Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Orange Applesauce

Mix cooked pureed carrots into plain applesauce in a proportion of about two or three parts applesauce to one part carrot puree. The result will taste just like applesauce but will have the added nutrients of the carrots. This works especially well if you happen to get some carrots that are sharp-tasting.

In the picture above, the carrots were mashed with a hand-held potato masher instead of pureed in the blender, so the texture is a little rougher.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Any American living in Asia ought to know how to make jambalaya. Jambalaya is all about throwing in whatever you have on hand, and as long as you get the seasonings right, it will still taste good. It can be made with as little as just onion, garlic, and seasonings (plus the rice and butter or oil of course), or it can be made with all three kinds of meat, and with whatever additional veggies (e.g. zucchini) you need to use up. Of course, the more extras you put in it, the more satisfying and nutritious it will be.

1 small onion or 2 - 3 green onions
2 – 5 garlic cloves (or subst. 1/4 t garlic powder later)
1 red or green bell pepper (or 3 – 6 cabe hijau, or any favorite pepper you have on hand)
2 – 4 T butter or margerine
1 cup uncooked rice
1 15-oz. can stewed tomatos, with the juice (or 1 - 3 small tomatos, diced; or 1 - 4 T tomato paste)
1 – 2 cups water
1 or 2 chicken boullion flavor cubes, or 1 t aginomoto (optional)
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/8 – ¼ t bottled hot sauce, such as Tabasco, or a dash of ground red pepper (or use hotter peppers in place of the bell pepper)
1 t dry basil
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 cup cooked cubed chicken, sausage, or shrimp (optional)

Chop up the onion, garlic, and pepper, and fry in butter, in a large saucepan or in a large frying pan with a tight-fitting lid, until tender but not brown.
Add the uncooked rice; mix and fry briefly.
Add the stewed tomatos, seasonings, and 1 cup water (2 cups if not using canned stewed tomatos). Stir the ingredients together, breaking up the boullion cube and cutting the stewed tomatos into bite-sized pieces with the spoon as you do so. Cover; bring to the boil, then turn down the heat, leaving the mixture covered, and simmer until the rice has cooked fully, about 20 to 25 minutes. Depending on how much water you use, the rice may resemble a porridge. You can experiment with this until you get it to a dryness you like.
When the rice is done, stir in the chicken, sausage or shrimp and heat through. You may add the chicken or shrimp along with the other ingredients before cooking, but if you do this with the sausage, the fat will pop out of the meat during the cooking process and you will not want to eat it.

Serve hot, alone or with any combination of the following garnishes: grated cheese; sour cream or plain yoghurt; hot sauce; lemon or lime juice; cilantro. Also good with corn bread, if you have it. Serves 2.

Monday, December 29, 2008

3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Cocoa!

Cheaper and less sugary than Swiss Miss, and especially convenient where Swiss Miss is not available. Because it does not contain an emulsifier (? - is that the word?), the cocoa powder will tend to sink to the bottom of the drink over time.

3 teaspoons plain powdered milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Combine dry ingredients in a mug. Add boiling water and stir until dissolved. If desired, add a shot of real milk. Yield 1 mug cocoa.

You can also combine the dry ingredients in the same proportions, but larger amounts, to make 3-2-1 Cocoa mix.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Amusing Article on Cookbooks

Check out this history of cookbooks that appeared in the Christmas edition of The Economist :

Thursday, December 25, 2008


1 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg or cloves
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t rum flavoring
1 T sugar, or more to taste
a splash of whipping cream, half and half, or milk, if needed to thin

Blend in the blender. Serves 2.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Buckeyes, A Family Recipe

OK, this is not in any sense a recipe you can do in Southeast Asia. Neither is it a recipe I invented or even tweaked. But a blog is all about what you're doing from day to day, right, and we made buckeyes this last week, sooo ...
This recipe comes from my husband's family, who hail from Ohio. The finished product is supposed to look like what they call buckeyes, what I grew up calling horse chestnuts, and what the British call conkers.

1 lb butter, softened
2 lbs peanut butter (one crunchy, one smooth)
3 lbs confectioner’s sugar
2 12-oz packages chocolate chips (we like semisweet)
½ stick parafin

Cream butter and peanut butter. Using clean hands, thoroughly mix in the confectioner’s sugar. Roll into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Place the balls on a cookie sheet covered in waxed paper. Chill. If you’re making it in winter, as is traditional, you can put the sheets of peanut butter balls on your back porch or in your garage.
Meanwhile, place parafin in the bottom of a large pot and cover with chocolate chips. Turn the burner on the lowest setting and allow the parafin and chocolate to slowly melt. Stir together. Leave the heat on the lowest setting.
One cookie sheet at a time, bring the chilled peanut butter balls inside. For each ball, stick it with a toothpick,
dip it in the chocolate mixture and twirl it around until it is covered in chocolate except for a bald patch at the top. Return to the cookie sheet. When each sheet is done, return it to the cool place to chill it. Chilling overnight is perfect. Once the chocolate and parafin have set up, transfer the buckeyes to a storage container and store in a cool place until it’s time to serve them. Yield: TONS of buckeyes!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Now THAT'S a Recipe!

"One of the most unusual dishes I had was called Telluh Babi – sour preserved pork, aged without cooking or refridgeration in a section of a giant bamboo. It is prepared in the following way. Mix one-half small water glass of salt and one plate (three double handfuls) of fatty wild pig meat cut into 1-inch-by-2-inch-by-3-inch pieces and adjust seasoning with pepper – or chillies, if available. Add one double handful of steamed rice (cooled) and mix with a clean wooden paddle (if you touch the mixture with your hands, it will go rotten). Store in a new bamboo container, tightly sealed, for at least one month, but preferably for six months.
"… Uncooked, the mixture does have an almost overpowering odor of sour fermented rice, but the pieces of coated meat become transformed into something altogether different when laid directly on the coals for five minutes. The fat flames up until one would think the meat was burned to a cinder, but when slightly cooled it is absolutely delicious. Crispy and sweet on the outside from the carmelized, tangy, fermented rice and juicy on the inside – full of complex and unexpected flavors. Each bite brought forth a new taste sensation. What a spectrum of flavors: piquant, sour, fragrant, and sweet! When sliced across the grain, the meat reveals an iridescent shimmer similar to corned beef or pastrami."
--from Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo, by Eric Hansen

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Scratch Pumpkin Pie

We are now back in the States (that’s another story) and actually spent Thanksgiving there, but before we left Indonesia I did manage to make pumpkin pie using the pumpkins sold in the markets here, labu kuning.
Above are some labu kuning on sale in the wonderful market in Jakarta. In our home city, in Central Kal, you don’t see huge stacks of labu kuning like this, usually no more than a quarter of a pumpkin sitting forlornly atop the other veggies. A quarter of a pumpkin being all that was available, I bought it hoping it would yield enough pumpkin to make the Better Homes & Gardens recipe below. I also expected that it would take a couple of hours to cook down. To my surprise, in only 45 minutes the pumpkin chunks that I boiled were soft enough to mash and drain. It yielded almost exactly 16 ounces of mashed pumpkin, and I had enough pumpkin pie filling that I had to cook the extra in a little Pyrex bowl. The hardest part was cutting the rind off the extremely hard pumpkin slices.
Below are some halved labu kuning being sold alongside beans and sweet potatos.

Seed, peel and cube about ¼ of a labu kuning. Put in a pot, cover in water, and boil 45 minutes or until soft. Drain, mash, and drain again. While the pumpkin is boiling and draining, make the crust. Then proceed with the recipe.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup shortening (mentega putih)
5 to 7 tablespoons cold water
16 ounces stewed pumpkin
2/3 cup sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
½ t ground ginger
½ t ground nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten
1 5-oz can (2/3 cup) evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed milk)
½ cup milk
1 large square aluminum foil with the middle cut out

Preheat oven 375 F, 190 C.
For crust, put flour in a mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in shortening till pieces are pea-sized. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat process till all the dough is moistened. Form dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten dough. Roll dough with a floured rolling pin from the center to the edges into a circle about 12” in diameter. To transfer pastry, wrap it around the rolling pin. Unroll the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease pastry into pie plate, being careful not to stretch pastry. Trim pastry to ½ inch beyond edge of pie plate. Use the trimmed pieces to patch the pie crust as needed; fold the edge under and crimp as desired.
For filling, in a large mixing bowl combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Add eggs. Beat lightly and carefully with a fork or wire whisk just till combined. Gradually stir in evaporated milk and milk; mix well.
To prevent overbrowning, cover the pastry crust with the aluminum foil with the middle cut out. Crimp or fold foil over the edges of the pie plate until it stays in place. Pull out oven rack; place pastry-lined pie plate on oven rack. Carefully pour filling into pastry shell through the large hole in the middle of the foil. Carefully slide oven rack back in.
Bake in a 375 F oven for about 40 minutes. Carefully remove foil. Bake 10 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center of the pie comes out clean. (I had to bake much longer than 50 minutes total before the knife came out clean!). Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate within 2 hours; cover for longer storage. Makes 8 servings.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Papaya Pie

This is not my recipe! You can find it here:

I did change it a little bit. About 2/3 cup brown sugar, no white sugar. No salt, since with the humidity here salt tends to clump up. I also added 1/8 t ginger, and used a regular crust instead of a graham cracker crust (which, if you had it, would be very good).
What a wonderful recipe for November in the tropics. It tastes harvest-y, like pumpkin or sweet potato pie, not at all like ripe papaya (which I don't really care for). And I got the fruit free from my housekeeper.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fried Spicy Tempe

Tempe is a cheap local source of protein. It is soybeans in a sort of cake, formed into a log. It can be sliced and deep-fried. Here is a log of tempe wrapped in a banana leaf.

The following is a Javanese recipe that goes by a lot of different names, most of which include the words “fried,” “dried,” and “tempe.” (They are: tempe kering, tempe bumbu kering, sambel goreng tempe, sambel goreng kering, and tempe orek.) I decided I wanted to learn to make it in order to save our budget a bit. At first I kind of guessed how to make it, guided by a few tips from a kind lady in the market where I bought the ingredients for my first batch. Then I got some more advice from a friend who is a caterer. My husband also got some advice from a food vendor. But the person who helped the most was my housekeeper. She’s the one who explained that you have to fry the tempe before you sautee the garlic and onions. To an American, this is a very counterintuitive recipe!
1 log of tempe
cooking oil
1 or 2 small fresh red peppers
a handful of string beans (buncis)
3 – 6 shallots (small red onions)
2 – 4 cloves of garlic
lemon grass (serai) (optional)
turmeric root (optional)
a flavor enhancer (e.g. Royko)
about ½ log palm sugar, grated (or 2 – 3 tablespoons brown or white sugar)
1/8 to ¼ cup water
In a large frying pan, heat just enough oil to deep-fry the tempe. Slice the tempe into strips and deep fry. You may need to fry it in two batches.
Drain on paper towels. Frying the tempe is the step that will take the longest. While it is frying, you can do the prep work for the other ingredients.
Rinse and bias-cut the red peppers and the string beans, stringing the beans first if necessary.
Poach the peppers and beans in a little water until done (about 10 minutes), then drain and set aside.
Grate the shallots and garlic. Optionally, grate a small amount of turmeric. Also optionally, cut the lemon grass into 1-centimeter pieces and crush it slightly to release the flavor. When all the tempe is draining on paper towels, there should be a few tablespoons of oil left. If not, cool and pour off any excess oil. Add the grated onions and garlic, and the other optional spices if using. Reheat the oil and sautee the spices, meanwhile sprinkling a packet of flavor enhancer such as Royko over the mixture. (Those allergic to MSG may leave this ingredient out, but you will not have the authentic Indonesian taste.)
When the spices are soft and fragrant, add the tempe back to the pan and stir gently so as to coat the tempe with the sauteed spice mixture without causing the tempe strips to fall apart. When the tempe is well coated, turn off the heat. Add the palm sugar and a little water. (I grate the palm sugar directly onto the tempe.) If the flavor enhancer you used is not very salty, you may need to to add salt. Turn the heat on low. Cook and stir until the sugar and water has become a brown glaze on the tempe strips. When this step is almost done, add the peppers and beans.
Voila! This dish is usually served with rice that has been cooked in a solution of water and coconut milk.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fridge Pickles with Curry

Got this recipe from a friend who now lives elsewhere in the world. It was such a gift to a pickle freak like me! Halved it because it made too much juice for my jars, and recently added my own touch with the curry. The original recipe called for 1 t turmeric, which turns the pickles yellow but does not add a distinctive taste, and for dill weed in place of peppercorns. You can also make it simply with water, vinegar and salt. The pickles will taste fine and will appear white like kosher pickles.
3 clean, dry 16-oz mayo jars or similar sized jars with lids that seal
about 4 medium-sized cucumbers
lightly bruised black peppercorns (optional)
1 3/4 cup water
1 cup vinegar (the kind that is only 5% acetic acid)
1/4 cup salt
about 1/2 t curry
If using black peppercorns, put a few in the bottom of each jar. Wash the cukes and cut into spears, cutting off extra seeds if necessary. Trim the ends of the spears so that they fit into the jars. Loosely pack each of the jars with the cucumber spears. Place a liquid funnel in the top of each jar.

In a pan, combine the water, vinegar, salt and curry, and bring to the boil, stirring until the salt is completely dissolved. While the liquid is still hot, ladle it through the funnels into the jars until each jar is full, with about a centimeter of air space at the top. Close the jars tightly and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, shake well. Store the jars upside down in the fridge for the first 24 hours. This way the tops of the cucumbers will pickle. For best results, store the pickles in the fridge for another day or two before serving.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pretty Healthy Carrot Cake

Adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. For a moister cake, increase the proportion of cooking oil to apple juice. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of cooking oil.
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar (palm sugar or brown sugar for a dark cake, white sugar for a light cake)
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice or nutmeg, if desired
1 – 2 T wheat germ (optional)
4 eggs
7/8 cup apple juice plus 1/8 cup cooking oil
3 cups finely shredded carrots
Grease and lightly flour a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and optionally, allspice or nutmeg and wheat germ.
In a separate bowl, beat eggs thoroughly with a wire whisk or fork. Add the apple juice and oil and beat again. Add the carrots and mix well. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until moistened. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit, 180 Celcius until a wooden toothpick comes out clean (35 minutes to 1 hour).
Cool cake thoroughly on a wire rack. Frost with cream cheese frosting or ordinary shortening/butter frosting. Cover and store in the refridgerator. The frosting will seal the moisture into the cake.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Apple Crisp

Pictured: locally available oatmeal, apples, and brown sugar - actually palm sugar with its distinctive molassassy flavor.
The following recipe is adapted from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, where it is called Fruit Crisp. My changes: I made it smaller to suit our small family, and --you get to eat the apple skins! This recipe is healthy, easy to prepare, and can bake alongside a casserole for a Sunday dinner. It can be made a day ahead, refrigerated, and baked on the day.
Baking Method
Preheat oven 375 F, 190 C. Grease a glass pie plate or 8x8 baking dish.
2 to 5 apples (Fujis work well)
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup flour
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 cup butter, slightly softened
1/8 cup chopped nuts or coconut
Core and thinly slice apples. Arrange the slices in the greased pie plate or baking dish. For topping, mix together oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Optionally, stir in nuts or coconut. Sprinkle topping over the filling. Bake at 375 until the apples can be cut with an ordinary table spoon (about 45 minutes). Serve warm, with whipped cream if possible! Serves to 2 to 4.
Stovetop Method
This recipe can also be made on the stovetop. Simmer the sliced apples in a covered pot with about 1/2 cup water until tender. When the apples are tender and the water is gone, add the prepared topping mixture and close the lid of the pot again. The heat from the apples will slightly cook the topping mixture. The topping will be stickier than with the baking method, but still pretty good for a healthy dessert if you're away from home. I did it this way recently when we were in the big city in a tiny apartment with just a 2-burner gas stove.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Red Lentil Soup

This is a wonderful soup. It cooks quickly, tastes good, and gives you a big serving of your veggies for the day. We have it frequently, usually with biscuits. I adapted it from Extending the Table, the successor to the popular More With Less Cookbook. In ET it is called "Spicy Lentil Pot." My changes: less lentils and water to suit our family's size, 2 boullion cubes instead of one for better flavor. Leave them out if you're allergic to MSG.
2 carrots
1 green bell pepper (using a red one gives the soup an even more beautiful red color)
1 onion
2 tomatos or 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
5 – 8 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 cup orange lentils
4 cups water
2 chicken boullion cubes (optional)
2 t. ground cumin
1 ½ t. salt
¼ - 1 ½ t. ground red pepper or Tabasco or other hot sauce

1. Coarsely chop carrots, onion, and tomatos. Place in a large soup pot. (If substituting tomato sauce, do not add it until after the lentils are cooked.) Add garlic, lentils, and boullion cubes (see picture above). Add water.
2. Cover and boil 20 – 30 minutes without stirring.
3. Cool slightly and strain or puree. The puree step is not absolutely necessary, but I’ve tried it both ways and I think the pureeing is important to that extra-good taste that makes you want to make this soup again and again.
4. Return the pureed soup to the pot and add cumin, salt, and pepper or hot sauce. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors.
Serve with bread or rice. Yoghurt and/or lime juice make good toppings.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Refreshing Custom Lassis

A lassi is apparently an Indian yoghurt beverage that has made it to this country, in a limited way, since here they are not big on dairy products. In addition to being delicious & nutritious, they are very filling. Once we were in a coastal resort town and went to a little restaurant. I ordered a lassi while waiting for our meal. It was good, so I ordered another one. By the time our meal came, I couldn’t eat much of it! This filling quality makes a custom lassi a good quick breakfast.
The classic lassi contains lime juice, cumin, and black pepper, and maybe some other stuff as well. For variations, put one cup of plain yoghurt in the blender with any of the following:
1 cubed, pureed mango and juice of 1 lime
1 cup apple juice and 1 t cinnamon
1 cup orange juice and 1/8 t nutmeg
¼ cup sliced strawberries
1 ½ T nutella or another chocolate/hazelnut spread (such as “Crumpy”)
1 cup hot chocolate
1 cup sweetened coffee (plain coffee is not recommended)
A hot lassi will get frothy like a cappucino when you blend it, but if allowed to sit will separate out. To restore the creamy texture, simply stir it.
If you don't have a blender, you can also make these lassis with a minute or two of energetic stirring with a long-handled spoon.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Indomie Salad

All of us have a version of this recipe, probably called “oriental salad” or something like that. The great thing about this version is that it uses cheap, ubiquitously available local ingredients.
Indomie is a very popular brand of instant noodles. In addition to having a packet of powdered seasonings, like Ramen in the States, is also has little packets of powdered chiles, flavored oil, and sweet soy sauce.
1 package Indomie, in a flavor you like
½ head of Chinese cabbage
2 or 3 green onions
salted cashews (more readily available here than almonds)
celery, carrot, tomato, or orange or apple sections
½ cup vinegar (5% acetic acid; if using 20%, remember to dilute)
3 tablespoons brown sugar or palm sugar
Chop the cabbage, onions, cashews, and additional fruit or vegetable. Put in a bowl that seals.
Open Indomie. Remove the seasoning packets but leave the noodles in the bag. Crumble up the noodles in the bag, then dump on the chopped veggies.
Measure vinegar into a measuring cup. Stir in the brown sugar or palm sugar. One at a time, open and add the Indomie powder seasoning packet, as much of the powdered chile as you like, and (this is where it can get messy) the flavored oil and soy sauce. Stir mixture until the sugar and seasonings are completely dissolved. Pour over the salad in the bowl, seal the bowl, shake well, and refridgerate 1+ hours. The noodles will absorb the vinegar mixture and become soft.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

10-Minute Broccoli Cheese "Casserole"

The perfect midday meal for a busy, ravenous breastfeeding mom who needs her protein, calcium and folic acid.
1 box Kraft instant mac ‘n’ cheese
1 head of broccoli
3 T butter
a splash of milk
grated cheese (optional)
sour cream or plain yoghurt (optional)
parmesan cheese or wheat germ
In a pan, bring water to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse the broccoli and cut into florets. When the water is boiling, stir in the Kraft noodles and the broccoli florets. Boil for 6 to 8 minutes until done. Meanwhile (optionally) grate about 2 oz of cheese of your choice.
Drain the noodles and broccoli. Add the Kraft seasoning packet, butter, and milk; mix thoroughly. Optionally, stir the grated cheese into the hot mixture; it should melt. At this point you can also optionally stir in 2 T sour cream or up to ½ cup plain yoghurt for a creamy texture and a slightly tart flavor.
For that crunchy casserole topping, top with parmesan cheese or wheat germ (pictured). Eat immediately. Serves 1.