Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Beef Rendang: Partial FAIL

Last weekend I tried my hand at cooking some Indonesian food... partial fail.  See my other blog for a description of my attempt at making beef rendang

Here's the recipe I used, which I deem to be tasty, but not quite asli (genuine, authentic).  I'd like to try a recipe that uses more fresh, whole spices and has better directions for getting the tender, deeply caramelized flavor I was hoping for.  Maybe this recipe from Rasa Malaysia should be my next attempt. 

Beef Rendang
From The Complete Indonesian Cookbook, by Agnes De Keijzer Brackman and Cathay Brackman

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 stalk lemongrass, crushed
1 lb cubed beef topside round (I used beef that I bought at the store that was specifically labeled "Rendang beef", but I think it's pretty much stew beef.)
2 or more red chilies (such as birdseye chilies), crushed
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 salam leaf (essentially Indonesian bay leaf, as I understand)

- Heat oil in a frying pan
- Add garlic, turmeric, ginger and lemongrass; saute lightly
- Add meat and chilies; saute for 3 minutes, stirring frequently; add salt and mix well
- Pour coconut milk over meat and add salam leaf.  Cover and cook over low heat until almost dry.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Seed Bead and Chain Necklace

I saw a link to this necklace tutorial from A Bit of Sunshine on Pinterest (and that tutorial is also based on a necklace seen on Pinterest... man, that site is addictive).  I thought it was pretty cool.  I love the combination of the simple seed beads mixed with shiny metal chain.  Plus, stripes.  I love stripes these days.

I had a ton of old-school seed beads (old school meaning I think I may have been dragging these things around since middle school), but I didn't have the cool gold findings- the rectangles and end bar links- so I improvised with some gold bead caps instead.  It doesn't have the flat, ribbony effect of the Bit of Sunshine necklace, but still looks pretty nice, I think! 

My only complaint is that this project reminded me how much I hate working with those tiny little beads.  My fingers hurt!  And now my back's gonna hurt because I just pulled landscaping duty.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New (To Me) Tips, Techniques and Recipes

Here are some easy but interesting tips and techniques, as well as a couple new recipes that I tried out this week... excuse the unattractive photos- all of these techniques were implemented after dark! 

Skillet smashed potato technique:

Pretty cool, easy and fun technique for making potatoes a little bit more exciting.  I boiled mine in chicken stock and a pat of butter until tender (based on this recipe), then smashed them lightly, seasoned with salt and pepper and threw them on a hot cast iron skillet to crisp up on the outside. Yum.

Vanilla-scented sugar:

I had scraped the seeds out of a vanilla bean for my coconut/vanilla rice pudding earlier this week, but didn't want to let the still-fragrant vanilla pod go to waste, so I stuck them into my sugar.  The pods release their remaining seeds and awesome vanilla scent into the sugar.  It's pretty intoxicating to open up the jar every morning to get sugar for my coffee.  Give it a try!

Creamed spinach:

Tim bought some fancy Australian filet mignon at our neighborhood butcher, so I seared them on the cast iron skillet and served them alongside this tasty creamed spinach from Tyler Florence.  I loosely interpreted it since I had frozen spinach and wanted to add some shallots. I sauteed the garlic and shallots first, then added in the cream and spices per the recipe and then dropped in the frozen spinach, which I had defrosted in the microwave and then de-watered by squeezing it with my ricer.  The spinach soaked up the cream, so it doesn't look very creamy, but it tasted rich and delicious.

Nutella banana pancakes:

I needed to use up one lone overripe banana we had hanging around, so I decided to make these super easy, extremely light and fluffy nutella banana pancakes.  So good!  The key to these pancakes is to not over mix them.  Leave the lumps. Don't be tempted to try to get a smooth batter.
 PS: Tim made me take a picture of these particular pancakes he made because he was proud of the perfect color and shape he achieved. 

Creamy parmesan salad dressing:

 Quick and delicious creamy parmesan salad dressing, based on the house dressing from a famous chain restaurant.  Takes about 3 minutes to make and tastes awesome.  So much better than pre-made salad dressing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango

For some reason I had the most intense craving for rice pudding last week... I rifled through my cabinets and the internets and decided that I could make a combination of these two recipes.  Good plan... the end result had the homey, spicy feeling of a traditional rice pudding mixed with flavors reminiscent of mango and sticky rice.  Mmmmmm.  

Here's what I did:
- I used the risotto method from Joy the Baker, but substituted one cup of milk with coconut milk.
- I used brown sugar as the sweetener.
- I added the vanilla bean and cinnamon Joy suggested, as well as the 1/4 cup of freshly toasted coconut from the Evil Shenanigans recipe.
- Finally, I topped it all off with diced mango and some more of the toasted coconut, then ate it for breakfast.  Pretty tasty!

I think next time I might cut down on the cinnamon to let the other flavors stand out a little bit more.  My only complaint.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate Mousse

Haven't thought of anything to make for Valentine's Day?   Protesting Valentine's Day, yet still want something chocolatey and delicious?  This chocolate mousse is super quick and easy, with very few ingredients.  Put it in a wine glass or whatever fancy looking dish you have and you're golden, valentine or not.

Me, I decided that my nonexistent V-day plans ("Happy valentine's day, Tim!  I splurged on imported ground beef from Australia!") needed to be perked up, so I looked through the fridge and realized that I had all of the ingredients for the Other Martha's chocolate mousse... mmmm.  

Not sure I used bittersweet chocolate.  The Indonesian chocolate packaging is a little bit vague about its cocoa content.  Maybe it was semi-sweet?  Delicious nonetheless.  I made a half recipe and it was 2 big servings.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Baby Pillowcase Top

I'm having my own little scrap-busting party here this week... first the pillow made from quilt scraps and now this project made from scrap fabric leftover from this bag I made for Jamie a few years ago (complete with bunny lining to irk Mikey).  I decided that, like mother, like daughter, Baby Zoe might appreciate this combination of fabrics.

I wanted to find an easy pattern that A) didn't require much fabric and B) didn't involve printing out a pattern.  My internets/Google quest resulted in me choosing to make a "pillowcase" top based on this tutorial (the tutorial is for a dress, but my scraps only afforded me so much length).  Turned out pretty cute!  Definitely a good way for me to practice my sewing skills.  Hopefully I can find a way to get this thing around the world to Zoe before she outgrows it like she did her booties (tears...).

For those interested, here's how I modified the pattern...
  • Rather than cut eight 6x18" strips, I cut eight 6x12" strips
  • For the hem, I only cut strips that were 6x22" rather than 7x22"
  • I made the size 2T (meaning I cut off 1.5" of the end of the pieces as suggested by the tutorial)
  • When piecing the front and back together, I pressed the seam open and top-stitched on either side of it so that it matched the decorative top-stitching used on the other seams.  Plus, it provided me some back-up strength on those side seams!
  • Rather than make or use bias tape (not enough fabric!), I just cut two long, thin strips (1.5" wide), folded them in on themselves and did two rows of top-stitching to make my own ribbon for the shoulders
Close up of my masterful (haaaaaa!) top stitching.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Patchy, Scrappy Pillow

This was a fun project... no measuring, no cutting, just piecing and patching together random tiny scraps of fabric leftover from other projects (such as this long dormant quilt project from a few years ago.  I promise it shall return!).  I just sewed the little pieces together in strips and then sewed the strips together until I had a pretty big piece of fabric, trimmed the edges to a rectangle, and sewed it to a backing.  Turned it right-side-out, stuffed it (hence its slight lumpiness) and then did a terrible job making an invisible seam.  Boom.  Pillow.

The Real Martha will probably shudder as she reads that I didn't measure and she comprehends the imprecision of it all, but she'll get over it.

Cheesecake Ice Cream

When preparing for our non-Super Bowl Super Bowl party, as a result of some faulty spur-of-the-moment grams-to-cups-to-ounces calculations, I over-purchased both sour cream and cream cheese... not wanting it to go bad, I decided to put it to good use in this very easy and very rich cheesecake ice cream, from my favorite ice cream cookbook, David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop."

I had leftover "fudge ripple" from my tin roof ice cream, so I layered that with the cheesecake ice cream, and, while I was at it, dumped in the closest thing I could find to graham crackers here: some crumbled "digestive" biscuit cookie things... I was hoping the cookies would simulate the graham cracker crust of a cheesecake. 

Came together pretty nicely!  The ice cream is great- super creamy and rich, just like cheesecake.  I bet you could throw all sorts of other things in there if you weren't feeling the chocolate... strawberry, blueberry.

P.S.: As a funny aside, I noticed that many products at the grocery stores here in Indonesia, whether made here or elsewhere (such as Australia or Thailand), are sold in bags... sour cream (see below), cooking oil, mayonnaise, among other things.  

P.P.S.: Turns out I didn't actually use cream cheese in this recipe, but rather the oft sought-after "cream chess."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Bloody Marys

Here in Indonesia, Super Bowl Sunday occurs at 6:30 am on Monday morning... Tim insisted on getting up for it since his Giants are in the game. This early rising necessitates a special beverage and breakfast foods.  Bloody Marys it is!

Here's the recipe we made up based on ingredient availability (i.e. no celery salt, no horseradish, no lemon):

2 cups tomato juice
3 ounces vodka
3/4 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon Sriracha
Fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of sea salt
Celery sticks, lime wedges and olives for garnish

Mix all ingredients, shake with ice, pour into glasses, garnish, drink.

Served with scrambled eggs, hash browns and the unappetizingly named "streaky bacon" from Bali.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More Wire-Wrapped Earrings

I made a couple more pairs of these simple but stunning wire-wrapped earrings... so fast and easy, as well as a good way to use up random stray beads leftover from other projects!

Non-Super Bowl Super Bowl Party!

Since Tim's team, the Giants, is in the Super Bowl this year, he insists on watching the big game live.  Which, here in Jakarta, means he'll be watching it Monday morning at 7 am.  Boo.

Craving American-style fatty, cheesy and salty Super Bowl party foods, we decided to host a mini (4 people) non-Super Bowl Super Bowl party this past Sunday.  We played Wii and ate lots of terrible (but terribly delicious) food, including:

Heart-attack-on-a-plate: cream cheese + chili + cheddar, all melted together and served with chips.  An oldie, but a goodie.  In the past, canned chili has sufficed, but I couldn't find it here, so I made my own chili based on this "adult" sloppy joe recipe I've made in the past.

Hot spinach dip: in an attempt to incorporate some veggies into the meal, I made a hot spinach dip- cream cheese, mozzerella, spinach, garlic, onion... you'd think you couldn't go wrong.  Except it did go a little wrong: somewhat bland.  Not sure what the solution is... more salt?  Some red pepper flakes sauteed in with the garlic and onions?  It was good, however, a few days later spread on bread, topped with sauteed chicken breast and mozzarella, and grilled like a panini.

(sorry forgot to take a photo of the spinach dip!)

Ribs: Tim decided that his contribution (well, besides lots of beer) would be to try making grilled ribs.  He bought some baby back ribs from our local butcher shop, put together a dry run, marinated for 24 hours, then "smoked" them on charcoal grill using indirect heat and water for steam for about 2 hours.  Pretty good!  He thinks perhaps the grill ran a little bit hot and he could have taken them off sooner, but I thought they were pretty good for a first try at ribs!

Hummus: the old In Garten stand-by hummus made an appearance, with the addition of some cumin, paprika and additional lemon juice and zest.

Buffalo bites with homemade blue cheese dip: I sorta made this recipe up a bit... I cut some boneless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, coated them in egg and flour, lightly pan-fried them, and then tossed them with a mixture of butter and Louisiana Wing Sauce (we are the proud owners of about a million gallons of this stuff... I wanted Frank's or Crystal, but this was the only option.  A good buy, though.)  I was hoping that the way I cooked the chicken would give the sauce something to stick to, but not get soggy.  Served 'em with a homemade blue cheese sauce, similar to this recipe, but without the dill and with the addition of a splash of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce.  I think these were the winner for the evening... so addictive!  Definitely tasted like good old American bar food.

Rice Krispie treats:  I had big plans to make S'mores with my homemade marshmallows, but a number of factors dashed those dreams on the rocks... 1) I couldn't find graham crackers at the store (I saw them around Christmastime and am now kicking myself for not buying a box or two.) and 2) in a trial run, the marshmallows didn't toast correctly- too wet and melty.  Sigh.  Fail.  I blame it on the humidity.  Rainy season is a bitch.  Rice Krisipie treats were a good back-up, though.