Gluten free Ginger Cookies

>> Wednesday, November 14, 2012

These cookies come from my pre-gluten free days.

I was blessed to work with a wonderful Relief Society president who is also a fantastic cook.  Every month we would go around together to visit the people who hadn't been coming to church and we would deliver these cookies.  They were very good.  VERY good.  So good that I sometimes considered stop going to church so that I could get some delivered to me. 

But, I'm a believer, so I got the recipe instead.

Here it is:

Gluten free Ginger Cookies

Blend together:

  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • additional sugar in a bowl

Add dry ingredients:
  • 2 cups Pamela's Baking Mix* (add 1 cup with the rest of the dry ingredients and then add enough to make a soft dough)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° (If the first batch burns or cooks too quickly, turn the oven down).  Roll cookie dough into balls and then roll in the sugar.  Place the dough balls far apart because they will spread.  Cook approx. 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, but leave the cookies on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, until they flatten. Place on cooling racks until completely cooled.

*If you use another gluten free flour mix that is not pre-leavened, you need to add 2 teaspoons baking soda and a scant teaspoon of xantham/guar gum.


First day in Seoul

>> Tuesday, August 7, 2012

For the first excursion to Seoul, we decided to do something low-key.  This was a test run to make sure we could successfully navigate the subway system and get in to Seoul.

The first thing we saw when we got out of the subway? Chuar! (or, at least the Korean equivalent).  It was so delicious.  Sam was in 7th heaven.

We were looking for a little stream and on the way we found this street full of hardware supplies. It went on for blocks.  We're currently remodeling our house so we were salivating, trying to figure out what we could fit in our suitcases.

We did find the stream.  It was underground until a few years ago when it was restored.

We went down to the stream and met this guy.  We asked him to take a picture and he proceeded to do a full photo session. 

Out of kindness to you, dear reader, I'll only post a few.

Here's me pretending to eat some poisonous plant. I didn't really eat it. Don't worry.

Cool orange-clothed-man walking along the stream.

Would you bank here?

I loved these signs.  No doubt here that the store is having a sale.

We made it to Seoul and back safely and in good time, ready for our next adventure.


Veggie Embarrassment

After exploring Incheon, we decided to buy some vegetables.  No problem, right? At least that's what I thought ...

Can you see the baskets full of tomatoes?  The price listed is for the entire basket.  You can't buy small amounts.  The bananas have to be bought by the full bunch.  So if you want only one or two bananas? Tough luck. That goes for all of the veggies, too.  So you have to buy five green peppers or 5 cucumbers or 10 tomatoes.  There was one woman I saw who bought at least 20 cucumbers at once!  What does one do with 20 cucumbers? I couldn't tell ya. But apparently that's how they roll in South Korea.

This guy sits out in front of the vegetable stand.  Here's a close-up:

Notice the microphone? Well, he sits out front of the veggie stand and yells into the microphone.  I can only assume he is talking about the veggies and prices and tries to convince people to buy.

Except when I went in and began picking up my vegetables the American way, he decided he needed to help me understand how to buy in bulk. Really loudly. Over the microphone.  He talked louder and louder and then he finally came over to show me.  Remember the microphone? Yeah, all of this was over the microphone, of course. 

At last I understood. And everyone around the veggie stand shared in my epiphany.  Red-faced, I picked up my veggies in bulk, paid, and left.  Every time I bought veggies after that, this guy gave me a chuckle.

Sometimes I wanted to say to people that I'm not a stereotypical American who only speaks English.  I can understand and speak a little Chinese and a lot of French.  Just not Korean.  Which was on full display today.  *blush*


Exploring Incheon

>> Saturday, July 28, 2012

Our university was located in Incheon, just outside of Seoul. Before heading into Seoul, we took a day to explore Incheon and get our first taste of Korea.  There's something special about walking the back roads and peeping into markets that only local people use; I get a real flavor of what life is really like.  Here's what we found in Incheon.

Incheon is a smaller city of 2.6 million or so. Here's a street we wandered through.  I love how the cars are parked double in the center of the road.  

 On almost every little street, there was a little garden shop.  In the market we visited, we found these beautiful pitcher plants.

We went down to find a restroom in the subway and look what we found: Ping Pong! In the subway station! These folks were serious about their ping pong, and they were seriously good. If you've never seen old people play ping pong in Asia, then you probably think it's a slow game and wonder why people bother.  Once you've been schooled by an 80-year old ping pong master, you will stop whatever you are doing to watch with respect.

Our journey continued with a trip down a market street.  It was very reminiscent of China.  Lots of little mom and pop shops with merchandise specializing in one area or another.  The store specialized in kitchen and bath supplies.  I was tempted to buy the toilet seat cover on the top.  We are remodeling, after all.

The thing I noticed about these little shops is that the goods are China quality but U.S. prices. The worst of both worlds!  Time after time we were shocked at the price of goods in Korea.  You can find good quality merchandise, but when you do, expect to pay exorbitant prices for it.  A pair of pants that would be $15-20 on sale in the U.S. would go for the equivalent of $100.  Yikes!  Bargaining was different, too.  There wasn't a lot of wiggle room in South Korea.  They pretty much gave a fair starting out price at the beginning. I felt like people were just trying to make a living, not suck me dry.  I nice change from China.  Too bad I'm not in the position to support all the independent businesses in South Korea. Needless to say, I didn't feel the need to shop much.

 After a while of wandering, we finally found a little local market with great treasures.

Assorted dried goods

Fish head photography, courtesy of Sam

High-priced veggies (Think $10 - 20 for a small watermelon) and more dried goods

Crab marinated in some sort of sauce.  Looks unappetizing, but I bet it was good.

Traditional Korean Hanbok

Oh the difference and 'e' can make: glutinous/gluten-ous

Oh! And I got so tired of/from walking up hills and steps. So many to climb.  This is the set up stairs up our subway.  The literal light at the end of the tunnel beckoned.  

We stopped at a vegetable stand on our way home, but that's a blog post for another day. 



The Restaurant

>> Sunday, July 22, 2012

This was my first big trip being gluten free.  I was anxious, to say the least.  I didn't know the language and it seemed like everything had either soy sauce or spicy gochoojang sauce, both of which are gluten-ous. Yikes! I imagined my nights with my arms clasped around my belly, rolling in pain on the bed. 

Previous to our arrival, however, I did a little research to find out about eating gluten free in South Korea.  Luckily, there are a few dishes (around 5 or so that are very common) that are naturally gluten free.  So, cross-contamination aside, at least I would have something to eat.

The first day, our hosts took us to a little restaurant just at the base of the hill where the university was located.  (Remind me to tell you about that dreaded hill someday!)We ate there and thought it was great.  The next day we went to another place and asked if they had any of the gluten free dishes.  No luck.  We went to another place and asked again.  No luck.  After the fourth or fifth place, we decided to go back to the place we ate the day before.  We ate there almost every weekday that we went out touring.

After a little while, I was able to communicate that I couldn't have soy or gochoojang sauce.  They were very accommodating.  They even took my gluten free soy sauce, kept it in their refrigerator, and cooked my meals with it.  I think they deserve a special spot in heaven for that. I am so thankful for them!

We actually became quite friendly with them.  They were kind and skilled and we saw them almost every day.  The first week we were there, the mother/mother-in-law was there.  (She's on Sam's right.) After that, it was just the husband and wife.

Sam's first bit of kimchee was a big one ...
I couldn't resist making this pic extra large because I think this kid is SO. DARN. CUTE.

 Just for future reference, kimchee is very spicy ...

Trying to laugh through the spicy heat and reaching for the cold water.

The husband had a translation app so we could communicate a little.

Kimbap! Yum!


5 Star Hotel -- or Not

 Travel is one of the great blessings of the academic life.  However, it isn't always at deluxe accommodations.  The university we were working at provided a studio apartment for us.  It wasn't bad; it wasn't great.  Here's where we lived.

This is the front of our dorm where we stayed.

Our nice, firm bed--just like we like it. (No, really!)

The bathroom -- loved the shower.

Sam's bed was a few of those thick, quilt-type things we've seen people in Asia use as mattress pads. On the floor, of course.

The very best thing about our living arrangements was free, daily access to the clay tennis courts and driving range.  We didn't always take the time to go, but when we had time, it was fabulous.


Seoul Sister, South Korea 2012

Travel is my passion.  Nothing makes me happier than traveling with my family on a subway to someplace beautiful/exciting/new in some big city.  All the better if it includes a long plane ride, jet lag, and a new-to-me language.

This past month, our little family had the opportunity to go to Seoul, South Korea for 3.5 weeks.  Matt and I went there to prep students who will be attending our university. We taught in the mornings and then headed out to explore in the afternoon and evening.

We got lots of great pictures.  I think the favorite family photo this time is of all of us standing in the joint security area building of the North/South Korea demilitarized zone (DMZ). Technically we are in North Korea.  If we would have stepped out of the building, there was a good chance of us being shot.  We kept safely inside.

The soldier is real, even though he looked like wax and stood stark still.  We're technically in North Korea.

  Here's the thing, though.  Travel is exhausting and not-at-all-glamorous in reality.  What that cool picture doesn't say is that we woke up too early and left by 7:00 a.m. in the POURING rain so that we could travel an hour and fifteen minutes, so that we could catch a tour bus and ride another hour and fifteen minutes, so that we could arrive at the DMZ in what was now the partial rain alternating with the too-cold-air-conditioned bus. We were cautioned and warned of danger and told when we could and couldn't take pictures. Lots of the pictures didn't turn out because of the rain. We even questioned all the tight security because there were myriad tourists and the whole thing seemed like a little bit of a tourist trap at times.  Matt got yelled at by a South Korean soldier because when we were on the steps of the South Korean side, facing the North Korean side because he didn't hear the announcement to not take pictures of the South Korean side.  Then the quick entry into the JSA, the quick exit. We were in the actual cool part for maybe 5 minutes.

It was a long day, but I loved it. We were tired and dirty.  My makeup had run and my hair had frizzed out by the end of the day.  I wore dorky tennis shoes. But there is something about that 5 minutes that made the whole day, the whole journey worth it.  I would do it all again. On days like this I can't stop smiling. My world is complete.

So, here is the Simmons family Seoul travel log.  Lots of posts and pics coming up, all chronicling our journey. Some great pics, some not-so-great pics, all of them are pure joy for my heart.

Travel is bliss.


A Lovely, Long Layover: Rachel and Hollywood

>> Friday, June 22, 2012

We were planning on heading to Korea and had our plane tickets purchased when we found out that the classes we were to teach had been moved up a week.  We frantically tried to change our flights, but nothing worked.  We finally found tickets with a wonderful perk: a day layover in LA.  Our niece Rachel and her family live there!  It was a very happy, unexpected vacation! She lives in Hollywood, just down the street from Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Hollywood stars.  We spent a lovely day with her and her family.

We're walking..., we're walking...

A few of my favorite stars we saw on the walk:

Grauman's Chinese Theater:

Really, it's Matt, not Jean

Gene Kelly!

Sam was thrilled to share hand space with Harrison Ford.

There is a mall behind Grauman's Chinese theater, just close to the Oscar's theater where they were doing a promo event for Pixar's new movie Brave. Lots of fun stuff for the kids to do.

Here's Sam doing the archery activity

You can't see it, but he got a bulls eye!

Risa got long curly locks as a prize for playing. 

Like mother, like daughter

Eva joining Risa in the fun

We loved seeing Rachel and her family. It was so good to finally meet Stephen (and how did he not make it in to any of the pictures?!?) and Risa and Eva.

Goodbyes at the airport

 Love you, Rachel, Stephen, Risa, and Eva!


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