Recipe: Grandma Lee’s Hobak Jook (Kabocha Squash Porridge with Mochi)

Grandma Lee's Kabocha Squash Soup

Grandma Lee’s Kabocha Squash Soup

Jook, otherwise known as Korean porridge or congee, is a major staple in Korean cuisine. It is often served for breakfast or when someone is sick and needs something comforting and easy to digest. Because of the labor involved in its preparation—between the chopping, stirring, and constant attention to make sure things don’t burn—one can consider it a food of love.

Hobak jook, or kabocha squash porridge, is an example of Korean food with medicinal properties. It helps people who are dealing with fluid-retention, and it is also good for weight control. 

I like hobak jook for its slightly sweet and tummy-comforting taste. It’s sweeter than butternut squash but not quite as sweet as a sweet potato or yam. Some people like it with black beans, but I prefer it with mochi (rice dumplings). Weight watchers might opt for the black beans instead of the mochi, or omit both altogether and just enjoy it as a comforting fall/winter soup.

This recipe is very quick and easy to prepare. Continue reading


Making Noo-roong-jee (Rice Crust Porridge): The Ultimate Comfort Food

My maternal grandmother used to tell us to eat up all our rice because any grain left on our bowls was a day of our life. Being a good kid, I made sure to finish up all my rice so as not to lose a precious day.

She’s still alive and in her nineties, so I wonder if there might be some truth to what she said. Nevertheless, her words still resonate with me so that I have a hard time throwing out rice. With day-old rice I’d make fried rice or toast the leftover rice to make noo-roong-jee, a rice congee/porridge/gruel made from crusty, toasted rice.

How Noo-roong-jee Came About Continue reading

For the Reluctant Veggie Eater: Mama Sophia’s Holy Guacamole Recipe

I have to confess that I am generally not fond of vegetables. I think of them as necessary evils and often plan a meal with them as an afterthought.

Over the years I’ve figured out ways to sneak in stuff that’s supposed to be good for me into my diet. One of them is guacamole. I really enjoy using it as a veggie dip for crunchy vegetables such as carrots, jicama, bell peppers, cucumbers, and more. And of course, there’s always the tortilla chips to eat with the guacamole.

The best guacamole I ever had was made tableside in a stone pig (molcajete). I’ve seen the molcajete at Crate and Barrel and Sur La Table and came very close to buying it for myself a number of times, but have decided not to. One—because I live in the Midwest and avocados tend to be expensive, so I don’t make it very often. Two—I’m a little uneasy about how I’m going to clean the molcajete well enough so it won’t be a petri dish for e. coli.

Nevertheless, I’m content and successful with using a basic ceramic bowl and the potato masher. As with anything, if you work with the freshest ingredients, you’re more than halfway there.

Mama Sophia’s Holy Guacamole Recipe Continue reading

Operation Veggie Sneak

After watching Food, Inc. and reading Michael Pollan, I am resolved to try eating more vegetables and less meat. Although I’ve been toying with the idea of going raw/vegan (Ani Phyo has some delicious-sounding recipes), I know I’d miss sushi too much. And egg, too. But I keep reminding myself it’s a necessary evil—for good health and well-being.

So what are some ways to get more veggies in one’s diet? Continue reading

May Discoveries

Can’t believe May is practically over. Although there’s still a week and a half left of school, I think everyone’s already checked out and ready for summer. There are no more math homework sheets or spelling tests to prepare for. Just the RAH-RAH (“Read At Home” daily reading of student’s choice), and even that seems optional.

Oddly enough, the Princess seems to want to play “school” when she’s at home—she prompts me to ask her math and spelling questions. I can’t help but laugh inside when I think, wait and see what Meanie Mommy has in store for you this summer…bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

So what did Mama Sophia learn this month? Continue reading

Steak’s New Best Friend: Mama Sophia’s Mushroom and Onions (Recipe)

For the longest time I embraced the “eat right for your blood type” mindset. Since my blood type is O, my diet had been more meat-focused. But nowadays I’ve been concentrating on high-fiber and lower glycemic index food items, while drastically cutting down on meat and avoiding dairy products altogether.

I do feel better and cleaner. But every now and then I do crave a steak (like last weekend), and I usually obey. I figure that my body is telling me that I could use the protein and iron from the steak, and perhaps even a little something else. My approach is—listen to the body, it knows what it needs.

Steak and eggs? Steak and potatoes? In our house, steak is most happily paired with sauteed onions and mushrooms. (The Princess often requires the addition of dairy-free mashed potatoes and stir-fried sesame and memmi haricot vert green beans, as well.)

What are the health benefits of mushrooms? Continue reading

Meat: Well Done or Done Well?

The other day, HB and I were discussing why people order steak “well done” when it’s very likely they’d be disappointed with the charred, chewy, dry piece of leathery meat. In fact, if I were the chef, I’d be tempted to overrule their request and purposely prepare it medium well at most.

(It’s probably a good thing I’m not a chef—I have a soup-kitchen Nazi temperament. The only time I might have let you have it your way is if you have food allergies or dietary restrictions; those just relate to ingredient limitations. Prep-style is my way or the highway.)

Perhaps these people think “well done” means “done well.” I remember as I kid I thought that way, until my world-traveling uncle suggested that I try ordering it at medium-rare. After much trepidation I did, and I really enjoyed it. Continue reading