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I think everyone deserves one good Halloween costume in their lifetime. Unfortunately I was a born procrastinator, so every Halloween eve you'd find me asking my mom what I was going to be and having her help me rustle up a poncho she'd gotten in Mexico and doing my hair in braids to be a Navajo woman, borrowing her Hawaii sweatshirt and lei so I could be Hawaiian, or defaulting to my Korean hanbok. Once in college a group of us got together and made Hello Kitty & friends bonnets out of felt, that was kind of cool. But I think at the age of 30 (!!) my glory year has finally come. I ordered my costume two months early, shelled out a bit of cash, and I've got a plan. Any Game of Thrones fans out there? I'm going to be Daenerys, and my sister, brother, and sis-in-law will be my three dragons. To be honest, I've never watched GoT but I love them for giving me the chance to wear a cool costume hehe. Anyone else have costume plans??

Since I'm already in that Halloween spirit, today I'm sharing a spooky treat. I got together with a group of Asian bloggers to create black sesame recipes great for Halloween or whenever. I've always been a fan of black sesame desserts, and I love how this one turned out: it's a beautifully moist cake roll filled with sweet cream cheese and black sesame spread. My mama makes the yummiest pumpkin log every year and this is a variation on that. Thanks to her for her master rolling tips.

Check out the easy recipe below, and click each link to find out what delectable black sesame recipes these other awesome bloggers conjured up: (live 10/4 at 8am PST!)

Contemplating Sweets
Scratch Eats
The Missing Lokness
Pups with Chopsticks
Thirsty for Tea
What to Cook Today
Chopstick Chronicles
 






Black Sesame Cake Roll
Makes one 12-inch cake roll

Cake:
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2-3 tsp black gel food coloring
Black Sesame Spread:
  • 3/4 black sesame powder
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp corn syrup
Cream Cheese Filling:
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 12"x15" rimmed baking pan with a silicon baking mat and spray both the sides of the pan and the silicon mat lightly with oil.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until thick. Add the pumpkin puree and mix. Then stir in the flour mixture until well combined. Stir in the black gel food coloring until you reach your desired color.

Pour the batter into your pan, use a spatula to smooth and flatten in, and bake for 13-15 minutes. The cake is done if you can touch the middle with your finger and it springs back.

Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a small knife if needed. While the cake is still hot, gently roll it along with the silicon mat. The mat acts as a barrier so the cake doesn't stick to itself. Let the cake cool rolled.

For the Black Sesame Spread: 
Combine the black sesame powder, honey and corn syrup, and set aside.

For the cream cheese filling:
Beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla until combined. Set aside.

To assemble:
Once completely cool, gently unroll the cake. Drizzle the sesame spread over it evenly. Then spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over top of that, leaving about an inch border around the edges. Then gently re-roll the cake and refrigerate until ready to serve. It's easily sliced when cold, and I think it tasted best that way as well. Bon appetit!




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This is summer to me. Bright sunlight spilling through the windows, chopping perfectly imperfect fresh veggies from my mother-in-law's garden, singing along to happy tunes I've got blasting. This was a good day.

The kitchen is possibly my favorite room in the house and where I spend the most time. Although these days I'm not cooking much, just eating a lot, whoops. But it's my little safe haven where I keep two stools - one for me, and one for my kitchen helper, my little gray tabby Hana. It's where I eat all my meals because let's be honest, even on the rare occasion hubby is home, he usually scarfs down half his meal before it can ever leave the pan. And it's where I like to sit and rest after loading up the dishes in the dishwasher, and wait with my fuzzy kitchen helper until they're done because she loves to snuggle up on the warm washer door. Such a cutie pie.

Of course, it's not all idyllic moments like those. Other times I'm wading through a counter full of dirty dishes because my meringue didn't turn out and I had to run to the store and then start all over again. Or I've been sitting with a bent back and sore hands from decorating sugar cookies all day. Or the cats decided to ravage the mini cheesecakes I made by eating and stepping in them. Well, that's a true story but it was a different kitchen and different cats. Anyways, I get through the good and bad with my favorite kitchen companion: music.

Whether it's reminiscing with mellow hipster music from my college days or shamefully singing along to bubbly K-pop, I blast music from my kitchen 24/7. Besides my furry friends, my Bluetooth speaker is my best kitchen companion. What did I even do before Bluetooth? I really don't remember. But take a long look at my beautiful Trakk portable Bluetooth speaker. You know I love gold, and I love it's sleek minimalism. This is Trakk's CEO speaker which has awesome sound, is super light and perfectly portable, and plays for up to 24 hours. Trakk makes a lot of heftier, even waterproof speakers, but I am so in love with this trendy gold one. Check out more of it's virtues and find it at a great price on Amazon HERE. What kind of music do you guys jam out to in the kitchen?

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Many thanks to Trakk for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own! #trakk #trakkCEO


Thank you Deer Lord! for sponsoring this post. Grab your new edition of Deer Lord! social party game, available through Target retail stores starting July 30.


I'm a firm believer that game nights should be unassuming get-together's and only need three things: good friends, good food and of course a good game. You'll need to take care of the first one yourself, but today I've got the other two covered.

Have I mentioned before that I come from a family of gamers? Maybe I have, but I might not have described to what extent. Now, I'm not talking video games, I'm talking board and card games. First of all, my brother owned a board game store for over a decade. And my sister? Instead of a library of books, she has a library of games. It's an obsession, and I don't hate it. Needless to say, we know games. And today I'm introducing you to a new favorite!

There is a wide spectrum of games in the world. Some of my siblings enjoy strategy games that take up to 5 hours long (!!!), whereas I prefer party games that are relatively short and exciting, with lots and lots of laughter involved. Which is why this is my new favorite game, I was sooo pleasantly surprised with how much fun it was! In Deer Lord! you dupe and duel each other until someone gets rid of all their cards and is crowned the "deer lord." Dupes are secret missions you try to complete stealthily while the game is in play, either easy stuff like say something in a foreign language, or slightly more difficult like do a handstand. The trick is to make it natural enough that people won't realize it's a mission. The duels are my favorite. You challenge another player to the duel, things like who can fit the most items in their mouth, or who can tell the best joke. That's where things get really rowdy and fun! If you saw my Instagram stories last week (@gina.chong) you'll know I lost miserably at the fitting food in my mouth duel lol. And a duel for who can win a thumb war may or may not have ended in blood...like I said, we take our games seriously ha. The person who can get complete all of the dupes and duels in their hand first wins. At the end I didn't win the crown, but my cheeks were raw from laughing and I had become a fan. Love this game.

Deer Lord! started out in Europe as an independent game, but it got super popular and now it's available at Target! The one at Target is an updated core version that also includes the "Gangsta" and "Broadway" expansions. Highly recommend, guys. Whose checking it out on their next Target run?? While you're there, also grab the ingredients for my party snack recipe: Asian Style Nachos! With Korean flavored pulled beef and some other secret ingredients, I'm pretty proud of these, and here's a tip: they would be just as good over fries. So for your next game night, snag Deer Lord! at Target, grab these nacho ingredients, and get ready for a happy belly and sore cheeks from laughing. Happy gaming!







Asian Style Nachos
  • 6 oz. tortilla chips 
  • 1 lb chuck roast
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 cup kimchi, chopped
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp gochujang (red pepper paste)
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • green onions, chopped
  • Kewpie mayo
  • sriracha sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups Mexican cheese
  • guacamole

Directions:

Place chuck roast in pressure cooker or slow cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together the apple juice, onion powder, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil. Poor over your roast. If cooking in a pressure cooker, use the red meat function to cook. If using a slow cooker, cook on high for 4 hours or until very tender. When done, use two forks to pull the beef into shreds, and return it to the pot to soak in the marinade until ready for use.

In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar, gochujang, vinegar and soy sauce. Add the chopped kimchi and stir to coat. Heat a pan over med-high heat. Using tongs, add the kimchi to the pan, shaking off excess liquid. Cook kimchi for 5-6 minutes until the sauce is thick and the kimchi begins browning in spots. Remove from heat.

To Assemble:

Place your oven rack to the highest position. Set oven to a low broil. Place tortilla chips onto an oven-safe pan. Sprinkle with half your cheese, then half your kimchi and a generous amount of pulled beef. Sprinkle again with cheese, leaving just a Tablespoon or two, and follow with remaining kimchi and beef. Finish it off with the remaining cheese and broil until cheese is just melted. Once done, sprinkle with green onions, and drizzle with Kewpie mayo and sriracha. Serve guacamole on the side, and enjoy!


Caramelized kimchi recipe from HERE


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CampbellsShortcutMeals #CollectiveBias





SHOP THE IMAGE ABOVE BY CLICKING THE PRODUCTS!

You know what's more stressful than going back to school? Going back to school for the first time in five whole years, yup. BUT there's always a good bit of excitement mixed in there, and for me it's just exciting to be able to finally pull the trigger after many many years of wanting to. So here I am, once again prepping for the back to school season along with everyone else, except this time I'm determined to do it right!


Back when I was in college I could not cook to save my life. Nightmares of over-salted (and I mean OVER. SALTED.) pork katsu and inedible kimbap sushi rolls come back to haunt me sometimes. Now that I know my way around a kitchen, I can actually put together a collection of quick, wholesome weekday dinner ideas for those busy nights ahead, and that is exciting. So I'm starting with the easiest of them all: these colorful Mexican Chicken Bowls. These are awesome because the only cooking required happens in your rice cooker, and even the chopping is minimal, yet it's such a hearty dish full of color and texture. It's made real easy with help from a couple Campbell Soup Company products, namely Swanson® Premium Chicken and Pace® Salsa Verde. The chicken reminds me so much of my college days because I literally survived on this home-canned chicken my mom stocked us up on, and was so sad the day that it ran out. That stuff is so yummy and versatile. I paired it all with some V8 +Energy®, which rounds this out to make it a meal any mom would be proud of.


So check out the recipe at the bottom. AND shop the items in this post by scrolling over and clicking in the photo below! So many great, quick meals that can be made with these same products check out more inspo HERE. What are your go-to fast dinners??







The Quickest Mexican Chicken Bowls
Serves 4
  • 2 cups Mexican rice
  • 2 cans (9.75 oz) Swanson® Premium Chicken
  • 2 tsp taco seasoning
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 pkg (16 oz) cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed and chopped
  • Mexican cheese
  • Pace® Salsa Verde


Directions:


Cook rice according to instructions.


Combine the chicken and taco seasoning. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together the cherry tomatoes and cilantro and set aside.


Assemble bowls by filling first with rice, then dividing the remaining ingredients equally between four bowls: chicken, corn, beans, avocado slices, and the cherry tomato/cilantro mixture. Serve Mexican cheese and salsa verde on the side so that everyone can add to taste. Enjoy!




Thank you Village Harvest for sponsoring this post. Every day Village Harvest is planting seeds of change and growing possibilities, one bag of goodness at a time.


This summer has been a nonstop roller coaster for me, I can't even make it through two weeks before I have to be on the road again. I've been splitting my time between the Bay and Utah, so it's been quite an undertaking driving between the two so often. My favorite moments are when I get to sit down to a homemade meal because it feels like I have a semblance of normal, like I'm back in a routine again. Yesterday I completed another drive back to Utah, so today I was happy to sleep in, slap on some minimal makeup, make a run to the nearest grocery store, and spend the rest of the day indoors whipping up this colorful meal. That's what I call a good day.

I adore a good stir fry, and this is my favorite combo of sweet, salty and spicy, with a beautiful mix of colors and textures. I love the bright orange-flavored sauce and spoiled myself with an extra-tender cut of beef to put it over the top. The star of this dish, though, is the rice blend. Just look how stunning it is! The pretty summer colors of the veggies just look that much better against the canvas this beautiful black rice blend creates. It's Village Harvest's Organic Antioxidant Blend with black rice, black lentils and black quinoa, and my whole household has become infatuated with it. But I have more than one reason for loving it.

Besides this blend being yummy, fluffy, and pretty to boot, I love the idea of it. See, I actually eat this kind of thing quite often, it's very common in Korea to add a variety of grains and beans to rice to make it healthier. My mom calls it birthday rice. Having grown up poor farmers in post-war Korea, this kind of special rice was only enjoyed on their birthdays, hence the nickname. So I have a fond attachment to birthday rice, and these Village Harvest Organic Benefit Blends are so much more convenient and delicious than any blend I've created. Highly recommend the antioxidant blend I used for this dish, it's fluffy, delish, and sooo pretty. Check out my full recipe below.

I was able to find Village Harvest at my local Raley's and Safeway, and they carried all of the unique organic blends (Organic Ancient Grain Blend and Organic Protein Blend) EXCEPT this Organic Antioxidant Blend! Such a shame, but you know what you can do when that happens? Have you ever filled out a product request form? I found out about these glorious sheets of paper when I first moved to the Bay a few years ago. If your store doesn't have something you want, fill out a product request form so that they will start carrying it! You can do that for these Village Harvest blends so that you can enjoy birthday rice more than just on your birthday! Let me link you to a form right HERE, you're welcome. One of the cool things about Village Harvest is that they are committed to both environmental and social sustainability. One percent of their profits helps run programs that give back to the farmers and communities where they source their products, and they also donate 1% of their employees' time to charitable causes and sustainability efforts. That to me is the cherry on top of Village Harvest's delicious offerings.

So visit HERE to snag these yummy blends online and check out my recipe below. What favorite dish would you use these organic blends for??








Sweet + Spicy Orange Beef Bowl
Serves 4-6
  • 1lb beef, sliced thin*
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp sake
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • oil
  • salt + pepper
  • 1 bag Village Harvest Organic Antioxidant Blend
  • roasted sesame seeds (opt.)
  • 3 green onions, chopped (opt.)

Directions:

Cook Village Harvest Organic Antioxidant Blend according to instructions.

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, zest, soy sauce, sugar, sake, ginger, crushed red pepper and 2 tsp cornstarch. Set aside.

Place your beef in a medium bowl and lightly season with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle 1/2 cup cornstarch over it and mix, making sure the beef is coated. Heat a large pan over med-high and coat with about 1 Tbsp of oil. Add the vegetables and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Remove to a clean dish. In the same pan, add another Tbsp of oil and brown the beef on both sides, about 1-2 minutes. Remove to a plate covered with paper towels. Lower heat to medium and add 1 Tbsp oil. Saute the garlic for just about 10 seconds until fragrant and then pour in your orange sauce. Leave sauce at a gentle boil until reduced by half. Stir the beef into the sauce and cook about 2 minutes until beef is cooked through. Then add the vegetables and stir to coat. Remove from heat and serve over Village Harvest Organic Antioxidant Blend. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions (opt.) and enjoy!

*I used a New York Strip, which was tender and excellent. Also can recommend sirloin.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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