Vegan Passion Fruit Truffles + Motto For 2015

homemade passionfruit truffles.jpg

Well, I did it. I made it through 2014, just like the rest of you. Big deal, right? Sometimes life is tough. We all have to trudge through the shit, but we don’t always come out clean on the other side.

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2014 was a devilish year full of chaos (read: threats), discovery, challenges and love. The threats seem like a distant memory now, as I suspected they would, but there is nothing better at turning one’s life upside-down than being in a far away land and feeling unstable. I won’t go too in depth on that subject. Instead, click here. It may give you a vague sense of what I experienced in my final year of working at a Hagwon in Korea. I will say that I left Korea in the fall of 2014 with my sense of trust deeply shaken and my nerves shot, but thanks to Love, I felt hopeful. My support system was, and has been, so solid that even in the thick of the crises, lies and sleepless nights, I never fell. I stood tall, held my ground and was able to see the light ahead.

So, thank you Love. You saved the year and so much more. I dedicate this post, this year’s motto (see below) and my love, to you.

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The most common variety of passion fruit is small and purple. Creatively named “Common Purple”, this thick-skinned, tropical fruit contains pleasantly crispy seeds and yields small amounts of juice. But, that yield is dazzling. Passion fruit is mouthwateringly fresh and the flavour is absolutely seductive. Tart, sweet and delicately strong: a little juice goes a long way in any recipe. I am appalled to acknowledge that I have not tried the entire range of passion fruit varieties. This will now go on my bucket list.

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This year’s motto: Stepping Out Clean in Twenty-Fifteen

Passion fruit is a good place to start. And chocolate helps a lot. These truffles are deliriously decadent and will help you find strength to defeat all your foes.

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Vegan Passion Fruit Truffles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 juiced passion fruits, separated from seeds
  • ½ cup of coconut cream
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt

Directions

-Heat the coconut cream, passion fruit juice, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil. Stir continuously.

-Turn heat off and add coconut oil. Stir until fully incorporated.

-Add cocoa powder in small batches and mix until thick and smooth.

Optional: If you like the texture of the passion fruit seeds, add some or all into the mixture.

-Let cool.

-Form teaspoon sized balls by rolling them in the palm of your hand and dust with more cocoa powder.

-Store in the refrigerator. They should keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. If removed, they will only last a day.

Makes 20-24 truffles.

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Protect Yourself From Corrupt Hagwons in Korea. You Have Options.

This is (almost) my first non-food related post on this website. Usually I would hesitate to write such a post on a site so clearly dedicated to food, but I feel this will explain my two-month absence away from posting recipes. Also, I hope to help others in similar situations, which seems to be happening to more and more teachers in hagwons. If it weren’t for a few key friends who helped point me in the right direction, I wouldn’t have known how to protect myself. The whole endeavour would have ended quite differently. Likely with more question marks. And more tears.

Teaching in Korean private academies (hagwons) can be extremely beneficial in many ways. For four years, my experience teaching at hagwons has been far from perfect, but I’d always considered myself to be in relatively good situations. That is until two months ago when the shit hit the fan.

I found myself being treated very unfairly by my employers and trapped in a scam. After sacking me and another foreign teacher for unjust reasons, my employers informed me that if I wanted my release letter (necessary for visa transfer), I would not only have to repay the airfare they provided to get my out to Korea, but I would have to pay a 500,000 won recruiter’s fee. The latter was not stated on my contract and it became clear to me that my employers were going to hold my release letter hostage for money.

When in Korea on a teacher’s visa, one cannot just switch jobs. This is because our jobs are tied in to our employers. Employers can choose to release their teachers, or not.  Immigration laws for foreign teachers tend to be strictly enforced, while laws regulating hagwon abuse seem to be few and far between. It is a very unfortunate, problematic issue and it is not uncommon for hagwon owners take grave advantage of this.

After battling back and forth between thoughts of waiting to see what happens, fleeing the country and fighting tooth and nail for my rights, I decided I needed to protect myself. I did. And it F-ing worked.

Here are the steps I took:

I wrote out my grievance and thoroughly prepared all my evidence and documents including pay slips, conflicting statements and scrutinized my contract with the school. I also started secretly recording conversations with the owners on my phone.

Next, I found out my rights and read about commonly used deceptive practices by hagwon and hagwon owners on this very helpful site created by foreign lawyers who know Korean laws. EFLlaw.com

I read discussion boards on eslcafe.com and various other places to see what steps other teachers have taken to protect themselves when in similar situations.

I called the Korean immigration hotline and told them my grievance. They set up an appointment. I was hoping they would be able to switch my visa from an E-2 to a D-10. D-10 is a “looking for work” status and is a relatively new option for foreigners. It provides more time to those in urgent situations to take more time to look for work. They weren’t especially helpful as they informed me I needed a claim slip from the labour board before they could do anything.

So, I called one of the Labour officers at the Seoul Global Center and the Support Center for Foreign Workers to get their professional opinion of my case. After they, and everyone else I spoke to about it said my case sounded quite serious and that I wasn’t being treated fairly, I decided the best way to protect myself would be to make a claim with the Labour Board against my employers. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to do this in English. I had a Korean friend help me translate my grievance and fill out the claim form.

This was incredibly nerve wracking for me. I had never had to take actions such as these in my life and I was unsure of what the outcome would be or how long it would take to process. So, I read more discussion boards where people shared their stories of woe and triumph after making a claim against a employer with the labour board. I was relieved to find out that it seems the labour board has gotten so sick of hagwons breaking contracts and using so many deceptive practices to cut costs that they have really begun cracking down on them.

When a claim is made by a teacher, the labour board takes the hagwon to court. This looks really bad for the hagwon. Since they are concerned about the reputation of their establishment, they will often begin making offers to the teacher to get them to cancel the claim. The labour board knows this and informs the hagwon they have a few days to settle the dispute before they begin the investigation. Since I didn’t have the time, nor did I want to go through a painful legal battle, I was banking on my hagwon making offers to me as soon as they heard from the labour board. They did. I got my release letter and pretty much everything I wanted that day and it only took a few days.

Teachers, do not despair. You have options and there are ways to protect yourself. Don’t run away or give up without fighting. Before accepting any position, be sure to check your next potential employers on all the Hagwon Blacklists and be smart about scrutinizing your contract well. Good luck.

Here are photos to help remind you that you love Korea.

P1230126Seoul FortressKorean children doing stretchesPajeon and kimchi

Molecular Gastronomy: Layered Grapefruit Screwdriver Cocktails and Gainful Employment

 

 

Nice stems
Nice stems

I know its been a while. It has been a non-stop hair pulling fest around here. For the past month I’ve been in a whirlwind of resumes, preparations for interviews, interviews, random panic attacks brought on by said interviews and finally: Employment. Got me a job. What what! Of course, while all of this was going on, I went on a few previously scheduled trips, not knowing just how busy and insane I’d be feeling. A week in the California to visit my awesome sister, her awesome wife and their awesome cats, Christmas in D.C. to visit my awesome brother, his awesome wife and their awesome baby and New Years in the Eastern Townships of Quebec to visit a group of about 30 of the awesomest friends possible. Tequila, maple syrup and merguez sausages (not combined…although that really wouldn’t be so bad). What a party.

So, I’ll be back in Seoul by the end of February of 2013 to teach English to little kindergarteners. From my interview with the director and my contact with a Canadian girl who is currently working there, my new place of employment seems like a relaxed and supportive environment. Teachers seem to feel respected, happy and appreciative of the management. AND they get paid on time. Though I’ve never experienced it personally, it is not so uncommon to hear of  hagwon (private academies) paying their teachers late (or not at all), holding passports and/or diplomas hostage, finding absurd reasons to fire someone in the 11th month of their year long contract so they could avoid severance payment and a return flight and other such practices of a horrible work environment. Luckily for teachers looking for work in Korea, there is the Hagwon Blacklist. There, unhappy teachers can post their woes and warn others about their shitty school. Before accepting the job at EPA, I checked the Blacklist and found nothing. To my delight, a google search uncovered POSITIVE feedback about the school.

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Wanting to celebrate all of this positivity, I made some gelatin grapefruit screwdrivers with a touch of molecular gastronomy. They turned out to be like large, fancy Jello cocktails. They were visually stunning and quite tasty.

Also, they were very bizarre. Gelatin always is. If I were to make gelatin screwdrivers again, I would make each individual drink a bit smaller and therefore less intimidating. While I went for a second glass, some of my friends (A.K.A. guinea pigs) could only manage a few bites.

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I added some licorice powder to some of the top layers, which, as you can see, caused the gelatin to bleed into other layers and set in less appealing forms. Still, they tasted great, were fun to make and successfully got the drinker closer to being drunk.

Grapefruit Jello Screwdrivers

Ingredients

  • 8 ½ oz (250 ml) of vodka
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup grapefruit juice
  • 2 tbsp cold water soluble gelatin

Directions

Mix 1 tbsp of sugar with 1 tbsp of gelatin and the vodka. Blend until dissolved. Divide evenly into as many cups as you like. This could be up to 20, depending on what size you plan on making your Jello cocktail. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Next, mix 1 tbsp of gelatin with 1 tbsp of sugar and the grapefruit juice. Blend until dissolved. Pour a juice layer on top of the vodka layer. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Repeat until you have 6 alternating layers of vodka and juice.

Scoop into mouth.

Here are video instructions.