Monthly Archives: November 2012

PB & C

All the main food groups

Peanut butter and jelly is one combination that America has stamped its name on.  A sustenant combination of non-perishable spreads, it’s the poor man’s wonder and the picnicker’s joy.  

Quite honestly, I don’t care too much for peanut butter, but when mellowed out with just the right sweetness it certainly strikes my fancy. Jelly works, but chocolate is my preferred match.  Something about the salty peanut butter with sweet chocolate is clearly addictive.  So much so, that without Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, my life is devoid of all purpose.  Motivation dwindles and the threshold of enjoyment is pushed to an unacceptable level.

Since moving to Korea, I have sought to get my PB & C satisfaction wherever I can – stocking up on visits to the army base and relying on imports from my dearest friends.  I can’t deny the fact, however, that it’s still not enough.   

Last spring, we made a somewhat groundbreaking discovery.  It was that if you put granulated sugar into a blender and pulse, you actually end up with a blender full of powdered sugar (a rarity here).  This lent itself wickedly to cream cheese frosting, and now is making a return appearance.

Best. Discovery. Ever.

With this little kitchen trick, it’s 100% possible to make your own version of  peanut butter cups in Korea. And, in under 15 minutes.  Known at home as “buckeyes,” I’m afraid to say it, but they may even be tastier than Reese’s.  Super soft and creamy, you can even freeze a batch to keep around for later.

Note: The recipe calls for the peanut butter mixture to be balled and individually dipped into chocolate for the full effect.  I’m lazy and operate typically in a craving-fueled frenzy, so I just slapped mine in a dish as layers.  Either way suffices. 

The intended end product. Fancy.

JIF Buckeyes  from allrecipes.com

Makes 5 dozen

1 1/2 cups peanut butter

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups powdered sugar

1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips / 6 bars Ghana chocolate

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening / butter or margarine

1. Combine peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on LOW until blended (I mixed with a fork) . Add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating until blended (Wear out your arm muscle with that fork). Beat in additional powdered sugar until mixture, when shaped into a ball, will stay on a toothpick. Shape into 1-inch balls (Or, spread in an even layer in a dish of some sort – I used a large Tupperware). Refrigerate.

 2. Place chocolate chips and shortening in microwave-safe bowl (Break Ghana bars into chunks, place in microwave-safe bowl along with butter or margarine). Microwave on MEDIUM for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat until mixture is smooth. Reheat as needed while coating peanut butter balls.

3. Insert toothpick in peanut butter ball. Dip 3/4 of ball into chocolate, leaving top uncovered to resemble a buckeye. Remove excess. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Remove toothpick. Smooth over holes. Refrigerate until firm.

OR

3. Smear that chocolate goodness all over the layer of peanut butter, refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares. 

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Paratha Pie

The United Nations of Comfort

The United Nations of Comfort

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. These days, it’s all about fusion.  Peking duck tacos and curry vinaigrette.  An affiliate of  reinvention, sometimes it’s all that’s left to forge ahead.    Using new ingredients in unexpected ways not only crosses cultural barriers, but elevates our taste buds as well.

A method used by pros to forge new ground, in an expat’s situation it’s built right in.  Substitution is the name of the game and if you can’t get creative you’re doomed to a life of cereal and steamed rice.

Ample time spent with my new English, Irish, Kiwi and South African comrades made me aware of one area in which the US is lacking.  It’s ability to employ pastry for more than just after-dinner delights.  Sure, we’ve all been to a party with pastry-wrapped brie, but it would probably cause a stir to break through a crust and puncture a mushroom.

Happy to have been introduced to the realm of steak and ale, chicken and mushroom and Shepard’s pies, I embrace them wholeheartedly.  Particularly when it rolls around to the comfort food time of year.

I’d been craving a pie recently, and I had some cream of mushroom soup to use up.  I was thinking it’d be just the thing to whip together a filling, but I was faced with one glaring void regarding the crust.  The lack of  an oven.

Realizing I had just the thing, I scurried home and pulled out the parathas from my freezer.  Now, these are a discovery I made about a year ago.  Available from both Emart and Homeplus, they’re a tasty little treat.  With Indian roots, they’re a flat bread intended to serve with curry.  The ones of the Korean variety I’ve noticed have a particularly buttery crispness.  One that would perfectly jive as puff pastry.

I threw together the filling, quickly browned the paratha and we were in business.  The next best thing to a warm bubble bath on a cold autumn eve.  Stay tuned for my alternative for a tub.

Representing India and the United States

Chicken and Mushroom Paratha Pie

Serves 1

1 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, diced

4 button mushrooms, quartered

1 chicken breast, cubed

1/4 can cream of mushroom soup

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp mixed herbs

salt and pepper, to taste

1 frozen parantha

cream cheese, optional

Heat onion in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until softened and beginning to brown.  Add mushrooms and continue to cook another 3-5 minutes.  Toss in the chicken.  Continue to cook until all bits are cooked through.

Pour in soup, Worcestershire, herbs and stir to mix.  Season to taste. Allow to heat through, about 2-3 minutes.  For a treat, you could also stir in some cream cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and remove from pan.  Set aside.

Heat another dry skillet (or wash and heat the same one) to medium heat.  Place the frozen paratha flat in the pan.  Allow to cook until starting to crisp around the edges and puff slightly, then flip.  Repeat until paratha is browned on both sides.  Remove from heat and cut a circle out of the middle.  Fill the hole with the reserved filling and top off with the crispy circle.

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Gimme S’more

It was just the welcome I was looking for.  This past summer, it was time for the long-awaiting trip to visit home.  After 18 months, I would be able to catch up with the ones I love.

I slotted in Colorado first, and the plan was to head straight up to the backwoods for a dose of mountain air, wide vistas and good company.  A friend scooped me at the airport and it was go-time from the moment I sat in the front seat.  Being the rock star that she is, she’d emailed my Korean counterparts and taken suggestions for the most pined-after snacks.  She had a selection at my disposal for the drive up to the mountains.  I was greeted with mini wheels of cheese, Cape Cod’s finest chips and chocolate-covered pomegranate bits containing just enough anti-oxidants to cancel out all fattening properties.

We made our way through the dark curves of I-70 and miraculously arrived at our destination.  Following our friend’s nondescript directions to a long driveway and some Christmas lights smack  in the middle of a cellular dead-zone, it was nothing short of a miracle.  Upon arrival, we left the vehicle behind and hurried over to reminisce beside a cranking bonfire.  Flanked by great friends in a perfect setting, I was content.  That is, until our Budweisers ran dry.

Man and pride

About the time we ventured inside to replenish the stocks, I found out just how much more was in store for me.  Scattered about the counters, I encountered the remnants of a neighborhood BBQ earlier in the day.  Deviled eggs, venison brats — it was the embodiment of  the land I love.

How I had dreamed of this moment!  Wasting no time, I dove in and did a number on the leftovers.  It was then that I encountered the holy grail.  Shrugged off as a picked over mess, I hadn’t really taken note of the pile of crumbs.  One taste, however, and I dove in deep.  Deep into that ooey, gooey, chocolate-y rendition of s’mores.  God Bless the U.S.A.

Back in Korea after the trip, I’m left with many fond memories.  And many unrelenting cravings.

Poised to burn

This weekend, it was time again for a fire.  For a Korean version of the British holiday Guy Fawkes Night, we gathered on the beach.  The holiday celebrates the triumph of the monarchy after a dissident tried to blow up their parliament.  The plan was for a feast, followed by a burning of the guest-of-honor — a cardboard effigy of Guy Fawkes himself.  Thinking nothing pairs better with homicidal arson than a chocolate-y mess, it was time.  Time to take on the masterpiece.

Toast the Rockies

A friend made his contribution to the event by shipping in some marshmallows, by way of Costco in Seoul. I’m told you’re also likely to find some at HomePlus or Emart. In the spirit of things, however, it was only appropriate to employ the Rocky Mountain’s finest as a nod to the dish’s roots.

Starting first with crushed Diget digestive cookies, you make a base.  

Following the crust, you add a layer of brownies.  

When it’s  all baked together, the magic happens.  You pile on the marshmallows and torch those babies up.

Upon sharing this dish, I was propositioned with marriage, under the pretense that this creation could be our wedding cake.  Later, I was told that one party-goer (who shall remain anonymous) was found in a corner siphoning all remaining crumbs into his mouth.   I think it’s safe to assume they shared my sentiments.

Brownie S’mores Bars

Serves…1

9 Diget digestive cookies (or graham crackers for those at home), crushed

6 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 box brownie mix (Tous les Jours makes one readily available)

marshmallows

9-inch round cake pan

Combine the crushed cookies, butter, and sugar until mixed evenly.  Press the mixture into the bottom of the cake pan.  Toast in the oven just briefly, about 5 minutes on 175C/350F.  While the crust bakes, make brownie mix according to package instructions (the Tous les Jours mix only requires water).  Remove crust from oven.  Spread the brownie mixture over the cookie bottom to form an even layer.  Bake according to package instructions.

When the brownie has cookies through, again remove the pan from the oven.  Top the whole thing off with a layer of marshmallows.  Throw it back into the oven one final time, for only about 3-5 minutes.  The marshmallows should puff slightly.

Here comes the fun part.  Spark up a torch and toast the marshmallow topping to a nice golden brown.  Hide from your friends and enjoy.  All of it.  🙂

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