(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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).
Based on a recipe called "Brown Sugar Chicken" that I found on the Internet ages ago. The original recipe called for crushed garlic too, but I don't usually have time for that, and it's good without.
meaty chicken pieces, as many as you like
brown sugar (gula aren works if you are in Indonesia)
ground black pepper
soy sauce (about 3 T)
1/3 cup water or apple juice
Put the chicken in the crock pot. Sprinkle liberally with brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour on the soy sauce and apple juice or water. Turn on to High and leave it alone for 3 hours. Turn it on to Low until you are ready to eat it. It will fall off the bone!
A new ‘n improved version of Chocolate Pinon Cheesecake.
2 cups Graham Cracker crust mix
2 T sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
1 - 2 T butter
4 squares baker’s chocolate
3 8-oz packages cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
2 cups sugar
2 t chile powder
¼ t ground red pepper
¼ cup pinon nuts, plus more for garnish
Thaw the cream or Neufchatel cheese an hour or two before beginning the process.
Preheat oven 350 F.
Grate the baker’s chocolate into a saucepan. Add 1 – 2 T butter and put it on the lowest heat possible. While you are doing the rest of the recipe, stir occasionally.
For crust, mix Graham Cracker crust mix and sugar in a small bowl. Melt butter, stir it into the dry mixture, then press the resulting mixture into a cheesecake pan with your hands. Cover the pan and chill the crust until you are ready to add the filling.
For the filling, beat together the cream cheese (I find it helpful to cube it first), the sugar, the chile powder and the ground red pepper until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat until it is thoroughly mixed. Fold in the pinon nuts. Pour the filling mixture into the crust and smooth to make it even.
Bake at 350 F for 55 minutes or until the center is just firm to the touch. The cake will puff up in the oven, then slowly settle as it cools. Cool to room temperature, then chill the cake before serving. Top each slice with a squirt of Hershey’s Semi-Sweet chocolate syrup and additional pinon nuts.
Take a packet of Indomie or another brand of ramen noodles in a flavor you like. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the seasonings, noodles, and up to 1/4 cup frozen chopped spinach. Boil for 1 minute. Use a utensil to loosen the noodles. Then, crack an egg on top of them, cover and boil for 2 minutes more. Transfer it all to a serving bowl. Garnish with lemon.
Masak means "to cook" in Indonesian. Since we lived for a time in Indonesia, some people wondered what we eat. This blog will help answer that question ... and perhaps inspire you with its cheap, eclectic, and ad hoc collection of recipes.
Our Oven in Indonesia
It sits on top of an LPG burner. The tank is underneath the counter.