Tag Archives: Kahlua

Frankensoju

Remember a couple of months ago when I stumbled upon the idea for Kahlua soju?  Well, I kind of suprised myself with the success of that one, and I guess I didn’t stand alone. Thanks to this, I was given the opportunity to include a story in this month’s Groove Magazine, a publication geared towards the expat community in Korea. 

Starting with the Kahlua, I looked to friends for inspiration and came up with a slew of five cocktails that  reinvent the spirit.   From the soju strawberry lemonade to the fire-roasted chile mango martini, there’s something for everyone.  For those to whom soju conjures up images of a  karaoke rendition of “Livin’ La Vida Loca” (complete with valiant shimmy), it will wash away your pain.  For those new upon the bandwagon, hop aboard, fasten your seatbelt, and don’t expect to accomplish anything tomorrow.  Bottoms up!

Hop over to Groove to check it out here.

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Life Savers For An Awkward Commute

Sometimes, my teaching arrangement stresses me out.  I teach at four schools.  But this isn’t the issue.  The issue is the distance that lies between point A (my house) and point B (the school of the day).  More importantly, it’s the conversion of that distance, congruent with the rate of travel, into sequential minutes.  Creeping, crawling, somewhat non-progressing minutes.

All of my schools are found in the country.  Each one farther than the last.  Due to my circumstance, I am often granted rides with any number of teachers, nurses, chefs, and what-have-yous going to and from.  While thoughtful, indeed, sometimes this presents an obstacle.

In my culture, silence is awkward.  Depending, of course, upon how well you’ve come to know someone.  From a young age, I was schooled in the delicate art of yawn-inducing small talk. Example A:

“How was your day?”

“Fine, thanks. And yours?”

“Mine was good.  Just went to school.  A normal Monday, you know?”

“Yeah.”

“I hate Mondays.”

“Yeah.”

“Did you have to work today?”

“Yeah.”

“When did you have to go to work?”

“Around 9.”

“Was it busy?”

“Kind of.  Not too bad.”

“That’s good.  Where’s your office?”

“Downtown.”

“Near the post office?”

At about this point I’ll need reminding.  Am I trying hard to form a friendship, or am I freelancing for the CIA? Do I really care about any of these answers?  Absolutely not.  It’s just one of those things, engrained in us as polite.  We try our damndest to avoid the dreaded, dreaded lull.

To live in Korea (or abroad for that matter) is to develop a tolerance for the awkward.  Sure, it might make our skin crawl, but we have no choice.  Take it as fuel for a language course, but inevitably, language is acquired only after paying our dues in substantial awkward hours.

Interactions enter the second stage when we frantically inquire about the weather in May and whether or not our counterpart cares for licorice.  These questions surface in a panic,  in fear we’ve been discovered.  They know that we know that this is awkward.  At this point, it’s best to just pipe down.  Twenty questions only hits the matter home.

Do we just call it a draw?  Put our best tidbits back  in our pocket and embrace the quiet? Distractions come in handy here. Smartphone, you’re the best investment I’ve ever made.  Breathe deeply, relax, and you can always become enthralled in the bug that just hit the windshield.

If you make it this far, I commend you.  Everything is going to be alright.  The interaction will end, you may even exchange a sentence before it does!  A for effort, you just had to show you tried.  Your initial thoughtful exchange should have done the trick.

I’m going to do a little legwork for those of you not yet into stage three. For your next inevitable silence,  here are a few fun facts to break the ice.

“Last night, I made sugar like snow in my blender!”

Put your skis back in storage.  “Snow” is simply a comparison.  “Powdered” is a little advanced to ensure comprehension.  But, regardless, it’s true.  I. kid. you. not.  If you throw granulated sugar in your blender, within seconds you can have powdered at your disposal!  I didn’t believe it myself.  And then it worked. Amaze and astound!

“In Korea, I make Mexican food! Yes, yes!  I use yogurt!”

Seeing as sour cream is readily unavailable, plain yogurt makes a great substitute.  Works great in just about any application.

“In the USA – tomato juice – not sweet!  Here I make! Tomato paste and water,  together!  Delicious!”

Helpful when you need to explain the unsightly cringe post-swig of the sweet juice you’ve just been offered.   Also helpful when stricken with the urge for day drinking.  This is all you need to know to achieve Bloody Mary bliss while living in Korea.  Just mix one part paste with four parts water.

“You know Kahlua?  I make Kahlua soju!!” 

Tread carefully with this one.  It could unintentionally lead to your arch nemesis: a string of awkward soju dates.  Check it out here.  If you’re looking for an extra allotment of quiet minutes, contingent on your demonstrated effort, present companion with their very own take-home bottle.

And there you have it.  I wish you luck, friend.  If all else fails, you could always just develop a case of narcolepsy.  One especially triggered by long rides in the car.  

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Underage Cake-ing

It was a day that would forever change the course of history.

A few years back, I arrived home for my yearly visit.   The Mountain Standard to Eastern Standard time change kindly put my flight in around midnight. My parents’ smiles gleamed as I exited the airport tram, and I was quickly escorted home to devour the contents of a fully stocked fridge.  After eating cold pizza and finishing off the mashed potatoes, I put my fork down to rest.  I’d about had enough when my Dad perked up with excitement.  He could have just as soon suggested we go down to the barnyard and feed the pigs before I would have seen this one coming.

In my youth, my mother had spearheaded a movement which isolated my grandmother and I.  Cast off to a corner with our double chocolate cupcakes and our triple fudge sundaes, she would incessantly state the need to maintain a balanced diet. So what if chocolate was the axis of our diets?

My father on the other hand was a different story.  Always watching his cholesterol, he seemed to stick to his guns when it came to by-passing dessert.  All the way through his third helping of frozen yogurt, he would stick to his guns. His idea of a balanced diet was doubling the quantity to even out the losses of fat-free.

With one parent touting everything in moderation and the other sneaking sugar-free snack cakes, you may understand why I had resigned myself to lonely late-night sessions with a tube of uncooked cookie dough.  Just me, the moonlight, and a peaceful lack of judgement.

With this is mind, you can imagine my surprise when my father looked towards my mother and she unveiled the next course.  It was then that I first laid eyes on it.  The seductive bundt-cake curves, the rich and glistening texture.  There it stood.  The Kahlua Cake. 

Before this moment, cakes had been reserved for birthdays and extra-special celebrations. This baby was a game changer. All of a sudden, every occasion was an excuse!  Daughter home from college? Kahlua cake.  Housewarming for the neighbors? Kahlua cake.  Lawn mower started on the first try?  Kahlua cake. This cake throws all morals out the window. 

Last week we were all graced with the addition of one extra day in the month of February.  Besides the opportunity this provides to procrastinate your taxes a little bit longer, a leap year also means an actual birthday for one of my closest friends.  Seeing as her official day only comes around once every 4 years, we thought she deserved the best.  I decided to recreate the Kahlua cake for the occasion, Korean style. 

The original recipe starts with German chocolate cake mix and instant chocolate pudding, so this was going to be a bit of a challenge.  Match the lack of ingredients with the rarity of a bundt pan, and I was shaking in my boots.  What had I done?  How could I make anything to hold a candle to the one and only?  I talked myself off the ledge, tightened my apron and reached for my whisk. This was going to happen.

GMB: Genetically Modified Batter

Everything starts with a chocolate cake.  I did some research and found a promising recipe.  The one I chose relies on beating margarine with the sugar to begin rather than the more traditional butter.  Knowing the amount of additives that go into the gooey yellow stuff,  I was a little reluctant.  On second thought,  it might work.  Nobody likes to gamble on a dry finished product.  Surely in this day and age scientists have perfected the compounds necessary to ensure a moist outcome.  A little creepy, but I decided to embrace it.

I also knew that a pecan topping was indispensable.  I sought some out at Home Plus and sprinkled them in the bottom of the 8-inch pan before filling it with batter.  We were looking good. 

An ample sprinkling

The final piece of the puzzle was the finishing glaze.  Butter, sugar and Kahlua [soju] are simmered together and poured right over top of that sucker.  As I’ve always said, butter makes it better.  Match that butter with a bit of Kahlua and I’ll just  let your imagination run wild. 

Oozing appeal

Normally, 7th birthdays are reserved for Barbie dolls and princess-themed parties.  While tiaras are age-appropriate across the board, this cake might only be warmly received by one with their 7th birthday falling on a leap-year.  Since I know you’re toying with the idea,  you might as well just go ahead and black list this cake from your niece’s party.  Showing up with a booze soaked masterpiece might not fly with Auntie Miranda (even though Uncle Lenny would be singing your praises).  Just sayin, because if your impression’s anything like mine, you’ll be digging for excuses.

Happy 7th!

The Next Best Kahlua Cake

Recipe adapted from Best Moist Chocolate Cake from allrecipes.com

1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup margarine

3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons white sugar

1 egg

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

—————-

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 stick butter

1/8 cup water

1/4 cup Kahlua [soju]

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8- inch cake pan. Sprinkle pecans on bottom of pan. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  4. While the cake bakes, prepare the topping.  Boil butter, sugar and water in a sauce pan for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in Kahlua.  While cake is still hot, pour mixture over the top and allow to absorb.  Try to resist about 20 minutes, then enjoy.

Note: I have found that this cake freezes extremely well.  It works great to freeze the whole cake, or if you’re a chocoholic like me, divide it up into sections, wrap in waxed paper and foil, then freeze.  Each time your craving strikes just zap a piece (or two) in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

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(Cue creeper) “Are you Russian..?”

The first step to healing is admitting you have a problem.  I think we might have a situation. 

Somewhere between the attempts of Marlboro to capitalize on the inner cowboy of teenage boys and Abercrombie’s convincing “If you buy our clothes, you WILL end up with a sexy hunk” campaigns, I fell for Starbucks.  They’re pretty much equivalent to Big Brother in their grasp of our society, and their [corporate] sins rival those of Charlie Sheen. I don’t even recognize myself anymore! What am I doing amongst their converts? 

We’re in trouble.

Everyone has their vices, right?  It could be SO much worse.  I could be ducking into the clothing racks of Neiman Marcus  to dodge the debt collectors.  I could be living in an apartment filled with cats! Or even worse, filled with a lot of nothing in particular! I could be a hoarder. No no, I’ve chosen my poison.  I prefer a nice deep roast finished with a bit of soy milk. Starbucks’ just happens to be fresher (on this side of the world).  And bolder. Crap.

Regardless, the guilty culprit in all this, and thus the one who shall endure the fury, is our friend caffeine.  The track of life just doesn’t play the same without a mild case of the shakes and a cupful at hand. I find myself today between a rock and a hard place.  And so it is. 

I’m not quite sure at what point the addiction began.  Maybe it was when I first acknowledged the cool factor of  “Don’t talk to me until after I’ve had my coffee (sneer).” How very emo.  Perhaps it was in attempts to get the attention of that dark-haired guy from Philosophy? (Aside: HE most certainly wouldn’t have chosen Starbucks! What is WRONG with me!!??)  How have I ended up here!?  

In all honesty, I think most likely my 6am job in the river rafting industry is to blame.  I mean, really I was just being safety cautious.  Nobody’s aware enough to heed all stop signs and mind the yellow line at that hour unless caffeine snaps them into action.  And the drive to work was AT LEAST 10 minutes.   It’s not my fault.

While I’m coming to terms with my existing situation, let’s shift the blame a little and start pointing the finger.  Shall we start with sexual predators?  Or maybe you’d rather look first to alcoholics? Let’s start with alcohol and save the best for last!

As I’ve mentioned before, this country has quite the drinking habit.  There’s nothing  like watching your superiors belt out their rendition of “Material Girl” then hang their heads in a drunken stupor.  As a friend warned me before embarking on this journey, if you choose to drink with them, be prepared.  And after you do, be ready to acknowledge the badge of honor you’ve earned in everyone’s hearts when you stumble into the office the next morning. 

Bottles of the spirit of choice, soju, are available on every corner for about $1.  With a flavor profile similar to jet fuel, it’s a steal of a good deal.  At this point, you may be beginning to understand  why I’ve pretty much sworn off the stuff.  Seeing as I’ve just signed another year of my life away, however, I’m feeling like I need to give it another chance. 

With coffee and addiction drifting through my head, an idea occured to me. A genius idea. I have an old roommate whose mother once sent her a batch of homemade Kahlua.  At the time, my roommates and I were battling the post-college blues, and this bottle was something of a savior.  It added little drops of happiness to our Sunday cups of coffee  and was even better in White Russians.  Who knew you could make Kahlua on your own? Reflecting fondly, I thought of it. Kahlua SOJU. 

Here’s what I came up with.  This recipe is incredibly easy, most ingredients are either on hand or may be grabbed from the corner shop, and it WILL change your life.  Nothing like pooling your resources and making lemonade out of lemons. Don’t be shy, you’re welcome to kiss my feet.

Pantry staples

Kahlua Soju

 3 Cups Freshly Brewed [Starbucks] Coffee

3 Cups Light Brown Sugar

3 Cups Soju (About 1.5 small green bottles.  If you’re feeling frisky, go ahead, pour in that extra  half-bottle!)

3 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract or 3/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Powder (I had extract at my disposal, but you can find the powder at pretty much any Korean grocery store)

Brew coffee, then pour into a pan on the stove top.  Add sugar and heat over low-medium heat just until dissolved.  Allow to cool, then stir in soju and vanilla.  Enjoy. 

Next, I was faced with the task of determining just how best to enjoy my creation.  I could drink it straight (I did.).  But that’s kind of boring.  I could put it in my coffee. That just sets me up for a double dose of dependency, so let’s evade that one.  At this point, my mind drifted to Russians.

As with any country (except for perhaps Thailand, which harbors HOARDS), you can find a few bad eggs here. That’s right, it’s time to discuss sexual predators!  Usually they’re found, or rather they find you, at only the most inopportune times.  Thanks to a weekly boat from Vladivostok and a shaky economy, Korea has been graced with the presence of a few economic migrants who don’t have English as a native tongue.  These migrants count on their curves for job security and apparently are in high demand.  It takes only a few days before any light-haired girl receives her first proposition from aforementioned predators.  And what a cautious, delicate proposition it is. “Are you Russian..?” Yes, and I’ve been waiting all day to go home with you.  Bug off.

Either way, I decided I was onto something with the Russian thing.  I stirred  in some milk and enjoyed.  It was dangerously delicious.  It needed a name.  As obvious as it might be, what with WHITE Russians and BLACK Russians, I decided to side-step the racial slur.  It took a minute, and then I had it.  The Russian Hunter.

They “creep” up on you.

 

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