A Trip To Chicago in Photos

I went to Chicago very shortly after I started using Instagram with an iPhone. Maybe Chicago is just a great place for pictures, maybe it was the newness of Instagram or the newly improved iPhone camera that inspired me, but my pictures from that trip were…good. Like they were so good, I considered a career in photo journalism (I didn’t). So here they are. A trip to Chicago in photos.  Continue reading

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DIY Succulent Garden Planter Box

DIY Succulent Garden Planter Box

I don’t think there is a non-DIY way to do this except to hire someone else to do it for you. Well, I guess you could buy a planter with succulents already in them. Ok fine.

So the whole reason I wanted to make this garden was because we gave away succulents as our wedding favors and we had about 30 left over. They were all sitting there in their 30 separate pails and I decided it would be much better if they were all in one planter. Genius, I know.

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Here is what you will need:

  • A planter box – got an old crate or wooden box? Perfect! I did not a.k.a I didn’t look for one, although I realize now I probably could have found one. Dang. I took the easy route per usual and got this wood planter from good ol’ Amazon. It comes unassembled, but you just slide the pieces into place, very easy. A plastic planter with holes in the bottom for drainage would also be a great alternative -see more about that below re: plastic lining.
  • Soil – I got a large cubic foot bag of cactus soil for $6 from Lowe’s. There was way more than enough.
  • Succulents – you can get them from your local nursery, Amazon, Etsy, or a variety of other online suppliers. I got mine from Mountain Crest Gardens. Since I wanted small ones for wedding favors, I chose the Sempervivum. They were not cheap, but they offer a coupon code for signing up for their email list. And let me tell you, when they arrived they were perfect, beautiful little baby cacti angels! Then they got burned out in the sun, which I will lament about later in this post.
  • Plastic lining for the planter & tape  – I used a trash bag for this, but I did consider skipping it altogether. Succulents need to be in well draining soil and a liner-less container would allow the water to drain out of the planter. However, if you go this route, it would probably result in water damage to the wood. A plastic planter with holes in the bottom for drainage would solve this problem. Decisions, decisions. Pluses and minuses. Pros and cons.

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Directions:

I cut the trash bag open along the seams and used it to line the inside (bottom and sides) of the planter. I used tape to keep it in place along the sides. I made sure that the liner didn’t go all the way to the top so that the plastic wouldn’t show (too much).

Fill ‘er up. Since the plants are small, I wanted them to be near the top, so they can get light and aren’t shadowed by the sides of the planter. I filled the planter almost the whole way up, leaving about a 1/2 inch of space.

Start planting. The sempervivum come in plug trays, with each plant in it’s own slot. You are supposed to gently loosen and remove all of the plug soil from around the roots of the plant and then re-plant it in its new home. However, I did not do this, so I’m not sure if it makes a big difference. I just planted them as is and they still continued to grow.

To plant, I dug a small hole in the planter soil, placed the root portion of the plant in the hole, then filled in with soil around it and gently packed it down to make sure the plant is secure. I spaced each succulent out as best as I could within the box. Once everyone was planted, I watered the soil very lightly and that really was it! Easy peasy.

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Some tips on sempervivum care:

Watering – Although sempervivum don’t like or need much water, if you live in place with hot summer weather, they may need a little extra water than usual during the summer months. It gets really hot here in the summer (100 degrees on the reg) and I received my plants in August when it was hottest. For fear of watering them too much, I actually ended up watering them too little. They were too dry in the heat and they were really struggling until we started watering them more. As a rule of thumb, water to moisten the soil (you don’t want the plants sitting in water) and then wait for the soil to dry out before watering again.

Sunlight – If you order sempervivum from Mountain Crest Gardens during the summer when it’s 100+ degrees out, DO NOT PUT THEM OUTSIDE IN FULL SUN FOR AN ENTIRE DAY 2 DAYS AFTER RECEIVING THEM. They will shrivel up and die. Yes, we learned the hard way. You’ll need to keep them indoors in indirect sunlight (through a window) and acclimate them slowly to direct full sun (couple hours at a time maybe?). Miraculously, not all of our plants completely died and a good amount of them recovered, but it was realllll touch and go there for a while.

Once more mature, sempervivum like a lot of sun! They are desert plants after all. Now that it’s winter, I’ve been keeping the box indoors – don’t want them to freeze! But it looks like they are not getting enough sunlight so I’m going to start keeping the box outside instead. I read up again on it today, and since it’s not going to get below freezing here, they should be fine.

Offsets – Finally, sempervivum are also known as “hens and chicks” because the plants grow “chicks” (offsets) that you can then re-plant. Once a plant has chicks, it dies, but the chicks mature and eventually become hens with their own offsets. It’s like never-ending plants.

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OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER ALERT: I am not, repeat NOT, a plant expert by any means. My succulents have had their fair share of stress, so don’t take my advice here as gospel. It’s a learning experience for me. This is just a tutorial on how I created the little garden. That being said, I did do research beforehand, so I’m not totally blind on the subject. They say that succulents are hardy plants that don’t need too much maintenance. So I’ve got that going for me. I mean, hey, I’ve had my plants for a little while now and they’re still alive, right? Right? Plants? You there?

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UPDATE: It’s been about six months and the plants have grown A LOT and they look very happy and healthy. They have been thriving outside and since summer is coming up again, I’m keeping my eye on them to make sure they aren’t getting too dried out or burnt. We love them and the box looks great!

Kogi Truck Style Korean BBQ Tacos

Kogi Truck Style Korean BBQ Tacos

A predominantly successful attempt, I must say! Let me preface by saying that I recently moved out of LA and I have eaten Kogi BBQ tacos a myriad of times. If there is a single reason to live in LA, Kogi tacos might be it. They are so delicious and I want one right meow. They are easily on my list of the best things I have ever eaten.

Skip to recipe

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Let me secondface by saying that I did some light Internet research on what kind of Kogi taco recipes were floating around out there and the vast majority of them were from people who had never had them. They were going off the Kogi blog description, pictures and recipes from other people who had also never had them. That was a bummer because I really wanted someone to say “I’ve had these tacos many times and this recipe is so close to the real thing I could cry!”

While I have eaten the real thing, I still can’t cry about my recipe. BUT the tacos I made definitely had the essence of Kogi and are definitely delicious. They are creeping up on Kogi, tapping it on the shoulder and saying hey…I’m on to you.

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SO YEAH, I cobbled together a recipe based on the ones I found and a few other searches and whaddyaknow they weren’t too far off after all. The flavor ideas were there and they were quite good, but they were not as good as the real thing. However, I actually think that’s a good thing. Kogi tacos are special and if I could make them at home, they wouldn’t be special. BRB driving to LA.

For the marinade, I used Michael Symon’s Spicy Soy-and-Ginger Marinated Chicken, with a few changes. Even though the short rib taco is the real crème de la crème, I don’t have a bbq and wanted to simplify things for myself a bit, so I went with chicken. For the slaw vinaigrette, I actually based it on a Chinese Chicken Salad dressing recipe from the blog Once Upon A Chef. For the taco sauce, I used the Kogi bbq sauce recipe from Steamy Kitchen. While this is clearly not the same as the actual sesame-chili salsa roja mentioned on the Kogi Blog, it was created by the Kogi chef Roy Choi himself. FINALLY, and yeesh this recipe has a lot of elements, for the green onion cilantro relish, I used the same essential recipe from Tasty Eats at Home, but used green onions instead of red. Got it? Good.

OH one more thing. Limes! They froze! So none of the grocery stores I went to the day I made this had any limes. NOT ONE. Not one lime. 😦 I had to use that little plastic bottle thingy of lime juice. It tasted fine, but I’m 98.2% positive fresh lime and some lime zest would have been better.

KOGI TRUCK STYLE KOREAN BBQ CHICKEN TACOS

INGREDIENTS

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper – a dash of each
  • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs*

Slaw

  • 1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cup napa cabbage, chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp soy sauce

Sauce

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp gochujang
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sriracha, or to taste

Green Onion Cilantro Relish

  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp lime juice, or to taste

Also Needed

  • 8 corn tortillas

METHOD

1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add chicken and let marinate for 1 hour. Or, for deeper flavor, let it marinate overnight.

2. Once marinated, remove the chicken and cook in a large non-stick skillet until cooked through and you’ve got some nice caramelization on the outside. But seriously – if you have a bbq, use that instead!! If pan frying, make sure to use a non-stick pan because the sugar in the marinade can burn and stick.

2. Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest a bit. Scrub the crap out of your pan if you didn’t use a non-stick like me because the sugar has burned and is seemingly destined to remain there for years to come. Once cooled, chop the chicken into bite size pieces.

4. Whisk together all of the taco sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

5. Combine chopped green onion and rice wine vinegar in a bowl. Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes.  Add the remaining relish ingredients and stir to mix.

6. While the relish is sitting, whisk together the slaw dressing ingredients (everything except the lettuce and cabbage).  Put the chopped romaine lettuce and napa cabbage in a large bowl and drizzle in the dressing a little bit at a time, tossing in between until you get the desired amount of dressing you like.

7. Add the chicken back into the frying pan, toss to combine and cook just enough for the chicken to deepen in color and crisp up a bit. This step is essential for maximum flavor.

8. Warm up your tortillas (I do mine one a couple at a time in a pan on medium-low heat) then assemble yo’ tacos! I did chicken first, then slaw, sauce and relish. Relish? Try DE-lish! …..anyone? No?

*The first time I made this, I used chicken breast tenders. It tasted good, but it was pretty dry so I definitely recommend chicken thighs for best results.

UPDATE: I am making this again today and decided to peruse through even more search results for Kogi taco recipes, just to see if there’s any other useful info out there. Turns out LA Magazine did an article on the Kogi chef Roy Choi and he shared his real and actual recipe for Kogi Korean short ribs. Here’s the link – http://www.lamag.com/recipes/grilling-guru-recipe-roy-chois-kalbi/

ENJOYYYYYYY

Want to see another recipe? Check out my Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts with White Wine and Herbs Sauce and Rosemary Potatoes