Overdue and timely.

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Overdue indeed. But when one finds an addicting Korean show after shopping for some even more addicting Korean food, blogging is a faraway duty. But I do love to write, so here goes.

Yay! The week of baking for the hubby is now officially over – it’s truly bittersweet. Bitter because I did enjoy being so productive with such a heart of service. Sweet because I get to relax once the baby goes to bed. The big finale was the infamous (in our own family of three) Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies. According to my husband, they are the best cookies he has ever had in his life. That’s saying a lot, knowing him. Hubs is the most honest food judge I know. He is horrible at lying about whatever I cook for him. So when he says it’s good, I believe him. I felt pretty good, watching this grown man eat cookies like a little kid – quite fulfilling as his wife.

The cookies were not too difficult to bake. The hardest part of the recipe was making the hazelnuts into a powder. Joanne warns the reader not to over-grind the nuts because it can turn into paste. I got real close. That’s what I get from using a blender instead of a food processor. But other than that, it was pretty darn easy, especially after getting used to her style of baking recipes.

My thoughts after the big finale: it was worth the exhaustion and the constant dreading to help my husband feel loved. Service fulfilled my heart and my husband’s belly (and I’m sure, his heart). I already knew this in my head, but to see such happiness and security added to our relationship and marriage by just one act of going out of my way to love on my husband was quite astounding.

The wonderful people who did our pre-marital counseling emphasized the importance of serving each other. How marriage succeeds with a culture of service. When I decide to serve my husband, loving him in the way he understands, it brings a level of security and assurance that can’t be shaken. The memory of being served by the one you love helps you push through in moments of conflict. Of course, it’s really successful when BOTH the husband and wife serve each other. If one side is selfish, it’s impossible to have a healthy relationship.

I always struggled with selfishness in our relationship. Although I served him in certain ways, there were many times I put my own desires above our relationship. I didn’t realize I was doing that until I started to more actively serve him.

An unarticulated misunderstanding many of us have is that serving others can be exhausting and at times, painful. This can be true, but the truth is, the reward of putting my spouse before me, my friends before me, my children before me (this one is easy for us mamas) is way beyond the exhaustion and the temporary pain. The joy that comes from serving the one I love is unexplainable. And the humility that comes with it…well, it can’t be taught. You need to DO it to experience it.

The sweet baked goods brought me loads of sweet revelation – always a plus. I might start another challenge soon, but I’m giving myself a break for now. In the mean time, I intend to enjoy some good Korean TV, Doritos and my heating blanket – a ritual when the baby takes his nap. I’m not ashamed – I convince myself that the shows keep my Korean going. And I am well convinced. So ta-ta for now!

Quick add-on, about 3 months later: I finally re-read this entry, re-realizing how much I love to write. I was also reminded of the need to serve, rather than expect to be served. Quite timely, in a quite ironic fashion. Love these moments!

Procrastinate with a purpose..

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The infamous foodie couple. Infamous to our friends…and no one else.   But infamous indeed.

I know I’m super late on my big finale of baking for the hubby this week, but I figured it’s better to push it to tomorrow than to sit with my laptop and write instead of spending some good, much needed alone time with my hubby for his birthday week. Some things are worth letting go. Don’t you worry (if you even are at all concerned about my last masterpiece), this final recipe is going to be a winner, and it’s starting on Monday, ending on Tuesday. Yes, it’s a two-day-er.

Good night, and see you tomorrow!

Messy Delight

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Tonight I made granola. Boring granola. Easy granola. Cheap granola. Freakin’ amazing granola! Seriously, this was THE best granola I have ever had or made. I’ve made granola before and failed miserably, so my standard wasn’t too high. Store bought granola never fully satisfied my tastebuds, so I assumed granola was just a subpar breakfast option. Of course, I chose this recipe (“Mom’s Granola”) because it looked pretty easy. More so, it looked like it would take the least amount of time. I have a work event tomorrow, so two-day recipes were out of the question.

Tonight’s grocery store endeavor was quite simple. No mishaps, no constant wandering. Elam felt comfortable enough to smile at the cashiers and take a sticker (I’ve had to take them for him in the past). He was cute and I was successful as a grocery store consumer.

Unlike nights before, I randomly decided to start baking before Elam’s bedtime. I was being brave, hoping it would all work out. Elam insists on watching me cook, and he insists on watching as I hold him. You can understand my predicament every time I cook “with” him. But I was too tired to realize that, and I went for it. Although there were a couple moments of whining, wanting to see everything up close, the little man did a superb job of playing next to me while I poured and mixed. And a little mom bragging here: the guy acted like he was cooking something himself with a bowl, sunflower seeds and a sifter. It was so cute, I felt like I was going to explode.

Pouring and mixing went smoothly. Everything seemed perfect. Until I popped it in the oven. I mean, I should have known. After Joanne specifically commented on the importance of NOT overbaking the oatmeal cookies, I most definitely did. I created hard, oatmeal bricks. There is a small batch of success AFTER making my mistake, but then I repeated the mistake while I was chatting with my mom over the phone. So I ignored my own lesson from just 3 hours ago and left that granola to burn. Thankfully, it only burned on the sides, but the rest of it still has a bit of a smoky flavor. Not only that, a lot of it stuck to the wax paper, so it took about 10 minutes to rip the burnt granola off of the paper, into the bowl. Some of it was too stubborn to come off, so I’m letting it rot in the trash (I was a tad frustrated).

Despite the sad incident and my extremely low expectations, I fell in love with this recipe. I hate coconut. And I don’t enjoy dried fruits. This recipe has both. But I LOVED it! Again, this granola is the best granola I’ve ever had in my entire life. Maybe it’s the sesame seeds. Maybe it’s the almonds. Maybe it’s the honey. I don’t know. But I even enjoy the slight coconuty flavor.

Conclusion: don’t underestimate Flour and the mighty Joanne Chang. Lesson learned: my oven cooks faster than my previous one. Moral of the story: sometimes the messy things in life produce the sweetest stories. I only made the granola to keep my promise to bake one thing a day from Flour. I ended up finding a recipe for a snack I’ll probably enjoy for quite a few breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

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Sad…just sad.

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My sweet gooey goodness next to my brick bites. Sigh.

Find the oatmeal.

 

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I usually don’t have a difficult time making decisions, but when it comes to small, somewhat trivial things, my heart becomes quite fickle. Take Joanne’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies for instance. I know my husband’s favorite cookies are oatmeal raisin. Not only that, cookies are not as complicated to bake. But because of random reasons like I don’t like raisins or I don’t want to go to the store to get light brown sugar, I overwhelmed myself with going back and forth on whether or not I was going to bake these cookies.

But I came to my senses and just made the decision, based on how this week was about celebrating my husband, and how I should make him his favorite cookies, despite my strong dislike for raisins. Oh how freeing it was when my mind articulated the idea that it was actually going to happen. I won’t elaborate on how I argued with myself as of why I should go to the store in the evening to be able to make the cookies. It wasn’t a question – I needed to go – but I was extremely reluctant. In the end, I went (this all went on in my mind for a good 5 minutes. What a waste of energy), and my Oatmeal Raisin Cookies journey began.

It really began when I couldn’t find the old fashioned oats. You’re probably laughing…or smirking right now. Yes, oatmeal is in the breakfast/cereal aisle. But this tired mama with her 18 month old was having the hardest time finding the blessed thing. I went down almost every aisle, and I went down the baking and breakfast aisle about 3 times each. After going through produce, it finally dawned on me: it HAS to be in the breakfast aisle. So I went down the aisle again, hoping it had somehow changed during the minute I wasn’t there and that I’d find these old fashioned oats. Well, God must’ve rearranged everything because I found them (duh). It was a victorious moment. I actually squealed in delight and kept saying, “I found it!” in Korean. I buy oatmeal at least once a month. I was obviously VERY tired.

Anyway, things went pretty smoothly from there. We checked out with the ladies who know us now (my baby is now the sticker king), and I went on with our usual routine of putting the little man to bed and trying to get started on the cookies. I purposefully distracted myself with a TV show, but the gnawing feeling of baking responsibility forced me out of my chair, to the stand mixer. And to be honest, there isn’t much to say after that. She says it herself, but Joanne’s recipe for these cookies are pretty simple. The only crazy thing (for us baking novices) she had me do was grate fresh nutmeg. Have you ever seen the inside of a nutmeg? I’ve never even seen the outside, so I was pretty intrigued. I also thought it’d be impossible to grate the round little acorn looking thing, but it was actually really easy. I think I actually enjoyed it. Somewhat of a stress reliever. Also, might I add that fresh nutmeg is quite pricey? These cookies are expensive because of the nutmeg. I might cheat next time (if there ever is a next time) and just use normal nutmeg powder (sorry, Joanne).

So the cookies are to be baked tomorrow because I’m supposed to let the dough sit in the fridge overnight (argh to the two-day recipes). It’s not as overwhelming as most two-day recipes, however, because all you have to do is bake the cookies. I’m actually kind of looking forward to tomorrow morning so I could make the apartment smell like sweet, cinnamon, oatmeal goodness.

Have you noticed the recipes are getting simpler and easier for me? I didn’t do this on purpose, but I think it’s two things: 1) they are getting simpler and easier, and 2) I’m becoming a better bake by the recipe-er. Again, goes to show – you just have to go for it. Most of the time, it’s totally worth it. I will tell you though, my husband and I are in dire need of some thick kale juice.

Ta-ta for now!

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Cute little nutmeg!
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Remembered to take some time to rest afterwards. Make sure you do too!

Sugar High

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The title is sugar high, but really, my husband and I are suffering from sugar headaches. I didn’t think about the consequences of baking sweets every day. I am truly suffering from consuming too much sugar. My husband is afraid now when I announce what I’m about to bake. My son is getting used to watching me spend long hours in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to the end of this sweet and exhausting journey.

But I’ve made a promise with myself, and I intend to keep it. Therefore, Joanne’s Brown Butter Crispy Rice Treats from Flour became my next project. She actually mentions that someone else made them in their kitchen, but there is no name…that was me trying to give credit to the right person.

I definitely did not know what I was getting myself into when I decided on this supposedly easy recipe. First off, it is NOT easy finding actual vanilla beans. I am not an actual pastry chef or baker or mama baker – I only bake once in awhile! So you can imagine my surprise when I found out vanilla beans are long and sticky. Just so you know, they are in the baking aisle, and no, it’s not obvious where they are placed. I found them with other spices, not next to the vanilla extract. Goodness, vanilla beans are NOT for baking novices.

Secondly (I have many thoughts after this “baking” session), one cannot be tired when reading a somewhat complicated recipe. Joanne asks for low heat when browning the butter. I definitely skipped the “low” part and just melted the butter on very high heat. Again, you can imagine my frustration as I kept hoping the butter would brown properly after lowering the heat when it was way too late.

Last but really not the least, make sure you use a giant wok when you make this stuff. My extremely large saucepan was not large enough for the 9 cups of rice cereal with the two bags of melted marshmallows. Here again, you can imagine my demise as I watched the rice cereal fly everywhere around my tiny kitchen.

Despite a couple mishaps due to my own lack of baking wisdom, I finished making the BEST rice crispy treats I had ever had ever in my entire life. And it was the quickest recipe – no 3 hour wait or overnight cooling necessary. And I thoroughly enjoyed the process of smelling the fragrant marshmallows as they melted, munching on rice cereal and eating off my wooden spoon. Not to mention, my fingers smell like vanilla even now, and it’s been hours (look at the recipe and you’ll understand).

Anyway, once I finished the quick but not so easy Brown Butter Crispy Rice Treats, I was able to sit down and finish a movie I had been watching earlier. You guys – the Korean movie, Beauty Inside, is an absolutely beautiful film. You’ve got to watch it. Anyway, as I was watching and crying by the end (sort of a must with most Korean dramas and movies), I forced myself to start writing. And as I wrote, I realized something: I’m really happy. I’m really really happy. I don’t say this to rub it in the faces of unhappy people – I say this because I didn’t realize that I was so happy.

I thought I would never find the time to bake so many elaborate things in my life, ever. I thought I would never find the time to write like this again. I thought I would never find the rest in my heart to enjoy sitting on my couch, writing and drinking hot tea from a pretty tea set, given to hubby and me as a wedding gift. I thought times like this were of the past, pre-baby. But here I am, talking about vanilla beans and movies. Here I am talking about tea sets. No longer am I sleep deprived, angry at my circumstance and afraid to trust God again. I have overcome the sleep deprivation, become thankful for where our family is at and totally engaged in the present – enjoying God.

I don’t know what challenges lay ahead of me when hubby and I have baby number 2 (not yet, folks), but for now, this mama is feeling pretty awesome. It took over a year to be freed of so many fears and frustrations, but really, the season was worth it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be baking or writing tonight. I guess I say this to encourage you: don’t run away from fear and frustration. Face the challenge and choose to trust God, whether you can or can’t. Every time you choose to trust Him, it gets easier. Eventually, you trust Him without even thinking about it. And then you find yourself doing things you never thought you’d ever be able to do. Like make Brown Butter Crispy Rice Treats. Oh, or the Best Ever Chocolate Pudding.

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I could drink this partially browned buttered marshmallow goodness. Yum.
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The beginning of my mess…

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My mess…
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My sticky, prickly mess…(those tiny, chubby feet though…)
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But it’s just so beautiful!
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The finished chocolate pudding! I had to show you!
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Love my tea set! This was my day, you guys. Seriously, someone pinch me!
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Just to make you want some ;)!

 

Stop hiding from the pudding!

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I finally learned that I could center my photos and blow them up. Much better.

 

First word: Success! We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen! The Basic Brioche is a t.o.t.a.l SUCCESS. Part 2 has been completed. My goodness, am I proud.

The Basic Brioche recipe was sort of a test for me. I was going to find out if I had the guts to overcome my fear and dread of two-day recipes. This represented my fears of doing a lot of things like – any DIY projects, filing papers and letting my son play with grass and dirt (still grosses me out). So when I FINISHED the Basic Brioche, you can imagine how freeing it was for me. I felt beyond victorious. I am not exaggerating. I baked that sucker early in the afternoon and my heart is still pounding with excitement every time I think about it (it’s about 8:30 pm right now). I have been liberated from the fear of exhausting challenges! Thank You, Jesus!

With my new abounding confidence, I proceeded to plan on making what I had given up on. Yes, The Best Ever Chocolate Pudding. Apparently, somewhere deep inside of me, I knew I would make this pudding because I bought the bittersweet chocolate yesterday, after I decided not to make it. I still needed more eggs, but that was no biggie. Running to the store with the baby is not as overwhelming when the hubby is home (which he was, all day. I know, it was a real treat!), so we again, strutted the little man’s cuteness all around the store as I grabbed the eggs. I especially love our grocery store because 1) it seems to have everything, and 2) there are a lot of older folks who seem to delight in babies (at least the ones here do). As I mentioned before, us parents love it when other people love our kids.

After our quick and underwhelming trip (thank you, Hubby) to the store, we put the little guy to bed, and I immediately started on the pudding. There was no time to waste because I knew I’d be tempted to push the pudding to the next day if I didn’t start NOW. So I did. And guess what (again)? It was the EASIEST recipe I have worked with so far! What on earth was I thinking, doing the brioche over the pudding? This one took way less time, less ingredients and it WASN’T a two-day recipe! I was filled with mixed emotions as I put the finished pudding in the fridge – delight, joy, relief, confusion, regret…like why didn’t I make the pudding first?

Don’t worry, I’ve let go of the confusion and regret. It was more than worth it to make that Basic Brioche. But I definitely learned my lesson: just do it. Nike has it so right. I think way too much about things sometimes. Instead of allowing little fears to get in the way of getting stuff done, I should just get the stuff done!

So here are some photos of my awesome, Basic Brioche from Flour. Photos of the pudding will be coming soon, seeing as it needs to cool for 3 hours and I will probably be in bed by then.

I figured out the confusing wording with the help of my husband (whoop whoop!)
I figured out the confusing wording with the help of my husband (whoop whoop!)

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The Dreaded Brioche

Per writing and declaring my newness yesterday, I went to bed that night determined to make something awesome for the hubby the next day. My goal was to make Joanne Chang’s Best Ever Chocolate Pudding. I woke up today, a little less motivated, but still determined to make that Best Ever Chocolate Pudding, only to find out it takes more than a day to make it. So I started perusing through the book quite desperately, hoping to find a recipe that only required 1 day. Little did I know that Joanne Chang likes to bake things that take a long time. So after much thought (frantic thought), I decided on her Basic Brioche.

For all the single ladies (and men), the Basic Brioche should only take a day to make. For all of the mama and papas out there, good luck. Due to my son’s nap, this little mama needed to plan for a two-day bake-athon, knowing I had a very short window of time to go to the grocery store.

Can I just say how proud I am of myself? I avoid two-day baking recipes at all costs.  If anything takes more than a day to make, I immediately shut down and choose not to cook at all (extreme, I know, but that’s just how it’s been). But again, I’m a new me, no longer selfish, ready to love on my hubby who always goes out of his way for me. This was a no brainer (a hesitant no brainer. It took a lot of “inner convincing” for me to actually go to the store to get the ingredients).

So I took the little guy to the store with me, which is always fun as a parent because people will always smile and compliment on your kids’ cuteness (unless it’s a bad day…today was a good day). Who doesn’t love a good compliment? We strutted his cuteness down the aisle, got our goods (not EVERY store has bread flour. If you ever make the endeavor to bake brioche buns, make sure your store has bread flour), and hurried home (safely).

After putting the little man to bed, I ate dinner with my shaky, hungry hands because I waited to eat until after the baby’s bed time (moms, do you relate??) and sort of grudgingly started on the dreaded brioche.

And well, surprise, surprise. It wasn’t that bad! My wrists hurt from holding the standing mixer down for so long (it kept making loud banging noises…apartment living does not permit such a thing), but so far, the recipe has been totally doable, even for me. I’m slightly dreading tomorrow’s part because I can’t fully understand her directions for how to fold the dough (second generation Korean American problems), but for now, I actually enjoyed the process. It goes to show how we just need to go for it sometimes. Thinking too much never seems to help in life.

So that’s day 2 of the new Priscilla, in the process of baking the Basic Brioche from Joanne Chang’s Flour. This isn’t supposed to be a cooking blog, but for now, it is. And I will, I WILL finish this week strong! (Why it is that I feel so much more motivated about things in the evening? I pray this “new me” inspiration continues on in the morning).

Good night!

Part 1...hoping part 2 works out okay!

Part 1…hoping part 2 works out okay!