Saturday, January 25, 2014

IT'S COLD! Time for Homemade Pizza

This recipe is simple. You have nothing to fear. Ingredients: 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 package active dry yeast, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 cup warm water (120 to 130 degrees F), 2 Tablespoons olive oil, then an additional 1 1/2 to 2 cups flour, plus flour for the kneading board or counter In large bowl, mix together the 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, the yeast, and the salt. For the water, boil water in a teakettle on the stove. When it whistles, fill a Pyrex measuring cup 2/3 full. Top off the other third with cold water from the tap or fridge. This will bring the water to the right temperature. Add the warm water and the 2 T olive oil to the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir by hand until it is mixed. Then stir vigorously for 3 minutes more, alternating arms every half minute or so if your arms get tired like mine do. Then begin to stir in the remaining 1 1/2 to 2 cups flour. If desired, start by stirring in 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in the remaining 1/2 to 1 cup flour (we are back to all-purpose again), to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough in half. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 F. Take two 11x7 or 9x9 inch baking pans. Put a generous puddle of olive oil on each. Pat your hands in the olive oil, take one of your dough balls, and gently work it into the size and shape of a large pancake. Put it on the pan. Pat, squish, and gently stretch it into shape until it fills the pan. It may pull back from the edges a bit. If you get a hole, just squeeze the dough around it until the hole is covered. Let this crust rise while you do the same with the other one. If desired, you can let them rise up to 45 more minutes. Or, you can put them in the oven right away. They will puff a little more during baking, and this will cover some minor cracks in the crust. Put the plain crusts in the 375 oven for ten to fifteen minutes. Then, take them out, put on the toppings, and put them back in to bake until the cheese is melted and/or bubbly (about 15 or 20 more minutes). To get the feta/spinach pizza pictured here, I first brushed the baked crust with olive oil. Then I added a sparse layer of grated mozzarella, a generous sprinkling of feta, and a layer of thawed frozen chopped spinach. I topped it with a little more feta and mozzarella, and finished with a sprinkle of dried basil. For this version, top with spoonfuls of your favorite spaghetti sauce from a jar, grated mozzarella, and pepperoni.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Simple Almond Strips

Almonds are Nature's candy! Ever eaten a big handful of raw almonds? They taste sweet, just like almond paste or marzipan. A delight known only to gluttons who dare to eat a big enough handful. For years, my Dad used to make something he called "Banquet" (pronounced Bahn-ket), a pastry strip with almond-paste filling. A confirmed Europhile who is fluent in German, he would make it in the form of a P with X through its base, an old symbol for Christ. These little cookies aren't symbolic, but they are so simple to make compared to, say, sugar cookie cutouts. They also adapt well if you add some whole wheat flour in place of the all-purpose flour the recipe calls for. This recipe comes from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, where it goes by Almond Strips.
Ingredients: 1/2 cup butter or margarine, 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat), milk to brush on the cookies, 1/2 cup sliced almonds
Method: Preheat oven to 325 F. Beat butter with an electric mixer. Add sugar and baking powder, beat till combined. Beat in egg and almond extract. Beat in as much of the flour as you can. Stir in the remaining flour. (When I made this, the dough was so dry that I had to knead it a bit with my hands to get the last of the flour to go in.) Divide dough into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a 12-inch long roll. Place rolls 2 to 5 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Using your hands, slightly flatten each roll to 3 inches wide. Brush flattened rolls with milk and sprinkle with almonds, pressing slightly to get them to adhere. (Go ahead, crowd those almonds on there! They will spread out during baking.) Bake at 325 F for 12 to 14 minutes or till edges are lightly browned. (I had to bake them for closer to 20 minutes, but don't start with that.) While the cookies are still warm on the baking sheet, take a big knife and cut them diagonally into 1-inch strips. Cool on wire racks. If desired, drizzle with powdered sugar icing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dilly Potato Salad Again!

Ingredients: 8 - 10 spuds, 3 or 4 eggs, 1 jar of dill pickles, 1 bunch of green onions, 1 packet of fresh dill, about 2/3 cup mayo, 1 T dill seed, 1/2 t salt, 1/8 t pepper. Method: Boil spuds and eggs; cool. Open jar of pickles. Peel and chop spuds, one at a time, placing pieces in a large bowl. Every so often, ladle some of the juice from the pickle jar into the bowl, stirring occasionally, so that the cooked spuds marinade in the pickle juice. You should use more than half the jar's worth of juice. Chop three or four of the dill pickles. Wash and chop the green onions and fresh dill. Mix with the potatoes. In a small bowl, whip the mayo with the dill seed, salt, and pepper. Add to the potato mixture; stir till coated. Peel the eggs, slice each egg in half, and place on top of the salad. For best taste, chill overnight before serving.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Buried Cherry Cookie Fail

Ingredients: 1 10-oz jar maraschino cherries ... 1/2 cup butter ... 1 cup sugar ... 1/4 teaspoon baking powder ... 1 egg ... 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla ... 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ... 1 1/2 cups flour ... 1 6-oz package semisweet chocolate chips ... 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Drain cherries, reserving juice. Halve any large cherries. In a medium mixing bowl beat butter. Add the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat till combined scraping bowl once in a while. Beat in egg and vanilla till combined. Beat in cocoa powder and as much of the flour as you can. Stir in the remaining flour.
Shape dough into balls. Place balls about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. I ignored this warning and got cookies that were baked together on the sides. Press your thumb into the center of each ball. Place a cherry in each center. ... For the frosting, in a small saucepan combine the chocolate pieces and sweetened condensed milk. Cook and stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. This step can be done while preparing the dough, if you are well organized. Then stir in 4 teaspoons of the reserved cherry juice. Spoon one teaspoon of frosting over each cherry, spreading to cover. (Frosting may be thinned with additional juice, if necessary.)
Look at how much there was left. What I am I ever going to do with all this extra frosting? I'm sure I'll think of something ... Bake in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Transferring them is tricky. They tend to rip around the cherry area. I guess 1 minute must be the optimum cooling time on the sheet, not that I followed that. If any do come apart, it is your duty to eat the mangled pieces as soon as they cool.
So why do I call this a fail? They just don't look like my Mom's. Her frosting is nice and thick and chocolately, not flat like this. I used the Better Homes & Gardens recipe. Maybe I should get hers. Maybe she doesn't bake her frosting.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kids These Days

(Back to front: Almost Five, Spunky Three, Workin' On One) Monday. The family is eating fried fish, which our helpers have cooked. We have already discovered that you can eat the eyeballs. They are just hard, little white balls that taste ... fried. Today, Dad says, "I'm going to try something new. I'm going to bite right into its face." Crunch. "Hey, you guys, it's really good! It just tastes like a chip! Try it!" Soon we are all eating fish faces. Almost Five says, "I love to bite him in the face!" Spunky Three says, "I want more eyeball please." ... Tuesday. Lunch time. The helpers are at school. Mom has cooked chicken nuggets and rice. Almost Five whines out the patent lie: "Eew, I don't like chicken nuggets!" ... Go figure.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Japanese-style melamine

Here are our dishes. We were forced into this choice because the kitchen in the house we rent is overwhelmingly pink, with some orangey-red Chinese vases displayed prominently. This is not a set it would ever have occurred to me to look at unless forced to, but now ... I love it. My husband tolerates it. The colander, by the way, is for serving rice in.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

You Are Lookin' At the Serried Ranks of $60 Worth of Cookies!

So in Indonesia, Christmas and the 26th are spent visiting friends and family. It's an all-day open house. And when people visit, the proper things to serve them are little homemade cookies, and Coke, Sprite, and Fanta. ... Well. A friend in our neighborhood has a home business where she sells cookies and cakes for all occasions. Knowing that Christmas was coming up, and wanting to help her out, I went over and ordered 4 jars (the standard unit of measure for homemade cookies). She quoted me a price. The price did not make sense to me. If the decimal was where I thought it was, it was much more expensive than I'd expected. If I moved the decimal to the left ... too cheap. So I agreed, but resolved to check on this. ... So I checked on it. Yep, she was giving me a special price that, when converted, works out to $15 a jar. So I resolved to go and ask if I could just order two jars, instead. ... But life got busy and I didn't make it over to her house until the 20th. And when I said, If it is possible, I'd like to reduce my order, she got a frozen smile on her face and said that the cookies were all made and sitting there. In fact I was the only person whose cookies she hadn't delivered yet. She had made and delivered them all early, because of another event she was going to have to bake for soon. ... Naturally, I agreed to buy the order. I am told the cookies can last 3 months. And they are very small and labor-intensive: sandwich cookies, pineapple-jam filled cookies, cheese-topped cookies, and chocolate. ... This is what happens when you live in a land not your own and are too proud to admit you don't know what's going on. It can cost you. Financially.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back-of-the-Pantry Tuna Casserole

This is something to make at the end of the month, when money runs low, using ingredients that are probably never absent from your pantry or fridge. I will have to separate the sections of this post with elipses, as Blogger does not respect my Enter key. ... Ingredients: half a packet of spaghetti noodles ... a can of tuna ... a slice of onion ... ground black pepper ... as much mayo as you like ... Method: break the spaghetti noodles into shorter pieces with your hands (you can do this while they are still inside the package. Less messy.) Put them on to boil. ... While they are cooking, get out a large serving bowl. Open and drain the can of tuna. Add it to the serving bowl. Chop the onion. Add it to the serving bowl, along with ground black pepper and mayo to taste. ... When the spaghetti is done, drain the noodles and immediately add them to the serving bowl too. Mix all the ingredients together. ... Presto! A cheap, ready to eat main dish in about 10 minutes.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cambodja flowers

OK, they are not food. I just wanted to blog about them. These beautiful little guys grow on an equally beautiful tree. They are the perfect flower. They pick easily. They are the perfect size to tuck behind your ear. They smell wonderful. The smell always reminds me of a spa, because they are everywhere in Bali. Hotels scatter them on bowls of water for a beautiful, elegant decoration. People (male and female) stick them behind their ears. Even statues are given a tiny hole over their ear so the statue, too, can wear a cambodja flower. We are lucky because our across-the-street neighbors are Balinese, and two of these trees grow on the street right outside their property. The flowers have been raining down lately. All I had do was pick them up. (... And finally. I cannot get Blogger to keep my paragraph divisions. It's like the Enter key doesn't even exist. That's not good for a recipe blog. Maybe I will have to give in, and switch to one of their fancy new templates.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to Make the Most of your Rice Cooker

If you live in Asia and have access to electricity, you probably have a rice cooker ... that wonderful gadget where you put in the rice and water, plug in, turn on, and it makes perfect rice and keeps it warm until you want to eat it. But that's just the beginning of what you rice cooker can do. Let's start with leftovers. These can be reheated in the rice cooker as you cook a pot of rice. Simply put them in the steamer basket - most rice cookers come with one - over the rice, before closing and turning on the rice cooker. When the rice is ready, so will the leftovers be, and piping hot too. If your leftovers are sloppy, they may drip through the holes in the steamer basket and flavor your rice. You can avoid this by putting them on a small plate or bowl that fits in but doesn't fill the steamer basket. Secondly, dumplins. The Better Homes & Gardens cookbook has a great dumplin recipe that is designed to be cooked in a covered pot, resting on top of chicken that is simmering in broth. Why shouldn't this work in a steamer basket? Well, I've tried it, and it works great! 1 cup flour, 2 t baking powder, 1/4 t salt, 1 beaten egg, 1/4 cup milk, 2 T cooking oil. Combine the four, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. If desired, you can also add 1/4 t dried oregano. In another bowl (or measuring cup), beat the egg, milk, and cooking oil; add to the flour mixture. Stir with a fork till just moistened. Drop dough in globs directly onto the steamer basket, or use a small baking pan that fits in the steamer basket. Steam for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the dumplins comes out clean. Most rice cookers will automatically stop active steaming when you open them (at least mine does). Don't get burned! Last but not least, brownies! If, like us, you happen not to have an oven at the moment, you can still enjoy cakelike brownies. Simply buy a steamed brownies mix at your nearest Indonesian or Malaysian grocery store, follow the directions, and steam it in your rice cooker. I don't steam brownies over rice, but I add enough water to cook about 5 cups of rice, since the brownies need to steam for a total of an hour with the mix I use. Adjust as necessary. You can line the steamer basket with waxed paper (being careful not to cover ALL the holes), or use a small brownie pan (which might not hold all your batter).