Category: Home

Summer Fruit Bruschetta & Homemade Ricotta

Most of the time, I enjoy baking and cooking alone. This can typically be attributed to two things. The first being that, well, I’m Haein and I am the clumsiest girl I know. In other words, I like sparing myself the shame, so please continue to keep me on that culinary pedestal as I continue to make a mess masterpiece in my kitchen. The second being that having the kitchen all to my lonesome gives me a deep sense of serenity and control – and who doesn’t want complete and total control?! Oh, right, and peace.
But, every once in a while, I have the unexpected pleasure of friends willing to help or learn or just eat in my kitchen (as opposed to my dining room, I guess). My most recent catering event was one such instance of true camaraderie.

One of my best friends was here this past week from California and she’s just left, leaving me feeling bereft. She spent one of her first weekends home helping me prepare for the biggest baking extravaganza of my still-developing life. Not just her, but also several more of the most kindhearted and compassionate friends I have. They volunteered their time and energy to help create a success beyond my imagination. Success for me, of course, being all-inclusive of my ability to occasionally stuff their mouths with so-called mistakes or “extras” (though there really weren’t any) in addition to shoving extra jars of homemade strawberry jam or fresh ricotta cheese into their arms.

But enough about that.
Continue reading

Biggest Project Yet: “Strawberry Spree”

Guys, I did it. It’s finally over. Mother’s Day 2012 at Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar was a huge (and not to mention, all-consuming, body-exhausting, & mind-blowing) success! A widespread brunch/lunch buffet of Japanese fare was followed by “Strawberry Spree” Sweets buffet (by yours truly), where 460-something voracious, yet surprisingly pleasant, guests devoured 1800-something servings of 12 different types of strawberry-themed desserts within a span of 5 hours and 3 full-seating turnovers. Let’s not forget that this was, believe it or not, after these bottomless bellies were stuffed with mountains upon mountains of sushi, tempura, udon, salad, chicken, king crab, and God knows what else. All I really want to know is, who are these thoroughly inhuman people with such exigent appetites and where on earth did they come from? Because I have this ever-growing hunch that I must be related to them. After all, there is a most uncanny resemblance between my belly and theirs.Stomach resemblance aside, there may have been little else alike between these wonderful guests and I. Though the picture doesn’t show it (thank God), I slept for a very true-to-saying, painstakingly short-and-sweet 45 minutes. The grueling fun-filled hours leading up to that nap and the even more agonizing joyous hours that followed were wholeheartedly dedicated to baking and assembling a mass amount of the greatest (and most practical) homemade desserts I could muster up and create from scratch. Exhausted as I may have been, and trust me when I say exhausted is a euphemism for the physical state I was in at the time, this project was my absolute pride and joy from unshaped, prenatal beginning to expectant, postnatal forthcoming. It was Mother’s Day, for crying out loud, and this project was my beautifully overweight newborn. Continue reading

Homemade Pizza

Remember the last time you were on a deadline and desperately pressed for time or just way too exhausted from work or life to even remotely consider mustering up the energy to look through the fridge (except to retrieve that last ice-cold beer you saved for yourself behind the carton of milk – oops! sorrry, honey!), let alone make dinner? Remember the last time you picked up your phone just to call your friendly neighborhood pizza place to rescue you rather than calling your significant other to let them know that dinner is ready to be served? I do. In fact, it seems as though it’s all I ever do lately.
I grew up loving pizza. I don’t know anyone who didn’t. It was, in my opinion, a luxurious reward for good behavior. In other words, it was a parent’s laziness or lack of time resulting in a most marvelous treat of a meal for us as kids, and even as adolescents. In most cases, it was the meal succeeding a busy day of fun to which everyone would gather around for a slice or two.

However, instead of having to call for an instant pizza, I can now proudly say that I can make my own – albeit, not quite as conveniently. Pizza is a most wonderful thing. Endlessly versatile, it’s hard for anyone not to love some variation of it. Now, pair that gourmet handmade pizza of yours with a bold glass of wine or better yet, a homemade sangria and this, my friends, is what being a mature adult is all about.
Continue reading

Kalbi (Korean BBQ Short Ribs)

My idea of the quintessential birthday party doesn’t necessarily mandate a towering 3-layer cake. Mainly because every time I try to bake one, all I seem to create is a very tasty mess of sorts. So, instead, I resort to marinating meat. Lots of it. Short ribs, the Korean way, to be exact.
Because my idea of the perfect birthday party consists of just 3 things: a family of friends, perfect weather, and a beach barbecue. All of which I happily had (and then some) at my birthday last week.
Continue reading

Kimchi Chigae (김치찌개)

In the last few months, I felt (yet again) suspended in limbo. In so many ways, this year feels like a first. The first year I can’t use being a full-time student as an excuse to eschew finding a steady and stable full-time job. The first year I realize the true effort it takes to keep in touch with even the best of friends, whose lives also happen to be unfolding unexpectedly before them. The first year I see life the way I do now. It feels strange and surreal to remind myself that I am a college graduate, an adult.
Once in a while, I sift through old pictures and catch snapshots of my past, finding myself at a loss for words. I remember those blunt bangs and the plaid uniform I wore at my private school in California. I remember my strawberry-blonde best friend, her freckles an object of my greatest envy. I remember my sun-kissed skin from blackberry-picking with my Guatemalan nanny, Adela. I remember ferry rides to Granville Island and goose-chasing at Stanley Park with my sister in Canada. I could never forget the fluorescent lights of Seoul and the way my heart would beat in the city. I remember my first failed experiments with make-up and fashion, high school crushes and cliques. Flip forward a few pages and I vividly recall my high school graduation, all the flower leis, and my first official cap and gown. Then I remember Seattle and the courtyard of cherry blossoms on campus. It baffles me that now, I’m looking at freshly-printed photos of my friends and I in forest green caps and gowns against azure Hawaiian skies, proudly displaying our post-college diplomas – our tickets into the real world. To think, I’ve journeyed this far.

Continue reading

Chicken Makhani & Garlic Naan

Life is a lot like running. In high school, I used to be my cross country team’s captain. At my school, the high school cross country team was open to middle school students and I remember running my very first 5km race in the cool Autumn breeze of the 8th grade. At the time, I was oblivious to the necessary training and immense mental strength primarily involved in finishing a race. I figured I was young, agile, and fit enough to instantly become one of the faster runners. Plus, I had my lucky pair of running shoes on. Sadly, I was terribly mistaken. I recall sprinting at the starting line to get a head start and consequently shifting between brisk walks, quick spurts, and sluggish jogs. When I finally reached the finish line, there weren’t many people there. I thought it was because I was one of the first to finish. In my exhausted state, I had been completely unaware of the people that had zoomed and zipped passed right in front of me. Finish time: 46 minutes. Wow, I thought, I must be fast. For all I knew, running was a cinch.
I was so wrong. To my later embarrassment and horror, I found out that I had been one of the stragglers – the slowpokes. But instead of getting discouraged and quitting, I continued going to practice 4 times a week and races every Saturday – even if it was only to get my face so red that it looked like a gleaming ripe tomato. Or, to get that adrenaline rush that made my legs numb at the sight of the awaiting crowd and finish line. Slowly, but surely, I improved. I became faster. I started running without needing to stop or take walking breaks. Over the next few years and after countless practices and very many races, I trimmed my 5km time down to a solid 23 minutes 34 seconds. I realized that running, like life, came down to persevering, putting mind over matter, and finding the right pace.Each year is like a race. Last year, I thought valiantly to myself, 2011 is going to be a great year. It’s going to be my year, my race. With a strong finish to the Fall semester of 2010 and an out-of-state, or off-island, vacation awaiting me at the finish line, I rushed into 2011 at a sprint. Needless to say, it wasn’t everything I’d predicted not to mention, everything I’d hoped for. My hasty beginning left me winded. It led me to struggle yet again between brisk walks, quick spurts, and sluggish jogs.  But it was, without a doubt in my mind, monumental. 2011 was a year of many; 2011 was when my blog started getting more recognition from those around me, I got promoted to a job that highlights my strengths and strengthens my weaknesses, I went through a heartwrenching break up that eventually unfolded into a rare, once-in-a-lifetime kind of friendship, I moved into a new apartment with 23… I mean, 4 fun-loving & amazing roommates, I ditched school religiously, I had my share of “drama,” I found love (which I’m admittedly still learning to accept) in what literally was a hopeless place, I quit my 3-year hostessing job at the same restaurant, I worked full-time in high-end, luxury retail, I moved again, I graduated with honors (miraculously), and then – for the first time in 4 years – I returned to Korea and was briefly reunited with my family. It was the race in which I stopped and stalled, time and time again. I even took a number of short-cuts and detours that only resulted in my delayed arrival at the finish line. I persevered, but crawled like a beginner, gasping and panting, to the end of 2011. Continue reading

Seoul

I’m sitting at my desk, trying to write this post, but I keep getting distracted.
First, there’s the restlessness I can’t seem to shake off. I’ve been graduated and out of school for about a month now and despite the ample time I may seem to have, in reality, there never seems to be enough time on any given day. Without the once perpetual schedule of deadlines and due dates ascribed to assignments, projects, and papers that used to govern my somewhat tighter itinerary, I seem to have unhinged myself and seamlessly fallen into a state of lazy confusion.

Then, there’s the noise. From my desk next to the window, I can hear everything beyond the rustling leaves and chirping birds. Cars are zooming past and repeatedly driving over what I presume to be is the same manhole, ending in the same reverberant clunk clunk. The occasional vehicle rambles along to the deep, rich bass tones of its subwoofer, only leaving a familiar but unwelcomed beat stuck in my restless head.

But most of all, there’s the longing. On my screen is a collection of images from my recent trip to Korea. Clicking through them, I see a string of blurry photos that inadequately try to capture the breathtaking city I grew up in, a city I once called home.
But now, I’m blogging from my home in Hawaii where a 15-minute car ride is deemed “far,” 2 a.m. is considered “time to go home,” and all of the island’s lights during Christmas combined could never come close to the way Seoul illuminates on any given evening, every single night of the year.
Continue reading

Green Tea Cheesecake

I’m not a believer in perfection, in life nor in the kitchen. Every endeavor we choose to undertake is an additional notch in our endless belts, a constant work in progress. That said, I present to you two things: my very first and very own Hungry to Happy recipe with all its dreaminess and tasty imperfections and a newly rejuvenated and more hopeful me, freshly graduated with a college degree and henceforth, thrust into the “real world.” Talk about accomplishments, these are huge notches for me!
Creamy, dreamy filling in-the-making!But alas, like all other works in progress, there’s always room for tapping, tweaking, and discovering. Case in point, this near-perfect Green Tea Cheesecake. After having baked more than a couple cheesecakes using a number of wonderfully decadent recipes in my not-so-lengthy lifetime, I decided to get experimental and forge my own. It was alluring with its creamy and earthy filling, rich and toasty crust, and tart and juicy raspberry, but it wasn’t perfect. To my utter horror and glee, it was baked for my first catering event (with the restaurant I represent) for an affluent group of socialites at an effulgent palace of a home. Despite the petrifying need for “perfection,” though imperative at that moment and in others, my minor shortcomings didn’t hinder my ability to learn, to succeed. Continue reading

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

Last Thursday evening (and admittedly every Thursday since Halloween okay, okay, early to mid-October), I jumped up, wide-eyed with a toothy grin that stretched from ear to ear, shrieking hysterically to anyone nearby that would listen or pretend to listen (including our periwinkle-colored beta fish that swims ever-so-carelessly in his newly-purchased and attractively-decorated tank next to the kitchen): “Oh my god, oh my god! It’s almost Thanksgiving!”
Do we really even need to wonder why?! I love Thanksgiving: the never ending grocery list and wish list for the subsequent Black Friday, the utter madness of stiff, over-sized metal shopping carts running into each other at Costco, Sam’s Club, and any other supermarket imaginable, the mindless snatching of every possible thing in sight paired with the constant little voice of reassurance inside your head telling you “you’re definitely going to need this for Thanksgiving dinner and if not, you’ll definitely use it later” even when you pretty much already know you won’t, and the frenzy and mess involved in prepping and cooking everything from appetizers to sides and main courses to how can we possibly forget, desserts (notice the plural). I can even candidly say I kind of enjoy the all-consuming, I-can’t-breathe-nor-take-another-bite kind of food coma that is imminently self-inflicted by every participant. Seriously though, is that wrong? I love Thanksgiving. The whole sha-bang.
Continue reading

Crème Brûlée French Toast

As August and summer inevitably draw to a sweltering hot end and my last semester in college resumes lethargically, I can’t help but wonder, ‘what’s for breakfast?’
It’s the timeless and unwaning question that immediately enters my mind upon waking and sits there until happily answered Monday through Friday (or whichever days I am – *eh hem* – required to be present and awake behind a desk in a less-than-comfortable classroom). In the past,  this question would sometimes be answered by melodious noises and heavenly aromas elicited by my mom in the kitchen. Other times, this question would be answered as early as the night before consequent to my excited and persistent chirping to have something to dream about and look forward to come morning. Breakfast is one meal I can have at any given hour of the day and if you couldn’t tell, it happens to be my favorite kind of fare. From veggie-stuffed omelets to pastries and bacon to Crème Brûlée French Toast, hey, what’s not to love?!
Continue reading