On Baking and Learning to Embrace Failure, plus a Recipe for Almond-Buttermilk Scones

I used to hate baking. It felt like such a chore, especially since I would, as a novice, accidentally get flour and butter all over the kitchen and my face, like a hyperactive child. With cooking, I feel like I can always make adjustments, add in different/new ingredients – I can be somewhat creative. Many say that cooking is like an art, while baking is a science.

Well, to those who believe in the “model minority” archetype, I was/am a bad Asian-American and did/do not excel in the sciences. (I used to drive my biology teacher insane by asking “how does __________ know to do that? Does it have its own brain?”)

So, the process of baking used to feel akin to the dread I’d experience whilst doing the physics homework that I barely understood (I have nightmares about taking a physics test at least once a month). I didn’t grasp the purpose of baking powder or soda. I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing, which is a crucial step before becoming a bit more inventive. And, without this knowledge, I felt doomed to fail.

As a high-strung, anxiety-ridden, productivity-oriented individual, there was nothing worse than dry-ass cake, unevenly baked brownies, hard-as-fuck pastry dough.

Lucky for me, my husband is super into sweets. Like, I have to hide Nutella in a secret location in order to get any for myself. Because I tend to absorb and reflect the things people love, I started to enjoy desserts, too. And, importantly, I slowly and painstakingly started to learn that a dry cake wasn’t some kind of signifier of how awful I am as a human being.

As my love for desserts increased, so did my enjoyment of the baking process. I began to understand more of the “science” behind the process, and can now identify why something doesn’t taste quite right. Strangely enough, I think that this has been important to my growth as a person. It’s almost impossible to fix a baked good, the way one can sometimes can with a stew, soup, roasted dish, etc. Baking (and in particular, failed baking) is teaching me how to embrace my unsuccessful endeavors. Once something is out of the oven, that shit is finished. If it’s not good, I have to sit with it. And rather than ask, “Yejin, why are you the worst and the biggest failure who has ever walked the face of this planet?” I can (sometimes) laugh, feel slightly bad that I’ve wasted a little bit of money, but feel glad that I’ve learned something from the process.

When drama comes from external forces, I tend to stay away. When it comes to judging myself, I’m as dramatic as they come. I’ve realized that sometimes I’m hardest on myself when I don’t actually want to hold myself accountable. This way, I don’t have to listen to someone else’s criticism, because my own judgement is already the harshest and meanest. There is some weird sort of selfishness and self-indulgence that comes with my specific brand of self-loathing. And if I can help solve for this oddly masochistic practice of running away from my own agency by baking and eating sweet things, then I guess I have no choice but to continue getting rounder and rounder. So, I’m publicly committing myself to baking and eating a lot more cakes, muffins, pies, and scones. For the sake of humanity, obviously.

And now, here’s one of my favorite scone recipes:

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Almond-Buttermilk Scones with Jam
Recipe taken from Alexandra’s Kitchen
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8

2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar
1 ½ teaspoon of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
1 cup of sliced almonds
2/3 cup of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 cm cubes

2 tablespoons of milk
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. While the oven is heating, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the almonds, and stir to combine.
  3. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and vanilla.
  4. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture. You have two options for this step: (1) use a food processor and pulse the mixture until you have a crumb-like mixture, or (2) use two knives or a pastry cutter to literally cut the butter into the flour (on a cutting board) until you have tiny pieces of butter.
  5. Place the mixture into a large bowl. Add the buttermilk/vanilla mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Once the ingredients are just mixed, pour the mixture onto your cutting board and gently knead the dough together until it us just combined. Do not knead too much – this will alter the consistency of the scones.
  6. Pack the mixture into a ball, and place down onto a floured surface. Gently pat the ball down until it is about ¾ of an inch thick. With a knife, cut the circular shaped dough into eight pieces.
  7. Place the pieces onto a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Brush the scones with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  8. Place the scones into the oven, and bake for about 18 minutes. You want them to be a little golden brown, so check on your scones after about 15 minutes.
  9. Take your scones out of the oven, and let them cool for about five minutes on a cookie sheet. Cut the scones horizontally and fill with your favorite jam! I’ve personally been rather fond of blueberry jam, as of late.
  10. Enjoy!

Coming Up: Menu Series: Forcing Myself Out of a Funk

On Feeling Uninspired (Alternate Title: Who am I?)

It’s been a while, my little doves. For some reason, I’ve been feeling wholly uninspired and directionless for the past three weeks, and it makes no sense. Here’s the source of my confusion: In the last month, I’ve been greatly productive at work and have been gaining confidence as a leader; I’ve been spending a lot more time with my friends/loved ones; and I’ve never experienced so little anxiety about tangible life things (of course, with the notable exception of my acute vertigo episode). So what gives?

From the New Yorker

Perhaps, with all the momentum from my past few posts, I was a little too excited about what was supposed to be the next entry: On White Chefs and Ethnic Restaurants: The Fetishization, Commodification, and Appropriation of the Other. I recently took a look at all my notes from the various books I researched in preparation for that entry, and laughed. I had ten pages of notes, and two-pages worth of seemingly nonsensical or all-too-lofty ideas/theses statements. Because I was trying to do too many things with the essay, I started to feel overwhelmed. And, as I often do, I started to feel stupid.

I’m pretty sure that this isn’t the source of my general ennui, but it is a pretty typical trajectory for my descent into a totally unnecessary path of self-loathing.

In any case, I was wondering, is it possible that I have no frame of reference for the experience of contentment? Is this what life is like when I have more control over both internal and external stressors? Is it a lot like…boredom? Perhaps this feeling comes from the following pairing: the current absence of maniacal anxiety + my penchant for feeling unintelligent or uninteresting.

This is usually how I talk to myself.

Who knows?

Back to food. I can tell when I’m feeling uninspired, because my menu of meals either ceases to exist, or it doesn’t reflect my usual joy of cooking/eating. It’s possible that this feeling has something to do with cooking for myself for two weeks. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was sort of conducting an experiment to see if I could practice self-love by cooking for one. It was hard. And tiring. And clearly, it was difficult to convince myself that I’m worth my own time, energy, and effort. Anyway, there have been no complaints, but I’ve definitely approached my food in a super half-assed way since then (poor hubby!), and haven’t felt compelled to write. I could look at this dry-spell as a sign that I’m growing. Funny/strange but related anecdote: For the first two months of therapy, I always prepared an agenda, because I wanted to make sure we addressed everything that I identified as a problem, that week. As my seventh session was beginning, I freaked out and told him that I didn’t have a plan for the conversation, and felt extremely guilty. He pointed out that this was a good thing, that perhaps I was slowly learning how to let go. Let go of what, you ask? Let go of my intense desire to control everything that I think and feel, of my urge to orchestrate a maximized process for productivity and intellectual growth, of my fear that I am nothing and no one if I’m not constantly marked by motivation and passion. By letting go of these practices, he says I open myself up to new tools and paths. So, maybe this is like that?

So, rather than do what I would normally do in this type of situation (which would be to force myself to create an inspired and fun menu, as if that would signify that I’m back to being a passionate and ambitious person), I’ll ride this out as a confused and passive passenger, and see where it takes me. I’ll cook what I want, when I feel like it.

Ugh, that sounds so weird.

Even though I’ve been scheduling weekly menus for several years, now, I have not been able to do this for the past couple of weeks. And I can’t get myself to do it, today. However, I do know that I want to eat some, if not all, of the following:

  • Roasted pork belly with lettuce wraps
  • Pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, olives, cheese, tuna, and basil
  • Summer vegetable strata
  • Crabcakes
  • Farro salad with toasted pine nuts, currants & mustard greens
  • Pesto pasta w/ potatoes and string beans
  • Fried green tomatoes
  • Sour cream coffee cake with orange and chocolate

I may make all of these things, or none of them (this is preposterous!) Let’s see where this loosey goosey approach takes us. Maybe it will be SO strange and foreign that I’ll run back to my controlfreak ways. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I promise to post a recipe, soon! And, I am still working on the white chefs entry, a second installment of Pairing TV Shows with Three-Course Meals, and Meal-Planning 102.

In case you are curious, here are some of my less half-assed meals from the last couple of weeks:

Kimchi rice with fried tofu and an egg

Kimchi rice with fried tofu and an egg

Chicken thigh katsu w/ jasmine rice, a salad, and sweet steamed corn

Chicken thigh katsu w/ jasmine rice, a salad, and sweet steamed corn

Herbed chicken roasted on a bed of vegetables (carrots, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, and lemons) w/ bread

Herbed chicken roasted on a bed of vegetables (carrots, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, and lemons) w/ bread

Cooking for One: A Bummer, or an Act of Self-Love? Plus, a Recipe for Fish in a Bag

Even though I’m an anxious person, cooking for a crowd is one of my most favorite things to do. Sharing a meal with others has always been a significant pleasure in my life, and to be the person to prepare that meal, well, that’s just the goddamn best thing ever. Perhaps, this makes me feel a little closer to my mother, who played a similar(ly gendered) role in our family. Maybe it satiates my ever-present need to be nurturing (admittedly, this is likely a problematic need). Maybe it offers an easy way to receive external validation (ugh, I’m working on that). Whatever the reason, there’s nothing quite like loving my friends and family by cooking for and feeding them.

Cooking for one? Now, there’s a fucking bummer.

A couple of months ago, I was recounting my incredibly competitive and self-deprecating nature to my therapist. These go-to behaviors have served as the pinnacle of my essence for years, where concepts like “productivity” and “proactivity” and “achievement” were the only goals that mattered. I would frequently go through periods of loathing myself for not performing at my highest potential (it’s a mystery how I make that assessment of my potential – it is always suspiciously juuuuuust out of reach), which would motivate me to do better. To be better. For a long time, I believed that this rather extreme strategy of self-betterment was an act of tough love. But, really, it’s not. It makes me internalize and project anger, and provides me with a roundabout way of letting myself off the hook. If I’m my own worst critic, then I can never be hurt or impacted/bettered by the criticisms of others. This is stagnating and isolating.

In any case, this way-of-being has impacted my ability to experience pleasure in activities and hobbies. Though it seems rather obvious that I enjoy cooking, I only take pleasure in it when other people are involved. My therapist asked me whether I ever cook for myself, not just out of necessity, but for the sake of pleasure. I responded by telling him the story of how last time my husband was on tour, I ordered a large, everything pizza, and consumed the whole thing in 30 minutes. Two nights in a row. So,  no. I have never really cooked for the audience of me, and I have never been able to enjoy the fruits of my labor without someone to love beside me.

It makes sense that I am less motivated to cook when I feel a little lonely. But, in my estimation, the biggest problem is that I feel like I don’t deserve my own time and energy. If cooking is an act of love (for me, it most definitely is), then to cook for myself is to love myself. And, blech, who wants to do that? It feels so uncomfortable.

So, in an act of defiance against my own norms, and despite my instinct to shotgun an 18-inch pizza every night of the week, I’m cooking for myself while my husband is gone. Sure, none of the meals so far have reached my self-imposed standards. Obviously, my brain cannot properly adjust to cooking food in smaller quantities, so I have been making way too much of each meal, even factoring in leftovers for lunch. I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m a grandmother, at heart, and therefore feel the need to make too much food in order to feed impromptu guests/loved ones, just in case. Maybe my acute vertigo has left me a little lazy or hazy.

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For example, this bibimguksu w/ chopped ddak bulgogi and a picked egg was not as tangy and delicious as it could have been. It was pretty great, but not amazing.

I could go on and on about everything that has gone wrong, so far. But, I won’t.  I’ll focus on the fact that this has been a strangely and slowly empowering process. I will probably always be hard on myself, but for the first time in my cooking tenure, I’m listening for and to my own joy, my own criticisms.

I cooked and ate a dish new to my repertoire, the other day: Fish in a Bag, with lemon, fennel, olives and white wine sauce. It was nice in appearance, smelled great, tasted good, and taught me about a technique that I hadn’t yet utilized. I decided that I deserved a plate that was pretty, so I worked on the presentation, a little. And, I critiqued it. Perhaps, I was a little hard on myself. I could have seasoned the fish a little more. I probably should have pre-cooked the potatoes, a little less. I accidentally forgot to buy pitted olives, so that element of the dish was annoying to eat. But, I formed my own opinions, and listened to them. To me, this is a small act of self-love, because I often won’t listen to my own thoughts when I am in the presence of brilliant and wonderful people. And, I often am surrounded by brilliant and wonderful people.

In any case, I’m pleased. Small wins are always big. And Audre Lorde reminds me why self-care is so important.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

Finally, here is Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Fish in a Bag.


Fish in a bag with lemon, fennel, olives, and white wine sauce 
Recipe from Jamie Oliver (slightly modified)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes
Servings: 1



  1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. While that’s getting ready, create a “bag” out of foil. To do this, take a large piece of aluminum foil (about 14×18 inches), and fold it half. Tightly fold the two sides adjacent to the original folded edge, and leave one side open. Jamie Oliver recommends you brush the edges with egg before you fold them in, to help with sealing, but I found that I didn’t need to do that.
  2. Drop the potatoes into the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. While they are boiling, place the prepared fennel, lemon, and cherry tomatoes into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to your liking, add a drizzle of olive oil, and mix gently but thoroughly. Separately, season the halibut fillet to your liking.
  3. Once the potatoes are done, drain them, and add them to the bowl of mixed vegetables. Once everything is mixed, carefully place the contents into the foil bag, place the fillet on top, and sprinkle with some fennel fronds.  Add a splash of white wine, and seal the remaining edge.
  4. In an oven preheated at 400ºF, place the foil bag onto a baking tray and cook for 20-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillet. Once cooked, place the bag on a serving plate and gently pierce to release the steam. Serve to self on a plate.

Coming Up
The Problematization of Authenticity Series: Musings on White Chefs and “Ethnic” Restaurants

Meal Planning 101: On Reusing Versatile Ingredients, plus a “Nourish Bowl” Recipe

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my initial motivation to schedule all my meals came from anxiety – anxiety that I would be wasteful with ingredients (and therefore money), that I wouldn’t enjoy my food. It’s become much more than that, more than a pressure valve for my neurosis. It’s a way for me to think creatively, to exercise a kind of freedom that only exists in the presence of strict parameters.

I’ve tried to outline a Meal Planning 101 entry, but found that a singular post would be far too long and verbose, and probably super boring. So, I’ve decided to start a series, highlighting different elements of my planning process. This first one is going to be about thinking ahead and reusing ingredients, and I’ll go through my thought process behind this week’s menu.

The process of reusing ingredients is important to me for a number of reasons:

  1. It tightens parameters. I don’t know if you know this, but there are like a gazillion food blogs (read: food porn sites) and a bajillion recipes for everything. Diving into the endless abyss of books and blogs to find that perfect dish is probably a gigantic time suck, and this helps. And, even though I like planning stuff out (clearly), sometimes I find it exhausting to make completely new things, everyday, and to find delectable recipes for each. Choosing versatile ingredients that I can reuse gives me a weird sort of peace of mind.
  2. It helps me to develop my palate. I learn more about the ingredient when I cook it in a number of different styles. Also, by focusing on one or more reusable ingredients for a week’s meal, I have the opportunity to actually taste different ingredient pairings and formulate my own opinions.
  3. It can save time. For example, I can prepare the ingredient for the whole week in one fell swoop (e.g. trimming or blanching vegetables), or cook the ingredient(s) in one batch and use them throughout the week.
  4. It can save money. I am often on the prowl for what’s on sale or in season. If I’m okay with reusing an ingredient or two throughout the week, it means that I can spend less money. Also, if I find that I’m reusing a great deal of something (an example for me would be jasmine rice), then I can save some money by purchasing in bulk.

There are obviously other elements to meal-planning. Often, I’ll start with what kind of stuff I’m craving, or what I think my body needs. But the focus on ingredients and how I can make them versatile is a key element to my planning process, one that I use every week.

This Week’s Meals

This week, because my husband is on tour (I’m lonely!), I’m making a lot of one-pot meals, reusing loads of ingredients/elements, and cooking things that are easy to bring to work. Additionally, because it’s been getting warmer, I want to cook and eat things that don’t make me feel like a sweaty slimeball. Here were some of my thoughts in coming up with the menu:

  • I wanted a versatile grain that would be good either hot or cold. I chose farro, because it’s not one of the foods that just tastes really healthy (read: boring or icky), it is healthy but has a relatively complex character. I can cook all of my farro at the same time, and use it for different meals to save on time.
  • Honestly, after a week of eating very little meat (since we binged in Maine), I am craving some animal. I decided to go the chicken route, since it’s kind of on the lighter side. And I’m not afraid to admit this to the world: I like eating chicken. Like, I like it a lot. So, I bought enough chicken for roasting, and for ddak bulgogi (Korean chicken BBQ). The latter will be its own meal (with rice or farro), and then serve as toppers for farro bibimbap and bibimguksu.
  • Roasted vegetables are amazing on or with everything. I’m going to roast a bunch of vegetables on a cool morning (w/ my new spice mix obsession for vegetables: salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and paprika). Then, I’ll use them as a side for rice & beans, cheese omelette and fish in a bag. And, they will serve as integral elements to my farro nourish bowl.
  • Eggs. I love them so much. This week, I’ll pickle some soft-boiled eggs as part of all the rice or farro dishes. Also, since I’m allowed to be “lazy” while Nico is on tour, I’m going to make myself a delicious and easy omelette, one night.

I should also add that I needed all the meals to be relatively simple, since I had my first trip to the Emergency Room (as an adult) on Wednesday. Apparently, I have pretty severe vertigo, so lots of movement, or movement at all, is pretty disorienting and disconcerting. WOMP.

Now, with all the context, here is the weeks’ menu:


  • D: Fish in a bag, w/ lemon, fennel, olives, and white wine sauce


  • L: Farro nourish bowl w/ roasted vegetables and a pickled egg, topped w/ lime dressing
  • D: Bibim guksu w/ chicken bulgogi


  • L: Leftover bibimguksu
  • D: Chicken bulgogi w/ jasmine rice and roasted vegetables


  • L: Leftover bulgogi, rice, and vegetables
  • D: Farro bibimbap w/ chicken bulgogi topping and a pickled egg, and an arugula salad


  • L: Leftover farro bibimbap
  • D: Brie omelette, baguette, and an arugula salad


  • L: Leftovers (of anything)
  • D: Roasted chicken thigh w. cherry tomatoes & asparagus, baguette, and an arugula salad


  • L: Leftover chicken
  • D: Rice & beans and roasted vegetables


  • L: Leftover rice & beans
  • D: ORDER DELIVERY (woohoooo)

And, here’s a recipe for an amazingly simple farro nourish bowl that has swept me off my feet. By the way, I think the term “nourish bowl” is the worst, like it’s the top selling (and only) food item at a CA smoothie store. But, it’s easier to say that, than to say “healthy but delicious bowl of grain with other hearty and mostly vegetarian toppings.”

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Farro “Nourish Bowl” with Roasted Vegetables and Lime/Maple Dressing
Adapted from Cookie Monster Cooking’s Blog
Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Roasted Vegetables:
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 small or 1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 heads of broccoli, chopped
  • 2 ears of corn kernels (cut right off the cob)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
For the dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
For serving:
  • Farro, cooked per instructions
  • Avocado, sliced on top
  • Pickled egg


  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Chop up all the vegetables, and place them into a large bowl. add the cumin, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, olive oil, and canola oil. Mix well, and place the vegetables onto a baking sheet (use two if necessary – you don’t want to crowd the pan).
  3. Bake for 40 minutes, and stir halfway through. The vegetables should be beautifully browned and aromatic.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.
  5. To serve, place some farro in a bowl, and add the roasted veggies, sliced avocado, and pickled egg on top. Dress with the lime/maple syrup mixture, and enjoy!

On Balance, and a Bibim Guksu Recipe

I’m not particularly gifted and finding balance, in my life. Words that might better describe me: obsessive, sunny, self-deprecating, product-oriented, compulsive, nurturing, neurotic, controlling. Lots of things, but definitely not balanced. Not yet.
Also, not terribly photogenic

Also, not terribly photogenic

I’m on the hunt for a hobby, and am fully dreading this opportunity/task. When my only frame of reference for hobbies includes solo piano competitions, and other embarrassing activities of the like, it’s hard for me to approach a non-essential activity without being annoyingly methodical, aggressive, and ambitious, particularly since I have the great dishonor of conflating enjoyment with being good at something. Because of the level of unnecessary intensity I bring to the table, I end up talking myself out of doing anything. For example: when considering taking yoga classes, I decided that I should first start with bartered private yoga instructional sessions, so I could perform with the right form before being in a group setting. When I couldn’t find someone with whom to barter, and because I couldn’t even consider the notion of being completely unprepared for it, I didn’t do any yoga. Another example: I had considered returning to the piano, and got a keyboard for my birthday several years ago. Having picked up all my music from NJ, I started planning how often and how long to practice, made a schedule of when to learn and memorize each section, blahblahblah. Categorically not fun. A bit not good. But it’s the only way I know how to approach anything.

By way of cooking and eating, I think I’m slowly starting to learn to enjoy not only the (hopefully delicious) product, but also the process. Because the enjoyment (of eating) so immediately follows the work and process, perhaps I will begin to conflate the two pieces, and learn to approach everything else with the ultimate goal of enjoyment (instead of mastery, which will always be unattainable, anyway). All this to say, I was totally unbalanced about this week’s meals. Since I was a little lazy and unproductive the week prior, I felt the need to compensate with a rather intensive menu of meals. Plus, I had the added (self-inflicted) pressure of wanting to delight in spring/summer foods and salads. Even with a little bit of unnecessary stress, I experienced a great deal of joy while preparing the week’s menu. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to approach everything in my life with a bit of balance, joy, and ambition, and eat good food all the while.

And now, a recipe. This dish was rocking and rolling, and is pretty perfect for any warm to sweltering day.

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Bibim Guksu Recipe

Serves 6
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes


10 oz. soba or lo mein noodles (soba is better, but I couldn’t find any in the local grocery store)
1/4 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, julienned
1 large cucumber, julienned
1/2 of a tart apple, julienned
1/2  cup of kimchi, diced

For the sauce:

3 tbsp gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) Note: each brand carries a different weight of spiciness. If you are sensitive to spiciness, start with 2 tbsp, taste after everything else has been mixed together, and slowly add more if you so desire
1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted (optional)

See marinated flank steak recipe below.


  1. Boil noodles as instructed. Drain, and rinse the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking. Shake the water off, put noodles in a large mixing bowl, and add a teeny bit of vegetable oil and mix to make sure they don’t stick together.
  2. Put your prepared vegetables into the bowl, along with the sauce. Using a piece of plastic wrap to protect your and from the spicy sauce, thoroughly mix the noodles, vegetables, and sauce together. Using tongs or utensils might break the noodles, so best to use your hands. 
  3. Place your mixed noodles into a bowl, and top with slices of marinated skirt steak (recipe below).

Korean Marinated Flank Steak Recipe

Preparation Time: 10 minutes, plus up to a 12 hours of marinating
Cooking Time: 10 minutes, plus 10 minutes of resting the meat

1 1/2 – 2 lbs of flank steak, 1/2 an inch thick
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 tbsp of ginger, finely minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of ground pepper
1/2 a apple, thinly shredded
1 tbsp sesame oil


  1. In a large bowl, mix the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, scallions, sugar, pepper, apple, and sesame oil.
  2. Carefully pour the marinade into a large freezer bag, along with the piece of flank steak. Close the bag, making sure there is no air trapped. Put the bag into the refrigerator for up to 12 hours.
  3. An hour before you plan to cook the steak, take the bag out of the fridge. Let it come closer to room temperature.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet at a high heat until smoke starts to come off of the pan. Lower the heat to a medium-high flame, and add the steak. After four minutes, flip it over, and let it cook for another 3 minutes.
  5. Take the steak off the pan and put onto a cutting board. Let it sit, uncovered, for about 10 minutes so that the juices can redistribute. The cooking time is for a medium rare steak. After 10 minutes, slice to your desired thickness. Place ontop of bibim guksu!

On Courage and Kimchi Ramen

Many of us have read through the NYTimes article entitled “No. 37: Big Wedding or Small” with varying degrees of amusement, excitement, annoyance, and thoughtfulness. As a classic (and perhaps insufferable) ENFJ (one of sixteen personalities delineated by the Myers-Briggs personality test), I went on a spree of asking close friends and relatives some of the questions in the article, favoring one particular question:

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

My answer is always the same: I would like to wake up with more courage.

I’ve never felt like a brave person. After binge-watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, American Horror Story, or even something like Damages, I sometimes make Nico check behind the shower curtain of the bathroom before I tinkle. Much like my insanely skiddish dog, I jump and yelp when surprised, which is all the time. Though I do have a strange streak of breaking up fights between strangers on the B44 or the subway, I generally feel like a namby-pamby. Also, I don’t think my perceived cowardice is unrelated to my obsession with over-preparedness. Apparently, I didn’t start walking until I was over two years of age. I would slowly get up, and just as slowly sit down, without taking one darn step. Basically, I didn’t start walking until I could run. Typical Yejin. I always want to know that I have the potential to do something decently before I actually do it for fear of being mediocre or crap –  to me, this is a lower form of cowardice.

In any case, it’s occurred to me that no quality or trait is a package deal. To be sure, I am unlikely to survive a zombie apocalypse; I would never make it into the Gryffindor House; I may sooner want to die than to fight, depending on the nemesis; I would categorically hate running my own tech startup company with a billionaire antagonist trying to destroy me (boy, I need to stop watching TV and movies). But here are things I do for which I should give myself some credit:

  1. I have no reservations about holding colleagues, family members, or friends accountable;
  2. As much as I make a fuss about over-preparing for success, I handle ‘failure’ pretty well, and make sure to try again, and to try smarter;
  3. I strongly believe that people deserve better, and work hard to be an integral part of making that happen (whether in work, love, or life).
  4. Even though I torment myself an unhealthy amount over making a new dish/meal, I make a new dish/meal, anyway.

Yea, yea, this is a pretty mild list. But it’s a start in taking the road less traveled (where the beaten path = practices of self deprecation). I start my new job tomorrow as Director of Development, where I’ll be a supervisor for the first time, so I need to believe that I have a little bit of courage!

At the very least, my attempt (however arduous and painful) to make new meals has resulted in something quite delicious! Here is the recipe for my very first homemade miso ramen w/ kimchi and other fixins:

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Miso and Kimchi Ramen Recipe
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Prep Time: 45 minutes
4 Servings


6 cups of chicken stock (homemade is best!)
1 cup of kimchi, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons of red miso paste
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 scallion, sliced diagonally
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 bunches of baby spinach, rinsed thoroughly
12 oz of authentic Chinese noodles (these are good)
Salt, as needed

4 soft boiled eggs, peeled, and cut in half
1/2 cup of kimchi
1 scallion, sliced diagonally
4 marinated and broiled chicken thighs, coarsely chopped (recipe below)


  1. Bring your chicken stock to a gentle boil.
  2. Prepare your toppings. Take your soft boiled eggs and cut them in half; slice the second scallion diagonally; put 1/2 a cup of kimchi in a bowl; and cut up your recently broiled chicken thighs.
  3. Once the stock is up to a rolling boil, add the miso paste and mix thoroughly, making sure to break up the chunks. Once incorporated, add the coarsely chopped kimchi, soy sauce, scallions, and red pepper flakes.
  4. After boiling gently for 10 minutes, add baby spinach. Taste the broth and add salt, as needed.
  5. As you wait for the flavors to incorporate into the ramen broth, bring a separate pot to a boil. Make your noodles per package instructions and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
  6. Once everything is ready, put the noodles into the pot with with boiling broth and cook for an additional minute. Carefully place noodles into a bowl, then the broth. Add toppings, and enjoy!

Marinated and Broiled Chicken Thighs Recipe


4 chicken thighs
3 tablespoons of gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon of white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil


  1. Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl, and pour into a freezer bag.
  2. Pat the chicken thighs dry, and place them into bag with marinade, making sure every part is covered.
  3. Let the chicken marinade in the fridge for at least an hour.
  4. Take chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
  5. Turn on the broiler. Take the chicken out of the bag and place onto a lined baking tray with the skin side down. Place tray into broiler for 10 minutes. Carefully take the tray out, flip over the chicken, add some additional marinade. Put the tray back into the broiler for another 10-15 minutes. Keep watch to make sure nothing is burning – every broiler is different.

On Trying Something New: Self-Doubt as Motivation, Plus a Recipe for Blueberry Pie

I’m an odd combination of traits. I don’t mean this in some self-aggrandizing, quirkier-than-thou, braggart kind of way. For the most part, I’m really quite bland. But there are strange impulses that share a moment in time in my mind and body, that really ought not be paired together. For example, I absolutely adore attempting to cook/bake new things. There is nothing better in this world than trying something different, and having the courage to expand, even if the results are not ideal. But, at the same time, I experience an inordinate level of anxiety whenever trying something new.

Here’s my “how to reduce/create anxiety when trying a new dish” rule book:

  1. Look through some food-porn blogs, and find which picture makes you drool the most. Pick that dish as the new thing you’d like to conquer and eat.
  2. Incessantly peruse 10-30 different recipes of the same dish, just so you know you have the best one.
  3. Pick one or two or three of the best, but keep going back to aforementioned 10-30 recipes, just in case you missed something.
  4. Buy all the ingredients from the winning recipe, but if there are any differences between that one and the second or third best, make sure you buy those groceries, as well. Just in case.
  5. For the few days leading up to your new cooking adventure, study the ingredients, measurements, techniques, and method. Do that at least 10 times before you even think about beginning the process of cooking something different.
  6. The night before your new cooking adventure, visualize your pending experience. Imagine how much time you’ll need in order to perform at your best, and arrange your next day accordingly.
  7. A half hour before your planned cooking time, do one last comprehensive review of the recipe and method. Perhaps find a couple of videos that make a similar dish, and absorb all the knowledge you can handle.
  8. COOK, while obsessively revisiting the recipe.
  9. Prepare to eat, and cross your fingers (and hope to die if the food tastes like shit).

This is pretty much an unfiltered list of how I handle the creation of a new dish.

Why do I behave this way? Why am I a chronic over-preparer? What is the worst thing that could happen? The answer, my friends, is all in my penchant for self-doubt and my fear of disappointing others and myself. I’m not entirely sure from where this mode-of-being comes, but I know it to be a very integral part of Yejin. But I find that my self-doubt, when not all-consuming, is actually very motivating and productive. I don’t cower when self-deprecating thoughts come my way. In fact, I try harder, work more comprehensively, and enjoy shouting “in  your face!” (to myself, like a crazy person…) after a successful adventure. However, I should note that this is probably pretty unhealthy. I do wish I could just enjoy an activity without being consumed by the prospect of joy or disappointment. I’m working on it. In the meantime, I’ll deal with my anxiety by being overly prepared, and hopefully, by enjoying the delicious fruits of my labor.

I’ve never made pie before, which explains the completely imperfect lattice top. But there is something so satisfying about making and rolling your own dough. Also, I really enjoy the process of heating blueberries, because eventually, it turns into this beautiful dark color, and bubbles like a thick cauldron concoction. In any case here’s the recipe I decided to use (and study, and restudy):

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The inaugural pie

Blueberry Pie
Recipe taken from America’s Test Kitchen 


Foodproof Pie Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup vodka, cold (see note)
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Blueberry Filling

  • 6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces) (see note)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
  • 2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground (see note)
  • pinch table salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water


  1. 1. For The Pie Dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

    2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

    3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

    4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.

    5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.

    6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.

    Lattice that pie!

    Lattice that pie!

    7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.

    8. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

Since I’m a bit of a nut, I also decided to make empanadas, today. They’re filled with ground beef, shallots, red peppers, olives, raisins, honey, salt, pepper, and cumin. Gotta love making dough for both sweet and savory treats!


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Moral of today’s entry: My obsessive behavior surrounding the creation of something new serves as the release valve for my undying anxiety…and the end results are usually pretty delicious. So, until I figure out how to mollify my constant state of anxiety, I think this’ll do just fine.

On Feeling Fat, plus a Recipe for Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly

I think we all experience days when we feel gross, ugly, and maybe a little bit “fat”. Here are signs that I am about to have one of those days:

  • My pants fit fine, but they somehow feel like they’re made of an unforgiving metal material that is cutting into my belly;
  • Muumuus suddenly look really fashionable, and I have 4-5 different ones queued up in my Etsy cart;
  • My belly, inner thighs, arms, and cheeks (areas that have a little extra meat) are all insanely itchy;
  • I look in the mirror, cringe, and dramatically ask, “WHY!?”;
  • I convince myself that I’m going to become a martial arts master and lose a zillion pounds, even though my brain knows all of that is ridiculous.

These feelings often have nothing to do with weight, size, or appearance. I’ve discovered that my overall feeling of self-worth (which includes appearance) is inextricably linked to productivity, and whether I see myself as intelligent.

I’m rather mean to myself, which may or may not be obvious at this point. I think my obsession with personal/professional growth, my consistent desire to be prolific and competitive, my general state of anxiety, it all stems from a deeply embedded belief that I am not naturally good at anything, not naturally smart or gifted. I’ve built this narrative that positions Yejin as someone with no raw talent, but also as someone who can overcome that misfortune through practice and hard work. Without my industrious and near-OCD behavior, I feel like I would be left with the core of my being, which is nothing more than mediocre. I constantly dare myself to do better and be better because I want to prove myself wrong. All this to say: when I am stripped of my possibly superficial layers of self-confidence, I feel unintelligent and uninspired. And ugly. I don’t bring this up so that others will say things like, “Awww…that is so untrue!” In fact, external validation does little, for me. And my whiny little pity party doesn’t need any additional guests, believe me. I mention this overly exposed and vulnerable mess of an overshare simply because I’m proud…proud that I’m working on being nicer and more understanding, proud that I’m getting better at practicing a more profound compassion for myself and for others.

If I caught one of my loved ones saying this shit to themselves, I would grab them by the ears, drag them to a mirror, and gently scream at them to see what I see: a beautiful, thoughtful and amazing human being (this is why I would be a terrible counselor, by the way). Rather than continue on this destructive and unsustainable path, I’m trying to figure out how to be kinder and less dramatic, and how to convince myself that I don’t need these additional layers of ‘accomplishments’ in order to prove that I’m worthy of my own confidence, pride and love. And, guess what helps? FOOD. PORK BELLY. Obviously.

When I’m hating on my body (read: feeling unintelligent/uninspired), what makes me feel better is not “healthy” food, but fatty stuff. It’s counterintuitive, I know. But on the occasions I’ve made myself eat nothing but raw fruits/vegetables, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, etc., I felt like I was punishing myself for something. I created an archetype of what a “successful” person would eat, and I ended up hating the food and feeling even worse about not being the kind of person who would genuinely enjoy eating exclusively healthy things (in my brain, those are the same folks who enjoy a zillion mile run at 6am).  Which is terrible, because those foods are also delicious. So, as I mentioned in my entry on cravings, I had to find a way to dissociate punishment from food and eating. My current strategy: to make myself something that really delights me, something that makes my body feel warm and cuddly and squishy and comforted…something fatty. Of course, eating fatty and delicious stuff isn’t and shouldn’t be a permanent solution to my self-inflicted woes, but it does make me happy, if only for a moment.

For a super tasty pork belly dish, check out the recipe below.


Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly
Adapted from The Woks of Life
Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 75 minutes


1 ½ lbs of pork belly, cut into ¾ inch pieces
3 tablespoons of canola oil
3 tablespoons of sugar
6 tablespoons of shaoxing wine (I used dry sherry)
4 tablespoons of soy sauce (original recipe calls for both light and dark soy sauce but I didn’t have any dark soy sauce on hand. It tastes yummy this way, but the sauce is lighter in color and less ‘authentic’)
4 cups of water


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and blanche the pork after boiling for a couple of minutes (this will get rid of some impurities and start the cooking process). Drain the pork and set aside.
  2. Put your wok over a low heat, add oil and sugar and stir for 1 minute. Add the pork, and raise the heat to medium. Cook until the pork is lightly browned, around 4 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat back down to low and add the cooking wine, soy sauce, and water. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour until the pork can be easily pierced by a fork.
  4. Once the pork is tender, there will still be a lot of extra liquid. Uncover the wok, turn up the heat, and let the liquid reduce for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. The pork will reduce to a shiny, thick, brown sauce.
  5. Serve over rice, and EAT EVERYTHING.

I served this with rice, sauteed bok-choy with garlic sauce, and soy sauce eggs.



Note: I recognize that I may be using the concept and feeling of “fatness” in a pejorative way, at least when it comes to analyzing myself. My intention is not to be fat-shaming, but to show the ways in which my general feeling of self-worth determines the way I feel about my body (in a society that is, in fact, fat-shaming). 

Weekly Menu Series: On Soups + Leftovers

As I’ve previously mentioned, my anxiety around unused food and leftovers was, at least initially, the primary motivation for creating an obsessive menu of meals. Looking at wilted/slimy greens and gray meat in my fridge would really bum me out, so I decided that I had to know exactly how much of everything I needed to buy, which necessitated a full schedule for the week (since I didn’t want to do grocery shopping every day). One thing that brings me great joy is strategically using leftovers for another meal – it transforms my reactive obsessions/compulsions into a proactive process.

This week’s meal menu was inspired by my need for soup. Though winter is starting to melt (thank gods), when I created this schedule, the cold was settling in my bones and all I wanted to do was bathe in simmering stock. The great thing about making broth is that several meals can stem from it and its leftovers. I usually make broth with a whole chicken + roasted vegetables (I find that roasting the vegetables makes for a deeper, richer, and warmer experience, which is what I want when we’ve had the winter from a frozen hell), and it leaves me with enough for three separate dishes plus loads of boiled chicken for a yummy chicken salad. For this schedule, the stock/chicken is being used for: white bean, escarole & sausage soup; pasta e fagioli (pasta fazul); radicchio risotto; and chicken salad.

Here is the week’s schedule.

Sunday, March 8

  • To Do: Make stock
  • To Do: Make chicken salad (from the stock)
  • Lunch: n/a (in NJ)
  • Dinner: White bean, escarole & sausage soup + bread + farro salad w/ roasted onion, toasted pine nuts, currants, and mustard greens 


Monday, March 9

  • To Do: Make double chocolate biscotti
  • Lunch: Chicken salad sammies
  • Dinner: Leftover soup + bread + swiss chard salad with lemon, grana & homemade breadcrumbs
  • Dessert: Double chocolate biscotti IMG_0251IMG_0253

Tuesday, March 10

  • Lunch: Leftover farro salad
  • Dinner: Chicken legs baked with white wine + french baguette + salad with prosciutto & pear IMG_0237

Wednesday, March 11

  • Lunch: Leftover chicken
  • Dinner: Pasta e fagioli + salad with prosciutto & pear

Thursday, March 12

  • Lunch: Leftover pasta fazul
  • Dinner: Crispy pork belly + white rice + sauteed bok choy in garlic sauce

Friday, March 13

  • Lunch: Leftover pork belly
  • Dinner: Pizza two ways (margherita + speck/onion)

Saturday, March 14

  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: Radicchio risotto

Coming up: On Authenticity, plus  recipe for my Pasta e Fagioli

Note: The “brevity” of this entry is either a disappointment, a relief, or nothing. The week has been a bit crazy because of family stuff and work, but I promise to make the next entry a doozy!