Latest dessert idea: fruit cobbler

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Blackberry Cobbler; Photo Source: pastrystudio.blogspot.com

I have been trying to eat more fruit and less dessert. It has been working for the most part. But every once in a while there are days when I feel like I absolutely need the added sugar. Lately, that dessert craving is being satisfied by cobblers. It has the fruit, it has the sugar, and it is baked so it feels special.

A cobbler is not that different from the crisps I have talked about.  Instead of the oat based mixture that is added over crisps, cobblers have a biscuit like topping. You could think of it as a variation of a pie.

After making these a few times, this is the version that appeals to me the most because it is the quickest and dirties the fewest dishes. I always make mine in a 8×8 inch square pan so here are the approximate measures for a batch.

What you need: 

Butter, Milk, Sugar, All-purpose flour, Baking powder, Fruit

 

Method:

  • Melt about 6 tbsp of butter and pour into baking dish.
  • Mix about a cup of flour, 1/2 -1 cups of sugar, and a teaspoon of baking powder. Mix thoroughly.
  • Add 1 cup of milk and mix. Do not stir. Mix less than you think you need to.
  • Pour biscuit mixture into pan with butter. Do not stir.
  • Add fruit on top. I would approximate about 2 cups of fruit. Do not mix.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove when the biscuit looks golden.

Notes:

  • I have made this with peaches and blueberries but I imagine it would with pretty much any stone fruit and many berries as well. Apple cobblers are common too.
  • If you are using a glass or ceramic dish you could use the microwave to melt the butter in the baking dish itself.
  • The texture of the biscuit completely depends on the mixing process. If you mix too much, you will end up with a chewy dough that is not as appealing.

A great Kpop week

I wrote a post about my favorite K-Pop tracks from the first half of the year. I also shared some of my favorite albums of the year. But, overall, 2017, especially in the past month or so, has been quite disappointing. Then sometime last week, things changed. I came across a few great tracks one after another. These could all be classified as pop-rock. DAY6 released my favorite song of last year but I have been disappointed by their releases this year so maybe I just needed some songs to fill that rock void.

N.Flying- The Real

Probably the most popular one on the list. I have been looking forward to an N.Flying comeback for about 2 years. Their last album, Awesome, is one of my favorite K-Pop releases. I was surprised by their decision to add a new member to the group but if that was what it took for them to make a comeback, I was totally ok. The track definitely did not disappoint. The crazy meta music video was the highlight for me. And of course the special appearance by our beloved Jang Moon Bok.

 

Buzz- The Love 

They are a pretty old rock group that are known for their ballads. They don’t seem to be too popular with the international audience probably because we don’t love ballads like they do in Korea. This kind of anthemic rock ballads are right up my alley. The sadder, the better. It’s all about the lead singer’s vocals and his ability to constantly hit those high notes. I know I will continue to get goosebumps every time I listen to this song. Jung Joon Young does not have quite as impressive vocals but I would love to see him to a cover of this track.

 

JJ Project- Tomorrow, Today

I had to look them up to learn that they are GOT7 members, JB and Jinyoung and this subunit had debuted even before GOT7. I am not a fan of GOT7’s recent music so I was very glad that these two took a very different route. This sounds very much like it could be a DAY6 track. The harmonies are absolutely fabulous and it’s just super comforting.

 

The Rose- Sorry

I had absolutely no clue who these guys were. It turns out that they are a new band under J&Star Entertainment and this is their debut song. They might be considered K-Indie but I learned that their lead vocalist is a winner of one of the reality shows. Whatever the case, their company needs to get on promoting this group. As for myself, I found a new group to stan.

 

I listened to these four songs on repeat as I wrote this and they still sound excellent. This year has had a many good tracks but I just happened to find all of these in the past week and it has made me very happy. Thank you K-Pop 2017.

Beverage Idea: Switchel

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Ingredients for Switchel; Source: The American Table 

I had been drinking this beverage for about a year before I learned the name for it. Switchel is a vinegar based beverage that is thought to have originated in the West Indies. When I worked on the farm, I drank this a few times a day during the summer. It is a refreshing, non-alcoholic, beverage for work hours. Although alcohol is a perfectly acceptable daytime beverage when you are a farmer 🙂

The reason I decided to share this “recipe” was because I have been drinking a lot of it this summer and realized that not many people are aware of this beverage. It is the best thirst quencher I have come across and many would call it a health tonic as well.

This drink is not for everyone. I have been drinking apple cider vinegar for about five years so, for me, this is just a more appealing way to consume it. There is no consensus on whether apple cider vinegar is good for you so I am just going to leave it at that. What they do agree is that ginger is really good for you; especially for immunity. Here is what you need:

Ingredients: Apple Cider Vinegar, Ginger, Sweetener, Lemon Juice (optional)

It’s not that complicated to make switchel. You mix the three ingredients and dilute it with water. Add ice if you like or just use cold water. Seltzer water makes it even better. Personally, I like to add qual parts of vinegar and lemon juice. It might sound counter-intuitive to add more acid but it really does make the drink more enjoyable.

You can use fresh ginger root or powdered dry ginger. The traditional sweetener of choice was molasses but that is not for everyone. Honey is a popular alternative but the trendy “hipster” versions are made with maple syrup. Use whatever appeals to you. I have even heard of people using it as a mixer for alcoholic beverages but I have not tried that.

It sort of bothers me when I see people pay good money for something that can be made at home, so easily, for so much less. Half a  quart of this stuff sells for around $8. I did the calculations and it costs me less than 25 cents to make the same quantity, even if I used maple syrup. You can make a bigger batch of this and keep it in the fridge much like iced tea.

As I said this is not for everyone. It is an acquired taste that has really grown on me. If you are not in the habit of drinking apple cider vinegar and would like to try it, this is a nice introduction. If you are just an adventurous person and want to add a new drink to you list of summer beverages, this is an interesting choice. I would encourage you to try it even just to know what the hype is all about.

Throwback Thursday: My First Drama

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Mei-chan no Shijsuji (2009); Source: wiki.d-addicts

I have had an interesting Asian entertainment journey as my horizons continue to expand. I started with manga sometime in high school. Anime seemed like the sensible next step. It was a predictable jump from there to dramas. And now 10 years later, I venture into different genres and languages. But this is where it all started.

Mei-chan no Shitsuji (Mei-chan’s Butler), was my very first drama. I watched it around when it first came out. I was completely drawn in by the live action version of this shojo manga. The story was so unique and unlike anything I had ever seen. The totally unrealistic plot was understandable in manga form but when I discovered that this was translated into a real live action drama, my mind was blown.

For those who have not heard of this show, Mei-chan no Shitsuji is about a poor, orphaned girl who ends up in an elite high school. It is an all-girls school where all students are in training to become “ladies”. The best part is that each student has a handsome, male butler. The school is set in a ridiculously large campus where students are transported by helicopters. The drama explores Mei-chan’s journey as she goes from being an outcast to a well-loved classmate.

I was in love since the very first episode. This drama introduced me to three of my favorite Japanese actors, Nana Eikura as Mei-chan, Hiro Mizushima as her butler Shibata Rihito, and Takeru Sato as Shibata’s younger brother and aspiring butler. They do not get a chance to completely showcase their abilities. But these are the same individuals who went on to capture my heart in N No Tame Ni, Hana Kimi, and Rurouni Kenshin, respectively.

As one might expect, this show is a comedy. There is a little bit of romance and a love triangle. For me the highlight of the drama has always been the stories behind the lady-butler relationships. Every episode focuses on a different pair and their challenges. This might sound odd but they are some of the most touching stories I have encountered in drama. They really emphasize the loyalty of the butlers but they also show that it is a two way thing. The ladies are equally concerned about the well-being of their devoted butlers. The drama highlights a few different relationships; friends that grew up together, a butler who is essentially a bodyguard, and another pair who are lovers.

After having watched many dramas since my first experience with Mei-chan, I have come to accept that strange things do happen in drama-land. Our heroines are often poor and forced into strange situations where they have to interact with the ultra-wealthy. Most romantic relationships include a love triangle or two, and our leads can always use their charms to save the day. My first drama was not all that odd.

I have learned that I tend to love the live-action adaptations of shojo mangas. In fact, I seek them out from time to time. In the midst of watching realistic dramas like Valid Love, and Candy House, I crave dramas like Mei-chan and Hana Kimi. In fact, these are two of my most re-watched drama. They are both funny, unrealistic, but heartwarming stories of relationships and community. They are simple stories that take me back to a time when my own life was more simple.

As I said in my last post, there is a drama to fit every mood and every life situation, it’s just a matter of finding the right one when you need it. There has never been a time when Mei-chan no Shitsuji has failed to lift up my spirits. I hope that all of us find shows that fits our moods and make us feel better.

Just What I Needed: Secret Forest

 

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Secret Forest (2017); Source: AsianWiki

It’s been a while since I last posted. I have been job hunting and that consumed all of my brainpower. Now that things are falling into place I can get back to writing about all the things I actually love. During my time away from the blog, I did not have the chance to watch much drama. I have not completed a single drama in the past 2 months (not including re-watches). I was surprised that it was in the midst of all the stress and lack of interest that I found one of my new favorites.

Dramas have been a part of my life for many years now. It has provided me with entertainment, stress-relief, food for thought, comfort, and connections with new friends. A week ago I, once again, looked to dramas, to take a break from the job hunting process. I think there is a drama that fits every mood of mine and its just a matter of finding the right one for the right time. This time I decided to try Secret Forest aka Stranger. I had read good things about it and it was a detective, investigation drama so I was pretty sure it would not be terrible.

Secret Forest is everything I needed and more. It is K-Drama at its best. It reminded me that there are always great new dramas to discover. Secret Forest is just excellent television. I am not sure how well this show did in Korea but it seems to be pretty popular with the international audience. Some might say that Signal is the best drama ever made but, for me, Secret Forest is even better. But I cannot quite put a finger on what makes this show so remarkable.

Writing interesting reviews are not my thing but I wanted to mention the two best things about the drama, the acting and the pacing. The acting is brilliant. This was a great introduction to both the main leads. I had not heard of Bae Doo Na until this show.  We have definitely been missing out in dramaland. This is her first drama in 7 years. I think she picked an excellent show for her comeback. Her acting chops combined with her awesome character has quickly made her one of my favorite leading ladies in KDrama.

I was equally unfamiliar with Jo Seung Woo, the star of the show. He plays an emotionless prosecutor tackling corruption in the South Korean justice system. His ability to go through sixteen episodes with no emotions, save two smiles, was impressive indeed. I can only imagine how good the man would be when given a role where he actually had to emote.

If one were to go by plot alone, there is nothing particularly extraordinary about this show. As with many Korean detective/ law shows, the focus is corruption. But it is not an episodic procedural. What is worth mentioning is the flow. At no point did I feel like the show was dragging or that I was beginning to lose interest. It is very rare that I go through an entire drama without skipping at least bits and pieces of it. I watched every minute of this one.

Not only did the show maintain a constant pace, it also managed a great ending. It is an intelligent show. It required my full attention. But it didn’t leave me pondering the meaning of life. Neither did it leave me with that hollow feeling after having binge watched a great drama. I didn’t leave feeling unsatisfied and wishing that the show would keep going. The sixteen episode format was what drew me to Korean dramas and this was a perfect example. I was absolutely content. I don’t need a second season.

The problem with a drama like Secret Forest is that it completely changes my expectations for dramas. Last night, as I updated my drama list, I had to re-rate some of my other top dramas and re-organize my top shows as I had to make a spot for a new favorite. Now I have a drama that’s giving some serious competition to my all time favorite Cruel City. I do not expect or even want all my dramas to be this good but I keep wondering when I will next come across such a gem. What if I never get to it because it got buried in my long list of plan-to-watch?

After watching this show I realized that a lot of how much we enjoy a drama comes from what makes us feel good at that given moment. I like my fluffy romance when I am pretty stress-free myself. Nothing makes me feel uplifted like a good Japanese slice-of-life. On “normal” days, I do enjoy the messing-with-the-mind type shows. At this time in my life, Secret Forest was just what I needed. Now I am ready to start a new job and get back to enjoying my dramas.

Concerts Galore: Monsta X and G-Dragon

There have been so many K-Pop concerts, in Texas, lately. In 2017 alone, we have had SHINEE, B.A.P. and, DEAN. Tonight MONSTA X will be performing, in Dallas, while       G-DRAGON will be in Houston. SEVENTEEN and Taeyang have already announced Dallas concerts in the coming months. I am happy they are all coming here. If only I had the money to attend all of them 😦

I must admit that I am not too familiar with either MONSTA X or GD’s discographies. Neither of them have, consistently, put out music that draws me in. Today I decided to put together a list of my favorite 5 tracks for each of the artists.

 

G-DRAGON

  1. Crooked – This is essential K-Pop listening. This is GD doing what he does best and showing why he is one of K-Pop’s biggest stars.

 

2. Untitled, 2014 – I did not think I would like this track as much as it did. It is not typical GD style and it is refreshing to listen to his singing voice.

 

3. Today– An excellent B-Side that greatly appealed to me because of, Nell singer, Kim Jong Wan.

 

4. ROD (feat. Lydia Paek)- Many consider Coup D’Etat one of the best K-Pop albums. It’s not really my style of music but this particular B-Side is one I greatly enjoy.

 

5. One Of A Kind- This track was my introduction to GD. It really highlights his unique rapping style as well as personality.

MONSTA X

 

  1. Fighter– This track is quite different from the rest of their discography. The B.A.P style with the rock sounds make it a clear favorite of mine.

 

2. Hero- This is probably their most iconic song. When it first came out, I was a little surprised by the choreography and even now it is impossible to listen to this track without thinking of the dance routine.

 

3.All In- One of Monsta X’s most melodic tracks. Although it did not receive great reviews when it came out, I was always a fan. It seems to be inspired by some of BTS’s successful music and the epic music video makes it all the more memorable.

 

4. Beautiful- One of their latest releases that took a while to grow on me. The combination of the aggressive, Monsta X style, combined with the falsetto chorus makes for a very interesting production.

 

5. Hieut (with Nochang, Junggigo, and Vasco)- Technically not Monsta X since this track came out before the group was officially formed. This was one of their first tracks that I listened to and I was pleasantly surprised.

 

What do you think of these artists? What are some of your favorite tracks? 

Savory Pies with Olive Oil Crusts

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Tomato Pie; Source: Food Network

I ate a lot of pies in university. Not the sweet, fruit sort. But a savory kind. My friends and I were CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members and would get huge boxes of vegetables each week. The only problem was that it was a lot of the same vegetable. Whether it was summer tomatoes, fall kale, or winter squash, we always had too much of something. As agriculture students we were used to dealing with excess produce. We just needed  to get creative with our ingredients.

One of the most interesting ways creations, that I learnt, were savory pies. You can think of them as similar to a quiche but without the eggs. You almost always cook the vegetable before using it as filling. I lived in France so cheese was a part of all pies. As with all of my favorite foods, the possibilities for fillings are endless. A few of my favorites include, roasted tomato and Emmental cheese, squash/ pumpkin with Béchamel sauce, and potatoes with Reblochon cheese.

Savory pies are meant to be a quick and easy dinner. A slice of pie, a salad, and a glass of wine was a lazy but nice meal. For a while, I was very hesitant to make this on a regular basis because making pie crust is a pain. That’s when a friend shared a trick. Make a press-onto-pan pie crust. It’s similar to a cookie or graham cracker crust used in some sweet pies.

Method:

Mix flour (I think whole wheat actually tastes better in this case) with a decent bit of virgin olive oil and a few tablespoons of water. You don’t need a dough; just a crumbly mixture. Using too much water will lead to a chewy crust.

Dump the crumbly mixture into the pie pan. Use your fingers to press the mixture around the bottom and edges of the pan.

You do not need to pre-bake the crust. Just add your fillings and bake. The liquid from the filling will help the crust to come together a little better during the baking process.

 

Breakfast Idea: Baked Oatmeal

I wish I liked oats more than I actually do. Oatmeal porridge is definitely a no go for me. I am very particular about my granola so I no longer bother to find/ make the perfect one. Every time I try muslei, I hope to like it unfortunately I never do. There is always the crisp idea that I posted but I am always looking for variety.

The one oat-based breakfast that I do know I enjoy is baked oatmeal. The first time I ate, a very plain version of this, I realised that it was something I could probably actually enjoy if I modified it.

What is baked oatmeal? It as a baked dish that cooks oats in a custard mixture. Other than the oats, it contains milk and eggs. Any other additions are optional. This means that the possibilities are endless. My favorite addition, as always, is fruit. I have tried it with stone fruits, apples, and bananas. I am sure it would work just as well with berries or pretty much any other fruit you could think of.

Method

Make a custard mixture with milk and eggs. Add vanilla if you desire.

Make a dry ingredient mixture of rolled oats, salt, and a bit of baking powder. Add any spices like cinnamon or nutmeg if you would like.

There should be an equal volume of dry mixture as liquid mixture. In my experience, 2 cups of oats mixed with 1.5 cups of milk and 1 egg makes about 4 servings.

Mix wet and dry ingredients. Add sugar if you so desire.

Use a baking pan or a pie pan. Add fruit to the pan and then cover with oatmeal mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Allow it to cool for 10 minutes and you will be able to cut the oatmeal into slices. It is enjoyable eaten warm. I eat it with yogurt and sometimes maple syrup.

Baked oatmeal is a very filling breakfast and can be made ahead for a few days at a time. I am going to try and come up with some savory versions of baked oatmeal and will share any good finds.

Do you have any ways in which you enjoy eating oats? 

 

My Experience at KCON NY 2017

 

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This post comes a lot later than I had hoped. It has taken me a while to get my ideas down into a post and life has been busy as well. This was my third year at KCON NY. I must admit that I was disappointed with the lineup. The way I saw it, there were too many new groups, NCT 127, UP10TION, KNK, and SF9. There were also 2 girl groups, GFRIEND and TWICE, neither of whom I cared for. I flew halfway across the country to see HIGHLIGHT. But now, I can honestly say this year’s KCON was the most fulfilling experience.

I was very fortunate this year. I had gotten pretty cheap concert tickets since I had to consider my flight costs as well. But it turned out that one of my friends had tickets that she was unable to sell and ended up giving them to me for free. These were not just any seats. These were the best possible seats. I was at floor level and able to watch the performances on stage as opposed to on the screens.

Having never experienced all the “extras” like fan engagement, and red carpet audience, this was all a special treat. Zion.T always seemed larger than life and being able to see him in person was especially memorable. Seeing KNK and SF9 on the red carpet made me realize how much effort it must take to make groom these young people for the idol life. Highlight are ambassadors for the Pacheyong Olympics and therefore participated in multiple events through the day.

The performances on Day 1 were pretty impressive. I really want to like KNK but they haven’t really found a musical identity. They were good performers though. SF9 stole everyone’s hearts. They have been putting out consistently good music and seem to be a fun group. As I mentioned in a previous post, Zion.T gave an incredible performance. The only girl groups I had seen prior to this were AOA and MAMAMOO. By comparison, GFRIEND seemed terribly dull. Their performance was fine but they looked extremely uncomfortable and there seemed to be very little fan interaction.

The last performers of the evening were, my faves, HIGHLIGHT. To be completely honest, theirs was not the most captivating performance but they more than made up for it by being the lovable idols that many of us have followed since their BEAST days. Despite being a “rookie” group, they had nothing to prove. Their performances were not dazzling like those of the younger groups. Instead they gave us a great performance as expected from experienced idol group. The best part was they performed  BEAST tracks. It left quite a few of us teary eyed.

The second day went by like a breeze. I feel like I did not do much on Day 2. Even though, I did not have any particular favorites performing, what I did see was excellent. The venue was packed with TWICE fans. And I finally understood why they have a such a huge fan following. Their performances were awesome and their fan-service was note-worthy. NCT 127 gave an explosive performance and I can see why SM is putting a lot of resources into this project. CNBLUE gave a performance that was completely fitting of their image as an older group. For me, their performance, was the most memorable.

I experienced much more than I ever imagined and I was perfectly content after Day 1. I just sat around and had good conversations while others used my tickets to get the fan engagement and red carpet experiences for their faves. My friend who introduced me to K-Pop got to watch her favorite, CNBLUE from those awesome seats. The best part was to be able to give away tickets to a lady who brought her grand-daughter to KCON. I got to sit next to her as she experienced K-Pop for the first time. There was something super fulfilling about seeing all these people be so happy.

There was a huge CD sale on Day 2 and I got my hands on BTOB’s Complete (!!!!!), HIGHLIGHT’s Calling You, BEAST’s Highlight, SHINEE’s Odd, and B.A.P’s Noir. Overall a very satisfying haul.

It was definitely a dream come true to watch HIGHLIGHT live. Just yesterday one of my friends described them as “a bunch of human shaped dollops of charisma.” Was their’s the best performance? Not really. It was all about the shared experience with others who never expected to see these guys perform again. A few of my friends became new NCT 127 and SF9 stans. I am almost too old and lazy to learn names of new idols especially those with so many members. If I had to pick a new group to follow, it would probably be KNK. Their music has not completely won me over, but I see the potential there especially if they continue to stick with the same producer.

Overall,  it was just a wonderful experience and I am very thankful for have been able to go. KCON LA has an incredible lineup but I am so content with my experience at NY that I do not feel too bad about being unable to go. I hope to attend again next year and have an even more enjoyable experience.

Did you attend KCON this year? What were your thoughts on the performances? 

 

 

 

K-Pop Favorite: B1A4’s Lonely

A few weeks ago, I talked about BEAST’S Fiction as my favorite K-Pop song. And it is. But I must say that I am greatly biased. It has a special place in my heart because it is the song that made me love K-Pop. If I were to take out that nostalgia part, a song that comes very close is B1A4’s Lonely. From what I understand, it was one of their most popular songs but I don’t think it does not get enough love.

The track is produced by B1A4 leader, Jinyoung. He is one of my favorite idols. I have enjoyed all the music he has created, including girl group tracks. Him and group member CNU have produced pretty much all of their music in the past few years. This has given the group the freedom to create a very unique sound. Their music seems to be far more popular in Korea than among the international audience.

They tend to keep their music focused on the melodies and are less likely to venture into popular K-Pop trends. This means, no tropical house in their latest releases. This makes their songs less popular at the time of release but more likely to withstand the test of time. I enjoy Korean ballads so their tracks are very like-able.

Lonely is more of a mid-tempo ballad. As my friends would say, it is a ballad-with-a-beat. It has all the awesomeness of ballads with some hip-hop elements. I am sucker for songs with a hint of desperation and Lonely does just that. Right from the beginning (and from the title) you know it is going to be something about pain and heartbreak and that’s exactly what it is. The lyrics are nothing special and not impressive even when compared to other break-up ballads.

The song works best when combined with the MV. The song is set in a winter scene which fits well with the theme. Jinyoung, looking beautiful as always, play the heartbroken guy who tries to hold onto a relationship that just does not work out. This is presented by him holding onto, by a string, a girl who would otherwise just float away. He would like her to stay but he knows he will have to give up.

The intensity of the song seems to follow the music video. It is especially evident in the chorus. The first time we hear the chorus, it’s nothing special but with each repetition it the vocals get more intense and desperate. The climax hits right before the last chorus and it does not let us down. It is perfectly fitting for the buildup that we experienced during the rest of the song. It hits you and then lets the chorus take it down a notch to wind up the song. It feels like they have finally come to terns with the break-up despite continuing to feel lonely.

I hope to continue this collection of K-Pop favorites. The first three are easy. You have already been introduced to BEAST’s Fiction and now B1A4’s Lonely. I will try to post the next one next week. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this great track.

 

Do you have any thoughts on this song? What do you think of B1A4s music in general?