Monthly Archives: July 2012

Your Guide to Getting Minted

“Always remember to look up and down.”

A friend’s advice after I’d just arrived certainly rang true.  Upon exploration of my new surroundings I found restaurants stacked four tall and neon-illuminated stairwells that led to karaoke heaven.  Born and reared in a nation never short on space, this was a new concept.  Big box super marts housing just over seventeen area codes weren’t all that shock-inducing.  Sprawl was a luxury I’d taken for granted.

Fields juxtapose with the surrounding high-rises

I admired the Korean ability to make efficient use of the space available.  When it came to homegrown produce, nearly everyone had a personal stockade of plants.  Whether the pots lined an apartment overhang or lettuce sprouted just between the highway and the on-ramp, every vacant patch was teeming with life.

Something’s minty…

Along my morning commute, I’ve noticed a bloom of plants that’s intrigued me.  Bearing a striking resemblance to the purchased-then-killed mint plants of failed garden endeavors, I gave it a whiff last spring.  Dismissing the notion, I wrote it off as a bountiful dream.  The other day, for whatever reason, I decided to give it another sniff.  This time I was certain–mint it was! My technical pruning knowledge quickly flew out the window.  I tugged and ripped like a mad-woman, anxious to fill my purse.  Buzzing off the menthol, my mind was on repeat–tabouleh, mojitos, freshhhh freshhhh>REPRISE tabouleh, mojitos, fresh fresh freshhhh…

When I found myself at home with my harvest, I figured it was time to determine a use.  Realizing I was packing heat with a red onion (also a hot commodity), I settled on an old stand-by.  A version of tabouleh, I found this recipe a few years ago in Cooking Light.  Its fresh ingredients and filling protein provide all the summer satisfaction one could dream of.  I had to do without my favorite part, the golden raisins, but it was still delicious. I tried substituting regular, but it just wasn’t the same.  

Moral of the story?  A second opinion is worth a million bites.

Healthy and delicious

Black Lentil and Cous Cous Salad

From Cooking Light, October 2008

1/2 cup dried black lentils (Or any variety, I used green)

5 cups water, divided

3/4 cup uncooked couscous

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered 

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

1/3 cup finely chopped cucumber 

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind 

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Rinse lentils with cold water; drain. Place lentils and 4 cups water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain.

2. Bring remaining 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Combine lentils, couscous, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, tomatoes, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

Yield: 6 1-cup servings

***For questions about where to find the ingredients in Korea, check out the new Ingredient Guide!***

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Clamming in Korea

Seagulls, the crash of waves breaking on the shore, a salty musk in the air–there are plenty of things that characterize living near the sea.  Finding myself living on the East Sea (a.k.a. Sea of Japan depending on whom you ask…) this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of holding a seaside residence.  When the summer heat proves overwhelming, it’s my greatest joy to hop in the saddle and pedal my bike down to the shore. 

On weekends, it’s the tendency of my friends and me to congregate at our favorite stretch of sand. The patch of foreigners gleams from afar, the greased-up skin standing in stark contrast to the fully clothed Koreans.  Usually in tandem with the sunbathing, a barbecue ensues.

Taking a nod from the Koreans, a few friends began to seek the edible bounty waiting out at sea.  Neck and neck with hardcore grannies, they battled it out diving for the fresh clams on the ocean floor.  In the hunt, elbow room is not respected, and it’s the swiftest that reaps the glory.  If you can hack it, you’re rewarded with plenty to share. 

After embarking on one of these expeditions, I wrote about the adventure for Groove magazine.  The article explores clamming along the northeastern shore and also captures my hunt for razor clams down south.  I’ve included a recipe to serve up your fresh catch beachside as well.  Check out the article in Groove Korea’s July issue or online here.

Happy clamming!

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Granola Girl

Editor’s Note: Before I came to Korea, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  In my mind, “kimchi” conjured images of my last pan-asian meal, and DMZ was easily confused with a website that slandered celebrities (TMZ).  Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese were categorized just the same, and I had no idea having a “small face” was an attribute.  When I was left wondering in my safe haven back home, a friend’s blog enabled me to take a quick trip to the far East.  Johanna Wooden, author of Head in the Clouds, has found a way to bridge the gap for the couch voyagers among us. 

Since moving to Korea, her blog has continued to enrich my daily life, whether with the addition of tips for wholesome living or by putting the everyday curiosities into perspective.  Also a culinary whiz, Johanna has been kind enough to share one of her recipes in a guest post.  I hope you enjoy the change of pace she provides in the kitchen!

Jay, Claire, and Johanna “Granola Girl” Wooden

Granola girl.  My new nickname after my Korean friend, Jay, tasted my first homemade batch of granola.  Little did he know how clearly the connotation rang with the description of my rather free-spirited, music-loving, festival-going former self.  Witnessing my amusement at the name, he inquired, “What is a granola exactly?” 

In its definition, Urban Dictionary (the highest authority on slang interpretation) refers to a “granola” using the popular buzz word, hippy.  I didn’t have to explain that one to my friend, as he immediately confirmed his familiarity.  “Oh yeah, I know, a homeless person who plays the guitar in the park and holds out their hands for coins.”  He was pretty close, although you couldn’t necessarily say I was anywhere near living on the streets, I couldn’t play a chord on the guitar and I usually had enough coins in my pocket to get through the rough college life.

Then, there was Woodstock.  I figured this was the most stereotypical “hippy” festival of all time and would make for a great example of where the said type of people gathered.  Quickly, I ran a Google search, and we examined the return.  Rather than gaining the clarity I intended, my friend instead viewed a sea full of naked people listening to speeches about how to beg for money.  In his mind, the gathering was a forum for the dispute of the correct way to hold your hand when accepting coins, followed by workshops about how to make the best granola. I admired his humor and enjoyed the banter, so I continued to enlighten him about the fascinating subculture.

Further explanation of the term, using Urban Dictionary as a resource, concludes that present day hippies, called “granolas,” are people who go hiking, ice climbing, and engage in outdoor activities while wearing labels such as Colombia and munching on granola bars or trail mix.  This kind of person usually eats from the earth and refrains from eating animal products. 

At this point, my friend felt he was closing the gap.  He confirmed his comprehension that such a person steals crops from the neighbors’ gardens to eat when the coin-begging income just isn’t flowing.

When we dove into the fresh granola, my friend Jay was left perplexed.   How could a homeless person eat such a delectable snack?  He was immediately hooked on the nutty, crunchy mixture.  As he chewed, he began to understand why the hippies would take along such a delight for their long days of making melodies of peace at the local park.

The finished product

As a conclusion to the evening, I was left with some hints about what my upcoming birthday present might be.  Clues were cast towards customized pants with special pockets in which I can stash my own supply of granola for easy access.  Jay also alluded that another for safely holding my extra coins would be a necessity.  I wonder how “granola” will translate to the tailor. ..

In the meantime, I will continue to provide this wholesome, healthy snack to my friend and his family until I leave Korea.  It brightens their diet with vitamins and minerals and always leaves me smiling with their praise to the “granola girl.”  I thought it was all behind me, but I guess I will never live down those days of wearing patchwork pants and tie-dye while swaying to the tune of St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Here’s how to get crunchy.

Granola Girl’s Special Blend

3/4 cup of plain oats

1/3 cup of sunflower seeds

1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup of slivered almonds

1/3 cup of crushed walnut pieces

4-5 teaspoons of brown sugar

1/3 cup of honey

2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla

3 tablespoons of cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick


Optional: Raisins, dried cranberries or other dried fruit


1. Combine dry oats and nuts.

2. Spread on a tin foil sheet or baking sheet.

3.Spread the nut mixture in a thin layer, just enough to cover the surface.

Spread evenly

4. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, honey, oil, vanilla and cinnamon on medium to high heat.

5. Bring down the heat and simmer for 1 minute.

Heat it up

6. Drizzle the hot mixture over the dry nuts and oats.

7. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes, then stir mixture and continue to bake for 10 minutes.

8.  Once the top is golden brown, take out and cool for 20 minutes.

9.  Remove from foil and break into chunks. (Some will be loose – this is good:))

10. Add a handful of dried cranberries, raisins or other chopped dried fruit.

11. Sprinkle with salt .

12. Enjoy over yogurt, with milk or as a snack to munch on at work.


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Hot on the Trail

The High Park Fire

Fire! Fire on the mountain… Great when backed by the Grateful Dead’s chords, not so great when the truth of the matter. As I’ve said before, I have roots in Colorado.  Colorado’s been quite the hot topic lately, literally and figuratively.  As Smokey Bear warns at the entrance to the state’s  forests, the threat of wildfires is always present.  This season, unfortunately, Colorado’s number came up. 

The authority on the matter

Colorado has been hit particularly hard by wildfires this season.  With a lightening strike on June 9, the region around Fort Collins, Colorado, was set ablaze.  The homes of a multitude of living things, as well as my fondest memories–the Poudre Canyon, Rist Canyon, Lory State Park, Horsetooth Mountain Park–all went up in flames.  Now 100% contained, the High Park Fire has left a trail of devastation.  257 homes, 87,284 acres.   

Near Colorado Springs, the Waldo Canyon Fire was a scene from our wildest nightmares.  Declared the most destructive in the state’s history, the fire raged into suburban subdivisions destroying countless family homes.  Declared a disaster area by President Obama, the situation is bleak. 

While all may be a part of Mother Nature’s cycle, it doesn’t change the fact of the matter.  There are a lot of pieces yet to be picked up across the state I love.  In this tough time for Colorado, do a little rain dance and send cooling thoughts their way. 

Whether we are the ones affected by a burning blaze, or we’re lost on a hunt for frozen scallops, we all need a little help sometimes.  In exchange for your rain dance, I’d like to be of assistance. 

I’ve been working hard on a new component of my website. In the directory of pages, you’ll find the addition of “Ingredients Guide.”  Check here to find a glossary of ingredients as well as a listing of where you might find them in Korea.  There’s also a list of useful in-person and online retailers.  Check it out – Ingredients Guide!

After stocking your pantry, if you’ve got a little change rattling around and you’re thinking of Colorado, consider donating to one of the organizations below.

Trees, Water & People

A Fort Collins-based organization doing exceptional work in the community.  As a former intern, I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of their programs.  In the area affected by the High Park Fire, they will not only re-plant trees, but will reconstruct the devastated ecosystems to create a forest that is healthier and safer than before.

High Park PAC

The remnants of their bedroom

Some friends were personally affected by the fire, and in response, they’ve set up the High Park Relief PAC.  Currently in the process of establishing tax-deductable 501(c)3 status, they’re working to raise funds to directly help members of their community. 

Colorado Professional Firefighters Foundation

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