Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad

I have a good friend N, who loves everything Korean.  She waxes enthusiastic on anything from K-pop, to digital perms, to where to get the most authentic Korean food in the city.  Yes, she’s been to Korea and is going again next year.  Yes, she knows the names of all those cutie Korean singers.  Yes, she refers to Korean dishes by their proper names and not by “the yummy grilled pork that’s kinda spicy and wrapped in leaves!” like I do.

She is also really good at karaoke.  (Not that that has anything to do with Korea, because I think every country in Asia has its own karaoke culture.  And if you live in the Philippines you *know* that we are the masters :)  Woohoo!  Challenge accepted!)

Also, she hates vegetables.

This is for N.  Hopefully, a spoonful of Korean will help the vegetables go down ;)

Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad
(adapted from TheKitchn)
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3-4 stalks green onion, white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 2 medium sized or 1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced

- Whisk together all the ingredients except for the cucumber.  When the dressing is well-combined and the chili paste dissolved, add the cucumbers and toss to coat.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature.

I had actually bookmarked this recipe a while back because, well, because I like anything chili-flecked and pickley.  So onto my Pinterest Crave board it went (if you’d like to see what else I’m pinning feel free to follow my boards here).  I hemmed and hawed because I didn’t have any gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder) and had yet to buy some.  Finally, with a lone cucumber lamenting its sorry state in my crisper, I realized I had to make do with what I had on hand.  And what I did have on hand was gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste).  Hmmm.  Can do.  I whipped up the dressing above the rest was history.  We had this with some five-spice fried chicken and, between C and I, this was finished in no time flat.  The contrast between the cucumber’s cool crunch and the spiciness of the dressing is what makes this salad a winner.  I imagine this will work wonderfully with any grilled meat or fish…from Gogi Gui (Korean barbecue) to our own local Pinoy pork barbecue.

Next week I promise you another round-up of links, but since we are on the topic of Korean food, here is my favorite Korean food blog.  If you are interested at all about Korean cooking, Eating and Living is a definite must-click. 

N and I are planning a Korean barbecue soon.  I’ll bring this salad and some marinated kalbi (beef ribs).  N with bring the pork and the music.  We’ll rustle up some soju.  Suggestions for other dishes are welcome!  It’s the weekend folks…let’s party!

MVOTD: Super Junior (Day 231)

I will admit it, due to personal time, this one is a cop-out. That's right. It's Super Junior's Mr.Simple, the 3D version made to advertise the 3D LG TV in South Korea. Being 3D, it's also terribly fuzzy.
I think that Mr. Simple 3D is a fun take on the music video, mostly because of the flying bicycle. ...And the magic yo-yo that reminds me of that cheese bomb movie Yo-Yo Girl Cop. ...And the paint burst, used to advertise F(x). ...And Shindong is shown off to great effect. 
Really, even though it feels lazy, and seems weird because we're not seeing it in 3D, and there are two members of F(x) doing nothing of importance.... I think in reality, it is sub-par as a music video but kind of rocking as a commercial. Good thing it is a commercial, and not an actual music video. Props to LG for their commercial.    

MVOTD: G Dragon (Day 230b)

G-dragon's One of a Kind was a paralyzing experience. It was cute and harsh, ugly and attractive, and altogether catchy. G-dragon succeeded in being gangsta in a way that us North Americans can not make fun of. He even destroyed his old music video outfits. That definitely says, "I don't care. I'm on top of the world."
G-dragon's extensive use of a bandanna, coupled with the use of adorable children, tiger and bear cubs, him creeping on a giant Barbie and her slapping him, and dramatic scenes like the destruction of the batcave GDcave really make it an interesting, intriguing video that holds your attention. You just don't know what he'll do next. Plus the beat is funky and fun. I was pleasantly impressed...
And mildly shocked.

MVOTD: G Dragon (Day 230)

Thanks to my deep lack of personal time lately, today's Music Video of the Day is the first half of a two part MVOTD. Yes, G-Dragon's One of a Kind is just that jam packed with stuff to talk about...and I have 14 minutes to type stuff out.
G-Dragon's One of a Kind, a song with the beat G-Dragon does so well, paralyzes you for the first half of it with its intriguing costumes, literally yellow hair, and... well, just look at the costumes.
That tiger outfit is terrible, but the actual backpack is super cute. G-dragon looks bad with his hair down, but when the corn rows go down to the base of his neck, they look good. There's just so much going on. He uses contrast to its greatest potential, and, succeeds in being the most gangsta gansta in Kpopdom. I'm impressed. Seriously. And I kind of appreciate just how gangsta he can be, yet so adorable on occassion. It's weird and intriguing and will get him a lot of attention.

Dulce de Leche

Whew.  What a week and then some.  As I sit here in my ‘office’, catching a much needed breath, just for 2 seconds, before I go off again, I literally force myself to, as Max so succinctly put it, ‘be still!’.

Be still --- how hard can that be?

Harder than it looks.

With the world, and life, moving so much faster than ever before, filled with so much more (more things to do, see, say, buy, experience, start, finish, eat), it’s become that much more difficult to simply stop and, consciously and wholeheartedly, be still.  But, for the very same reasons, it is that much more important to do it.

So here I am, for just 2 seconds, breathing in and out, listening to the silence that is my city’s sigh on the weekends, savoring a warm latte, writing in this blog.  Scribbling away at the few words I have the time for while my dulce de leche simmers to life on the hob.

Making this is too simple to even venture towards a recipe.  Take a couple of cans of condensed milk**, place them in a sturdy pot that is a good deal taller than your cans.  Fill the pot with enough water to completely submerge the cans by a good 2-3 inches (or more, if the thought of exploding cans makes you nervous).  Place the pot, covered, over low heat for 3 hours, making sure that the water level stays above the tops of the cans at all times.  I place a kettle of hot water beside my pot in case I need to make a top up. When the 3 hours are up, turn off the heat but leave the covered pot, and the submerged cans within, undisturbed until the water has completely cooled down.  Once cool, take your cans, dry them off, and enjoy the uncomplicated divinity called dulce de leche.

There are other ways to make dulce de leche but this is the way my great-grandmother (and my grandmother, and my father) made it, so this is the way I make it too.  There is something so special, so comforting and calming, about performing a task that has been likewise performed by your forebears.  It makes me feel connected, part of a greater whole.  It makes me feel, despite the transient nature of so many things nowadays, that there is goodness that endures.  And, despite the worries that come with being an adult, when I place a spoon of that smooth sweetness in my mouth, I am transported to a soft though roughly-upholstered chair, a ratty box of favored toys in front of me, with my great-grandmother lying on her sofa watching tv.  Companionable silence, no thought but to what was in front of us, content.

In these precious few moments of ‘being still’, stolen from a perpetually and oft-too-fast spinning wheel of life, I like to think of that.

I wish you've all had, or are having, a wonderful weekend…and a couple of quiet moments to ‘be still’! :)

**It must be shared that I used both Milkmaid and Carnation condensed milks, and the can of Carnation was still liquid while the Milkmaid was perfect (and it's what you see pictured here).  Milkmaid is what my father and grandmother use, and what my father strictly counseled me to use.  Apparently with good reason.

What Sci-fi Kpop Fans Do in Their Spare Time: Part 3

If you have started to watch SM's new show To The Beautiful You, you will have seen that dramatic bathroom fight where Sulli plungers a guy in the face. She's not the first one, which is suspicious. Whether or not she will turn out like the other face plungerers remains to be seen. I just had this to say.
Picture Credits to thesnufkin.blogspot.com, dogfoodforchairs.blogspot.ca, and Youtube.com. 

MVOTD: 4Minute (Day 229)

When 4Minute's song Hot Issue came out two years ago, it was really catchy. It was bright with lots of movement. Well, the video is the same now as then, but somehow it seems less catchy.
This picture reminds me of Chi Chi's Don't Play Around.
According to Youtube, the third highest group of viewers of 4Minute's Hot Issue were men 35-44. It isn't a mistake, but probably part of their target audience. 4Minute does succeed in doing that creepy thing where they are sexy and cute at the same time after all. Strangely enough, they also seem to show that mini skirts have gotten longer in South Korea since 2010. I didn't know that mini skirts fluctuated in length.
Well, whatever it is, 4Minute does a good job at what they were supposed to do. 

What Sci-fi Kpop Fans Do in Their Spare Time Part 2

Does this cross any fandom boundaries? I sure hope not, because I have great affection for both and therefore think this is a cool idea.
Picture credits to tiffanysinnerthoughts.wordpress.com, fanpop.com, geekmundo.net, k-addicters.blogspot.com, tumblr.com, sujufanclub.wordpress.com, allkpop.com, more fanpop.com, kojaproductions.wordpress.com, more allkpop.com, and more fanpop.com.

MVOTD: GP Basic (Day 228)

Honestly, GP Basic's early stuff was pretty great, especially when compared to what they did this year (Grrr. Production). Since they're young they can't do anything too sexy, and, since they're young one of their singers has a really rough voice which differentiates them from other girl groups.
 Also, they sing about things other than love on occasion. Here's Jelly Pop.
Note the extensive use of CG...for random stuff. I think it mostly compliments what is actually going on. Also, the costuming is pretty good and the gangsta attitude is fun. It reminds me of 2NE1. In general, I enjoy Jelly Pop. It's a fun, random gangsta song that is danceable. It also has some good dance moves in it.

Bardot Ice Cream Bars + Shabby Apple Giveaway

I have a well-documented weakness for pretty packaging, so these gourmet bars from a new chain called Bardot are right up my alley. Made by hand, and available in a series of stores in California, these fancy ice cream bars feature hip, modern (edible) designs embossed across their chocolate casings. The bars, which are made with fresh fruit and without any artificial colors, come in a variety of interesting flavors, like Deep Thoughts (fresh Thai mint), Ebony and Ivory (fresh mascarpone cheese + dulce de leche), and Southern Belle (key lime and graham cracker). They all sound mighty delicious! It would tough to pick just one! For the complete list of Bardot flavors and store locations, click here.

You can find info on the Shabby Apple giveaway after the jump.

Speaking of great design (how'd you like that segue?), the kind folks at the Shabby Apple sent me an email the other day about the possibility of sponsering a giveaway for dessert girl readers. Over the years, I've been contacted by various companies about doing giveaways, but I never felt very passionatly about any of the products. I didn't want to do a giveway simply for the sake of doing a giveaway. So, when Shabby Apple contacted me, a site that I visit quite often, I knew it was an offer too good to pass up! I have yet to make a Shabby Apple purchase, but I absolutely love looking at their clothes (and pinning them)!  Cute, retro, and stylish, that pretty much sums up the Shabby Apple aesthetic and they have a ton of adorable clothing, accessories, and swimwear to choose from. Trust me when I say that you'll be oohing and ahhing all over their site!

Okay, here are the giveaway details.
1) Winner will receive a $50 gift card to spend as they choose.
2) Winner must have a United States shipping address.

To enter:
1) Go to Facebook and "Like" the Shabby Apple page
2) Leave a comment at the end of this post, specifying your favorite Shabby Apple item. (This does not have to be the item that you actually purchase.)
3) Entries must be received before Thursday, August 30th, 7pm (eastern standard time).

Even if you don't win, you can still get 10% off at Shabby Apple by entering the coupon code dessertgirl10off at checkout. (Coupon valid for one month.) Good luck! ~Erin

Update: Rachel was the big winner of the Shabby Apple Giveaway! Congrats to Rachel and thanks to everyone who entered!

MVOTD: U-KISS (Day 227)

I originally wanted to beat Kpop Music Mondays to the punch to review the new U-KISS music video, but it turns out that I do not know which one is the new one.
For awhile, I thought it was Doradora, where my least favourite member all of a sudden became attractive when he got blonded. Turns out, Eat Your Kimchi has already reviewed it. That's probably a good thing, because I was going to complain about the guy "laying" on the bed for a ridiculous amount of time.
Yup. That guy on the bed.
The next option is Believe, which comes complete with English speaking intro. The intro is pretty good, as English in Kpop goes and then the rest of the stuff happens. Too much chap stick, awkward touching of one's own chest, dancing in a really small area (which is impressive actually), the reappearance of the set from Infinite's Paradise, and guys creeping on each other in the bathroom.
But no, Kpop Music Monday has already done that one too. 
Maybe the new music video is One of You, which is a Japanese music video with Avex. It is surprisingly energetic and campy, yet underwhelming. 
The song does become quite fun in the middle though. Fun and happy.
The new music video is definitely not A Shared Dream, as that came out in February. A Shared Dream focuses on texture and light instead of action, and is actually more interesting than One of You because of it. The song is also more solemn, intense, and dramatic.
The worst part of it is the guy in the stripey housecoat.
Conclusion. One of You is probably the new music video. However, it is also kind of the most disapointing, especially when compared to the other three options. It doesn't bring anything fresh to what is happening in Kpop/Jpop or even really anything that one could pretend was fresh. The strongest part was the dubstepping at the end, but dubstep is so cool this year that everyone does it. However, U-KISS is obviously skilled enough that it isn't a fail on their end. It's a fail on production's end. Good try U-KISS.

MVOTD: Hangeng (Day 226)

Hangeng has come out with yet another music video. It includes lots of artistic shots of stuff and people doing things. However, you have to wait 45 seconds before it begins. It is called Betrayal of the Soul
Betrayal of the Soul is a song I really like. It is slow and ballady. The music video is really just a catalyst to get more people to listen to the song. It shows Hangeng and associates walk through the airport, get picked up, go to the location, set up to film, and film. It also shows Hangeng washing his hair in a sink, which is awkward. All of this subject material is not actually all that interesting, but rather accompanies the music.
...Unless you are interested in the process of production that is. Therefore, Betrayal of the Soul gets a below average mark for music video and an above average mark for song.

MVOTD: Wonder Girls (Day 225)

The Wonder Girls made a wonderful comeback this summer when they returned from making bad North American music videos and made a really fun high energy Korean one. 
They went from vinyl record themed outfits in The DJ is Mine (with badly placed targets and bad acting) where they should not have competed against native English speakers because it took away from their performance, to a music video were Sohee smiles.
That's right. They went from this, to this.
Everybody is having fun in the new Korean music video for Like This. The Wonder Girls, the people, the viewers. It's so full of joy and excitement that you kind of want to learn the dance and do it with the music video. The setting is cool because it is public and accessible, the filming is great, the costumes are mostly cute, and some of it seems genuinely spontaneous. Like This is a great summer song and music video.

MVOTD: F[x] (Day 224)

F[x]'s Danger. Let's look at this picture to see what I think of it.
...So obviously F[x] passes the costume test. Spiky shoulders, dinosaur hats, feather crowns,...it's enough to make everything else passable and then some.
F[x] also passes the dance test and music test. Danger is a catchy tune and their dance is kind of cool with head dance moves. The sets were also interesting with lots of detail and inorganic shapes. The worst thing in the music video is the bad English and Amber's bad acting. That's saying alot, because neither of those are all that bad.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Goodness.  Since when did a Friday behave like a Monday?  What that we could have all Fridays dawn bright and sunny, and unfold like a circus parade with dancers twirling and flags waving and a big band proclaiming TGIF to the whole world!

If only that were true.

But, what can I say; real life has its hills and valleys.  Or, as we like to say in the archipelago, its high tide and low tide.  So, sometimes Friday, despite its charming reputation, sneaks up on you and throws you every curveball in the book.  Sometimes you come to the end of a Friday tired and spent, with barely enough energy to crawl into bed, much less ring out a resounding "TGIF".

Does this happened to you? If so, you are in good company.  Let’s hug and be friends.  If not, lucky you…send some good juju my way when you’ve got a moment won’t you?

So here’s my plan:  A good sushi dinner with C, with or without a cocktail to go along with it.  Lots of snuggling and feetie-pinching with my little one, no matter how squirmy she gets.  A scalding hot shower.  Crawling into a cave made out of pillows and a squashy duvet.  A brainless but blissful session of Bejeweled.

And if all else fails, never fear, there is always cupcakes.  And Guinness.  And peanut butter.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
(from Donna Hay magazine issue # 50)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) stout beer (I used Guinness)
  • 225 grams butter, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) cocoa, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup (160 grams) sour cream
  • 2 cups (300 grams) all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, sifted
  • 2 cups (440 grams) caster sugar 
Peanut Butter Frosting (good for about 1 dozen cupcakes):
  • 1 cup (160 grams) confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup (280 grams) smooth peanut butter
  • 80 grams butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) single cream
- Place the stout and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter is melted.  Remove this from the heat and whisk in the cocoa.  Transfer to a big bowl and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sour cream.  Add this to the stout mixture along with the flour, baking soda, and sugar, and whisk to combine.
- Pour into paper lined cupcake tins until 3/4 full and place in a pre-heated 160C (325F) oven.  Bake for approximately 22-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in its tins for 10 minutes and then remove to cool completely on a wire rack.
- While your cupcakes are baking, or while they are cooling, get on with your frosting.  Place the sugar, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat for 6 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add the cream and beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Spread or pipe the frosting onto the waiting and completely cooled cupcakes.

The original recipe is meant for a loaf cake but I just couldn’t resist cupcakes.  Because really, who can?  If you’d like to go in the original direction just bake in a 21cm x 10cm x 7cm parchment-lined loaf tin for 1 hour 20 minutes (or until done when tested with a skewer).   This made enough for 2 dozen cupcakes (plus a little leftover for a mini loaf pan or you can get a couple more cupcakes out of it as well if you rather).  The frosting, originally meant for a loaf cake, will only be enough for about half your cupcakes.  You can double the frosting recipe, but I had some vanilla frosting in the freezer and I used that (and rainbow sprinkles!) for the remainder instead.

These cupcakes got the seal of approval from practically everyone who tried them.  The sour cream makes for a tender, light, and moist crumb, while the stout gives it a just discernible depth.  The peanut butter frosting, with all its school kid nostalgia, is the perfect complement.  Donna Hay…another reason for me to love you.

Please pardon my griping.  Small beans really compared to everything else.  The rains are gone, the sun actually is shining, and it is the weekend.  Let’s make the most of it!

MVOTD: Hangeng (Day 223)

I've been posting a lot of Super Junior in the past two months, so now it is the 13th member of Super Junior's turn. That right, His Royal Hotness 2009, Hangeng. His single, Clown Mask, actually came out on the same day as Super Junior's Sexy, Free & Single. However, Hangeng is not ready to bingo. He's ready to act out serious issues that popstars deal with...or whatever the song is about.
Here's a picture of Hangeng that expresses how I feel about him in relation to Super Junior. Good job person who made the fan art.
Hangeng's Clown Mask mixes a techno beat with fast "singing". It's a mix that really works for Hangeng in his album Cursive Writing. (Sidenote: I have a giant Chinese dictionary in which I once checked his name, and the album title may directly relate to the meaning of his name. Cool, eh?) His dancing, although robotic, is really quite good, escpecially when human Hangeng faces off with robot Hangeng. It is then that you realize how good a job he does at being a robot.
As far as the rest of the music video, the costumes are fine and the pixelation is artistic, not annoying. The concept at the end is even intriguing. As a whole it is a very well put together music video. However, knowing that in the past his music and music videos were an expression of his real feelings, this music video makes me sad. Clown Mask may not be a reflection of his feelings, but if it is, I don't want him to feel like that. 

MVOTD: C-Real (Day 222)

C-Real is a rookie girl group with a charming newish song. For their song, Sorry But I, everything is soft. The voices are soft but strong, the walking is soft, the colours are soft. It is just a soft feeling music video. However, that works very well for them, because their song is about the "hesistant feelings of a girl who is new to love". What I got from it was that they wanted to break up with their boyfriends because they had no emotional attachement to them. ...Shows me. Apparently I need to watch the whole thing, because their feelings send them back to their boyfriends. Either way, the feeling emitted by the music video matches very well the feeling emitted by the song. 
Overall C-Real's Sorry But I is a well put together music video.

MVOTD: Super Junior (Day 221)

Super Junior's music video for their song Spy came out yesterday. Spy is a suprisingly upbeat cutesy song. I was expecting something more serious and solemn song based on the costumes and concept in the teaser. However, it's okay. I am allowed to be surprised.
For Spy, the costumes, sets, and dance were good but not amazing. Some things were cool, like Kyuhyun becoming Ryeowook, but other than that it didn't blow my mind. Surprisingly, some members of Super Junior looked almost normal. This new situation inspired this, all picture credits to SM of course.
Someone commented that Spy was an excellent opportunity to do a storyline music video. I agree. Since the song was super upbeat, a cute spy story would have been really nice, but clearly the director wasn't thinking that way. 
 As I stated earlier, the costumes, sets, and dance were good. The scenes of various Super Junior members carting around guns were kind of cool (except Kyuhyun's), and the floors were all very shiny. There were some...other things though. On the positive side, Sungmin carting a gun looked like a teddy bear carting a gun and was thus cute. On the not positive side, Eunhyuk's Michael Jackson spy dancing was weird and seemed out of place, the sexy woman silhouette meant to make the music video more sexy just made the guys seem more like players, and Kangin shot her shoe.
On the whole, it an average quality Super Junior music video. 

MVOTD: Andrews Sisters (Day 220)

The Andrews Sisters. Classics. While I can't call them the original girl group, I can say that they do everything girl groups do now. They sing. They harmonize. They dance. They wear stylin' clothes. Here's their equivalent of a music video for Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, performed in the 1941 movie Buck Privates. 
Since the emphasis of the song of the song was indeed the song, the dancing was just fine. The shorty george's were particularly impressive. Also impressive was that the video was mostly one long shot. However, the best part for me was that Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was an entirely swing danceable song. That makes it interactive and therefore a win.


DA PUMP. Apparently they are a real boyband which just happen to be written into the manga B.B.Explosion. Based on their music video Rapsody in Blue, they are quite likeable.
Their song, Rapsody in Blue, sounds familiar and fun. Their dance, the set, and their appearance remind me of both early Super Junior and David Tenant/Doctor Who at the same time. Check it out.
Therefore, this music video is happy happy happy and warm heart feelings. A veritable win for DA PUMP.

MVOTD: Dalmation (Day 218)

Today's music video is chosen in honour of excessive bare chest. As in, someone decided that pants were a good enough costume and that very fact is funny.
In South Korea, groups have many ways of attracting fans. They act cute or silly or serious or sexy, and they dance and sing. Sexiness is often determined by how much shoulder or back or cleavage/chest is showing, the dance, the rubbing of the lips, and other techniques that don't really work on North Americans. Dalmation, or their producers, decided that they were going to take the exposed skin form of sexiness and take it to the next level. Apparently the next level is naked chests.
I hope this picture reminds you of Twilight. Jacob and the werewolves anyone?
The concept of the music video has potential. The members of Dalmation were all victims of an automobile accident and were sent to the morgue. One in the morgue...it's just so bad. The attending surgeon proceeds to cut their shirts open and "check their pulse", yet she makes no incisions. It's such an obvious ploy to get their shirts off, and that's boring. Now let's say, if they were in an accident and the attending surgeon actually did an autopsy, that would have been an interesting concept. Or if they were rushed to the hospital for emergency surgeories, and there were people agonizing in the hall outside of the operating room. That would have also been interesting. Just don't patronize me with characters that don't make sense.
The costuming, what costuming there was, was solid. The suits were good. The tattoos were well done and complimented the members physic. Even the punk outfits were okay. This hair style was even entertaining.
It's a hair shelf!
The amount of bare chest became awkward when they did a straight cut of dancing with no shirts on. Maybe it was the touching each other or maybe it was that groups don't dance sycnronized with no shirts on. It was just excessive. I also kept on mentally comparing them to MBLAQ, thinking, "Are they trying to be MBLAQ without the sexy dancing?", since MBLAQ keeps their clothes on but do lots of sexy dancing (shirts for dance equal trade?).
There was really too much going on in the music video to pay much attention to the dance or the song, but both were okay. Dalmation's ER gets an above average grade because it added a ridiculous concept and awkwardness to its solid basics of a good music video.

MVOTD: JYJ (Day 217b)

Because the Wonder Girls are not the only ones to have a terrible English music video featuring a famous English rapper, here's JYJ's Ayy Girl which features Kayne West and Malik Yusef. JYJ was formed by former TVXQ members after their break up in 2009. The group name JYJ is based off of its member's names; Junsu, Yoochun, and Jaejoong.
While the Wonder Girls went with a space/sci-fi theme, JYJ went with the gods of Olympus complete with bad CG. I don't know who picks these themes, but they are pretty terrible. Just go with normal themes already.
The Wonder Girls' Like Money was bad because things weren't done as well as they could have been. It wasn't so bad that it was good. That is where JYJ defeats them. JYJ's Ayy Girl was so bad that it is good. Just take a gander at the costumes.

I think Junsu's bib shirt was probably the worst style choice and also one of the funniest. Since for Koreans the back is sexy, the bib shirt is meant to be sexy.... yet it obviously fails. Also funny were the various attempts at making Jaejoong sexy. Transluscent suit anyone? Ab flashing shirt anyone? Jaejoong is so pretty that making him sexy is just kind of awkward, but good try.
As for dancing, JYJ's dancing was fine. The rest of the scenes gave the music video comedic  value. Scenes like all the members epically throwing lightning, slow motion dancing, random running at the camera, bad costuming, and bad English.
Atleast you can tell that the Wonder Girls are singing in English. JYJ leaves you trying to figure out what they are saying. However, JYJ succeeds where the Wonder Girls fail. Their terrible music video is actually kind of good. Good job JYJ.

MVOTD: Wonder Girls (Day 217)

Asian pop groups have been trying to make inroads into the North American market for years. Wonder Girls, one of the first girl groups of the current Kpop movement, released their second American hit single this year. It is called, Like Money and features Akon.
The first comment about Like Money is that if it played on the radio here, I wouldn't notice. It is just so English. It doesn't quite match what is happening musically right now, but it is so close that I doubt anyone would really notice.
My second comment it that their music video looks like it was really expensive, yet it is not well done. The concept is bad science fiction movie material. The dance scenes were shot from too far away. The car scenes were blurry. The hair was too tight and bun-y. The outfits were... disappointing. And, if I didn't know better, I would say that they were trying to hide that they are Asian. Scratch that. They were trying to hide their Asianess. The rap solo was shot profile style, the car shots were blurry, there were very few close-ups, the hair cuts were bad immitations of Beyonce, and the eye shadow covered up their single eye-lids. They were most definitely trying to hide that they are Asian. 
By spending so much time hiding that the Wonder Girls are in fact Asian, the producers of this music video ruined it. The dance could have been shot to look cool and difficult. It wasn't. The costumes could have been shot to make them more flattering. They weren't. The concept could have made more sense. They didn't need a plotline. There is the great big question of why they were in space in the first place. Also, Akon sang almost half the song. Why? The Wonder Girls can sing. That's why they are a group. They are also all pretty, so why no close ups? It's a pity that their North American music video was ruined in order to hide their beautiful Asianess. This music video is a failure on the producer's part.

Breakfast #61: Steel Cut Oats with Vanilla Poached Pears and Creamed Honey

As that first ray of light tentatively broke through the clouds and then, with much more certainty and resolution, hit the pavement, it was as if you could hear a crowd cheering.  Had we been living in a gloomy gray world for so long?  Had it been that long that we hadn’t seen the sun?  Had it been that long since all we could hear was the incessant, merciless machine gun patter of the rain?

No, it was only days.  Only a few days really…but enough rain to swell our rivers and dams to overflowing, flood our roads and highways, and wash away anything in its path.

My family and I are fine.  We live in an apartment building in the city, on a street that doesn’t usually flood.  The only things we really had to worry about were business meetings moved and cancelled.  As I looked out my rain-splattered window at the murky sky, I said a prayer of thanks for all the good things that we take for granted in the hustle and bustle of regular life: a roof over our heads, unlimited hot showers, food in our pantry, drinking water that we buy directly from our building, a soft bed to lay on after a long day.

Many others are not as lucky.

This massive rainfall has left many without food and shelter.  Even as the sun shines now, many areas are still flooded and many people are still in dire need of our help.  So instead of the usual links, I thought I’d share some ways to help instead.

** You can donate to the Philippine Red Cross.

** You can volunteer or donate with Gawad Kalinga.

** You can also drop of donations in kind at your nearest LBC branch and they will send it, for free, to the Philippine Red Cross.  They are also accepting donations at these global branches.

** My father’s alma matter, De La Salle, has also organized relief operations that need volunteers, as well as donations in cash or kind.  You can contact these numbers for more details: +639399369207 or +639158591594.

** Ateneo de Manila University also has relief operations ongoing, if they are closer to you.  You can contact their Ateneo DReaM (Disaster Response and Management) Team at +6326977168 or +6324266001 local 5933.

** If you are a cyclist, musician, artist, or simply want to donate relief goods or volunteer to pack them you can check out Ride Rock Relief 2 which will be happening this Sunday, August 12.  My favorite little general store will be providing free coffee.  The creamed honey in the recipe below is from them.

Steel Cut Oats with Vanilla Poached Pears and Creamed Honey
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pear, peeled cored and quartered
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • Creamed honey to serve
- Bring the 2 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan.
- Once it boils add the steel cut oats, give it a stir, and then cover. Cook, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick, until cooked to your liking. Some like it chewier than others. Add more water if it starts looking too dry.  If it looks to wet, cook, stirring briskly, uncovered.
- While you are bringing your water for the oats to the boil, start on your pears.  Place the 3/4 cup water in a small skillet or pan that will hold all the pears in one layer.  Turn on heat and add sugar and vanilla, stir until sugar dissolves.  Once sugar is completely dissolved, add the pear quarters and cover.  Cook for about 15 minutes, checking every once in a while to turn the quarters over, or until pears are cooked through (and can be easily pierced with a fork).  Take off the heat and let the pears cool in their poaching liquid.
 - When the oats are cooked divide between two bowls.  Top each serving with two pears quarters, and a mini-dollop of creamed honey (depending on how sweet you want it).

Oatmeal is my go-to breakfast for rainy days.  It is warm, hearty, and comforting…and, lest we forget, good for you too, health-wise.  I am a firm believer that a steaming bowl of oatmeal can cure many ills.  Topped with some gently poached fruit and a spoonful of pearlescent creamed honey, even better.

Although this recipe can only feed two, the links above can help you feed (and clothe) many more.  Here's hoping for sunnier days ahead!

MVOTD: Infinite (Day 216)

Infinite came out with a new mini album in May. Their song, The Chaser, was the song made into a music video. Here is my stream of consciousness assessment of the dance version, because that is the way it worked out.
"What is this 90's sound? David Bisbal. Japanese looking guy. Why does he look Japanese? He's got long legs. That guy's suit has a lot of mesh on it. Why is he dressed up like Bi Rain? Transparent fringy Rain scarf skirt. Oh yeah, pay attention to the song. He's not the cute one. Where's the cute one? Their dancing is really in sync. They must have to practise their dancing a lot to get it like that. Japanese guy. The rapper's outfit is really not very good. Super Junior move! Synced dancing. Japanese guy looks like Rui off of Boys Over Flowers. That move looks like a bum grab. That's Daesung's move. There are no original moves anymore. Bum skirt! The fringe is moving. Etc. Etc."
Based on my deep lacking of paying attention to the song, I'm led to think either the washed out colour scheme washed out the song or Infinite was so charismatic that they stole all my attention away from their song. 
Based on my stream of consciousness, my maturity is in question. However, despite this, I do know that the costumes were of okay quality. They weren't fantastic or very flattering but they were also not horrid. The dance was okay too, and very well synced. 
In general the dance version of The Chaser Dance Version was pretty good. Having also seen the other version, I would say it is better.
Go, watch the other version of The Chaser. It's better.

Sweet Testing: Rosemary Apricot Squares

I have a confession to make. I was a little bit nervous about making these Rosemary Apricot Bars. I ate one at Baked a couple of years ago and fell in love with them, but I wasn’t sure how other people would feel. Apricot and rosemary isn’t really an obvious dessert choice. So, given my apprehension, I was pleasantly surprised when person after person (at my sister's wedding shower) came up to me to tell me how much they liked them!! Woo hoo! They really are good. With just the right amount of tang and not too much sweetness, they are the perfect bar for when you want to make a dessert that makes you feel, just a little bit, like a grown-up.

You can find the complete recipe for the Rosemary Apricot Squares after the jump. ~Erin

Rosemary Apricot Squares from Baked Explorations

For the rosemary short dough
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the apricot filling
2 cups dried California apricots (about 8.5 ounces)
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brandy
pinch salt

For the crumb topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

Make the rosemary short dough
Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper to just overhang on two side.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and rosemary. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the confectioners' sugar and vanilla at medium speed until fluffy, approximately 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and stream in the flour mixture. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan, lightly flour your clean hands, and press it into an even layer. Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Bake the dough until it is golden 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Cool the pan on a wire rack, leaving the oven on.

Make the apricot filling
Place the apricots, sugar, honey, brandy, and salt in a medium saucepan with 1½ cups water and simmer over low heat for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the apricots are fork-tender and most of the liquid has evaporated or thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture to release the excess steam. Scrape the apricot mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth.

Make the crumb topping
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, pecans and salt. Mix on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the butter and mix until a sandy crumb begins to form, about 1 minute. (At this point, the crumb topping can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.)

Assemble the rosemary apricot bars
Spread the apricot filling over the shortbread, then sprinkle the crumb topping over the filling. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crumb has browned. Let the pastry cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan, then lift it out using foil overhang and cut it into bars. The bars can be stored in refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days.

MVOTD: Chi Chi (Day 215)

Today it is Chi Chi's turn. Yes, that girl group with an unfortunate name. As far as I can tell they have two music videos; Love is Energy, and Don't Play Around.
Love is Energy is a medium paced pleasing sounding song. It doesn't make much sense but, do we really look for that in music? ...Well okay, yes we do, but we listen to Shakira don't we? The best part of the dance was the super fast hand waving. The rest wasn't terribly impressive. 
The costumes were okay. The best were these.
The wings and duo colouring made the outfits more interesting and flattering. The beige/white and black outfits with the 0's on them felt very computer themed and therefore cool. Aka. Who wouldn't appreciate binary code on clothes?
The music video was organized for optimum interestingness and was an altogether okay music video.

Don't Play Around is the reason that I appreciate Chi Chi as a group. The music video is fun, has a fun theme, interesting concept, and terrible outfits. The song is catchy too, so all together it is a rocking music video.
These are the worst offending outfits.
Amazing, right?

Rum and Date Cake with Caramel Sauce

It’s been quite a wet and windy week over here.  While the Western world is somewhere in the middle of summer frolic, we are stranded (pun intended) in our rainy season…monsoon rains, buffeting winds, floods, wonky internet, and the occasional power outage.  I swear next year I’ll be buying myself some cute rain boots instead of stubbornly amassing flip flops and sandalsall year long.  It may seem, to me at least, counter-intuitive to buy rubber boots when, for most of the year, you are in varying states of melting, but any rainy morning at the market (with feet totally soaked) will tell you otherwise.

The rainy season’s gray clouds do have their silver lining though: cozying up to a bowl of steaming tinola, sinigang, or bulalo…not having to deal (so much) with the heat…the electricity bill going down (!!)…snuggles under the duvet…hot chocolate…

It’s also the most comfortable season in our tropical year for baking.  Not that we don’t bake at any other time.  Just that, with the rain pouring outside, cooling down my city’s steamy pavements, a warm oven actually seems, for once, halfway inviting.

And, of course, baking has the added bonus of creating an end-product that adds brightness to otherwise dreary days.  Especially when combined with rum and caramel.

Rum and Date Cake with Caramel Sauce
(from Donna Hay magazine issue # 62)
  • 1 1/2 cups (210 grams) dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (90 grams) prunes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) raisins
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) boiling water
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) rum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups (225 grams) self-rising flour**, sifted
  • 1 1/3 cups (235 grams) brown sugar
  • 225 grams butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs
Caramel sauce:
  • 100 grams butter
  • 3/4 cup (135 grams) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (175 grams) golden syrup***
  • 1 cup (250 ml) single cream
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) rum
- Place the dates, prunes, raisins, boiling water, rum, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor and leave for about 10 minutes.  Process the mixture until smooth.  Resist the urge to spoon a splodge of it into a shot glass to top with more rum and turn into the most indecent dessert/cocktail/shooter ever.  Set aside.
- Place the flour and sugar in a bowl and mix to combine.  To this add the butter, vanilla, eggs, and the date/rum mixture.  Mix well to combine.
- Pour the batter into a well greased bundt pan (3.5 liter capacity) and bake in a pre-heated 160C (325F) oven for 55-60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.  Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- While your cake is baking you can make the caramel sauce.  Place the butter, sugar, syrup, cream, and rum in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until thickened.
- Allow both the cake and sauce to cool completely before pouring the sauce over the cake.  I like to pour some sauce on the cake and save some to serve alongside it.

I knew I had to make this cake the moment I saw it gracing the cover of Donna Hay magazine’s April/May 2012 Autumn issue (bit of trivia: autumn and winter are usually my favorite issues for all food magazines).  It was dark and beguiling, and involved dates and prunes and rum.  And caramel.  And a bundt pan (I so had been wanting to use that bundt pan!).  Before I tell you that I and my not-too-hot-about-cakes husband loved it, I need to let you know that the making of it did not go totally without a hitch.  The cake stuck to the pan (despite my having greased it generously as the recipe instructed) and the caramel split.

What, me panic?

I gently (gently!) extricated the cake parts stuck at the bottom of the pan and patched them onto the top of the bundt, fitting each part as precisely as I could.  The split caramel took a bit more elbow grease.  After extensive research telling me that split caramel which was already finished cooking had no hope of being remedied I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I was not giving up and I was not throwing a batch of perfectly tasty caramel out.  I let the caramel sit and split completely, which is to say I let all the butter that had split float to the top.  I then skimmed that all off.  Then I placed the remaining caramel in a metal bowl, and placed the metal bowl into another bowl filled with ice water.   Finally, I took a whisk in my hand and beat the living daylights out of it.  Before I knew it, the caramel was smooth and creamy again.  When there’s a will, there’s a way.  Just so you know.

Was it worth it?  Every second.  The cake was incredibly moist, as only a cake packed with rum-soaked-then-blitzed dates, prunes, and raisins can be.  It was tender and damp, with a deep, dark, vaguely adult flavor.  Smother a slice with the rum-infused caramel and you go up the audacity ladder more than a few notches.

Just as you should never let a little rain and the lack of rain boots stop you from going to the market, you should never allow such trivialities like cake sticking to your pan (fie on you faithless bundt pan!) or split caramel stop you from enjoying something delicious.

**I have no clue where to find self-rising flour in Manila, nor have I ever had any need for it.  I just use this formula: for each cup of all purpose flour, add 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt.

***Tragically, golden syrup is not available anywhere on my islands.  I used a mixture of corn syrup and honey and it worked fine.