It’s Slow Cooker Loving Season!

I’ve been obsessed with cooking things in a slow cooker lately. I’ve had a slow cooker for quite some time, but it was something I’ve shoved in the deep end of the kitchen cabinet and kind of forgot about. I don’t know what happened, but I decided to make slow cooked pulled beef tacos one day. Oh man, they were so good! I was sold and totally fell in love with the slow cooker. Since that day, I’ve made many things including seafood stew, chana masala and lamb vindaloo. Excuse me while I wipe my drool…

I was clearly too busy stuffing my face with these slow cooked goodies to take photos for blog posts (oink, oink). Hey, winter is coming and my body is getting ready for hibernation! But I finally managed to Instagram the pyrex full of pulled Korean BBQ chicken when I made Korean tacos for dinner the other night. My foodie neighbor/friend saw it and wanted the recipe, so I decided to do a blog post. They’re easy to make and freakin’ delicious! They’re amazing in Korean tacos and I think sandwich would be a great idea, too! Or f*ck it, you can wrap it in lettuce like the Korean BBQ beef! You can make a big batch, shred them, portion them and freeze them for pre-made meal.

Korean chicken tacos

THE BEST Korean tacos I’ve ever had! This one is topped with shredded kale, shredded daikon, sliced scallion, kimchi, mayo and ground black sesame seeds. I’m getting hungry looking at the picture…

Slow Cooked Korean BBQ Pulled Chicken

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the sauce:

4 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce for gluten warriors)
4 tbsp agave (or cane sugar for sugar monsters)
4 tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 – 1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 – 1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 – 1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
Juice of a wedge of lemon (about 1/8 lemon)

Directions:

  1. Mix all the sauce ingredients from tamari to onion powder in a small sauce pan. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Turn off heat. dissolve the gochujang and mix in the lemon juice. I can’t have gluten, so I modified this recipe to make my own homemade gochujang, but if you’re ok with gluten, you can buy a tub from H-Mart or other Asian supermarkets.
  3. Place the chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Pour the sauce over and lightly mix to make sure all the breasts are covered in sauce.
  4. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 7-8 hours.
  5. Turn off the slow cooker. Shred the meat with forks.
  6. Make sure to mix the meat and leftover juice well so every part of the meat is well seasoned. If you need more flavor, you can make extra sauce and mix it in.
  7. Enjoy!
Slow cooked Korean BBQ pulled chicken

That’s a whole lotta Korean BBQ pulled chicken!

Mini Green Oasis in My Window

I have an ever-growing family of air plants, houseplants and plants grown from food scraps. Most of my windows with adequate amount of sunlight is filled with plant pots. Sometimes it becomes a challenge to organize them.

I’ve been thinking about building windowsill plant shelves for over a year now. My original plan was to get custom-cut glass shelves, so I bought small clear shelf support clips. That was back in April. Of course I’m a great procrastinator and tend to jump from one half-way done DIY project to the other. I sort of forgot that I bought those clips until recently.

One day, I spotted a wooden shelf sitting on the curbside of a hair salon. It looked sort of like a shipping container and the perfect size for organizing my gardening supplies in my backyard. So I went back to pick it up. My backyard was nicely organized now, but I ended up with a bunch of scrap wood panels that I took off of the back of the shelf.

Scrap wood panels from a shelving unit I picked up from a nearby hair salon's garbage.

Scrap wood panels from a shelving unit I picked up from a nearby hair salon’s garbage. They are a little bit of a pain to clean up, but perfect size for crafty projects.

They sat there for a few weeks until I cut one up to use as an air plant display.

Unused wooden tray and a scrap wood panel cut shorter for air plant display. Not bad, eh?

Unused wooden tray and a scrap wood panel cut shorter for air plant display. Above is a plant shelf I built using empty yogurt jars and a stained wood panel. Not bad, eh?

Then the other pieces sat there for a few more weeks, until I finally decided to complete my long-forgotten DIY project – windowsill plant shelf! My original plan was to use glass panels, but these scrap wood panels were lightweight and perfect size for this project, so I thought, why not? Cutting it with a hand saw, sanding it down and spray painting took some time and lots of elbow grease, but I’m happy with the way it came out! I want to make more for other windows in my house when I have more time and energy.

Windowsill plant shelf made from a scrap wood. Perfect for air plants!

Windowsill plant shelf made from a scrap wood. Perfect for air plants!

Nighttime picture is a little easier to see the terrariums and air plants inside

Nighttime picture is a little easier to see the terrariums and air plants inside

Close-up of the shelf

Close-up of the shelf

This is my favorite window in my house right now. :)

This is my favorite window in my house right now.🙂

Build + Grow

I’ve been away from the blogsphere for 4 months (!!!) doing other things (mostly half-done DIY projects). But I’m back!

Last year, I promised myself that I’d finally make a raised bed so I can start growing veggies again. As I go into my middle age, my inner builder/gardener is slowly waking up (my grandfather was a carpenter/a rice farmer/Mr. Fix-it and my grandmother still grows vegetables).
My original idea was to build a wooden raised bed, but I didn’t have heavy-duty tools to complete the job. And wooden raised bed isn’t modular. After some consideration and research, I decided to go with cinder blocks.

After making 2 trips to a home improvement store and hauling 32 cinder blocks home in my little hatchback (thank you for putting your “guns” to a good use, husband), the cinder blocks just sat in my backyard for a little over a month…it was the end of autumn and the temperature was dropping fast. I just shut down like an iguana when it’s cold outside. But then, there was an unusually sunny and warm day in November (hello t-shirt weather), so I decided to make some progress.

My first idea was to build a simple rectangle raised bed. After much tilling and clearing the weeds, I finally managed to put the bottom layer together.

After non-stop tilling and carrying cinder blocks, my body was ready to break.

After non-stop tilling and carrying cinder blocks for hours, my body was ready to break into pieces. Yup, I’m old.

That’s all I could handle that day. Then it went back to being the typical cold November, so the cinder blocks sat there being covered in massive snow during the winter (I live in this arctic called Philadelphia).

Fast forward to March – it was tolerable outside for a cold-blooded Yoko. Back to work before the growing season begins!
During the hermit months, I’ve done some research and daydreaming for cinder block raised bed inspirations. It lead me to rethink my rectangular plan. First, I’m short (5 feet) and it would be hard to access the middle part once the garden needs maintenance. Second, this rectangular shape isn’t that interesting to look at. So I decided to make a figure 8 shape with a square in the middle. I forgot to take photos with my real camera and this Instagram photo is the only in-progress photo I have.

I've worked my middle-aged body to the limit again.

Garden soil mixed with some homemade compost. I’ve worked my middle-aged body to the limit again.

I also started sowing some seeds in my bathroom windowsill around the same time.

Another photo from my Instagram. These are the heirloom tomato seeds that extracted from the tomato that I bought at a local farmers market. I like when my science experiment works!

Another photo from my Instagram. These are the heirloom tomato seeds that I extracted from the local farmers market tomato. I like when my science experiment works!

Then April came – my mother visited from Japan for a month, so I kind of left my baby veggie plants in small pots outside and never had time to plant them in the raised bed. Oops. Well, in my defense, I had some quality time to spend with mom. It’s been probably like 10+ years since we got to spend time together for more than 10 days. No regrets!

After mom went home (insert sad face), I finally moved the baby plants into the raised beds. They took a little while to settle in, but once they did, they started thriving!

Some tomatoes, a few kinds of basil, parsley, mint, lavender, thyme and 3 different kinds of kale. I now call them green monster.

Some tomatoes, a few kinds of basil, parsley, mint, lavender, thyme and a few kinds of kale.

Tomatoes, Thai basil and parsley

Tomatoes, Thai basil and parsley

Lavender, thyme and mint. They're all going bonkers.

Lavender, thyme and mint. They’re all going bonkers.

Dinosaur (lacinato), Red Russian and curly kale. In the middle are sweet and lemon basil.

Dinosaur (lacinato), Red Russian and curly kale. In the middle are sweet and lemon basil.

Here's a giant Brandywine tomato

Here’s a giant tomato in the making

My awesome neighbor built a raised bed for me from scrap wood. I'm going to get this bad boy for next year and grow more veggies!

My awesome and super handy neighbor built a raised bed for me from scrap wood. I’m going to get this bad boy ready for next year and grow more veggies!

Growing your own food is not only fun, but it teaches you what it takes to grow food. Bonus point, gardening is relaxing and also a good exercise (I get bored working out at a gym). I can’t wait to expand my garden next year!🙂

Sometimes Good Accidents Happen in the Compost

When I found kabocha squash at a local farmers market last fall, I got super excited. It gave me a piece of home (I’m from Japan). So of course I bought many kabocha during fall/winter and threw a good amount of pumpkin guts into my compost. Spring came and I dumped some of the compost onto the ground and into my raised beds.

After the growing season started, I noticed these sprouts popping up everywhere in the raised garden and the ground where I had dumped the compost. It took me a little while to realize that the kabocha seeds survived through the sub-zero temperature and the composting process. Whoa!

I pulled most of them out, but decided to keep the 2 sprouts in the ground just to see if they’d survive. And boy, are they tough cookies! they kept growing without me watering or tending to them, ever.

Kabocha plants grown by accident. They don't look too shabby for accidents!

Kabocha plants grown by accident. They don’t look too shabby for accidents!

They started flowering and I decided that maybe it’d be nice to have some kabocha in the fall. From my research, I learned a few things: 1) Kabocha is one of those plants with separate male and female flowers. To increase the chance of fruit, you should hand pollinate. 2) You have to hand pollinate kabocha early morning (before 9 am at the latest). 3) Kabocha flowers only stay open for one day. 4) There are way more male flowers than female.

After many mosquito bites and tricking bumble bees out of the flowers, I managed to hand pollinate a few flowers.

Male flower. A rare moment without any bumble bees going to town in the flower.

Male flower. A rare moment without any bumble bees inside.

To hand pollinate, snip a male flower and remove the petals to expose the stamen.

To hand pollinate, snip a male flower and remove the petals to expose the stamen.

Here's me trying to quickly pollinate the female flower before the bumble bees come back.

Here’s me trying to quickly pollinate the female flower before the bumble bees come back.

Female flower after pollination. Bumble bees are having a feast!

Female flower after pollination. Bumble bees are going bonkers!

So far I’ve hand pollinated 5 and 3 of them succeeded. However, I just found one broken from the vine earlier today. Something must have fallen on the fruit. SAD FACE. Here are the 2 surviving fruits. They’re so cute! I really hope more female flowers will pop up soon!

Lil' kabocha #1

Lil’ kabocha #1

Lil' kabocha #2

Lil’ kabocha #2

I hope to get some grown-up kabochas and post an update in the fall! Yum!🙂

Welcome to the World of Edible Flowers

I stumbled upon an article about squash/pumpkin flowers being edible during my research one day. Since I get anywhere from 3 to 7 male kabocha flowers blooming everyday, I thought, why not?

Here's a freshly harvested male kabocha flower. Pretty, no?

Here’s a freshly harvested male kabocha flower. Pretty, no?

The next day, I went out to hand pollinate the female flowers, but never had a chance to eat breakfast. So I decided to harvest the male flowers to treat myself to a kabocha flower frittata.

Frittata in cast iron pan. I almost feel guilty eating a beautiful breakfast like this!

Frittata in cast iron pan. I almost felt guilty eating a beautiful breakfast like this!

SO EXCITE TO EAT THIS

SO EXCITED TO EAT THIS

This got me semi-obsessed with edible flowers. I did some more research to find out the hibiscus shrubs (Rose of Sharon) in the back of my yard had edible flowers. More pretties and yummies! Yay! While squash flowers don’t hold much nutritional value, hibiscus is in the same family as okra and apparently has similar health benefits. Sounds good to me!

Here are kabocha and hibiscus flowers harvested from my backyard.  I'm feeling tropical all of a sudden.

Here are kabocha and hibiscus flowers harvested from my backyard. I’m feeling tropical looking at these!

I wanted to stuff the kabocha flowers for dinner, but my stomach doesn’t like dairy. I stumbled on a nice-looking cashew cheese stuffed squash flower recipe and decided to give it a try. I modified the recipe a little, but it was sooooo good! Here’s my version:

Cashew Cheese Stuffed Kabocha Flowers

Ingredients:

7-10 kabocha flowers
About 1/8 cup garbanzo bean flour
About 1/2 cup water
Salt to taste
Fresh basil leaves
Coconut oil for frying

For the cashew cheese:

3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in water with a splash of apple cider vinegar then drained
About 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/8 cup fresh water
1/2 tsp EVOO
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/8 tsp sea salt

 Directions:

  1. Blend the ingredients of cashew cheese in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Stuff each flower with the cashew cheese and a basil leaf. Close the flower.
    Kabocha flowers stuffed with cashew cheese and basil.

    Kabocha flowers stuffed with cashew cheese and basil.

  3. Mix the garbanzo bean flower, water and salt (to taste) in a shallow bowl.
  4. Heat your skillet and put coconut oil in.
  5. Dip and coat the stuffed flowers.
  6. Cook each side until golden brown. Remove from skillet drain on paper towel. Salt to taste.
    I made my batter runnier than the original recipe, since I didn't want a thick fried batter. It worked well for me!

    I made my batter runnier than the original recipe, since I didn’t want a thick fried batter. It worked well for me!

    So golden, so pretty.

    So golden, so pretty.

  7. Enjoy the beautiful, creamy and crispy flowers!
    This was SO DELICIOUS. Even my meat-loving,  suspicious husband who originally called flowers "insect food" was blown away by these beauties!

    This was SO DELICIOUS. Even my meat-loving, suspicious husband who originally called flowers “insect food” was blown away by these beauties!

Dabbling in Indian Cooking: Tandoori Chicken

I admit, I have a collection of spices that I don’t use very often. It’s nice to have an assortment of things, but you tend to stick to the few that you use repeatedly. But I found this really cute spice rack at a local thrift store and that forced me to reorganize and remember the existence of all the spices I had.

spice rack

Thrifting for life! This cute gem with all the bottles for $4! I used leftover wrapping paper to make the labels.

I decided to figure out a way to use up the garam masala that I abandoned. After a few minutes of Googling, I decided to try Tandoori Chicken. The result was fantastic and I wish I had done this sooner! It’s super easy and delicious. I had a few requests from friends to post the recipe, so here it is! Recipe adapted from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/indian-tandoori-chicken/

Tandoori Chicken

Ingredients:

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts (or whatever part you want to use)

For the marinade:

1/2 tsp salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 + 1/8 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a container. Mix well.
  2. Marinate chicken for 6 – 24 hours (I usually do 24 hours).

    chicken and marinade in container

    I’m lazy and my husband likes eating big chunks of meat, so I don’t usually cut my chicken breasts. You can definitely cut them into smaller pieces before marinating. It’d be fun to make Tandoori Chicken skewers for BBQ. If you’re worried about using plastic, you can certainly use glass or whatever container of your choice, but I find these takeout containers versatile and useful. I just close the lid and stick it in fridge overnight.

  3. Place the chicken on broiler pan or on a grill. Broil or grill until it’s done.
    chicken breasts on broiler pan

    I used the broiler for this occasion because it was late at night and I didn’t want to fire up the grill.

    Tandoori Chicken

    Finished product! You can definitely make rice or other dishes to go along, but this was my husband’s dinner and he insists on  being on “low carb diet”, so these Tandoori Chickens are lonely.

Upcycling Challenge: Painting Wooden Chest of Drawers

While I was tidying up my closet one day (ugh), the old Ikea bar stool I was standing on gave in all of a sudden and I fell onto the Ikea chest of drawers behind me. My butt power crushed the chest of drawers nicely (thanks, big butt) and I was in need of a replacement. I wanted to get something a little sturdier as a replacement than those silly chest of drawers with Swedish names that I can’t always pronounce.

I made a few trips and stalked Craigslist for a while, but didn’t have luck. A little more than a month later with the busted chest of drawers, I finally found a decent one at a local thrift store. Luckily, I was thrifting with a friend and she graciously helped me load the mass of wood into my little car then into my house. It was a sturdy wooden chest of drawers, but rather boring.

chest of drawers before pic

I apologize for the crappy phone camera photo, it was late at night and I was frantically cleaning my house in preparation of my mom visiting from Japan.

I was either going to stain or paint it, but decided with the paint because I like colors and wanted to make all of the drawers into different colors. And I’d been itching to try painting wooden furniture for a while. The whole process took 3 days and sore muscles, but I’m happy with the result. I used spray paint and it was pretty easy to do, but you can totally use paint and brush. The basic process is:

  1. Disassemble furniture into individual parts to be painted.
  2. Sand down surface and remove old stain/paint.
  3. Clean surface with tack cloth.
  4. Coat with primer (you can skip this step if you use paint with primer).
  5. Paint. Usually takes 2-3 coats for a good coverage.
  6. Coat with top coat.

Here are some of the photos of the process. I forgot to take one while sanding down the surface, since I looked like I was in a sandstorm at Burning Man and didn’t want to touch my camera. Also, I apologize for the messy yard. Fortunately, my mom is helping me tidy it up while she’s here. Yay!

chest of drawers being painted

First coat of white on the body

drawer knobs

Painting knobs. Skewer sticks came in handy for this job.

large drawers

Painting large drawers

small drawers

Some of the small drawers

painted chest of drawers

Finished product. Sorry I didn’t have time to take a beauty photo. I finished it the day before my mom came to visit from Japan…

The process itself is pretty straightforward, but rather labor-intensive. At least you get a good workout and a pretty furniture, eh?