Everytime I ask hubby what I should cook for potluck, his answer is "something simple". What he calls simple food is food that has all its ingredient mixed at once in one cooking dish. Some examples are casserole, salad, and soup. In contrast, I like to make food that needs to be shaped individually. I enjoy making individual fruit tarts, shaping little pastries, and decorating cupcakes. I also like doing repetitive little thing such as tying ribbons for party favors and making sugar flowers for cake decoration.
For this month potluck though, I found an appetizer recipe that's easy, although it required shaping couple dozens of balls. It was a meatball recipe with "Asian (Chinese)" flavor. I didn't use the sauce recipe because I am not a fan of hoisin sauce. Hubby & I thought they tasted great. I was glad I found this recipe because I usually use boiling water to make meatballs, which was more complicated than just baking the whole meatballs together in one batch. I think I will make these again and save those in the freezer before the baby comes.
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a large bowl, combine meatball ingredients. Shape into balls (I got about 60 meatballs), arrange on a greased baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, or until meatballs are golden on the outside and cooked through.
While the meatballs are baking, sautee the minced garlic and ginger until fragrant, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients except corn starch. Thicken the sauce with cornstarch that has been dissolved in water. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and stir gently to make sure they all get covered well.
How many hours is the longest time you have ever spent in the kitchen?
I often thought that I wanted to make something simple but then I was caught in the flow and couldn't stop. Then I realized that I'd been spent hours in my tiny kitchen. That one afternoon on a national holiday was an example. I planned on making steam buns. But then I got an idea of shaping them like little chubby piglets.
The pink color was made out of pureed steamed beet. I used the smallest beet I had from my CSA. The different shades of pink were results of the length of steaming. The longer the buns were steamed, the lighter the pink color was! That's one new thing I learned that day.
Starter: 250 gr all purpose flour
1 sachet instant yeast
150 ml water
Mix all of the ingredients, let it rise until doubled.
Main ingredients: 100 gr all purpose flour
50 gr rice flour
70 gr powdered sugar
1 Tbs baking powder 1/4 tsp baking soda
5 Tbs beet juice from 1 steamed beet
50 gr salted butter
Mix all of the ingredients with the starter dough. Mix until the dough is well blended and shiny. Set aside some of the dough for the pig's ears, noses and tails. Divide the dough to 25-30-gram balls. Fill each ball with meat or mung bean filling. Shape the dough. Attach the body parts. Poke the nose. Glue 2 black sesame using white egg for the eyes. Steam for 10-15 minutes.
Flour, salt, ice water, and cold butter. That's all the ingredients needed for making a puff pastry. Making it can't be hard, can it?
I wanted to make an appetizer for a Thanksgiving dinner and found a recipe that called for a frozen puff pastry.I thought of making it from scratch because I was on a little break from school and wanted to test myself if I was able to make it. I used a recipe from Baking with Julia cookbook. Weather wise, it is a perfect time to make puff pastry since the key of its layers is cold butter. Cold weather means less refrigeration along the process. The night I made it was probably the coldest night before Thanksgiving I've ever experienced this past eight years. In fact, we had some snow the day before.
The steps of making puff pastry from scratch are simple, but they are labor-intensive and tedious. It involves mostly... rolling! Since the butter (the dough in general) is cold, rolling it requires much energy. Someone said that she needed a push-up bra when rolling fondant. I could totally relate to that I spent that evening standing on a step stool because my kitchen counter is too high for me. At the end of the day, I was sweaty, my biceps were sore, and I didn't know whether my dough would work or not.
I continued the rolling and folding process the next day then cut the dough to rectangular shapes. While waiting on another cooling process, I prepared the toppings, which were chopped mushrooms, caramelized onion, apple cubed, chopped basil, julienned orange bell-pepper, and grated Gruyere cheese. I baked the puff pastry almost 24 hours after I started the process. Hubby just gave me a smile when he saw me still dealing with rolling and folding
The result was very rewarding though. The pastry was tender crunchy flaky layers in each bite. It definitely was worth the effort.
We had some weeks when our refrigerator shelves were full of corns. We got some from CSA, some from Earth Fare store as part of their coupon deal, and some from someone at work. That last one was random. So, one morning when I just got back from class, I saw a big sack of corns by my office desk. Apparently, someone had a corn farm and give the yields away for free. My major professor, the one who was asked to distributed the corns, asked the students to take some first before he offered them to the others. He knew exactly grad students' financial situation
Having many corns, I really wanted to make sate jagung, or people often call it dadar jagung or bakwan jagung. It is basically corn kernels mixed in Javanese seasoned egg mixture. Grandma often made it for mid-evening snack, and I loved it. The only problem was, it's deep fried - a food processing method hubby & I don't like. Why? It is just too much and too messy for us. We didn't like deep frying when we were still living in hard-floored house with spacious kitchen, let alone now in our small carpeted apartment.
I got a brilliant idea though, or I at least that's what I thought for a moment. I used a cast iron muffin pan that I used to made bika ambon. Using that, I didn't have to use as much oil. I poured some of the batter to available 7 little spaces and saw the patties risen up a bit. Good sign! Then came the time to flip it...and whoops! They were stuck to the bottom so I ended up scrambled the mixture inside those little spaces. Hubby and I laughed together at my failed experience (Isn't it great to have someone to laugh with?) Hubby told me to treat it like pancake and took out a non-stick pan. I added some tablespoons of flour and started frying the "pancakes". It worked!
They surely didn't look like sate jagung, but they tasted like ones. I miss the crunchy, slightly burning edges of the deep version, but I think it is a happy compromise.
Hubby's only brother and his wife visited us last 4th July weekend. They live in Goshen Indiana, which is only less than half day driving distance, yet we barely see each other. We are all busy, but I think the more exact reason is... hm... brothers thing. For sisters like me and my older sisters, we would visit each other often if we were not thousand miles away. For brothers, no news is a good news, so I was so excited when they visited us.
When they were in our place, I planned on making egg rolls. I wanted to show them that I could make egg roll skin because I'd learned from hubby's grandma when I went home. I thought it would bring back hubby's and his brother's childhood memories. The plan was I made the skin and hubby's brother, who is a good cook, would make the filling. Unfortunately, we had our schedule full during their short visit and didn't have chance to cook together.
The evening after they left, I was still in high gear for making egg rolls. So I gathered all of the ingredients and make these rolls. My second attempt to make the skins was probably slightly better than the previous one. The first skins were too thick, which could be used as towels to clean the kitchen table The rest was fine except some thick patches caused bumpy skins.
What made the egg roll tasted much better was the sauce. Hubby told me that some egg roll sauce tasted like glue (not that he had tasted glue), so he asked if I could make better sauce. While thinking what I could use for the sauce, I remembered some chicken broth I made when I needed boiled chicken breast for choux paste filling. I was happy to have leftover broth because using chicken broth made a big different for the sauce; and guess first topic I brought up the next time I called my mom in-law
Egg Roll Sauce
Ingredients: 350ml chicken broth
2 finely grated garlic
50gr palm sugar
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs tapioca or corn starch dissolved in some water
Using a sauce pan, cook broth, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper until boiled. Add the starch mixture into the pan with low heat. Mix well.
I got the privilege of learning hubby's grandma's secret recipe when I visited her last December. Hubby keeps telling me how great her cooking is, and I proofed it by myself by trying almost everything she offered me during that short visit. In fact, she doesn't cook for her family only, but also for her customers. That's right, she has a small ronde -Indonesian traditional hot drink- shop in front of her house. Eventhough she is over 80, cooking is still her main activity. When I was there, she offered to teach me some recipes and also offered me some kitchen cooking wares, which were her mom's treasures.
Among those recipes she offered, I chose spring roll wrap. Hubby told me that he loved watching his great grandma making the wraps. As boys, he and his brother often asked her to let the wrap cooked longer on the pan, so they could enjoy crunchy spring roll wraps. I can imagine the joy eating the warm crispy wraps fresh from the pan. His grandma continues the business now, and she passed the recipe down to me.
Making the wraps looked easy, but when I tried it at home, it was like a joke. Fortunately, I cooked with my mom. We laughed at my failure together. It was fun! She made the bamboo shoot filling while I was focusing on the wraps. After some got trashed, some were as thick as cow skin, some could be used as masks because of some gigantic holes on it, the wraps finally started looking like.....wraps!
At the end of that afternoon, we had a lot of Indonesian spring rolls enough for several days. The next day, I packed some for dad, using his blue lunch box my sister had it made for him. That lunch box was to replace my 5-year niece's pink princess lunch box dad often brought to office. Haha... It was great to be home.
Between two of us, hubby more cares about our CSA vegetables. He picks up the veggies from the drop off place, puts them in the refrigerator, and often washes them. This past few weeks, I caught him several times was spraying kale, a curly leafy vegetables he loved, using a spray bottle I usually use for my potted basil. One time when he was in the middle of something, he suddenly panicked because he forgot to spray the kale. He didn’t want the leaves to droop.
Kale is my favorite green too. It tastes great and nutritious (and the texture of the leaves is an added bonus). Last week, we had food for dinner already but still had a bunch of kale. I knew I wouldn’t had chance to cook it since we were going out of town two days after, then I was going out of country. I looked for a snack recipe and found kale chips recipe.
The chips were easy to make. I had confident that we would have a great snack that evening. I mean, what could go wrong with kale? Well, something apparently could. I was baking three different recipes that time and was swamped with homework. When I checked the chips, they were overbaked! I set the time less that what the recipe suggested, and the kitchen timer hadn't gone off yet but the chips were overdone. I shouldn't have but put the pan baking on the lower rack. I got rid of some that were awfully brown, and enjoyed the rest.
Roasted Kale Chips 1 bunch of kale
1-2 Tbs olive oil
Remove the ribs from the kale and wash and dry the leaves using a salad spinner or paper towel. Put them in a Ziplock bag and add the olive oil. Shake the bag, squeeze and massage the leaves it until they are well coated with oil.
Arrange them on a greased baking pan. Sprinkle with salt. Bake in a preheated oven at 300F until the leaves are crispy turning the leaves halfway through, for about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
When a new Earth Fare supermarket had just opened in my area, they had free samples of baked vegetable chips for people to try. Whenever I went there, the first thing I got was the snap pea crisps. Other veggie chips they had that I liked were carrot, beet, okra, and green bean chips. I liked the chips because they were not heavily flavored. I would guess the additional flavor were salt, pepper, and oil. Yes, oil. Baking also requires oil to prevent sticking and to make the veggie crispy.
This past few weeks, we've been getting eggplants from CSA, and I had used them for curry, stir fry veggies, and balado. Since I was getting bored of my usual cooking and the eggplants needed to be cooked soon, I thought of cooking them for appetizer. My options were eggplant rolls and chips, but I decided to make the latter for its simplicity.
I made this eggplants chips two times in a row. The first one was great but was burnt a little bit. I thought because the eggplant slices were too thin. So, I made the slices thicker for he second one, which was actually worse than the first one since the chips were chewy instead of crunchy. Lesson learned! Next time I make this, I would cut the eggplant thin, about a quarter of an inch or less, then reduce the baking time. To accompany the chips, I made basil pesto using the leaves I freshly picked from a potted basil plant in my sun room.
Eggplant Chips Ingredients: 2 Italian eggplants
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
Thinly slice the eggplants to 1/4 inch and arrange on a large parchment paper. Sprinkle the salt over the eggplant and let sit for about an hour. Using a paper towel, blot off the salt and water.
Mix oil oil and chili powder then brush mixture onto both sides of the eggplant.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350' F for 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Belgedel or perkedel is a potato cake grandma often made. I loved it so much that I often lost count how many of it I have had. For grandma, it's better if the food was gone because it was consumed than if it was wasted; and my sisters and I knew that we would be in a big trouble if we wasted food. Her cook was always delicious, so we never could find any reason not to finish it. Oh how lucky I was to have grandma living with us during the first quarter century of my life.
That Sunday, I accidentally made bergedel. Yes, accidentally. I was planning on making pastel tutup, but when I mashed the potatoes, mixed in spices, then tasted it, I knew I wanted to change direction. The taste reminded me of grandma's perkedel. Fortunately, I haven't prepared the filling, so it was in fact shortened my cooking time. Moment later, there were balls of mashed potato calling to be eaten. I was happy to finally taste this food again.
My bergedel was different than my grandma's although I used her recipe. Hers used meat and was double fried. She would cut the potatoes in slices then fried them. After forming to balls, she would fry them again. Mine was meatless because I was too lazy to thaw ground beef, the potatoes were steamed before mashed, and then baked because I didn't like deep frying in my apartment. My kitchen didn't have window, so the stubborn odor from hot oil for frying would stay for a long time. So, as much as I like fried food, I tried not to do it at home. I usually bake it instead. Most of the time, although not the same, baking the supposed-to-be-fried food can also taste great. I think it worked for this bergedel too, or at least it tasted like the one I used to eat with much less grease.
So, here is the ingredients and cooking direction for the bergedel from my grandma. My apology for not having the measurement because the recipe I got from grandma doesn't have one. I should have jot down the measurement right after I cook.
Potatoes, peeled, sliced, fried
Shrimp and ground beef, stir fried
Cut celery or cilantro, chopped
Fried onion, crushed
Mash the potatoes and meat. Mix in the fried onion, salt, sugar, and nutmeg. Shape into small flat patties. Coat patties with beaten egg and deep-fry in hot oil until golden brown.
Our family has an unusual Christmas dish called macaroni schotel. Macaroni schotel is similar to casserole-type dish whose main ingredients are elbow macaroni, ham, cheese, and milk. Back home, at least when I was still lived there, this dish was considered pricey because of the ingredients especially the ham. That's why my sister and I were so excited when mom bought ham from our city's Chinatown. It happened several times that we had to buy another pack of ham because we almost finished it before mom had used it for macaroni schotel. Since then she would remind us the original purpose of buying the ham when we were tempted to steal slice by slice of it.
Macaroni schotel was a comfort food during Christmas in my family, and still is until now. Grandma lived with us, so our house got visited a lot by our extended family. Mom would make two squares (about 9x9 inches) macaroni schotel then sliced them thin so they would be enough for everyone. That little slice was actually a perfect size because in Indonesia, this dish was considered as a snack. The very slices would then be served on mom's best china collections that were only be taken down from shelf during special occasions. I miss those times. Hopefully I can come home on Christmastime someday.
May the birth of Jesus Christ brings joy, peace, and hope in your family.