of sesame oil if needed). When done, set aside. Beef, honey, and soy sauce into pan; sauté until well-browned. When done, drain off fat and liquid and set aside. Allow all ingredients to cool to room temp before assembling the kimbap.

Cut egg pancake into long strips, about 1/2 inch wide. If needed, cut other ingredients (pickled radish, crab meat) into strips as well.

Assembly Place one sheet of seaweed on top of a bamboo sushi rolling mat. Spread rice evenly onto bottom half of the seaweed sheet. Lay ingredients toward the bottom of the rice.

20131016-024112.jpg Once you've arranged all of your ingredients, use to the sushi mat to start rolling from the side nearest you. Press firmly (but keep in mind that the seaweed is still fragile) as you roll up. This should feel like you're rolling a towel tightly. Once you've rolled your way up to the top of the seaweed sheet, use a few spare grains of rice (on what will be the inside of the seam) to seal the roll up. Brush evenly with sesame oil, and give it one more firm press to seal the deal.

Slice into 3/4 inch pieces, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and enjoy!

Yields: 4-6 Rolls

If you're a fan of spice, you can add some traditional Korean kimchi (sliced to match other ingredients) to your roll! Feel free to mix up the ingredients inside. Let me know what you end up doing!

Miran