January Update: Some Cooking Tips and Cookbook Raves

It seems like January just came and went in a flash. I’ve been remiss with my posts here at Soul Kitchen, but I have been trying to “fill my creative well” by studying American and Korean cookbooks that I’ve found at my library and local bookstores, as well as watching two complete Korean drama series, When Night Comes and Bad Couple (both very entertaining). This is on top of doing my regular mom-duties and freelance design, and of course, exercise, which I’m proud to say that I managed to work out 3-4 times each week this month.

Anyway, here are some tips/findings:

A must-have baking book for people who have food allergies or people who prepare food for people with food allergies: The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book, by Kelly Rudnicki. (Ms. Rudnicki also has a great blog, foodallergymama.com, which features diary-free, egg-free, and nut-free recipes and news on food-allergy-related issues.) So far I’ve only tried the yellow cake recipe, and it was a success. Normally, the Princess would just eat the frosting and maybe part of a cupcake/cake if she were bored, but she actually ate this cake with gusto. There were no leftovers or throw-outs with this recipe, which is saying a lot. Looking forward to trying out her other recipes such as cider donuts, red velvet cake, apple pie, cherry pie, pumpkin pie, blueberry buckle, and more. Yum!

Fantastic Korean cookbook—The Korean Table: From Barbecue to Bibimbap, 100 East-to-Prepare Recipes, by Taekyung Chung and Debra Samuels: The gorgeous pictures alone make you want to buy the book—i.e., you end up buying the book so as not to feel guilty about leaving behind drool marks. I love the way the book is organized with a short background of korean cooking (“Combinations of foods are not only governed by taste, but also by how they work together in the maintenance of health” and it briefly touches on the medicinal aspects of Korean cuisine); the basic ingredients in Korean cooking in English and Korean (so you can show the grocery clerk what you’re looking for);and then recipes organized according to categories such as starters/snacks, salads/kimchee/sides, soups/hot pots, meat/poultry, fish/seafood, vegetables/tofu, rice/noodles, desserts/drinks. Here’s another favorite quote: “The secrets to making the flavor of a dish ‘pop’: Add a touch of sugar to salty food, add touch of salt to sweet food, add a touch of vinegar to rich food.” Truly, a beautiful book.

Seasoning with salt—temperature/timing makes a difference: While reading an episode summary of Pasta (a Korean drama) by Javabeans, I learned that “With sweet or salty food, the food tastes different hot than it does after cooling: ‘Guests leave the table remembering the last taste. Make sure their last spoonful is delicious.’” This goes in line with another cooking reference book I read this month, Notes on Cooking, by Lauren Brun Costello and Russell Reich, in which one of the tips reiterates the importance of salting and tasting throughout the course of cooking. It’s easy to oversalt, because while you’re tasting the food while it’s piping hot on the stove/oven, the salt crystals are still melting. By the time you serve the food, the temperature has changed, which also affects the taste. Although it seems like common sense, it was pretty profound to me when I read this.

Yummy and quick after-school snack—Road’s End Organics Dairy Free 123’z & Chreese Cheddar Style Organic Pasta Dinner: I was thrilled to find a dairy-free/vegan alternative to mac and cheese at Whole Foods that the Princess really enjoys—Road’s End Organics Dairy Free 123’z & Chreese Cheddar Style Organic Pasta Dinner. It’s pretty addictive and a great comfort food. I think the Princess believes she’s getting smarter after eating it, ala Martha Speaks, a book and PBS series about a dog who’s able to talk after eating alphabet soup that mysteriously went to her brain instead of her stomach. Now, if I can just find plain alphabet and number pasta to have around to add to my homemade soups, I’d be all set.

I’ll try harder in February to keep the posts coming…

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