Monday, November 30, 2009

Catie: Pumpkin pie and chicken stock.

[caption id="attachment_358" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="pumpkin pie in the crousty."][/caption]

Here's our pie!

Between baking and then rapidly consuming the pie, I forgot to take any pictures of it out of the oven and actually baked, but there it is IN the oven.

It turned out surprisingly delicious.

I've made a lot of pies before, but never pumpkin (I avoid it when... well, when I'm not out of the country and desperate for ANY pie at all), so that was new in itself.  It was easy, though.

I tried a, "Baking Powder Miracle Pie Dough" against my better judgement.  It had the word, "miracle" in it!  I had to see if it was really miraculous.

Turns out... not so much.

The pie crust I would make at home has half lard, half butter and is delicious and tender and nice.

The "miracle" crust was.. hard.

Not to mention gross and weird.

And so, in future, I will stick with MY recipe.  Not miraculous ones.

I also found out the Crousty doesn't cook evenly at all.  This is fine.  I mean, already I'm asking too much of our poor Crousty toaster oven.  I think I can manage to turn things halfway through.  It's just good to know.  And the pie was still good, just a little brown on one side.

Yay!  Thank you, my mom, for the spices!

Tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday, I'm shadowing Aaron at school to figure out how to do things when he leaves for the US (I don't envy that plane ride -- ugh).  I was supposed to go today, but the school has just developed a "CNN" debate class that starts this term.

And, yes, apparently it is patterned after The CNN.  Although, I guess they got weirded out when Aaron tried introducing debate to the debate class.

"Why do you not teach them from the book?" or something along those lines was said.

But why would you have a debate class and no debate?

Welcome to Korea!

Anyway, Aaron doesn't teach the CNN class on Mondays, so I'm waiting to go until Wednesday, when I'll get to see how the CNN class runs.

Since we'll both be gone and out of the house for two days, I am cooking lots of food today.  Which is really relative, because, in Korea, you can't cook lots of food at once.  There are only small pots, small pans, and small ovens.

In light of this, I'm making two dinners.  A chicken pot pie (if all goes well) and chicken taco soup.  Together, I think these will hold us over for lunches and dinners for two days.

The chicken taco soup calls for (of course) chicken broth.  And I've seen Swanson chicken broth at the gourmet market in Dunsan-dong, but that is far away and I didn't feel like hopping a bus and braving the TimeWorld Galleria crowds today.  We did it Saturday and again on Sunday (all three of our Starbucks are located within a block of TimeWorld Galleria), so I'm not feeling up to it again.  I even tried to bribe myself with this delicious wrap they have there -- it's this tortilla filled with chicken, a red cabbage/green cabbage coleslaw type mix, onions, tomato, yogurt sauce, sweet, spicy red sauce and mustard and it is A-MAZING, if spicy -- but to no avail as that would only have made the trip more expensive and, therefore, less appealing.

So, I'm making my own chicken stock.


I've never made chicken stock.  Plus, I thought I'd found celery at the store, but it turns out I didn't, it was just MORE of the giant green onions.  They look so much alike.


Apparently, a lot.

So, it's celery-less.  Hopefully that's fine.  It'll have to be fine.

Turns out chicken stock is easy, so I doubt anything will go wrong.

In better food-finding news, I did find vinegar!

Actually, to give credit where credit is due, Ben found vinegar.

It was located, at Good Morning Mart, right below the corn syrup.  Just where you'd hope to find vinegar.  Along side something sickeningly sweet.  Actually, maybe that's where it would be in America, I think it was just the language barrier that really got me.  All English is in teeny, tiny letters at the bottoms of labels, so you don't immediately see it.  Plus, I tend to get self conscious quickly as Korean grocery stores are full of over zealous, over helpful staff and when I stand too long in one spot, staring, I'm always afraid I'll be accosted in Korean by a nice lady in a yellow shirt and orange apron who doesn't know what, "I'm just looking," means, nor, "Where the heck is your vinegar?"

I need to learn Korean.

What's the Korean word for, "vinegar"?

I got it though.  I'm not sure what kind of vinegar it is.  I wanted distilled white.  This is a little yellow, but it seemed like the most generic kind they had and it's perfectly fine as far as I can tell.  Maybe it's.. distilled yellow vinegar.

The more I cook, the more I long for American grocery store shelves, with their predictable order, their aisle numbers, their helpful signs and familiar ingredients.

Still, the hunt is challenging, and that in itself is fun.  Plus, I get to learn to make my own ingredients.

Like French's french fried onions, evaporated milk.  And chicken stock.

Let you know how all this goes!

- catie

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ben: Pictures of School Part II

[caption id="attachment_344" align="alignleft" width="294" caption="Sally Student"][/caption]

Here a couple more pictures of my students. I will get pictures of the other teachers soon (I just haven't had a chance yet).  These pictures are of my two  favorite classes.  They are both 100 level writing classes (so the kids are between 10-13 years old). Here is Sally student, Rebecca's arm, and part of Anna's  head. They are all in the Tuesday/Thursday 100D writing class. For most of the term Sally was the only student in the class. She is probably the funniest  student at Ewha. She knows enough English to be goofy and silly and love to ham it up. For two weeks she insisted that there was another student in the  classroom besides here and would only answer questions if I pointed to her after she raised her hand. She also wrote a paragraph about how I shouldn't  give her homework and another about her best friend, whose name is "Imaginary Electronic Computer Dictionary Friend." She is also really bright, and  even with two more students in the class, she is still the one who answers almost all the questions.

[caption id="attachment_345" align="alignright" width="294" caption="More Hangman"][/caption]

More hangman. The other thing about Korean hangman is that they don't always know how to spell the words they are having the other kids guess. So spaces will be erased or added halfway through the game and sometime the word will be entirely rewritten after 15 minutes have guessing has gone on. Also letters will sometimes be guessed, not written down, and than suddenly appear in the word. Despite all these problems, they still love it.

[caption id="attachment_346" align="alignleft" width="294" caption="Sally Stumping Rebecca and Anna"][/caption]

Here is my other awesome 100 Writing class. There are seven kids it in, and they are younger than most of the other 100 writing classes. They are also still super excited to at school learning, even though it is the third or fourth hagwon they have in addition to regular school. This is Harry, who is super smart and earnest, he got the "Best Student in Class" award that Ewha gives out, and he deserved it. The girl behind him is Lily, who is also egger to learn. Whenever I correct her homework she always demands to know what she did wrong and right (most students just want the teacher to sign off on it and not give them detention).

Lily and Harry wanted to me to take serious pictures of them. I took funnier pictures too, but they didn't turn out because I'm not very good at taking non-blurry pictures.

I know that my last post was a bit cynical, so hopefully you won't think that I can't stand any of my students. I really do have fun students and classes that are a blast. Even those classes in which I despair of the students ever learning anything are usually still fun to goof around with.

-Ben Teacher

Catie: Korean Pizza

Korean pizza is really not that bad.  Often a bit strange, but never so bad it's inedible.  Just so long as you stay away from the type with the sweet potatoes and prawns.  It's just not the same.

And really, nothing's the same as homemade pizza.

[caption id="attachment_335" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="PIZZA."][/caption]

And so, I have just put this little treasure into the oven.  It has grilled onions (I don't like crunchy onions on pizza -- but I like grilled onions on everything!), orange bell pepper, mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, a delicious slightly sweet Korean sausage I took a chance on, and the tomatoes on top.  They're not as ripe as I'd like, but I didn't think cherry tomatoes would work as well in this instance. I was actually surprised by how soft and.. pink? the smaller tomatoes were today.  I got three that were workable.

Hopefully it tastes good.

The jury's still out on that...

- catie

Catie: Speculoos?

[caption id="attachment_327" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Speculaas."][/caption]

When we were kids, we used to eat these windmill cookies.  Sometimes they were shaped like other things, but mostly windmills.  So, that was what we called them, windmill cookies.  They were fun because they are dry and crunchy, so you can nibble and eat them really slowly.  Also they're windmills and they have holes in them.  Cookies with holes are fun.

Now that I am very old and eat them less because of their shape and more for their taste (a little like gingerbread), I have learned to call them, "Speculaas", the Dutch name.  It's a fun word to say.

But funner to EAT.

Today, I took the bus to LotteMart (it's like a 15 minute walk, but I get SO cold!  And there isn't a bus stop on the other side of the street to take me home again, so I do have to walk back...) to get some whipping cream for the pumpkin pie I'll make tomorrow and a couple other things and I was walking down the cookie aisle to get to the registers (btw, this is NEVER a good idea) when I spotted THESE.

[caption id="attachment_329" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Speculoos!"][/caption]

Advertised as Speculoos (apparently, the Flemish name for such cookies), they came in a long sleeve, all individually wrapped (sadly, not shaped like windmills, but I didn't even notice at the time) and I had to buy them.

I heart Speculaas at Christmastime because they're spicy and they're just really good holiday cookies.  I was so surprised to see them!

Also, they are very good with coffee and tea (if only they HAD very good coffee and tea here...) and I have -- maybe -- already eaten six of them.

Ben will be lucky if there are any left when he gets home! :D

- catie

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Catie: Ben's mitt/ens

[caption id="attachment_314" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="the mitt/ens"][/caption]

We don't have a car -- though we'd be too scared to drive it if we did (the bus we were in got side swiped by a tiny, red geo-metro-esque car yesterday, which apparently was no big deal since the driver of the geo-metro-esque got out of his car, laughing) -- so, we do a lot of walking.

To the bus stop.  To the store.  To Ewha.  To eat out.  Back home from the bus stop.

You get the idea.

And it's FREEZING outside.

While we did each pack a coat, a hat, gloves and a scarf, we picked mostly utilitarian ones.  Most of them are fine, but some of them are downright ugly (very warm, just very ugly).  The worst of which is probably both our pairs of gloves.  They just aren't cute.

And so, Ben got these.  I know they look sort of blue, but they're really a smokey gray, not very blue at all.  They're knit out of a 100% superwash wool called PRIME, made in Italy.  They won't be as super warm as his giant, black eyesores (they're not really that bad), but when we're just walking around town, we usually have our hands in our pockets anyway.  And they button back from mittens into fingerless mitts when he needs his fingers.

I have to force myself to knit fairly mindless things this time of year or I'll bog myself down with a bunch of complicated, unfinished projects.  I already started doing it earlier in the month.  I'm easily frustrated by the feeling of never finishing projects.  Which is why I like socks and mittens.

I have a pair of socks in the works again, too.  I'd forgotten to bring any "MAN" colored sock yarns with me from home, and it's pretty hard to find here, but we found a wool/acrylic blend at E-mart a few days ago (the same place I got the wool for the mitt/ens), in a variegated gray.  It's all a little drab, but I'm getting used to it.  There's just not a lot to choose from, especially as far as "MAN" colors go.

And soon, I want to knit me some form of fingerless gloves/mittens (hopefully cuter than my huge, black eyesores).  We'll see how it goes.

Maybe there will be more to post on the knitting front.

- catie

Monday, November 23, 2009

Catie: Pretty persimmons

[caption id="attachment_305" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="My three persimmons."][/caption]

Yesterday, I bought three persimmons for making something persimmon-y.  The most popular things made from persimmons in the western world seem to be persimmon cookies and pudding.  In Korea, it's really hard to say.  I think they do a lot more raw-eating of persimmons than most people in America would dream of doing.  Perhaps mostly because a lot of Americans have no idea what a persimmon really is.

I think they're a nice looking fruit.  At our grocery store, DreamMart (which should really be called Good Morning Mart, but the Korean word for, "Good Morning" sounds like, "Dream") we occasionally get them confused with tomatoes because they're displayed upside down, so just their roundy little bottoms show and (sadly, for us), their orange sort of color is the same color as the rock-hard, never-ripe tomatoes they sell here.  Although, as it gets colder, the tomatoes get greener, so it's becoming increasingly easier to tell the difference.

We just hope they're better than the tomatoes.

It's only getting colder here and while we keep our windows open to counteract our over-compensating water/floor heater, the Koreans turn their heat to 80 C and leave it there.  We've done more sweating since it got cold than before, when it was hot outside!

We were pretty afraid they might not heat their buses, but now I have to put on a long sleeved shirt, my fleece jacket, a scarf, my double layer wool hat and gloves to stand at the bus stop, and then take them off inside the bus, just to put them right back on once we get out.  Koreans leave all theirs on, though.  And, literally, it's about 80 degrees on that bus.

Yeah, you think I'm exaggerating, but I am not.

On Friday, I made 60 Minute Rolls, also known as DeeDee's One Hour Buns, which, really, is totally a better name.  Anytime you have the choice to say a phrase with, "DeeDee" in it, you really should.  These opportunities don't arise very often.

I've only seen one kind of yeast here, a turkish yeast, "Pakmaya".

Very aptly named.

It's an instant yeast, which is kind of nice.  Some people seem to swear by instant yeast.  But, apparently, there is no way to test whether or not it's alive.  Sure, they'll tell you about 1,500 different ways to test it, but it will fail every single of them and, in the end, still make DeeDee's buns rise.

I tried to foam tepid sugar water.

I tried to foam warm sugar water.

I tried to foam sugar water that was probably too warm.

I even tried mixing flour, sugar and water and waiting an hour to see if it would rise -- although the problem with that was mostly just that I got too impatient and decided to go ahead, regardless.

Finally, I mixed up a batch of dough and started kneading it, kneading it, kneading it.  I was probably 5 -6 minutes into the 10 minute process when I realized that our grimy table was griming my DeeDees!

I wash that thing every day, too, so don't think it's anything I've done to it.  It just has this weird black top with a gray splatter paint sort of pattern and I think the gray comes off, because it turns all my dishcloths gray and has since we moved in, I just didn't even think about it!

So, I made another batch -- argh -- and kneaded it on a big white tray we have that came with our cozy little... bingo parlor.

Kneading takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r, fyi.  I worked at a bakery, and I think I took the bread mixers for granted, because, seriously, I thought my arms would give out before I got a, "silky, elastic texture".

Once I had them all ball-rolled and plopped into the pie pan, I was still pretty terrified that they wouldn't rise (and after all that, I wasn't taking any chances), so I boiled some water in the electric teapot, poured it into a coffee mug and set it on top of the Trusty Crousty (which I turned on low, the top gets real hot) with a chopstick inside it.  Then I put the DeeDees right next to it and draped a towel over the whole set up.

They rose FAST.

Let me just reiterate -- F-A-S-T.

I thought to myself, "I will go to DreamMart and get some things for dinner."  DreamMart is only two and a half blocks away, nothing could happen.

Is it ironic that I over-proofed them?

[caption id="attachment_310" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="As you can see, I did at least TRY to eat them.."][/caption]

I have trouble figuring out what irony is.

Regardless, in the end, they went the way of the first batch of dough.  Sadly.  But, to the DeeDees credit, they did taste good.  They were just too weird and dry.  They were the best right out of the oven.  After that... you know, kinda downhill.

They looked cute.

I will try again, bread is something I can fiddle with over a long period of time, I think, and so I probably will.  It's interesting and tad bit finicky, which seems like fun.

There are my DeeDees.

The main problem with bread recipes over the internet, though, is that no one -- lie detector says: maybe 3 people -- bake bread the old fashioned way anymore.  Everybody uses their bread machines.  Which is all well and good, until you move to Korea and all the bread machines are in KOREAN.

Then you're stuck the Trusty Crousty, but no Beard on Bread or whatever in sight.

I guess converting from machine to oven isn't too difficult, though, and I will be trying it.

For tonight, however, I am making fresh applesauce.  And I wanted to make sweet and sour chicken, but was completely floored by the fact that DreamMart doesn't seem to carry vinegar.  It's bizarre.  I have seen vinegar.  I have seen vinegar everywhere.  And all I need is white vinegar.

Come to think of it, though, I don't know that I've ever seen plain, white vinegar.  Which.. I mean, really?  No white vinegar?  Really?  How hard could it possibly be?  They eat squid, that's hard. That make kimchi, constantly, all the time and that's no easy trick.  And they.. you know.. read the space age scrawl that is the Korean language.

They make all their medications in-country!

You'd expect a little white vinegar, now, wouldn't you?

So, now we are having stir-fry.  Neither as good nor as fun as sweet and sour chicken, but I am at a vinegar loss.  I thought about possibly using lemon juice, but, after my DeeDee failure, I need something to turn out properly, so I'm sticking to what I know.

Maybe next time.

Also, Thanksgiving is out.  But we will have pie.  So, I'll let you know how that goes.

- catie

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ben: Pictures of School

[caption id="attachment_285" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Peace Teacher!"][/caption]

Korean kids are pretty stinking cute, but don't be fooled by this kid's smiling facade. I can't even count the number of times I've caught him trying to cheat on his spelling test or writing his homework for the next class during my class. No Korean kids are really cute (except for middle school students, who are punks, but than what middle schooler isn't). Catie has been telling me for sometime that I need to put pictures of my school and students up on our blog. The last couple of days have been the final days of this term, so since little work is actually getting done I thought I would take advantage of the chaos and get some pictures. I will also be posting pictures of the other teachers so that everyone can put faces to the names of the people I'm working with.

[caption id="attachment_286" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Andrew giving Scott some love"][/caption]

This is part of my 99D Writing class. Again, don't be fool by the apparent innocence, this class is trouble! There are 7 boys and the two girls you can just barely see  behind Andrew and Scott. At the start of the term this class was just the 7 unruly boys who with the except of a kid named Fire (more on him latter) cannot sit still or stay quiet to save their lives. Bryan, Aaron, and I all teach this classes and we have yelled, threatened, and bribed ourselves to exhaustion trying to keep their attention for at least part of the 40 minute class. No luck yet. Two weeks ago, the first girl (named Anna) showed up in the class (that happens allot, since it is private after school academy kids appear and disappear from class very randomly). Since she was the only girl in a glass of 7 boys, we didn't figure she'd last very long. (Equally mixed gender classes seem to work best for classroom management. When you have all of either gender it is just madness. The worst though is having all boys/all girls and just one girl/one boy, because then they sit all by themselves and are alienated from the rest of the class).  She stuck it out however, and a week latter Yumi showed up and since than they have slid right into the spirit of the class, shirking their homework, cheating on spelling tests, and talking with the best of the boys.

[caption id="attachment_288" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Fire and Sam"][/caption]

Two of the best students from 99D. This is Fire and Sam, far and away the sharpest sticks in this box of mostly broken pencils. Fire is one of my favorite students. He is super earnest and determined to study like crazy. I don't know how his parents have done it, but they've successfully indoctrinated him that he must study, study, study. Most of the parents tell their kids that, but the kids are all overloaded with regular school, 4-6 hagwons a week, and than extra studying for tests on Saturdays. By the time they get to Ewha many of them are burned out and couldn't care less. Fire is still going full steam though. Just to give you an idea of his attitude, he wrote an essay about his least favorite food, which is persimmons. He wrote that he hated the color, the taste, the texture, and how when when he tried it he felt sick. The part that is heart wrenching is the end where he says, "But my mom says that they are really good for my health, so I will still eat them even though I don't like them at all." Most of his essays conclude with something along this line, that even though he doesn't like it, if his parents say that he needs to do it, he will do his best.

The other kid in the picture is Sam, who is bright, if not quiet as dedicated as Fire. He was part of the Andrew and Scott clique at the start of the class, but sometime after midterms he must have decided it was time to shape up. How does one shape up? Well to start they move next to the smart kids and somehow their spelling test scores dramatically improve.

A common exchange:

Me: "Sam! Eyes on your own test!"

Sam: "Oh! Teacher! I not look!"

Despite this persistent cheating, Sam has improved dramatically in other, non-Fire related ways.

[caption id="attachment_293" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Hangman!"][/caption]

I don't know if you can tell, but the girls up front are playing Hangman, the all time favorite game of the students at my school. They tend to go crazy playing it, shouting and pushing their way to the front of the class, so the game is officially banned at Ewha, except for very special days. Their hangman strategy is to skip guessing letters and go straight to trying to guess the word. They also don't finish the game until the word is guessed, no matter how many tries that takes. This results in some very detailed pictures. I've tried to tell them that they should at least guess the vowels, but they aren't having any of it.

[caption id="attachment_294" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Louise 1"][/caption]

This kid is in the same class as the girls in the previous picture. His name is Louise 1. At the start of the term his name was just Louise (pronounced like Lewis), but than a new boy came to class and decided that he too would like to be called Louise (also pronounced like Lewis).  I couldn't believe it when I saw his name on the attendance sheet, written as "Louise 2," but it was true. So now 97D has Louise 1 and Louise 2, equally unmotivated and easily distracted (right before this picture Louise 1 threw Louise 2's pencil out the window.

More pictures to come!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Catie: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread!

[caption id="attachment_277" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Don't look too closely -- it's so blurry!"][/caption]

Natalie, don't look.  The following pictures are going to be very blurry.  I AM SO ASHAMED.

The pumpkin bread turned out surprisingly delicious.  As you may notice, it didn't fluff up very much -- or.. even at all.  Which is due to several factors.  In hindsight, I knew it would be dense, so I don't know why I didn't fill the pans up more.  Neurological disconnect, I suppose.  But it tastes really good.  It just doesn't look as cute in it's little cardboard pans as it probably would have if it had risen properly in the oven.

I made a couple of changes.  We haven't been able to get any whole wheat flour yet (though we may have found some very light whole wheat flour -- I can't remember how dark it's supposed to be...), but I did find some, "buckwheat powder" at Emart, which I naturally assumed was also known as "buckwheat flour".  So, I added about half buckwheat flour.  It also called for only white sugar and white sugar creeps me out a little, so I threw in about half brown sugar.  I'm sure both of these were contributing factors in keeping the bread at the bottom of the pan.

It definitely did taste pumpkiny, though more mildy pumpkiny, I think.  Which could have been because I didn't measure the spices, so maybe there weren't enough.

[caption id="attachment_278" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Little Japanese pans"][/caption]

A little less blurry and a better look at the little pan.  They worked really well, though I wasn't sure whether or not to grease them, so I did just a tiny bit to be on the safe side and it kind of bled through.  Maybe next time I won't, though I have a feeling some grease would bleed through anyway.

Overall, a success because it tasted delicious.

I have high hopes for my Thanksgiving menu as well:

Roast Chicken with stuffing

60 minute rolls

Mashed potatoes and gravy

Pumpkin pie

Green bean casserole

And possibly a wild rice sausage dressing and a cranberry sauce from dried cranberries. I have heard it can be done, it just doesn't taste as good.  But when you're overseas and it's hard to get your hands on things, it doesn't matter if everything tastes, "as good", just so long as it tastes similar enough.  I also might make a strawberry pie.  They're the only berries I can find - even frozen.  I'd like cherries, but alas.

Who knows how well this will work out.  We will see.

Also, our internet has been on the fritz for the past two days or so.  I meant to post this yesterday, but couldn't.  So, if you don't hear from us again for a while, that could be why.

However, we will still be available via Skype.

- catie

Monday, November 16, 2009

Catie: Japanese Sweet Pumpkin

[caption id="attachment_263" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="My little "Japanese Sweet Pumpkin"."]pumpkin[/caption]

I got this little "pumpkin" at HomePlus about a week or two ago and have been waiting to get the right ingredients and tools to turn it into something.  Isn't it cute?

First, I thought maybe a pie, but Thanksgiving is coming up and it would ruin the fun (or the horror, depending on how the actual pie turns out........) to have a pie so close to the holiday.  So, I'm going to try Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread instead.  I thought about muffins, but, since no one bakes here, all baking pans run in the range of $8.00-$10.00 and, at Lotte, they have baking pans made of paper that are made in Japan (they're real cute, I'll post pictures once it's baked).  So, I opted for some Japanese paper loaf pans and we'll see how that goes.

[caption id="attachment_261" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Seeds, strings and slime."]IMG_0562[/caption]

 I may try my hand at roasting seeds, but first we'll see how the loaf goes.  The inside color of the squash is lovely, very butternut squash-esque.

I used the How to Roast a Pumpkin in 10 Steps tutorial over at Elana's Pantry to bake it and now I have a bowl full of lovely squash waiting to be properly mashed.

[caption id="attachment_266" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Squash mash."]IMG_0566[/caption]

I only had the one, small pie pan, so I had to bake each half seperately, but it worked out well.  The first half's skin got a little mushy, so I was able to let it sit and cool until the second half got done and they both scraped out easily.  I've never tasted raw pumpkin straight out of the.. you know, pumpkin, so I don't know if it tastes similar or not, but it tastes like squash.  So, I figure it'll be similar.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Also on the list to bake: Mrs. Reagan's Persimmon Pudding

Persimmons are all over the place here and they're so pretty, orange and red.  I've been wondering for a while what people do with them.  I know they eat them raw, but I remember trying one once when I used to work at a small, produce market and the texture's pretty weird.  You're supposed to wait until they're super ripe to eat them, so they get slimy and pulpy.  I don't remember how they taste though.

They could be really gross, but I want to try it since they're everywhere and all the ajummas (middle-aged-old ladies) swear they're really good for you.

Let you know how it goes.

- catie

Sunday, November 15, 2009


noseyIf you ever get your nose pierced, make note:

Do not wash your face.  It is hazardous.  At some point during the cleansing process, you may lose your nose ring in the sink.  This will not easily be felt by you, or your nose as you are scrubbing vigorously, and so you may not notice for 45 minutes, even an hour.  And then, as you frantically attempt to return the ring to it's proper place in your nostril, you will undoubtedly be forced to punch it through a layer of skin which has already closed, even though it has been only an hour, making a gross popping sound.  This will not only hurt you, but REALLY gross you out when it starts bleeding profusely.  Ultimately, it could easily lead to infection and ANGER with yourself, or, possibly, even the sink.

This TERRIBLE chain of events may or may not have happened to me and my nose ring.

Regardless, take heed!!! I know since I found out that this dire set of circumstances could be close at hand, I will NEVER wash my face again!

- catie

Catie: What we're eating.

The Trusty Crousty
While we may be alternately poor and only somewhat poor, we've been eating really well.

So far, within our repertoire, we have the following:

Chili with biscuits
Vegetable Beef Soup
Pork Stir-fry
Sloppy Joes (of questionable merit)
Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and cream gravy (very unhealthy, but I needed cream gravy...)
Chicken pesto with fresh vegetables
Oven fries (Which go with everything)

And we eat a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches, sometimes with ham or an egg.  Also, some "Eggs in a Basket", the toast with an egg fried in a hole cut in it's center, more gruesomely known as "Birdie in a Basket" by Ben, a name that freaks me out. I prefer to think of my eggs as... you know, NOT unborn chickens.

I think one of our best accomplishments thus far, however, is the baked chicken with pasta we made the other night.

I thawed two chicken breasts by heating water in our electric kettle and pouring it over them (still no microwave).
Then I rubbed them with a little olive oil and a mixture of oregano, rosemary and basil, and laid them in the weird, sort of roasting pan that came with The Trusty Crousty.  I cut a red pepper into strips, and laid them on top and around the chicken and drizzled a bit olive oil over the whole thing.  It baked at 350 F (about 175 C) for... 45 minutes or so. 

While it was baking, I poured maybe a cup and a half of Prego (Costco) into a skillet and started it simmering, then chopped:

six cherry tomatoes in quarters
two garlic cloves really finely (no garlic press)
one quarter onion (small, diced)

and threw all that into the prego to simmer.

In a second skillet, I fried two slices of bacon, really crisply, chopped them up and threw them into the sauce as well.

At HomePlus, we got some multi-colored Fusilli (spiral shaped pasta, "The name comes from fusile, archaic/dialect form of fucile, meaning rifle. As the inside barrel of a gun is "rifled" using a similar screw-shaped device" -- Wiki) and I boiled some of that.

We poured the souped up Prego over the Fusilli and put the chicken and roasted red peppers on top.  Ben made some delicious garlic bread, too.  It was quite a success and, what with our current glut of chicken breasts, we may be making something similar later on this week. We got some Tortelloni (Legend has it when gods walked the earth, an innkeeper was so enchanted with the beauty of Venus, he modeled the little Tortellini after her navel! The nickname for this pasta in Bologna is "sacred navels"!  "Tortelloni" is a larger version of Tortellini.) at Costco and I want to make something delicious with it.

Italian food is ALL the rage here, which is kind of nice, because we have an idea of what to do with the ingredients and what goes with what.
Us, all bundled up to go outside!
What I want to do is come up with things we've been able to cook in Korea, and sooking/baking substitutions that work and put all the recipes where other foreigners can access them.  There are not a lot of places to find recipes that Westerners can cook here.  And not a lot of places to tell you where to find ingredients.

But I want to do a lot of things.... psh.

Anyhow, that's what's been on our plates.  I often find myself feeling like I have nothing to post a lot of the time, but, I think since it's been FREEZING cold the past few days, and I've been doing more baking and cooking, I should be able to post about that.  We've also had a little more money and have been able to do some shopping for fun ingredients.  So, I'll try to remember to post my cooking/baking misadventures.

There's a picture of us -- today, in fact -- all bundled up to walk Ben to school.  It's chilly, but it makes it feel like the holidays are here!

- catie

Ben: Finals!

We've almost reached the end of my first term teaching here (the year is divided up into four 13 week terms). This week has been taken over with the madness of finals. The kids don't know it, but their grade is entirely dependent on their mid-term and final test grades (Korea is craazzzy about standardized testing). Since nothing else actually counts (homework, behavior, work in class) finals are a big deal.

That being said, you wouldn't guess that from the way that we were instructed to make and implement them. We were given notice as to which tests we were in charge of writing one week before they were due. We weren't actually given anytime to write the tests, so we wrote them between classes and during breaks. We than turned the tests into Nicole for editing. She didn't return them back to us until the Friday before the week that the finals were suppose to take place. We were also specifically instructed to "make sure to teach the students what they need to know to pass the test, and to communicate with the other teachers so that you know what you need to teach them."

Test week itself is crazy, we have 40 minutes to give each test. Most of my classes are writing classes, so it is pretty easy for me. I just hand out the tests, read my book, and grumpily answer questions when the kids have questions. I say grumpily not because I resent being interrupted, I am there to be "Ben Teacher" afterall, but because most of the questions are inane. Apparently my students have the worst taking strategies ever. Their idea is to skip past any instructions and straight proclaiming "I don't understand, how do you do this?" Most of the time I just read them the question (that they didn't read) to them and then they set to work. Why they don' t start by reading the questions themselves I don't know. Perhaps they just like the sonorous sound of my voice. The only tests that are hard to conduct are those for the Listening/Speaking classes.  In the L/S classes the Teacher has to play a recording 2-3 times (for the Listening Part) and then talk to each kid individually (for the Speaking Part). This gets tricky when you are trying to run through 12 kids in the less than 25 minutes that are left of class. Speaking in a second language (especially for a test) is nerve-racking enough without your teaching pressing you to hurry up, so I try not to rush them too much.

After the fun of giving the tests, we than have three days to grade all the tests. Grading is a whole adventure in itself. Since Ewha is a private, after school English Academy, one eye always has to be on the bottom line ($$$). Which means that you can flunk a kid, because than they might leave and that is money that is walking out the door. Instead Ewha works on a curve where no one gets less than 60 percent or more than a 90. This means that some creative grading is necessary to elevate a kid who turned in a mostly blank test to a 60 percent. We could just curve the whole thing, but that is far too much work to do for 30 different classes (that is how many I teach) and besides which Bryan tried it once and was unable to explain the idea of curving.

Tests are all over now, so now it is the turn of the Korean teachers to call all the parents up and explain to them why their little treasures did the way that they did on their tests. I'm glad that the testing is over, and can't wait to get started on the next adventure, writing syllabi for the next term!
[caption id="attachment_227" align="alignleft" width="420" caption="One of many mandarin men, lining the streets of Korea"]mandarinman[/caption]

Good morning!

Or.. afternoon.  As the case may be.  It is 2:00pm here, I guess.

We both have our excuses for not posting in the past, you know, forever.  Mine is also Fringe, in part.  I do like it a lot (though it is SCARY -- a lot of people explode!).   But... mostly, I'm just not as enthralled with Korea anymore.  I still like it here (how many times have I said that?  brainwash myself much..?), but it's not as new and novel.

Also, we are alternately very poor and somewhat poor, so we don't always have a whole lot to talk about.

We took some fall-ish pictures last Saturday, though.  It's been a beautiful fall here.  There are a lot of bright red Japanese Maples and yellow Ginkgos along the sidewalks.

And also mandarin orange, persimmon, and nut vendors.  We're not sure what there is to do with persimmons.  I used to work at a tiny produce market and we'd get them in every winter and put them in a slightly refrigerated case, where they would turn from orange to red and then get slimy.  Really, really slimy.  The mandarin oranges are amazing some of the time and bland the rest - it's really hit or miss.  We get them a lot.  And we haven't tried the nut vendors yet.  They always smell delicious when we walk by though.

[caption id="attachment_229" align="alignleft" width="420" caption="The road that goes by HomePlus."]homeplusroad[/caption]

This is the road that goes past our HomePlus store downtown.  It's a good example of what most roads look like in Daejeon, though.  The sidewalks are cobbled and there is usually a running/walking/biking path of red astroturf along side it.  It will be really nice once we get bikes.  We're continually surprised by how many bikers we see about.

Daejeon has even created a bike sharing program with these really cute, green cruisers.  They have rows of them all over town, with little computer/monitor things next to them and you give them your alien registration number and cellphone number (when we get a cellphone we'll be able to use them) and.. I think the first two hours are 1,000W and after that it's 500W/half hour.  I can't remember, but it's not that expensive.  Plus, the bikes are cute.  And there are so many pick up/return points all over the city that you'd only have to ride one way and then you can lock them back up and go about your business.

We've been having a lot of fun the past week or so.  Since we got paid, we've been able to organize our house a bit better and get some more to cook with.  We got a couple big skillets that, instead of being coated with chippy, flaky teflon, have been coated with some sort of "diamond ceramic".  It's amazing.  Nothing sticks to it.  This backfires sometimes when, say, I am trying to flip an over easy egg the stupid thing just slips all over the pan instead of sliding onto my spatula.  But, overall, they're amazing.

We were also able to go into town yesterday and have some fun.  We stopped at one of our favorite destinations, TimeWorld Galleria, this G-I-A-N-T mall creation that houses.. well, we still haven't gotten a good glimpse.  Last night, we checked out the gourmet grocery store in the 2nd basement, complete with a Burger King (you don't get much more gourmet than BK!), and a simply scrumptious gelato place.  They had flavors like cream cheese, green tea, latte, dark chocolate (barely even sweet, just soo chocolatey and sooo good), tiramisu, banana, caramel, milk (isn't that a given?), menthe, withe chocolate (and no, that's not a typo, it was withe) and tons more we can't remember.  We got the tiny size, and thus, three flavor choices: dark chocolate, tiramisu and I wanted caramel, but we got banana - some things just get lost in translation.  We ended up sharing it because there was also confusion as to how many cups we wanted.  It was really good, though there was some argument over who had to eat the banana.  Poor, neglected flavor.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ben: Watching Fringe

So Catie and I have been slacking a little bit on the blog (sorry everybody). Part of the reason (and only part!) is that we started watching a show called Fringe (thank you Natalie). Fringe is sort of the X-Files meets Lost with more of an R rating instead of the X-Files P-13 content. It is pretty addictive. Some of the stuff is a little graphic (it makes the X-Files look pretty tame) and the main female lead's character is incredibly one-dimensional, but the crazy scientist and his son are hilarious. The scientist, Walter Bishop, is the best reason to watch the show. He is constantly craving random foods, wanting to conduct dubious tests on unwitting human subjects, and just generally being a stereotypical, but awesome mad scientist. The plot is typical conspiracy fare. Something called "the Pattern" is causing crazy things to happen and "Fringe Division" is the FBI task for charged with figuring out what is happening. There is also a massive international science corporation called, creatively enough, Massive Dynamic. Massive Dynamic may or may not be good/very evil, it is a mystery. The show is another J.J. Abrams project, and like Lost, you get the feeling that he either has an awesome  plan for how every ties together, or he is just as lost as his viewers. Since Fringe is only in its second season, this has not yet become a liability like it has in Lost. I think most people have lost patience with the prospect of ever getting straight answers in Lost. Fringe is just starting so it feels okay to be confused and not like someone is jerking your chain. Anyways, flaws aside, it is fun to watch. It often feels like the X-Files at its best (think 3rd-5 season) and makes me feel nostalgic for old X-Files episodes. There is strong, if not amazing acting, but the characters that are good are really good. Since we can download just about anything nearly instantly we've watched through the entire first season and are now keeping up with the second season as it airs. This as resulted in some time being taken away from blogging, but we promise we will try to get on here more now that we have caught up with the show. Just be glad we caught it in the middle of the second season! If it had been in, say the fifth, you might not have heard from us until after Christmas (or more realistically, after Thanksgiving).