Browsing Category: food

Free Printable: Halloween Treat Bag Tags

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Halloween is fast approaching, and if your child(ren)’s school is anything like my kids’, then you’ve been volun-told/tasked/guilt-tripped into preparing treat bags for your child’s class! A couple years ago, I made some “Ghostly Grub” for my boys’ class, which was a HUGE hit with the children. It’s super easy to make and these treat bag tags will top off your hard work perfectly!

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Recipe for Ghostly Grub:

Combine the following:

Chex cereal – Monster Scabs
Pretzel sticks – Skeleton Bones (*Optional – cover the pretzel sticks with melted white chocolate or candy melts)
Candy Corn – Jack-o-lantern Teeth
Chocolate chip morsels – Witch’s Warts
Marshmallows – Ghost Poop

I put the mixture into ziplock bags, then placed the plastic bags into a cut up paper lunch bag. I wish I had had time to send the children outside to look for sticks, but living in a city without a yard or trees of our own, I realized that it was a bigger task than I could handle. I did, however, have some wooden chopsticks, which worked in a pinch to create broomsticks!

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Both treat bag tags are available here for free: Just click on the image for the high-resolution jpeg and right click to download!

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Ghostly Grub Tags

 

 

treat-bag-tags

 

 

No Tricks, Just Treats! Tag

 

 

The tags measure approximately 2.5 inches in diameter, and I recommend using a 2.5 in circle punch to cut them out although scissors work just fine!

Happy Halloween! ??

Bento Box Love!

When my family left Korea, we traveled with 6 suitcases, and the rest of our worldly possessions were packed up and put on a (very) slow boat back to the U.S. Six weeks later, we are living in a tiny little apartment with only the things we brought with us in those 6 suitcases and the random things we’ve purchased since we arrived in country. I miss my crafting supplies, my yarn stash, my sewing machine, MY PRINTER (because I had to buy Valentine’s Day cards for my boys’ class when I had some great ideas for making some myself!), and most of all, I miss my bento box making supplies!!

It’s not necessarily because I love making cute lunches more than any of my other crafting endeavors, but making the boys’ lunches is something that I do on a near-daily basis. Although I brought their bento boxes with us because I knew I would need to pack lunches for a few weeks before our household goods arrived, I didn’t pack all the cute accessories I’ve collected over the past year and a half of lunch-packing, so I’ve been missing out on dressing up their lunch boxes.

Since I don’t have any fun lunches to share lately (somehow, sandwiches packed in ziplock bags just don’t have the same appeal), here’s a round-up of the lunches I packed for my boys during the fall semester before we left Korea!

Can’t wait to get all my lunch-making supplies as well as move into our new house where I will have more than 12 square inches of counter space! 🙂

Free Printables: Snack Time = Fun Time!

Happy New Year from Seoul, South Korea! I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post–the past month has been an absolute whirlwind of activity. As a mother of kindergarteners, I have experienced my very first Winter Break, and let me tell you… It wasn’t pretty. My boys were BORED OUT OF THEIR MINDS and craved the daily activities, the friends, and the stimulation of school. In the meantime, I was running around like a crazy person trying to make sure that everything was PERFECT for Christmas, mostly because I know that we only have a precious few Christmases before my kids stop believing in the MAGIC of the holidays (see previous post).

So basically, this control-freak, Type-A mom was desperately trying to make sure that EVERY. LITTLE. THING. was in perfect order. By the end of their two-week reprieve from school, I was just about ready to kick them out the door and return to the (relative) calm of our day-to-day routine. Except we had friends come for a 12-day long visit with their incredibly adorable 9 month old baby, which made me even crazier because I was basically smacked in the face with baby fever and the slightly depressing (but also exhilarating) realization that I would never again have a sweet little baby to snuggle and nurse and make completely ridiculous noises and faces at–just for a perfect gummy, toothless grin. My husband commented several times within the first hour of our houseguests’ arrival that I was acting like a crazy person. He only stopped teasing me when he realized what a lunatic he looked like every time he got a hold of the baby. After a few hours of baby time, both the husband and I agreed–thank goodness we’ve both been “fixed” or we’d TOTALLY be talking about having another baby! My youngest would beg to differ though. She was not terribly pleased with mommy’s attention being diverted to the new baby in the house. 😉

Anyway, with all the excitement in the house and the fact that I was pretty much blinded by the baby cuteness, I completely forgot that the boys’ first week back in school was MY WEEK TO PREPARE CLASS SNACKS! I remembered as the kids were leaving for school Monday morning, and since the commissary is closed on Mondays, my options were limited. I sent my husband to the shoppette/liquor store and literally told him, “I don’t care what kind of junk it is. We have to send SOMETHING!” Feeling my crazy-mom panic, he assured me that all would be fine, and he wouldn’t let on to Mrs. S, the boys’ teacher, that I had forgotten.

Since Day 1 consisted of Cheez Its and Rice Krispie Treats (the pre-packaged variety that I will assume absolutely no responsibility for thanks to my husband’s self-sacrifice in the name of marital bliss), I had to step up my game and make up for my failure to deliver fun and nutritious snacks for my children and their classmates because this is the type of thing that only a crazy lady would worry about. Tuesday, I was able to deliver fruit from our local produce market (bananas, apple slices and clementines). Monday is really The Worst Day for the commissary to be closed. 🙁

Since I was (finally) able to get to the store on Tuesday, Wednesday, was more fun for me to put together, and much more fun for the kids to eat! When my boys came home from school, they were super excited to tell me about what a big hit the snacks were and what they built with their grapes, pretzels and cheese sticks! Small cubes of cheese would have worked well too as well as crackers of various sizes and other fruit (blueberries, strawberries, banana slices, oranges, etc.). So here’s a simple little printable to throw in the baggie along with edible “building” supplies!

Let's Build With Food

 

To download a PDF with 8 little cards per sheet, click here: Let’s Build With Food

For Day 4 of my frantic snack-making, I decided on my boys’ all-time favorite treat–S’mores. But without the fire and melted marshmallows, which seasoned s’mores-lovers may balk at, but thankfully, my audience consisted of a bunch of 5 year olds, so no one complained about the lack of dangerous, hot, burning embers in the classroom.

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Delicious make-it-yourself mini s’mores can be made with Teddy Grahams, mini marshmallows and chocolate chip morsels. As my boys would say, “Easy peasy!”

Click here to download the mini s’mores printable: Mini Smores

And finally, to round out my week of snack-making hell fun, I made cheese and veggie muffins. I had originally planned to make these delicious and nutritious muffins for Thursday and give the kiddos the mini s’mores as a Friday/End of Week treat, but I failed to remember (until after the groceries were purchased) that my miserably small Korean oven can only handle one muffin pan at a time, so I needed the extra time to bake 4 dozen muffins. And please excuse my lack of a photo of the muffins. I was too busy taking photos of a certain adorable 9 month old. 😉 But you can take my word for it–they’re pretty and colorful!

Cheese and Veggie Muffins

Ingredients:
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 diced red bell pepper
1 cup frozen corn (defrosted)
1 cup frozen chopped spinach (defrosted)
4 eggs
6 slices of white bread (cut into small cubes)
salt and pepper to taste

Makes approx. 1 dozen regular-sized muffins

Cooking Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin/cupcake pan with non-stick spray. Do not use paper cupcake wrappers. The paper will stick to the muffins and will not come off easily.
2. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Spoon mixture into muffin pan.
4. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (or until tops of muffins are golden brown).

Easy peasy! 😉

I actually have no idea how well these muffins went over with the kids. My children will eat anything and everything, including spinach and red bell peppers. However, the cheesiness of the muffins mask the taste of the (healthy) veggies, so I’d say there’s a decent chance that non-veggie lovers would be willing to give it a try. When I make these muffins for my family, I also add BACON because… well, bacon. Just chop up some cooked (but not crispy) bacon and add to the mix.

 

Now that my houseguests have gone home and my week of snack responsibilities have ended… I can return to the lunacy of the everyday that is my life with three kids. 😉

Making Kimjang Kimchi: A Family Tradition

The beginning of December is a VERY busy time for families in Korea–not because of the upcoming holidays or the rush to buy gifts for family and friends (because strangely enough, Christmas is more of an unmarried couple’s holiday)–but because it’s the time of year to MAKE KIMCHI. Lots and lots of kimchi. Koreans prepare and make enough 김장김치 (kimjang kimchi) to last an entire year. Kimjang kimchi is different from the kimchi you’re probably used to: the stuff you find in restaurants or what’s sold at the grocery story. This is old school kimchi. The kind that was buried underground in kimchi pots. The kind that kimchi refrigerators were created for.

Kimjang kimchi is not for the faint of heart. Imagine the fermented taste of regular kimchi. Then multiply it by 100. You’ve got kimjang kimchi. But it’s the kind of kimchi that’s perfect to eat with grilled pork. It’s fabulous in kimchi jigae (kimchi stew). And if you’ve got fresh tofu, wrap it up in some kimjang kimchi and enjoy!

If you’re lucky enough to enjoy have a taste of homemade kimjang kimchi, then here’s what you should know about how it’s made. Chances are, anywhere from 5-20 women (and men too!) came together to worked on it for days. Often, it’s relatives (sisters in my mom’s case), but since families are now more spread out, friends often set up a schedule and go from home to home to help with the process.

There’s a rather strict schedule to follow. The cabbage has to be harvested before the first hard frost. It has to be cut, washed, salted and rinsed. The seasoning has to be mixed and combined with the prepared cabbage. The kimchi has to be divided and bagged and properly packaged to be placed into kimchi refrigerators. And since younger generations of Koreans don’t have the free days and days off from work, the older generations make enough to package and ship to their children’s families.

Here are my mom, her sisters, and their husbands preparing and transforming 300 heads of cabbage in kimjang kimchi!

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Each halved head of cabbage has to be seasoned. The kimchi mixture is inserted into the layers of the cabbage leaves.
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Oh, and look! My mommy is wearing a hat I crocheted for her! 😉
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Here’s my uncle stirring a VAT of kimchi seasoning.
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That’s a lot of kimchi seasoning…

And lucky me–I will be receiving my part of this wonderful kimjang kimchi in the mail tomorrow! 🙂 Will have to take the beer and soda out of my kimchi fridge to make room!

 

A Month’s Worth of Fun School Lunches!

The month of September was a difficult one for my kids and me. Don’t get me wrong–my boys have been having a WONDERFUL time at kindergarten, and they’re thriving, but it was definitely a month of transitions and of mommy being stretched reeeeeeeally thin, at times. My husband was traveling for work for half the month, so I had to do everything alone. This wasn’t the first time he’s traveled for work, but it was the first time I was home with SCHOOL-AGED children. Getting kids ready for school, dropping them off, picking them up–all on a strict schedule–is exhausting. Really, really exhausting. And to top it all off, all 3 of my kids have been sick at some point during my husband’s 2 weeks out of town. Figures… :-p

Anyway, one way I’ve been able to squeeze in some creative crafting time during the past month while barely managing to keep my head above water is with my boys’ school lunches. Something productive (that has to be done) and something pretty in one!

So here’s my month’s worth of fun (and easy) school lunches with brief descriptions of how I made them:

Some helpful tips about making school lunches:

  • Make a weekly schedule. It takes a bit of time to put a weekly meal schedule together, but it ends up saving time in the long run. Plus, it alleviates the stress of “WHAT AM I GOING TO PACK FOR LUNCH!!!” the night before. Here’s a free printable for planning a week’s worth of meals.
  • There are many, many tools to make your life easier such as cookie cutters, cute bento-box animal picks, rice molds, and nori cutters. Living in Korea, I have easy and inexpensive access to many of these items, but they’re also available on Amazon. For “specialty” bento box tools such as the animal picks and nori cutters, just do a quick search.
  • Prep as much as you can the night before. I usually prep fruits and vegetables the night before and stick the containers in the fridge. That just leaves rice balls and/or sandwiches for the morning. Keep in mind that some foods don’t reheat very well (such as the rice balls) so those must be prepped the morning off. Nori must also be used immediately after cutting. The humidity in the room will cause it to curl (or dry out too much) if you wait too long after cutting it to use it. This is why nori-cutters are so useful!
  • Leftovers are your friend! During the week, I specifically make a couple of dinners with leftovers for lunch in mind. Also, serve breakfast for lunch. Kids won’t mind! One of the biggest challenges for me is thinking about lunch-appropriate meals, but who says they have to eat “lunch” at lunch time? Egg mari is a popular side dish in Korean cuisine, so I make it fairly regularly for my kids. It’s basically just a sliced up omelet. I also make bacon, egg, cheese and toast muffins, which are technically a breakfast food, but the kids love it. They’ll eat it for breakfast before they go to school, then eat it again for lunch the same day. 😉

For me, packing my kids’ lunches is something I enjoy doing. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it and don’t stress about not doing enough for your children! When I started posting photos of my kids’ lunches on Instagram, my friends began responding with things like “You’re making me feel like a crappy mom.” 🙁 First of all, my kids would be just as happy with a plain ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of chips and an apple EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. They don’t need or ask for variety. Secondly, by the time they open their lunch boxes at school, my cute little bento creations are a COMPLETE MESS. Their lunch box goes into their backpacks every morning. And every morning, they run down the stairs of our apartment building. They run from the car to their classroom. They may even fall down, roll down a hill, jump over puddles, do a few jumping jacks, or run an obstacle course on their way. I’ve joined them for lunch from time to time, and their bento boxes are utterly unrecognizable. So basically, their lunches are for photographic purposes only. 😉 I do, however, show the boys their lunches before I put their lunch boxes into their backpacks so it’s not a complete waste. Haha!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed!

Happy Lunch-Making!

A Midsummer Night’s Cocktail Party in Seoul

If there’s something I love as much as crafting, it’s throwing parties. I love having friends over for the great conversation and memories, but for someone who is very detail-oriented, there’s something about putting together a party that gets me super excited and into full-on work mode! After all the fuss and planning of the Rainbow War Party for kids, I really wanted to do something for and with my own grown-up friends, and what’s more grown up than a fancy cocktail party???

My husband–the former bartender–and I put together a simple, summery cocktail menu. We wanted a bit of variety, but we also wanted to keep things relatively simple so he wouldn’t spend the entire evening mixing drinks. We settled on three drinks that were contemporary twists on classic cocktails:

Cocktail MenuWith all three drinks, we prepared and mixed as much as possible, so when it came to actually pouring the drinks, there was very little to do. In addition to the cocktail menu, I prepared take-home recipe cards of the drinks we served for our guests.

Cocktail Recipe CardsAll three of the drinks we prepared contained mint, which (to me at least) is a quintessential summer herb. I love the smell of mint, and having recently taken a trip to Vietnam with my husband where fresh herbs like mint, cilantro and basil are at the center of their cuisine, I decided to have an Asian-inspired food menu: fried spring rolls, fresh summer rolls, soba noodle salad with wasabi and lemon vinaigrette and Asian meatballs with a sweet sesame sauce.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Cha Gia, or Vietnamese spring rolls, are just delicious. The ingredients are simple, but making them is a labor of love. I made the rolls the night before the party and deep fried them, then fried them again slightly just before the party. My deep fryer could only handle 7 rolls at a time, so it took a while… The spring rolls were served with nuoc cham, or seasoned Vietnamese fish sauce.

Summer Rolls

Summer rolls are one of my favorite foods ever. They are, as their name suggests, the perfect summer food. Plus, they’re filling and quite pretty to look at! 😉 The summer rolls were served with a homemade spicy peanut sauce.

Soba Noodle Salad

 

The soba noodle salad is simple yet flavorful salad that’s perfect for parties where you guests may or may not have eaten dinner before coming. Although this particular party was a cocktail party, and I didn’t plan to have a full dinner spread, I knew that some of my guests may not have had dinner before arriving since the party kicked off at 7pm. Soba noodles are quite filling, and since the noodles are served cold, it’s an easy dish to throw together just minutes before guests arrive.

Sweet Sesame MeatballsMeatballs are a perfect bite-sized appetizer for parties, but they’re not too exciting. So I added some delicious peanut and soy sauce based sauce, sprinkle some sesame seeds on it them, and voila! They’re sweet and savory and sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

After a fun two hours at our place, we ventured out to Perfl, a local cocktail performance bar. If you’re in Seoul and would like to see some impressive bottle tossing and twirling, flaming shots, and bar tricks, definitely check this place out! They regularly perform around 10pm (sometimes later), and the staff is amazing.

I spent the day after our cocktail party in full-on recovery mode, but a wasted Sunday was well worth the previous evening’s fun.

P.S. Stay tuned for recipes for all the edible goodies from the party!

 

 

 

DIY Rainbow War Party for Kids!

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy (thus my absence from the blogiverse lately). We have a 17 year old relative visiting from the States–and OMG is having a teenager in the house a lot of work! During his 14 day stay, we’ve managed to: visit the National Museum of Korea, Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Korean War Memorial and Musem, have our feet chewed on by little fish in Myeongdong, see the Jump! show at Kyunghyang Art Hill, play mini-golf, and eat all kinds of food our small-town, middle American teenager had never even heard of before. On top of that, I’ve been knee-deep in planning for a kids’ color war party, and despite feeling overwhelmed by all the things… The teenager is flying out tomorrow full of new experiences and wonderful memories (hopefully!), and the color war party was a huge success!

The party was inspired by a very talented photographer and friend, Zayda Barros. She wanted to photograph a color war, but since she doesn’t have kids (yet!), she asked me to help throw a party of EPIC proportions. 😉 And because I love planning parties, I ran with it and this is what happened:

color war

 

Since I knew that a professional was snapping away, I didn’t take very many photos… And I’m much too impatient to wait until her photos are ready to post to write this post, so apologies for my crap photos and I’ll have some beautiful ones to share soon!

UPDATE: Thank you to the very talented Zayda Barros for these beautiful photos!

Here what planning our Rainbow War Party entailed and some tips for planning your very own color war party!

Location:

Obviously, this is an outdoor activity! We planned our party for a public picnic area that was somewhat secluded, giving kids enough room to run around and throw colors without attracting too much attention. Also, access to water is important! Our picnic area came with a water faucet so kids could wash off before heading home/smearing colors all over the inside of mom’s car.

Guest List:

As with all parties, the fun begins with the guest list! We had a tough time keeping our guest list under 30 children, but we had to keep our group somewhat manageable. The color war is most appropriate for kids aged 4 and up. Our list consisted of 25 kids ranging in age from 2-9. As with all invitations for activity-based parties, be sure to thoroughly explain to parents what the party entails and be prepared to answer a host of questions! We explained: how kids should be dressed (plain white t-shirts that could be ruined during the party), what they should bring for their own child(ren) (towel and change of clothes), age-appropriateness, how long the color war would last, and how parents could help with supplies.

Activities:

Because of the toddlers and also because the color war only lasts about 20-30 minutes (depending on how much color powder you’ve prepared), we prepared other activities to keep the kids busy. Finger painting and play dough are great, colorful activities to keep kids happy and occupied as they eagerly await the beginning of the color war! I purchased finger paints, but made my own play dough (scroll down for the very simple DIY recipe!).

Finger Painting

Because I didn’t have immediate access to rolls of art paper, I just taped large sheets of white paper down to the picnic tables. Rolls of paper would definitely have worked better, but you do what you can…

Food:

Our menu consisted of pasta salad, rainbow bread sandwiches, fruit and veggie platters, M&Ms, Skittles, rainbow cupcakes and beverages–simple and colorful!

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The bread was easy but time consuming to make. There are many different ways to make rainbow bread–just do a quick Pinterest search and there are plenty of different recipes. However, I’m not much of a baker and with a million other things going on at the jkwdesigns house, I needed to make things easier for myself, not harder! So I went with pre made dough. Pilsbury French Loaf dough to be exact. 😉 I was inspired by the recipe for the Rainbow Sandwich Loaf, but I took quite a few liberties with the recipe in order to make it less labor intensive. My changes resulted in a bread that wasn’t quite as colorful as the recipe suggests, but it worked out, I saved some time, and made less of a mess. Win, win, win!

Rainbow fruit and veggie platters Rainbow treats

Decorations:

I kept decorations relatively simple since the focus was on turning our adorable little kids into colorful works of art! I made a “Taste the Rainbow” sign for the food table and individual food signs. I would have preferred white tablecloth for the tables, but supplies at my local shop were limited so I had to go with light purple. I also would have liked to hang white tablecloth as a backdrop for the color fight area, but I wasn’t able to do that either. Oh, the injustice of shopping for party supplies in a country that doesn’t really sell party supplies… 😉

Taste the Rainbow Sign

 

Also, I made water bottle labels for our Rainbow Warriors as well as juice box labels, but a friend brought them in a cooler with ice so my paper labels clearly weren’t going to work. My friend is clearly more thoughtful of the children that I am because I would have served the kids room temperature juice boxes for the purpose of aesthetics! 😉

Rainbow Warrior Water Bottles

 

The files for FREE printables can be accessed here:

Taste the Rainbow
Food Signs
Water Bottle Labels

And just for fun, I added some colored streamers around the picnic area, which ended up being more fun for the kids as we began clean-up.

Streamers

Rainbow War:

Because this party was for a photo session rather than for someone’s birthday, we asked that parents contribute color powder for the fight. They had the option of either purchasing a pack of holi powder from Amazon or making their own. I found numerous recipes for DIY color powder for color wars, but none of them worked quite as well as I had hoped. The flour-based mixtures took ages to dry (Korean summers are just too humid), and very few of us owned coffee grinders. In the end, I did quite a bit of experimenting and came up with an EASY, NO-MESS solution! (Scroll down for Color Powder Recipe!)

For the rainbow war, we pre-filled cups with a small amount of color powder. As the color war began, kids were each given one cup, then instructed to return to the table to have their cups refilled when they ran out of color. This definitely helped the battle last longer!

Color Powder

The only instructions that we gave the kids were:

1) No throwing colors directly at someone’s face.

2) If someone asks you to stop, you must stop.

All the kids were a bit shy at first, but once they got the hang of things, it was a raging battle of colors–complete with laughter and shrieks of delight! And a few tears. 😉 It was impossible to keep the little ones (2 year olds) out of the battle, so we gave in and let them make their own messes, but my daughter decided halfway through the battle that she’d had enough and just wanted me to hold her. You win some, you lose some…

If you’re planning your own color war, just keep in mind that the color and consistency of the store-bought holi powder is far superior to the DIY powder. The colors are spectacular, and the consistency is dust-like. Here’s a link to the one we purchased: Holi Powder. On the other hand, the kids couldn’t have cared less! They were just as happy with the mom-made color powder as they were with the rather pricey holi powder a couple of us ordered from Amazon. If your goal is to take photos of bright clouds of color, invest in the store-bought powder, or perhaps use the holi powder for the first round/photographs, then move on to the DIY powder to save money.

Finally, the best way to end a color war is with water because…no one doesn’t like water play on a hot summer day.

Water Balloons

 

DIY Play Dough Recipe (for 4 different colors):

Play Dough

Materials:

4 cups of flour
1 and 1/2 cups of salt
1 cup of hot water
6 teaspoons of vegetable oil
Food coloring

1. Thoroughly combine the 4 cups of flour and 1 and 1/2 cups of salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Place 1/4 cup of hot water in 4 individual bowls. Add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vegetable oil and the appropriate amount of food coloring to each bowl. If you’re using liquid food coloring, you’ll probably want about 30 drops of each color to make a nice dark shade. If you’re using gel food coloring, use approximately 1/2 teaspoon of each color.

3. Add 1 and 1/4 cup of the flour/salt mixture to each bowl. Mix ingredients together as thoroughly as possible with a spoon (no need to get your hands dirty!). You may still have clumps and unmixed portions of the mixture.

4. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on a cutting board or other dry surface and dump the contents of one bowl onto your work surface. Kneed and combine until the play dough is no longer sticky/tacky. Repeat this step with the remaining bowls of play dough.

NOTE: Store play dough in ziplock bags or an airtight container to prevent it from drying out.

DIY Recipe for Color Powder

Materials:
3 heaping tablespoons of corn starch
Small amount of water
Food coloring

Additional materials:
Aluminum foil or saran wrap
Ziplock bags
Rolling pin

1. Place 3 heaping tablespoons of corn starch in a bowl. Add a small amount of water (approximately 4 tablespoons) and mix. The corn starch will have a strange, difficult to mix consistency. It will seem like it’s halfway between a liquid and a solid. If you’re having trouble mixing it, add a little more water.

2. Once the water/corn starch is thoroughly combined, add food coloring. As the mixture dries, the color will lighten slightly so be liberal with the food coloring! I used 30 drops of food coloring in each batch, and the colors weren’t quite as dark as I would have liked.

3. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or saran wrap and pour the mixture onto the cookie sheet. For faster drying, pour the mixture into small globs. The bigger the glob, the longer it will take to dry. Being a rather impatient person, I poured my mixture in thin lines. Dried super fast!

4. Allow the mixture to sit for as long as it takes to DRY COMPLETELY. It will become brittle and break into pieces when it is completely dry. In our humid, non-air conditioned apartment, it took about 2 hours.

Color Powder 1

5. Break the dried mixture into pieces and place in a ziplock bag. I just picked up the edges of the aluminum foil and poured the pieces into the bag. Press most of the air out of the bag and begin rolling over the mixture with a rolling pin to break it back into a powder. Voila! Color powder!

Color Powder 2

NOTE: If you make the color powder in advance, I would recommend storing it in bowls or containers WITHOUT a lid. If the container is sealed, condensation will begin to form and the powder will become mushy. Not the look you’re going for. 😉

 

Disclosure: This post contains links to products on amazon.com. These are products that I purchased and used for my own projects with no compensation. However, if you click on the link and purchase the product, I will receive a small fee from Amazon.com.
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jkwdesigns.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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10 Korean Foods to Try (and Why!)

koreanfood

Growing up, my diet was a mash-up of American and Korean cuisine. My Korean mom wanted to make sure that my brother and I didn’t feel different from our “American” friends, so she made sure we ate plenty of hamburgers, pizza, sandwiches and spaghetti–served with a side of kimchi, of course. We ate our salads with chopsticks and marinated our steaks with bulgogi seasoning. When I left home, my mom used the power of FedEx to get her homemade kimchi to me–yes, Koreans are that serious about their kimchi–so I wouldn’t get sick (kimchi has magical healing properties in case you didn’t know!). Now that I’m living in Korea again, I’ve both renewed my love for Korean food and discovered some amazing dishes that my mom never cooked for me (seriously, Mom???).

Here’s a list of some of my favorite Korean foods (my list could honestly go on forever!). If you’re new to Korean cuisine, and you’re ready to venture beyond “beef and leaf” or bibimbap, or if you’re looking for something adventurous and fun to tell all your friends about, here are my top recommendation!

1. Ori – Duck

grilled smoked duckI love duck. I’ve previously written about my deep, heartfelt appreciation for duck here and here. If you’ve never had duck before, but you’re a meat-loving carnivore, then this is definitely a must-try. Most duck restaurants in Korea serve the meat prepared several different ways. My personal favorite is smoked duck. It’s no-nonsense with very little added to it so you can really appreciate the taste of the duck itself. You usually have to purchase the entire duck (which only consists of the breast meat). Prices for a whole duck breast are generally in the 40,000-45,000W range (approx. $40-45) and it’s enough to feed 2-3 people. Smoked duck is served “beef and leaf” style. You grill the duck at your table, and you’re brought an array of banchan/side-dishes, dipping sauces, and lettuce and sesame leaves to wrap your meat. Often, potato and mushroom slices are placed on the grill at the same time to help soak up some of the duck fat as you grill. Those may be the best potatoes and mushrooms you’ve ever had in your life. 😉

2. Samgyupsal – Pork belly

samgyupsalSamgyupsal literally means three-fold fat, but simply put, it’s BACON. Really, really thick-sliced bacon. However, it’s uncured, so it doesn’t have the same salty flavor, but it’s the same cut of meat. It’s generally only seasoned with thick rock salt and grilled at the table. Like beef and leaf, it’s served with lettuce, sesame leaves, dipping sauces, kimchi, and an assortment of banchan. One of the BEST things to eat with samgyupsal is grilled kimchi (just be sure that it’s fermented, not fresh, kimchi). Place the kimchi on the grill as you’re cooking the pork and let the fat from the pork soak into the kimchi. It’s a perfect combination of flavors. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! One serving of samgyupsal usually runs about 12,000-15,000W, and you’ll probably need to order 3 servings to feed 2 adults (one serving isn’t quite enough for one adult). Most restaurants will also serve dwenchangjigae (bean curd soup) with the samgyupsal in a hot pot, but you’ll have to order bowls of rice separately (1,000W/each) if you like rice with your meat. Which I do.

3. Hwe – Raw fish, Korean style! Oh, and live, moving octopus too.

If you’re not afraid of a little raw fish, then you’ve got to give Korean hwe a try. Keep in mind, though, that Korean hwe is really nothing like its Japanese counterpart. If you go to a run-of-the-mill Korean hwe restaurant (not a fancy-schmancy 5-star place), there are two types of fish that are traditionally served raw–gwanguh (flounder) and ooluk (rockfish).

Korean hwe

Although most restaurants will have some variety, they will always have these two fish. In addition to raw fish, Korean hwe restaurants also serve several other types of seafood. Raw. If you pass a hwe restaurant on the street, check out the tanks of live fish and seafood outside the restaurant. You’ll see octopus (nakji) and squid (ohjinguh), sea cucumbers (haesam), and sea squirt (munggae) among others. My 5 year old boys LOVE live octopus (san nakji), and once you get over the fact that your food is still moving and the suckers on the tentacles still work… It just tastes like octopus. 😉 So if you like the taste of octopus, give this a try. It’s just the tentacles–it’s not like in the movie Oldboy where Oh DaeSu gnaws on a whole octopus while the tentacles stick onto his face.

octopus

And to be precise, it’s not technically still alive. The tentacles are cut into smaller, manageable pieces, and it’s served with a small bowl of sesame oil and salt for dipping. Be sure to use the dipping sauce. It prevents the suckers from sticking to the inside of your mouth as you chew! Like san nakji, the other seafood options at hwe restaurants–like haesam and munggae–are really more about unique texture than taste. If different textures and consistencies of food in your mouth really isn’t your thing, it’s probably best to steer clear of Korean hwe. The flavors are unique as well, but from my experience taking friends to eat hwe, it’s the texture that gets them.

At a standard hwe restaurant, you should plan to spend about 15,000-20,000W/person. Platters of hwe are usually offered in small (serves 2-3), medium (serves 3-4) and large sizes (serves 4-6). And often, the large size includes extras such as the spicy fish soup (maeoontang) at no additional charge. The soup is made with the bones of the fish that was served to you raw, and it’s really good! If you enjoy spicy food, you won’t want to pass it up. If you order a smaller platters, ordering the maeoontang is usually an additional 5,000-7,000W.

4. Albab – bibimbap-style rice bowl with fish eggs/roe

albabBibimbap is one of the staples of Korean cuisine, mainly because traditionally, like shepherd’s pie, it was the dish that you could throw everything and anything into. Growing up, my mom only made bibimbap if there was some leftover banchan that would go bad if we didn’t finish it off, so she’d chop up some fresh veggies and green, throw everything in a bowl with some rice, fry an egg and mix it all up with some hot pepper paste (gochujang). If you love bibimbap, and you’d like to venture out a bit, definitely give albab a try. The idea is the same, but the taste is completely different. It’s served in a hot stone bowl like dolsot bibimbap with rice at the bottom and topped with chopped kimchi, dammuji (yellow picked radish), lettuce, sesame leaves, dried seaweed, and a heaping helping of fish roe. The hot stone bowl cooks the eggs as you mix everything together, and the result is just plain delicious. It’s one of my boys’ favorites, and they’ll happily finish off an entire adult serving. Then ask for more. Albab can be found at most Korean seafood restaurants for 6,000-7,000W ($6-7).

5. Haemul Pajeon – seafood pancake/pizza

haemul pajunThis is a must-try dish for the seafood lover, and it’s both like and unlike a pancake and a pizza. The most basic pajeon is a combination of batter (eggs, flour and water) and green onions (or pa, thus the name pa-jeon). Haemul pajeon contains vegetables and various types of seafood (squid and shrimp mostly, but it can also include mussels and clams. There’s also kimchi pajeon (yummy!), which like the name suggests is pajeon made with kimchi. Since the batter mixture is poured onto a pan, it looks more like a pancake, but savory, not sweet so tastes more like a pizza, but not really. 😉 When cooked just right, it’s crispy on the outside and every so slightly chewy in the center. Sometimes, it’s cut into pieces like a pizza, but you’re supposed to just rip chunks off with your chopsticks, dip in the soy sauce-based dipping sauce, and enjoy. It’s meant to be a shared dish, so not something you would order by itself for dinner. Haemul pajeon usually runs about 15,000W and can be shared with about 4 people. It’s a great addition to a Korean dinner, especially if you’re eating family style and sharing dishes.

6. Mook – jello?

black sesame mookMook is difficult to describe. It has a jello-like consistency, but there’s really no other food that it could be compared to. There are many different varieties (made with various ingredients: buckwheat, sesame, acorns), all resulting in different colors and flavors. My favorite is black sesame mook (pictured above), which is made from, you guessed it, black sesame seeds. Some people say that mook has very little flavor and that you eat it for the toppings, but depending on the ingredients, mook does have a particular flavor. It’s a very subtle flavor that goes perfectly with the toppings that it’s typically served with–dried seaweed, green onions, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and a sauce made with soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. It’s usually served as a side dish, but there are mook specialty restaurants that serve both platters of mook as well as soup with slices of mook in it.

7. Dduk – rice cakes

ddukYou’ve probably seen the street vendors that sell ddukbokki, log-shaped rice cakes stir fried with fish cakes in a spicy red sauce, but dduk is so much more than the chewy white rice cakes. There are countless varieties of dduk, which can be best described as a traditional Korean dessert food. You can find dduk shops all over–in my little neighborhood, I can think of 4 different dduk shops on one street, all within 100 feet of each other. There’s dduk coated and/or filled with various powders, beans, seeds, and jellies, cute little dduk with flower shapes on them in various colors, dduk for special occasions like birthdays and weddings. A small package of dduk generally runs about 2,000W, so stop by your local dduk shop and try it out!

8. Haemultang – spicy seafood soup

haemultangRice, kimchi, and soup are at the center of Korean cuisine, and while rice and kimchi come in a limited number of varieties, the soups are endless: seaweed soup, kimchi soup, bean curd (or miso) soup, soft tofu soup, beef rib soup, ox tail soup, bean sprout soup and and really long list of hangover soups. My favorite Korean soup is haemultang. It’s spicy, delicious, and not for the faint of heart, especially if you go to a proper haemultang restaurant where all the ingredients are fresh. And by fresh, I mean still alive when it’s brought to your table. Haemul, or seafood, is obviously the main ingredient for this soup. A large pot of spicy broth, bean sprouts, green, and a heaping serving of live squid, shrimp, crab, clams, mussels, scallops, abalone, and much more is brought to your table and boiled on the gas burner at the table. And you get to see cool stuff like this:

Our favorite haemultang place does a really great job of adjusting the spice level so that my kids can enjoy it as well, which they do. My kids (and I) will eat just about anything that comes out of the ocean, and if you’re an adventurous eater, then you really can’t leave Korea without trying haemultang. It’s sooooo good! Haemultang can be found at some restaurants in individual serving sizes, but for the real deal, you’ll have to order a larger size. Most haemul restaurants will offer small (2-3 people), medium (3-4 people) and large (5-6 people) serving sizes, and the price generally runs from about 30,000W for the small to 45,000W for the large.

9. Jokbal – boiled pig’s feet

jokbalWhile the idea of eating boiled pig’s feet may sound a little…unappetizing, it’s actually incredible. And it’s more like the pig’s lower leg, not just the feet. Jokbal is prepared by thoroughly washing it and removing the hairs. The skin is left on, and it’s boiled with various seasonings, including the obligatory soy sauce. The skin gives it a unique taste and texture that most of my friends who have tried it have not disliked (unlike sea cucumber and sea squirt). The meat and skin are removed from the bone, sliced and served with a dipping sauce that consists of tiny, salted shrimp. Jokbal is generally thought of as a anju, or food that accompanies alcohol. It’s served on a platter and shared with friends, so it’s not something you’d go to a restaurant and order for yourself. One order of jokbal is one entire leg, including the bone, and at a restaurant, you’ll pay about 30,000-35,000W per order. There’s an area by Dongkuk University Station that’s known as Jokbal Street with numerous jokbal restaurants, but chances are, if you wander around your neighborhood, you’ll find a local place that specializes in jokbal. If you don’t feel like paying restaurant prices for something you may or may not like, you can find packages of jokbal at Emart for about 15,000W.

10. Shabu shabu – deliciousness

shabushabuSaving the best for last! Shabu shabu is one of those dishes my parents never told me about, and when I confronted them about it and bemoaned their parenting for denying me shabu shabu while I was growing up, they claimed it was because it was a dish they rarely ate when living in Korea nearly 40 years ago. Beef was a delicacy, and as a dish that was imported from Japan, shabu shabu wasn’t terribly popular when they were young. Beef is still astronomically expensive in Korea, but the popularity of shabu shabu has soared over the years.

It’s really a rather simple dish with thin slices of beef dipped into a pot of boiling broth, but shabu shabu is also about the process and the experience. It used to be served as a communal dish: one large pot of boiling broth for the table to share; however, most shabu shabu restaurants now provide individual pots. You’re brought a platter piled high with slices of beef, various types of mushrooms, cabbage, dumplings, Korean sweet squash, dduk, noodles… Selection will vary by restaurant. You put your ingredients into the boiling broth and dip them in a variety of sauces before eating them. The sauces both flavor and cool your scalding hot food. Eating shabu shabu definitely demands a bit of patience on your part so as not to burn your tongue and lose the ability to taste anything for the rest of the meal. And probably the day after as well.

If too much of your broth boils off, you’ll be given more to add to the pot, and slowly, all the ingredients you’ve been adding to the broth create this wonderfully flavorful and delicious broth. That’s when you add the noodles. Boil the noodles. Enjoy. THEN, if all that wasn’t enough, most (not all) restaurants provide rice. Throw your rice in the pot and watch it turn into the best rice porridge you’ve ever had. Once it’s all over, you’ll probably have to be rolled out of the restaurant, but it’s worth it. I promise.

All-you-can-eat shabu shabu restaurants have become pretty popular, but if you’re not looking to put on 10 lbs during one meal, then a standard shabu shabu place should be just fine. 😉 Generally speaking, shabu shabu runs about 20,000W per person, and you can order additional meat for about 10,000W.

**Making a list of 10 food was harder than I thought it was going to be. I had to leave off so many other foods that I LOVE. Like kimbab, soondae (blood sausage), raw crab, rotisserie samgyupsal (only found on food trucks so far!), jook (porridge)… I often joke that the only part of me that’s thoroughly Korean is my stomach.

Hope you enjoyed my list! I’d love to hear about your favorite Korean foods. Or tell me about the foods you’d love/refuse to try!

Recipe: Steamed Korean Sweet Squash Stuffed w/ Smoked Duck Breast

steamed korean squash w/ smoked duckYou may have read in a previous post that I love duck. My husband loves duck. Our children love duck. It’s like the bacon of poultry. Only better. This recipe is inspired by a dish we tried out at an amazing duck shabu-shabu restaurant here in Seoul–we couldn’t eat enough of it. We don’t often eat Korean sweet squash, or kabocha, because, well, it’s a bit too sweet for our tastes, but as the oh-so-delicious and savory duck fat soaks into the squash, it cuts some of the sweetness and turns it into perfection! Yes, I know I’m being dramatic, but really… It’s that good!

This dish would be appropriate as an appetizer or as a dish served at a cocktail party. Korean sweet squash is relatively small, so (sadly) you can only stuff a limited amount of duck breast into the squash.

Also, smoked duck is very easily found in most grocery stores and marts in Korea, so this recipe is simple to prepare if you live in Korea. However, acquiring smoked duck breast is more challenging in the States. You would either need a smoker to prepare your own duck, or smoked duck can be purchased from online retailers like Nueske’s or D’Artagnan.

Steamed Korean Sweet Squash Stuffed with Smoked Duck

Paleo / Whole30

approx. 1/4 lb of smoked duck breast, sliced
one small onion, sliced
3-4 green onions, diced
one Korean sweet squash

1. Combine the duck breast, onion and green onions in a mixing bowl and set aside.

smoked duck breast 1

2. With a sharp knife, very carefully cut into the top of the squash to create a removable lid. Removing the top can be a bit challenging since the seeds and fibers in the center of the squash hold onto the “lid.” This takes a bit of strength–I usually call my husband in to give me a hand!

korean sweet squash3. Scoop out all the seeds and fibers from the center of the squash with a spoon.

korean sweet squash deseeded

4. Turn the squash over and cut 3-4 slits into the bottom of the squash to allow liquid to drain out as it cooks.

5. Stuff the squash with the duck/onion mixture.

duck stuffed korean sweet squash

6. Replace the lid and steam for 45 minutes or until squash is tender.

7. Very carefully remove the squash from the steamer–it will be VERY HOT! Place on a plate or serving dish and slice into 12 pieces.

steamed korean squash w/ smoked duck

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Recipe: Galbi-tang, Korean Beef Rib Soup

 

Galbi-tang

Galbi-tang is one of my husband’s favorite Korean dishes, mostly because he loves meat. While he was doing Whole30, it was virtually impossible for us to get our Korean food fix since so much Korean cuisine contains soy and sugar. From delicious, sticky, white rice to kimchi to all the various side-dishes, all the things that contain soy sauce and sugar… Basically everything except samgyupsal (thick strips of pork belly, aka uncured bacon) and lettuce wraps was off limits.

However, there is one dish that we thoroughly enjoyed throughout the Whole30 experience–Galbi-tang–a beef-based soup full of thick cuts of beef ribs. It’s a simple dish with very basic ingredients. And trust me. It’s delicious.

This recipe isn’t difficult, but it requires a bit of prep work. I make the stock/soup base the day before we plan to eat it. Skimming the layer of fat off the soup is probably the most time-consuming part, but overall, it’s a very easy soup to make and well-worth the bit of planning/time management you have to do to make it!

Galbi-tang, Korean Beef Rib Soup

Paleo/Whole30

Serves 5

6-7 lbs of short cut beef ribs (can be purchased at Korean grocery stores–the thick cut short ribs are preferred for the soup)
1 Korean radish (cut in 1/4 inch thick squares)
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 tbsp salt
4-6 scallions (diced)
freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1/2 lb dangmyeon or Korean sweet potato noodles, optional (Typically sold in 1 lb bags. There’s much debate over whether or not sweet potato noodles are Whole30 compliant. I’m not here to judge. You decide!)

Prep (day before)

1. Place the ribs in a large bowl and fill with cold water, covering the ribs entirely. Let this sit for about an hour. The blood in the meat will drain out.

Galbi-tang prep

2. Drain the water and rinse the ribs. Place in a large pot (I use an 8 qt. pot) and fill the pot with water. Add garlic and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 1 hour.

3. Turn off the heat and just let it hang out and cool overnight!

Cook (the day of)

1. When the soup has cooled completely, there will be a rather thick layer of congealed fat on top. Skim off as much of the fat as possible, and if you’d like, use a strainer to get the smaller bits of fat out.

Galbi-tang prep IMG_6752 IMG_6753 IMG_6755

2. As you reheat the soup, peel and cut the Korean radish and scallions.

3. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil to cook the dangmyeon. Once the water is boiling, add the dangmyeon and cook for about 5 minutes until noodles are soft but still chewy. Drain and set aside.

4. Once the soup is boiling, add the Korean radish and boil for approximately 15 minutes (until the radish has cooked through–soft but not mushy).

5. To serve, place a handful of dangmyeon in a bowl and add soup and approximately 1 tbsp of diced scallions. Add salt (if necessary) and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!