Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bubba turned 7 & we celebrated with much cake!

This year, because of budget constraints, we decided to do Bubba's birthday low key, so a simple barbecue with family and a few friends was the plan. Of course, Mommy guilt at not giving my sweet boy - a boy who for the most part is excellently behaved, always does well in school and never asks for a thing - kicked in full gear. To try and soothe that guilt I figured I could, at the very least, give him an awesome birthday cake. Bubba, being who he is, can never settle on one thing, so he came up with 2 cake themes he would love to have -- a Minecraft themed cake and a Mario themed cake. I hit the internet to see if others had attempted these types of cake and I was not disappointed. There were tons. And they all usually involved fondant. Ruh-roh.

I am pretty good in the desserts department with cakes being something I pride myself on doing very well, however fondant is one medium I've never really forayed into. I did cut out some fondant stars to put on Bubba's Angry Birds themed cake last year, but these cakes would involve a lot more work and a lot more fondant. I started to go with making simple cupcakes and printing out Mario/Minecraft cupcake picks just to do this easier, but then I got a 40% off coupon from Michael's. which sells fondant. I figured if I could try my hand at something new for almost half price, why not?

I set out to do my work after the kids were put to bed. Thank goodness because there was much swearing going on. Prior to beginning, I looked up as many fondant tutorials as I could online. Thank you YouTube because I received my best instruction from a YouTube channel called Feast of Fiction. They take recipes from fictional works such as books, movies, video games and create them in real life. God bless them for even having a  beautiful Minecraft cake tutorial!

So here are the pictures of my creations. They look very amateur but I am happy with how they turned out for an amateur. A friend, who is skilled with fondant creations, told me that I did a great job for a first timer, and that practice makes perfect. (I'm taking that as permission to make many cakes!) Bubba was thrilled. His eyes lit up at every creation and his exclamation of "Awesome!" made me forget that I didn't get the seams just right or that my cut out shapes looked wonky. One thing that would be better for all cake makers is if someone could create a tastier fondant. The cakes themselves were delicious, but the fondant remained left behind on the plates. When the kids asked "Do we have to eat this?" I told them no, that it was gift wrapping for the cake.

I am looking forward to getting better at this. October is a huge birthday month in our family so opportunity awaits!

This was my first fondant creation. The large square cake is a replica of the Minecraft cake featured in the game. The little green squares are milk chocolate cupcakes Creepers, also from the game. The faces were cut out of sugar paper.

I'm proud of this cake. I went with a Mario Kart theme. It's a marble cake (butter and milk chocolate), frosted with vanilla buttercreme and then covered in fondant. I know my limitations so instead of trying to craft a Mario and kart out of fondant, I opted to buy one. This actually worked out well because now Bubba had a cake he could eat and play with afterwards!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Korean Food! Jajangmyun tutorial!

I was not a super adventurous eater growing up (I am now!) so, as a child, there were only a few Korean foods I would eat. Jajangmyun is one I would and could eat as often as I was allowed. It's tasty, filling, not spicy and oh so comforting!

Fast forward many years after I have moved out on my own and didn't have my Korean mom to cook good Korean food for me any more. Sure, there are noodle places around where I could probably get a good jajangmyun but with kids who are even less adventurous eaters than I was as a child, there was no way I was taking my family there to eat. So it dawned on me. Why not try my hand at making it at home? I did and, you know what? It was delicious! So for you out there who'd love to try this dish of awesomeness, here is my picture tutorial for making jajangmyun.

You'll need:

1/2 pound pork, any kind, diced.
1 cup of any of these veggies, small dice(use all or just a few, up to you): Korean radish, Korean (white) sweet potato, white potato, carrot, zucchini
2 cups of flavorful (aka not Vidalia) onion, small dice
1 cup of Korean-style black bean paste (called "chunjang")
1 tbsp. white sugar
2-3 tbsp. potato starch
olive or vegetable oil
1 package of thick wheat noodles, jajang myun style

In a wok or large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. of oil. 
Add diced pork and fry on medium high heat until crispy. Scoop pork onto a paper towel to drain, reserving about 2 tbsp. of rendered pork fat in the skillet. Set both aside.

In a small sauce pan or skillet, add 1 tbsp. of oil and the 1 cup of black bean paste. Sauté, over low heat, for about 2-3 minutes. Spoon out the black bean sauce into a bowl, leaving the oil (if any) behind. Set aside. 

Take the skillet with the pork fat and place over medium heat. Add all the diced vegetables. Sauté until the onions start to sweat and turn opaque. Add the pork.

Add water until all the vegetables and pork are covered by about 1/2 inch of water. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until the hardest vegetable is done, about 15-20 minutes.

While vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil. You may or may not salt your water. Up to you. Do not add noodles until your vegetables are done! Boil for about 4-5 minutes. Taste for doneness.

Add black bean paste to the vegetables and mix well until dissolved.

Add sugar and mix in well.

In a small bowl, mix equal parts of potato starch with water. Pour into the black bean mixture while stirring constantly and swiftly as potato starch thickens fast. Remove from heat and set aside.

Drain your noodles and place into a bowl. Top with jajang sauce. If you'd like, garnish with julienned cucumber and slice boiled egg.


Now, for pictures!^^

Sauté diced pork in 2 tbsp. of oil until brown and slightly crispy. You can use lean pork but my Mother says a little fat is good for flavor. Plus you'll need the fat for later. Oh, and you can season the pork if you'd like, however, most Koreans will leave it as is.

Scoop pork onto a paper towel to drain. Reserve about 2 tbsp. of the rendered fat in the pan. Set aside.

Get ready to do some chopping! Dice your veggies. I chose Korean radish, Spanish onion and Korean (white) sweet potato/yam. 1 cup of each will do. *Note: Using zucchini is pretty much a mainstay, however, I forgot to pick one up! =)

Man that was a lot of chopping! Oh, and I added carrot.

This is chunjang, Korean-style fermented black bean paste. I'm aware of what it looks like but it has so much good flavor!

In a small saucepan or skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of oil and add the black bean paste. Saute over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a bowl with a spoon, leaving the oil behind (if any).

Reheat the skillet with the pork fat. Add your veggies. Sauté until the onions start to sweat and turn opaque. Add the cooked pork.

Cover with water until veggies are submerged with about 1/2 inch head space. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let cook (uncovered) until your hardest veggie is done.

While the veggies simmer, get your noodles. This is them in the package.

This is them out of the package. If you look closely you can see they are packaged in bunches. Two bunches = 1 serving. Boil as you would spaghetti, in salted water, however do NOT boil the noodles until your sauce is nearly complete. These noodles only take about 4-5 minutes to cook. If you cook them too long, they get mushy. If you cook them too early and let them sit, they get sticky. Do not boil and toss them with any oil to prevent sticking. To do so will keep the delicious jajang sauce from clinging to the noodles.

Back to the veggies! After they are done cooking, add the cooked black bean paste and mix until dissolved. Then add the sugar. In a small bowl, prepare your potato starch and then add per my directions above. *Note - Why potato starch instead of corn starch? Potato starch thickens quicker and with less needed as opposed to corn starch. That being said, you can totally use corn starch.

This is your finished sauce.

Drain noodles, place in a bowl, top with jajang sauce. You may garnish with julienned cucumbers and slice boiled egg but I was feeling lazy so no garnish! Eat and enjoy!

The sauce is what really makes the jajangmyun, in my opinion. So feel free to have this on rice or your choice of pasta if you cannot find the necessary noodles. I have heard of people using dark meat chicken (like the thighs) when making this instead of pork, so give that a try as well. As always, recipes are guidelines so I do encourage tasting constantly and consistently to see if the flavor is right for you.