I’ve met Catherine about a year ago. Our husbands have a lot in common and we really enjoy each other’s company. We have had many impromptu dinners at their house and one thing for sure, these guys know how to grill. Their grilled chicken is so tasty that it even converted my strict vegan husband to eat meat at their house, which says a lot. They are very relaxed at throwing last minute dinner parties, something I’m quite incapable of and terrified to do. With the grill in action, they always have tasty meat and big, colorful and heathy salads to go with in a record breaking time, even with two small children in tow. Catherine tells us what cooking means since she has become a mom and she also shares with us her favorite family recipe, her Korean marinated short ribs.
Thank you so much for answering my questions. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi there. My name is Catherine, american born with korean heritage and mommy to two kids – ages 4 and 6 months. I’m also wife to a jewish american guy who enjoys sneaking in bacon, pepperoni, and a cheeseburger once in a while (so not a strict jewish diet, but uncomfortable with pork in the kitchen), and daughter to korean immigrants (I grew up eating a lot of korean food). Up until a year ago I was a full time working mommy but have recently transitioned to full time stay-at-home mommy.
What did motherhood change for you in terms of meals?
The most challenging experience of my life was having a child. When my first child starting weaning off milk formula and started eating solid food, my mother taught me how to make baby food from scratch. At that time, I did not even know what pureed meant. I thought to make applesauce, just chop apples and toss into a blender. I had no idea you had to boil the apples first before blending. I was also handicapped when it came to baby food because my son had acid reflux and every store bought baby food had citric acid in it. So for my first baby, I prepared from scratch all of my baby’s food needs. I learned to take short cuts whenever possible, as I was also a working mom at the time. We always took either an avocado or banana as a snack… easy to give to a toothless toddler. And made batches of baby food every three days, freezing all but the current days meals. Most of my baby food was protein based with brown rice blended in an anchovy/seaweed (kombu) soup base.
For my second child, because she has no medical issues or known food allergies, I have been purchasing store-bought baby food…mostly for convenience due to the juggling effect of two kids with very different food needs, but also because she is not yet on a protein diet.
This does sound like a big transition. Let’s talk about meals. What do you guys have for breakfast?
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, mostly because I really enjoy my home-brewed drip french roast coffee (which my husband always makes for us), but also because its the easiest meal of the day. The menu options for my big kid are limited to Everything Bagel with cream cheese, bowl of cheerios, or chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s with eggs on toast. For the adults, especially on the weekend, I like to make a savory pot of steel cut oatmeal with a few pieces of Costco roast chicken tossed in with some spinach… on most school days I’ll nibble on whatever bagel my kid doesn’t finish and make myself a fried egg to go with it. Lunch boxes are a must for school days…usually a peanut butter sandwich or turkey sandwich with mayo, mixed in with some carrots or cucumbers and fruit…
I love savory oatmeal! I like to eat mine with olive oil and sea salt. I’ll have to try your version. What’s dinner like at your house?
Our dinner situation is heavily protein-based and I have to admit, we do use the grill A LOT. My husband is a great griller and we grill mostly chicken, salmon, and steaks… we also grill asparagus, corn and a potato or two for our sides. we especially love the McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning and we sprinkle it on ALL our protein! We usually buy chicken thighs on the bone… we do love our dark meat! and with a side serving of vegetables (pickled persian cucumbers – lightly salted and then sprinkled with sugar and brown rice vinegar or a nice arugula salad) and some steamed japanese brown rice, it makes for a very full and satisfying meal.
I’m glad you are sharing the secret ingredient to your delicious grilled meat. How do you plan your meals?
Most of my meals tend to be loosely planned at the grocery store on a weekly basis. If I feel like making chicken noodle soup, I’ll buy some organic drumsticks and freeze them until I plan on using them. If we are grilling, we will buy our steaks, chicken or salmon in advance as well. Since most of our meals require very little prep (other than thawing of frozen meats or fish), and all our seasoning tend to be shelf stable for a while (i.e. vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic) there isn’t much need to do specific grocery shopping for ingredients. I do freeze all my breads and flour-based noodles. The one exception is when I want to make korean short ribs, which require a minimum of 2 hours marinating in advance of grill time and also require me to make a special trip in search of asian pears.
What I have discovered recently is the pressure cooker… which is my secret weapon for making flavorful soups in record time (about 30 minutes!) For chicken noodle soup, it literally takes 5 minutes to line the pot with chicken drumsticks (can be frozen), chop up some garlic, and fill it with water. 30 minutes later, I have chicken soup that I season to taste with salt and add boiled noodles. I really just sort of improvised on the chicken soup to make it as basic as possible… mostly because my son won’t eat anything with “green” in it… or onions… but this soup is the building block for a korean soup dish called kalgooksoo. The koreans simply add more vegetables to it.
In the past couple years, I’ve really just stuck these few basic meals. With the lack of sleep and two screaming kids, the time to prepare meals and hunt for new recipes has been scarce. Food in its raw form is definitely more of our snacking diet. For instance, we all love snacking on baby carrots and hummus (we love this one), any fruit, bell peppers, cucumbers, granola and of course chips (any kind of chip).
You are not the first one telling me how magic the pressure cooker is. I have to give it a try! How often do you go grocery shopping in a given week?
I’ll shop about 2-4 times per week. We usually head to Trader Joe’s and Ralphs… occasionally going to Costco for larger volume purchases and for a roast chicken. Once in a blue moon, I’ll stop by the Korean grocery store. In Los Angeles I usually go to Koreatown Plaza Market or in Torrance, go to the S-Mart.
What is your weekly budget on groceries? Do you eat out?
I don’t usually have a budget in mind, but the bill per trip usually ends up around $75-150. Nowadays we rarely eat out for any meals, but will order in pizza once in a while. While I dearly love to go to hot and exciting restaurants, the sad fact is that with the children now… eating out at a hot new restaurant has become a 2-3 times a year event.
I hear you. Do you have any tips that you would like to share?
tip #1: time to cook rice to coincide with grill… rice takes about 30 minutes. And then there is time for it to steam after heat is turned off. So start rice before grilling so that it is nice and hot when meats are ready to eat off the grill.
tip#2: Don’t put dressing on the salad until right before you eat. Otherwise it gets soggy.
Can you share your ten must have items that you always have in your fridge or your pantry
4.Chicken / turkey
5. Red Onion
7. Some kind of berry
9. Brown rice vinegar
10. Soy sauce
And finally, can you share your favorite recipe?
Korean marinated short ribs
2 lbs beef short ribs (pre-sliced 1/4 inch thick. Special cut is available flanken style at Ralphs in my neighborhood but you may have to ask your butcher to cut them to order.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 Asian pear, peeled & grated
1/2 white onion, peeled & grated
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoon sesame see oil
Mix all ingredients for marinade in a bowl. Add beef short ribs to bowl and coat evenly with marinade. Marinate for 2 hours in refrigerator. Cook on grill or broiler oven. Can be cooked alongside with grilled onions or mushrooms.
Thanks Catherine! I definitely want to put my main vegetarian diet aside and try making the short ribs!