The moment Greg and I began to lightly converse about future children during our courting years, my doubts of parenthood dissolved into a blessed assurance. As I fast forward to today I have tears of joy (not kidding) when I reflect on the blessings I've found in our little clan of four. It's the trivial things in life that get me every time. Be that as it may, I find continual wonder and admiration in my heart towards the example Greg has set for Selah and Tabitha.Read More
Once in a while I give myself permission to sip on sweet drinks that are composed of more than just water, coffee, and milk. Never having been too fond of sweet coffee, I surprisingly find there are two exceptions the menu of which I don't feel the least bit guilty: a medium sized, foamy sea salt iced coffee from 85 Degree Bakery, and Urth Caffe's Spanish latte for whenever I make it up north to Downtown LA.Read More
In case you haven't seen my Instagram updates, I just wanted to drop by and announce that Tabitha Elizabeth Betzen is finally here! The much awaited arrival of our second-born happened to be exactly on her due date (September 4th). I am still awe-stricken that Selah's baby sister is not a dream, but real. Real as the sun and the moon and all the beautiful things God has bestowed on us. You know, pretty things in life that make us feel alive.
I also am awe-stricken by the reality that I endured yet another birthing experience...this time without the epidural. And the truth is, I thought death was knocking at my door but I was not about to give up the fight. It was, indeed, the single most difficult experience followed by the most rewarding and hope-filled prize imaginable. This time around, the story seems to have taken a turn of more unexpected, painful events much unlike my experience with Selah. Everything seemed to transpire in a quickening manner for what seemed like months, but really? It all started with nightly pains and false alarms for about a week and a half leading up to the due date. Fortunately, most of my labor took place before heading out to the hospital and I was able to push for nearly 30 minutes before I got to hold Tabitha in my arms. (Quite different from Selah's birth story) God was with me every step of the way and I am now recovering quite smoothly.
I will be coming back for our regular food and recipe related posts soon enough--hopefully within a week or two. But for now we will be getting the hang of our new routine of dealing with two kids. We don't know what we're doing, but I'm sure we'll learn quite a bit with errors along the way. Thank you for your readership and support, friends! Hope you are doing well and stay blessed.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." -James 1:17-
Our little family of four (including Orion the Cat) has come around full circle and just as expected, we find ourselves in the same predicament followed by all the right emotions. Back at it again, on round two of the nesting syndrome only this time with a toddler in tow, a little busier than three years ago, and with just as much excitement as the first time...So without further ado since there's much to be done, here I leave you with a cake inspired by one of my utmost favorite bakeries in the world! 85 Degree Bakery & Café which also happened to birth my fondness of sweet & savory coffee. They are renowned for their Taiwanese and Japanese baking influence and thus, their pastries and cakes boast an unbelievably moist and flavorful quality—full of character and timeless originality.Read More
What I didn't understand two and a half years ago became completely clear on June 2013, the day Selah was born. I used to have this nagging fear in the back of my mind. That I wouldn't be a loving parent despite the topic being painted in such a positive light by most experienced folks. Whether the parent was a successful nurse by night and a mom to three children by day, or whether she was a hairstylist struggling to find a place she could call home for her and her two kids, it didn't matter. They unequivocally loved their child unto death. And here I was, thinking I'd be the only one who'd be overlooked by that kind of blessing. "What if I don't know how--or worse yet--can't love my child unconditionally?" And as such, the deluge of worrisome thoughts completed by the perfect amount of pregnancy mood shifts, continued to nag until the very moment I heard Selah for the first time. The indignant cry coming from those itty bitty lungs put my uneasy heart at rest; it reassured me that I wasn't such a terrible person after all because I had finally understood motherhood--more or less.
My mother in law, on the other hand, who is now a grandma and definitely more experienced than me, tells me that there is no comparable feeling to that of being a grandparent. That children and grandchildren do not belong on the same caliber of comparison because a grand kid's dynamic is so very unique. I think it will be one of those "you never know until you're there" type of notion. It's perhaps the sweetest thing, to see her affection for Selah and that nothing can thwart her plans of coming to see her. Funny enough, just when my father in law was trying to plan a surprise party for their 40th anniversary last month, she vowed with a matter-of-fact tone that they would spend it nowhere else but with their "kids". And so we did just that. Thanks to the generous gift of a family friend, we were able to spend a few days at a time share in Oceanside, just a city away from San Diego. While we spent our afternoons walking the pier and even embraced the art of doing absolutely nothing, I also had the luxury to grab a quick lunch with just me, myself, and I.
As I strolled around Downtown Oceanside for a foodie adventure, the one eatery that grabbed my attention was Petite Madeline Bakery. Established on a serene corner of downtown, this sit-down cafe boasts of great lighting and an impressive display of what I've officially deemed to be in the top five pastries I've ever had. Just when I thought I was satisfied with the "all day buns" and flaky spinach feta croissants made with their signature dough, I discovered their butternut squash soup. It was, by far, the most memorable soup next to mom's yukgyejang (spicy beef) and good ol' oxtail soup.
This Kabocha version, obviously inspired by Petite Madeline, as well as the undying love and loyalty demonstrated through the chapters of our parents' 40 years together, comes close enough to Petite Madeline's original. I think I would need to try it a few more times to render the perfect recipe, but I assure you this one tastes almost just as good. The texture is thick, and the warming flavor of ginger stews it up into the sweetest smelling dish. I suggest using two roasted Kabochas if you prefer a thick consistency, which in my opinion, is essential for a toothsome bowl of soup. This new favorite of mine is the perfect precursor to a cozy Christmas dinner, so I hope you give it a try!
Cheers and blessings to you and yours. And many prayers for all the distraught families who are just over an hour away from LA, especially as we approach what should be the sweetest, most wonderful time of year.
Roasted Kabocha Squash and Parmigiano Soup
Makes 10 small servings or 6 large servings
Time: About 1.5 hours including time of roasting squash
Equipment: Large pot, cutting board, oven or toaster oven
2 Kabocha squash with skin intact
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 tsp salt + sprinkle of pepper
3 cups vegetable stock (or other)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano
chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 F (232 celsius). Place Kabocha on a baking pan and roast for approximately 45-50 minutes, or until the flesh inside is tender when poked with a fork. Set aside to cool.
In a large pot over medium fire, cook onion in olive oil until slightly translucent. Then add garlic, ginger, salt and pepper, and saute for another 4 minutes. Turn off the stove. Peel the skin off the squash which is really easy to do as it comes right off, scrape off the seeds, and set seeds aside if you choose to roast them. You can use those as a topping later on if you like the extra crunch. Add the cooked squash into the pot, turn fire on low-medium, then pour vegetable stock, water, and cream. Simmer for about 10 minutes stirring often. Add grated Parmigiano and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with more cream (if desired) and chopped parsley leaves.
My happy place has always been at the service of others, and I'm surprised that hasn't changed throughout my adulthood--yet. Or never, I hope! Growing up as the minority in the land of Piazzolla's captivating tango compositions and daily alfajores after school, which had led to a plumper me than I had ever cared to be--I unknowingly became the epitome of how you would describe a "third culture" kid. And as a result I learned a few things. I experienced the struggle to become a little more acceptable in the midst of an ethnocentric culture, and I also witnessed the power there is in breaking bread with the most unexpected individuals.
Having realized at an early age that everyone has a story to tell, and that every individual is facing a struggle either now or later, I made up my mind that I could most definitely be instrumental in serving people. Little did I know at the age of four that sneaking out of the house to give some stale bread to the elderly, homeless man around the corner, was the birth and embodiment of helping someone in need. Love, compassion, guilt, empathy? Call it what you will, but something happened there by God's grace. You could also say it was an emergence of my Korean roots taking place in that little stout body that I carried for years. I'm still rather stout and petite at a whopping 5 feet 1 inches by the way, but that's besides the point. If you've ever been around Koreans long enough, you might have noticed that our way of caring is through purpose filled questions like "did you eat?" instead of a safe and mundane "hello".
So I learned the art of being either a true Korean, or just a desperate, compulsive baker who knows no restraints even in someone else's kitchen. During our trip to Wichita (Kansas) to see Greg's side of the family, we made many unforgettable memories. There was much laughter, tears, manual work at the family company courtesy of Greg, a beautiful view of their lake, plenty of good food, and the most excellent Kansas steak and homemade burgers that I never knew walked this earth. I wanted to repay our family for such a great trip and I couldn't forego baking a good galette out of scratch. Without a recipe on hand (wipes sweat off forehead). I wanted to make everyone smile despite the challenges they're facing, and what better way to do it than to bake dessert?
Cake seemed rather time consuming and a bit too extravagant to eat after dinner. And then there's pie, but it's far too common in the midwest. The fancy French galette, however, seemed perfectly doable and still somewhat familiar to our family's mid-western roots. I planted myself in front of Sharon's kitchen counter (mother in law) and got to work on this apple galette filled with mascarpone pastry cream. The mascarpone custard was the greatest component in making a simple galette impressive. I've always liked desserts like apple pie, but oftentimes I find the apples lacking oomph and flavor despite the addition of cinnamon. But there's a remedy for that, and it's to pair it with a creamy custard-y ingredient; the mascarpone plus egg yolk concoction creates gustatory explosions as it melts into the fragrant apple slices. Now about that crust. It may not look like much since let's face it, galette crusts are known to look rustic and haphazardly put together anyway, but this crust....this crust is the best I've had in years. I guess I'm bragging a little but I hadn't realized until that point that an equal ratio of oil and butter would result in such a moist, flaky, and deeply rich crust. It literally flakes off the fork while still retaining its shape. This method is probably nothing new to most seasoned bakers, but I think I found my favorite crust recipe for now, or until something even better comes along.
Apple Mascarpone Custard Galette and an Oil Butter Crust
Makes an 8 inch round galette
Time: 1.5 hours total, including freezing the dough and baking time, about 20 minutes hands on
Equipment: box grater, rolling pin, small sauce pan, baking sheet
Ingredients for crust
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar (white or brown)
1/3 cup super cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large egg white
2 tbsp cold water
1 egg yolk+1 tbsp water for egg wash
sprinkles of sugar (optional)
Ingredients for filling
2 large egg yolks
1 cup mascarpone cream
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 medium apples, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
Let's begin with the crust. Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Grate butter through the medium holes in the box grater into the dry ingredients, add oil, egg white, and water. Knead and incorporate with your hands so it becomes mushy and crumbly. Be aware that due to the addition of oil, you will end up with a moist and gritty dough. Form into a ball, seal with plastic wrap, and freeze for about 20 minutes.
Now onto the filling. Preheat the oven to 375 F (191 degrees celsius). Start a sauce pan on the stove at low-medium heat. Cook egg yolks while stirring constantly for about 30 seconds, whisk in mascarpone cheese, sugar, and vanilla gradually in that order. Keep whisking to prevent burning and if it bubbles, lower the heat a little more. Cook for about 4 minutes. Set aside. Coat the peeled apple slices with cinnamon in a large bowl and set aside.
After 20 minutes are over, roll the dough onto a floured surface and make it into a circle or oval of about 1/4 inch in thickness. It should be quite large and nicely spread out. Now is the time to transfer the dough onto a large baking sheet to prevent it from ripping later.
Place apple slices in the middle of the dough and spread them out as much as possible, but leave about 3-4 inches of space in the edges of the dough so you can seal them up. Very carefully pull up a section of the edge towards the middle so it covers some of the apple slices. You might have to slide a large, sharp knife under the dough to peel it off the flat surface, if need be. Repeat this process all around the edge. Pour the mascarpone custard over the fruit so it trickles through and some of it falls to the bottom. Brush the top of the dough with egg wash and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until it's slightly golden on top. Open the oven, brush with egg wash one more time and sprinkle with sugar (optional). Bake for another 3 minutes. Let it cool and serve with ice cream!
Have you made or tried a galette before? What are your thoughts on this beautiful, timeless dessert?
What are your favorite desserts to make for others?