Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rendang Padang, and My Rant...

I feel so lucky sometimes, to find out what I want to do with my life. People ask me, why do I love to cook, and to be honest, I can't answer that. Do I cook stuff so I can post it on the blog? Not necessarily. My reason to cook goes way beyond that. My blog is just one of so many ways to kill boredom. Do I cook because I have to? Not really. I'm at the point where what I cook at home, doesn't satisfy my passion anymore. I want to do something more. Something beyond my knowledge. Something totally new. If I get to choose what I want to do with my life, I want to be in the kitchen 24/7, with several potty breaks when needed. (Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point) I cook, simply because I like it. Strange, I know. But I'm the kind of person who does shit just because. I wish the question "what inspires you to cook?" could stay unanswered. If you want something that resembles an answer, how about this, I'm blinded by love.

I've been talking about going back to school a lot, up to the time it feels like I'm just bluffing. Well, it's quite hard for middle-class family like us who are still improving our life. It's just sad that we're too poor to afford childcare, but yet we make too much to get childcare benefit. This has been worrying me for the past couple years, I've decided to stop overthinking shit and make a move. So I applied to culinary school and applied for the financial aid. Just wish me luck.

With so many instant spices available, what I could've done was bought the rendang instant spice package and cook it. But I hate shortcut. Not because, "Ooh, shortcut is for loser blahblah. I'm fancy. I'm cool, that's why I make things from scratch. Shortcut doesn't taste as good as homemade." Nope. It's just because I like making things from scratch, it's for personal satisfaction. I just love the act of cooking. It makes me feel good. This is my vice.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lemon Bars

The weather has been lovely. The kiddie pool is out, actually used as a pool with "real water" instead of a makeshift tent with blankets and pillows. Time to ditch the jackets and the boy is so happy he can finally wear sleeveless shirts. Somehow, summer days make me think of lemon bars. Perhaps it's the lemon, with its yellow, sunshine-y color, resembles an oval sun. Or it's just me trying to find an excuse to share this lemon bars with you through my blog...

I'd never thought I would love fruity baked goods. But lemon bars are different. To me, it's like eating sour brownies with shortbread base. Darn it, you know what? I'll just be honest with you. I love the shortbread base so much, sometimes I scrape off the lemon curd, save it for later, and just eat the cookie part. Not that the curd isn't tasty, I'm just that kind of a weirdo. I will also say, that the curd is so chewy, I wanna marry it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rhubarb Curry

I've seen rhubarb in both farmer's market and grocery store but honestly, I wouldn't know what to do with this red, celery-lookalike vegetable. The first time I tasted it, it was at the rhubarb potluck Brook from Learn to Preserve invited me to (thanks, Brook!). While I'd had never cooked with rhubarb before, I offered to bring some pandan cake. They had this spread of all rhubarb goodies, and my favorite were the rhubarb ketchup and rhubarb jelly. Enjoying rhubarb with some of the nicest people in Seattle was a blast. I went as a rhubarb virgin and came home as a rhubarb lover.

Then out of nowhere, I started to imagine how good it would be to have strips of rhubarb in red curry, instead of bamboo shoots. Went home with one mission, to try this brilliant idea of mine (most ideas are brilliant until proven silly). Well, lucky for me, I liked it. The tartness of the rhubarb, spicy curry and cubed chicken complements each other so well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fun with Pho

When we used to live in Beacon Hill, we went out for pho at least once every 2 weeks. One of the perks of living in south Seattle is the abundance of Asian grocery stores and eateries. Actually, I still shop for groceries there. I don't know what stop us from going out for pho, but we haven't been out for pho in the longest time. The joy of eating pho at home is we get to choose whatever we want. While I like less noodles and more herbs, my husband is the otherwise. I think that could be the reason why we haven't been going to pho restaurant.


Most people associate chicken soup with being sick and needing nourishment. That's how we look at pho. When Seattle's weather isn't being kind to us, we like to have a bowl of pho. The cinnamon scented broth and the noodles cooked just right, with slightly cooked beef slices and crunchy beansprouts, that must be better than medicine, yes?

 We love pho so much, we even made this pho cake, made out of cake and fondant.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Baked Pork Buns, My BUNdle of Joy

I have a confession to make. My favorite meat to cook with is pork. As boring as it sounds, I make pork stewed in soy sauce at least once every 2 weeks. For variation, sometimes pork belly is used or pork feet for that gelatinous texture. I don't know why, the first day of pork stew, it's still good just eaten with steamed rice. The second day, I started to get the itching to make something else out of it. And most of the time, I relented and make pork buns using the leftovers.

Instead of steaming them as usual, I baked them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Updated Corn Fritters, Crispier and Better

Is there any food that you loathe as a child, but grow to love? I have a lot. One of them is corn fritter. Growing up, corn fritter made by my mom's helper wasn't the best. While she is a great cook (she's still working for my mom until today, that makes it 16 years!), her corn fritter is always soggy, oily and whenever you eat them, it leaves this unpleasant oily film inside your mouth. Being the most loyal member of clean-your-plate club, it always perturbed when I had to leave this lumpy disk of doughy corn on my plate.

A decade later, I'm so far away from home. Yet, I crave the food that I used to hate. Sometimes, the homesickness is so strong, I even miss food that I've never had. Last year, the corn fritter came to me in my dream. No, I'm not being funny, it sure did. After calling my mom for the recipe, she just told me the ingredients, with no details of the measurement at all. So there I was in the kitchen, guessing how much each ingredient I need to make this corn fritter. The first try came out too familiar, soggy and oily. So I decide to put more corn in the mixture. While most people looooove the doughy fritter, I adore crispy fritter. And the fact that I cheated and used frozen corn paid off. The corn kernels stay crunchy, while the fresh corn kernels turn mushy.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Simple Sambal, but It Will Burn Your Mouth

My love of spicy food can be dated back to when I was a 2-yr-old. I'm not talking about Sriracha-spicy. I'm talking about real, fiery, burn-your-mouth kind of spicy. My mom used to joke, it's because I'm a tiger, to maintain my fierceness, I have to consume copious amount of spicy chilies. She also said that is why I'm so impatient, bold, crude and barbaric yet ambitious. And she thinks all that qualities, if I polish myself quite nicely, it will actually help me to get further in life (yeah, hopefully..)

My son also loves spicy food. He can handle his chilies better than most adults I know. We make sambal once a month, and it'll last us exactly that long. While he likes sambal oelek, nothing compares to the homemade one. We can tinker with it, make it as spicy as we like. I don't know how he gets this way. All I remember was he wanted to try some sambal when he was 1.5 years old. Let him try a dab, since then, he's hooked. Of course I make sure to throw away the chili seeds. That's the culprit to the burning sensation in your mouth. After awhile, no-seeds sambal is too weak for him. So I leave just enough seeds in our sambal.

Sambal to us is like pesto to most people. You can slather it on any protein you have. Or slow cooked eggplants in it. We do lots of things with it. Very versatile. Sometimes I just want to bathe in it (uh, not a good idea, of course, it will sting you like no other!) The neat thing about homemade sambal is, you can control the heat.

It makes me miss home, where you can just fold your legs up, with a plate of hot steaming rice in front of you. At this point, who needs eating utensils? As barbaric as it sounds, it does taste better that way. You can feel each grain of rice between your fingertips. The burning sensation of the chili seeds against your skin. You're using all five senses to eat. Just don't rub your eyes.......

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Crispy Chow Mian, a Feel-Good Dinner

At times when we don't know what to cook for dinner, we always settle for the easiest dish. The one that everyone enjoys. While it's not always healthy, it's homecooked. We rarely eat out, only occasionally when there's the urge to splurge. I always feel so accomplished whenever I successfully cook dinner using only leftover ingredients. 1/4 of the chicken breast, half of the capsicum. While it is perhaps just me, I do feel like I'm some frugal goddess when that happens.

Tired of fried rice, the ultimate vessel to use up leftover ingredients, crispy chow mein or chow mian (I prefer to call it the latter) is also a good way to channel my inner frugal goddess. Of course, the name of my blog gives it away, we eat it with rice. It's the Chinese in us, without rice, it somehow doesn't feel like a meal. We treat the crispy chow mian not as our main carb. It's more like an extra crunch to complement the vegetables & meat.

I rarely cook with a real recipe, unless it's a new dish that I've never cooked before. This one is pretty easy. It all depends on what you have in your refrigerator. I use leftover roasted chicken from the day before, half capsicum, some mushrooms, green onions and peanuts. The noodles was boiled and deep fried until crisp, it was crunchy, but soft where the sauce from the stir fry soaked into the noodles.

The seasonings are mostly a dash of this and a pinch of that. But sweet soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper are strongly recommended. Sometimes when I feel cheeky, I also use spicy bean paste to season the stir fry. Fast and easy dinner.

I bet it's good to cure hangover too, yes?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Point Defiance Zoo & Cake That Reminds Us of The Trip

After months of sun deprivation, of course we were ecstatic to know that we would be having a sun-filled weekend. We went to the zoo on Saturday. While we love the Woodland Park Zoo, we were just there few months ago, so we decided to visit Point Defiance Zoo. Yes, it's quite a drive to Tacoma from where we live. But it's worth the trip. What I love about this zoo is, the animals are more active and easier to spot.

The kids were well-behaved, no one complained about being tired or hungry or sleepy or bored. That classifies as a good day. We saw all the animals (except the red wolf), soaked up all the sunshine and went home happy.

He loves the sandbox, telling me how it feels like sugar. My reaction? "He better NOT put it in his mouth".

The next day (Sunday), we made a cake that will remind us of our trip to the zoo. We practically toss things into the mixing bowl, without any recipe. But we did jot down the measuring of the ingredients, in case we want to make it again next time. Lucky for us, it did turn out well. The butter reminds us of the bright, yellow sun. Brown sugar resembles the sand in the sandbox. And the chocolate.. uh.. let's not elaborate.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ghetto Soto Ayam

Seattle's weather has been so beautiful lately. The sun is out, which makes me want to go out more often (this is so rare.. I'm usually a homebody). Unfortunately, I've been feeling under the weather. Stuffy nose, clogged up ears, and sore throat. Hell no. So instead of taking a walk to playground, today we made soto ayam. It's Indonesian clear chicken broth (well, slightly yellow to be exact).

While they do sell the instant spice sachets, I find it superfluous to use. It's not that hard. If you own a mortar and pestle, you can make any Indonesian dishes (and of course you need a pantry full of Indonesian spices). Heck, I don't own mortar and pestle, but magic bullet could also doubled as spice grinder.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spicy Fried Tempeh, and How I Miss My Mom

I haven't written for quite awhile. Had a moment where I find it hard to process my thoughts into words. I miss having my mom around, so there's an adult to talk to during the day when my husband is at work. Ironically, I didn't have a good relationship with my mom as a child. We rarely talked, except when I was talking back. I didn't know why she was so.. bitter and unloving. I'm not going to elaborate, but I discovered something when I was 16. She's been holding so much burden by hiding someone else's secrets just so we, her children, won't lose respect for that "someone". To make long story short, since then, I see her in different light.

Funny how my mom lives thousand miles away from me, but her voice is always in my head. Making comments. Sometimes it's a nice one, sometimes it's mocking me. When I was playing puzzles with my son, her voice in my head said "Start with the sides first, then you just fill in the middle parts". After how many years, the memories just flooded back. Like that one time she told me how God would punish me in the future, by making me marry the boy I socked in kindergarten "so watch out, don't hurt people". 

While driving to my grandmother's house, we would pass a river. A really dirty one. There were people brushing their teeth there, taking a dump, taking a bath, using the water to cook their meals. I was (and still am) grateful that we have proper plumbing, so using the dirty water wasn;t necessary. Then I saw something else, I'm sure they've been there forever, but didn't notice til that day. There were two men, in their underpants and wifebeaters, stomping something inside a barrel with their sweats dripping down. Undoubtedly using the dirty water, too. My mom noticed me looking at them, said nonchalantly "Oh, they're just stomping on the soy beans that they'll turn into tempeh". My 8-year-old self, who love tempeh so very much, got so disgusted and wouldn't touch it for the next 5 years. While my mom swore she never said that, I'm sure it was her selective memories playing tricks on her.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dark Chocolate Truffle Shortbread Bars

I've been feeling down lately, due to the weather and delay in schooling. I try not to whine about it, but sadly, I have to wait until next year to go back to school. While I'm disappointed, our decision is the best for our family. Talking about, isn't it spring already? Why does the fall/winter weather linger around, I do not know. Whenever the weather is icky, I feel icky too. I'm much happier during summer time.

We, human, have no control over Mother Nature. If only we could prevent natural disaster, if only we could change the weather. Sadly, we can't. Don't be discouraged. One thing we can control is ourselves. So to cheer us up in this gloomy weather, and trying to cope with news of natural disaster, something as simple as chocolate shortbread bars could help. I won't say that it'll cure our heartaches or make us forget all calamities. But it does help. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Collard Greens, The Indonesian Way

Yesterday, I experienced an impulsive longing for home. Yes, even after 7 years of living here in Seattle, the home to my guts is still Indonesia. I miss street vendors selling snacks, while it might be unhygienic, it was cheap and satisfying. My dad used to say, whatever food that is sold in a kaki lima, it's gotta be good. It's like the fast food of Indonesia, minus the trans fat.

I especially miss Padang food, where they'd take out several dishes at once upon your arrival. So you just pick which dishes you want. You don't even have to wait to order. There's a saying, hit the ground running. This is "hit the chair eating". Or if you decide to get a take-out, they'll wrap your food in banana leaves. Hot food + banana leaves = heaven. I think the hot food helps permeate its fragrance.

I usually like their rendang, cooked brains and cassava leaves in coconut broth. But since it was an impromptu lunch, and I didn't have cassava leaves in hands, I tried using collard green. It has the pleasant bitterness that cassava leaves offer, I didn't expect it to work this well. Served over hot rice, it felt almost like home. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Puffy, Chewy and Delicious Scallions Pancakes.

Most of my girl friends' weakness is always desserts. When choosing snacks, sweets will always be the number one choice. As much as I love chocolate, I find myself craving for salty, savory snacks almost every day. Sometimes the snacking urge is so sudden, I need a quick fix. Opening a bag of chips isn't it.

The other day, my son and I were reading the dimsum book, with beautiful illustration that never fails to whet our appetite. We stopped at the scallion pancakes recipe. Last time we had it, it was about 3 months ago. He wanted it, I wanted it. The decision was made, "scallion pancakes for brunch!", we cheered. Beside being so delicious, it is fun to make, too! These puffy golden pillows would make a great appetizer. Cut into smaller wedges and serve with toothpicks if you're feeling fancy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

His Favorite Cinnamon Buns

Between March and April, we've been to IKEA for copious amount of time. With each visit, my 4-yr-old son would ask for their $1.25 cinnamon bun. He loves it so much, sometimes waking up, the first thing he asks is "did you make cinnamon bun today?" 

He loves helping me in the kitchen, but the only thing he helps me with from start to finish is cinnamon bun. When making other treats, halfway through, he'll announce that he's bored and would rather do something else. Eminently, when it comes to this puffy sweet bun, he waits for the dough to rise, even reminds me to check on it every 30 minutes. Roll the dough up with his tiny hands and tell me whether I cut them too thick or too thin. He wants to make sure it comes out perfect. While he prefers savory food, dark chocolate and anything-cinnamon-flavored top his favorite snack list.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chicken Noodles, Comfort Me Please?

It was a drizzly, cold morning when I was waiting for the bus. As crazy as it sounds, for the past five years, I rarely go out by myself, without my kid(s). It feels liberating, yet nerve-wrecking. When I left the house, the kids were still sleeping, the boy tucked next to his dad and the girl slept soundly, the only noise was their snore.

I was going to an open house for a culinary school. About 6 years ago, I applied to this same school but due to financial and immigration problem, I had no choice but to back out. Now the latter is settled, so we decided it's time to go back. Despite my worry about being socially inept, I made small talks without turning red (major improvement, I dare say). And heck, I like this school. There was another school that I was considering but it doesn't fit my needs and it's quite a distance from where I live, while this one is just a 10-min drive away.

Spinach soup

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

First Dinner in Our New Place

The thought of moving out of our old apartment was exciting and relieving. No more loud noises at 3am. No more cigarette stank seeping through our windows. No more petty fights that we could not help but overhear. But the process of moving is a pain in the ass. While I can't really help my husband move the bigger stuff, I can't stand the mess that's sitting in the middle of the living room right now. Our dresser isn't built yet, and with my habit of collecting books, we definitely need another bookshelf. My son loves our current condition, as he uses the piles of books and bags of clothes as his obstacle course.

Roast chicken

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pandan Cake: No, It's Not Kryptonite

As a rule of thumb, when there is a choice, I won't consume food that's artificially colored. Ironically, my number one weakness is chiffon pandan cake. To my defense, it's a quite difficult task to find fresh pandan leaves (otherwise known as screwpine leaves) here in Seattle. Awhile back I found fresh pandan leaves at the Asian grocery store I frequent, but the next week I was shit out of luck. It's so much easier to stock up on pandan extract. I have 2 kinds; one without added coloring and the other one looks like it's loaded with kryptonite. Guess which one I ended up using?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bread-That-Was-Supposed-to-be-Ciabatta with Shredded Pork

Couple days ago, Danielle from Runs with Spatula gave me an award, thanks Danielle! It sounds like a fun thing to write but to be honest with you, I don't know what to write when it comes to 7 things about myself. I will try...
  1. I'm a bookwhore. My husband hates how I leave books all around. Trip to bookstore is always filled with temptation.
  2. My yearly new year resolution is to be less profane, somehow I haven't succeeded yet. 
  3. I get all happy and excited when I go grocery shopping, and spend less than I expected. Then I will show the receipt to my husband and yap about it for a good 15 minutes til he tells me that "I don't really care how much you save". Ouch.
  4. Socially inept. It's really hard for me to start a conversation. But after 5 minutes of talking, usually things go smoothly. 
  5. I cannot live without chilli sauce. Or chilli itself. We buy the 136oz huge jar and it'll be gone by the end of the month.
  6. My husband is 11 years older than me, but sometimes I look 5 years older than him. Life. is. not. fair.
  7. My right thumb nail is deformed, has been that way since I was 14. Don't know what's wrong with it. Anyone?

Back to food, last week I made two huge loaves of ciabatta from Peter Reinhart's book, Bread Baker's Apprentice. It was good but definitely not ciabatta. It doesn't have huge airpockets as it should be. I love eating ciabatta just as is, without any adornments. Unfortunately, this bread-that-was-supposed-to-be-ciabatta (BTWSTBC) is too dense to eat as is. So I decided to slowcook a piece of pork shoulder butt with ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, paprika, garlic and dried chilli flakes. And shredded it by hands and top the BTWSTBC with the shredded pork. 

The crunchy, rustic-looking crust with the soft bread and the juicy, tangy pork, without a doubt, is delicious. If that bread was a pillow, I'd love to sleep on it. But the thought of having bread crumbs on my hair snapped me out of it. And pork is such a versatile ingredient. No matter how you prepare it, it will turn out edible if not tasty. And I believe pig's sole purpose in this world is to be eaten. Cow/cattle serves multiple purposes, chicken too. But not pig. Where is pig's destination other than the butcher shop? Oh pork, how I love you.

BTWSTBC is just a vessel for the awesome pork. The inside was scooped so it could be used as a shovel, for transferring the pork from plate to mouth. Eating utensils aren't needed.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Banana Sundae, If Only Babies Stay Babies Forever

The habit of cooking/baking then take pictures of the end product, has definitely affected my son. The other day he was so freaking bored, he told me he wanted to make banana sundae. And he specifically told me "then we will take a picture!", so we did that. Oh and he wanted to listen to Beatles while taking pics?! He's been this way since he was small. I always say he is an old soul inside a 4-year-old body, except when he's throwing hissy fit (never mind, I've seen adults throw hissy fit).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Red Curry, We Had Poor Man's Curry Yesterday

Seattle's weather is pretty interesting. You can get sunshine, wind, hail and snow all in one day. I like to joke how Mother Nature is PMSing, and when she's in shitty mood like this, I'd love a bowl of comfort, please. What can you make from 2 baking potatoes, and half of chicken breast? Well, if your pantry is like mine, you can make Thai curry! While I can't say it is authentic, but it's better than most Thai places we've been to. Spicier and has more flavors than the bland-ish curry they serve.

Usually when our fridge is fully stocked, we'll put kabocha and bamboo shoots into the curry too. But because I wasn't well prepared this time, it was just potato and chicken breast. But what important is the curry paste. As long as you have good curry paste, you're good to go. 

This is my trusted red curry paste recipe. It has never fail me. Ever.

  • 6 red chilies, remove the stems, chopped (I use 10, because I'm nuts)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemongrass powder
  • 1 tsp minced galangal
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp dried shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp oil 

It's up to you to either keep the chilies seeds or discard them. I keep them because I like spicy stuff. Put everything in a blender (or in my case, magic bullet), then process them until it turns into smooth paste.

For one recipe, I use 5 tablespoons of red curry paste to 3 1/2 cups coconut milk and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. But I usually eyeball it depends on my mood that day. Some days I like my curry a bit less spicy but when I need the extra heat, I go crazy. It was good for cold weather, gives you warmth and save your electricity (hey, who needs heater if you're eating curry?) My son could have 2 bowls of rice with it if I allow him.

Monday, February 28, 2011

If It Wasn't for Harold Crick, I'd Never Have Tried Cookies and Milk

There are lots of cookies in this world, and having overactive imagination, I sometimes like to ponder, how would A taste paired with B, hence me concocting this weird cookies. But if I die tomorrow and have to choose my last cookies, without a doubt, I'll pick the ol' chocolate chip cookies. Back then, when I wasn't allowed to use the oven (ehm, actually I was too scared to go into my parents' kitchen, lots of rats!), my favorite chocolate chip cookies was Chips Ahoy.

Believe it or not, I'd never had cookies with its loyal companion of all time, milk, until I watched Stranger than Fiction. Harold Crick, the IRS agent, fell in love with the baker he's auditing. I don't recall the whole detail, but there was this one scene where Ana Pascal offered him a plate of cookies and told him to dip em in milk. I used to think it was just a cutesy thing to do, that serves no real purpose whatsoever. It wasn't bad, and actually I'm liking it. This means a lot, coming from someone who cannot drink milk as is (don't like how it tastes, somehow it induces vomit). I think that's why I'm so short.... The milk lends buttery taste to the cookies. The icy cold milk and warm cookies create the hot-and-cold sensation. Sometimes if you leave the cookies long enough in the milk, it absorbs the liquid, filling the airy holes in the cookies with it. And kinda like it.  I drink milk as an excuse to eat cookies.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Power of Bread

You're having a bad day, things don't go the way you wanted them to. What do you eat to make you feel better? My son would want chocolate chips to fix his "owie". My husband would want a can of beer to cure his headache. I want bread with softened butter slather on top. I love carbs so much, I sometimes wonder how it'd taste to eat carbs on top of carbs on top of carbs (imagine, french bread topped with risotto, topped with fries. Gross? Maybe..)

At times, simple french baguette is enough to satisfy my bread cravings. But my favorite must be brioche. Buttery bread, eaten with some more butter? It sounds good to me. Of course too much of it makes me want to go for a nap. Leftover brioche is perfect for making french toast.  

Shitty day becomes better with a slice of brioche. The power of food is amazing, yes? Having to deal with annoying people? Eating brioche will not make them less annoying, but I think the butter helps me calm down. Brioche is my beer goggles. It makes me less profane too.  

Another day is saved, thanks to bread!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My "Beef" with the Fast Food Nomad, Just Because I Want Him to Live Longer!

From where I came from, fast food is the quintessential of American food. To us, KFC is the golden ticket to feel "Western". Your $1 burger worth so much more back there. With so many other food vendors, while I can't say they're very hygienic (just don't drink the water), selling better tasting food, it is ironic we still crowd the fast food joints. In United States, I understand, because price wise, these places are way much cheaper than let say, Serious Pie. But in Indonesia, with food vendors being literally every where you go (they cost way cheaper too), why would we flock to fast food joints? My mom said "Well, fast food is much more trendier than your usual food vendors".
Tell me this looks better than the $1 burger..
My husband is an avid fast food consumer. I nickname him "fast food joint nomad", which he hates by the way, since he practically jumps from one to the other. It's weird how he complains about me overspicing food considering how salty fast food is? I still don't understand until today. My biggest wish right now, is for him to cut down his fast food intake. I'm not a controlling bitch, but I just want him to be healthier. And also not looking forward to the day our son could question "why don't we eat McWhatever burger, but Daddy does?" I am not a saint myself, I have my own share of junky food. Obviously, once every now and then, enough to make me feel so guilty.

Everyone can make fried chicken, if they don't mind deep frying
The other day I was so pissed. We went to the baby's 4-month checkup and on the way back, hubby wanted to grab some fast food. It being around lunch time, of course it was packed as hell. He kept on offering our son "do you want some burger from XYZ?" And I was so glad my son said "No, I want roast pork" (We had roast pork the other night). While waiting for the other cars to move forward, he asked our son again "So you want some?" I don't know, perhaps it was me being super hungry or PMSing, but I was pissed. Didn't say a word after that, just let our son decides for himself, right? And still glad he declined. After 20 mins at the drive thru, we went home and I heated some of the roast pork and sauteed some spinach. Voila, all done in 10 minutes. I crossly said "Faster than Jack". Although I was trying to make a point, I regret being so frivolous. *Disclaimer: I love my husband so much, but not his food choice*
Brined roast pork with lemon
I just hope that slowly (we've been together since 2006, and I've only seen a little progress) he'll eat healthier. That is all. Am I selfish for wanting him to live longer? He loves to complain about how he feels bloated (uh, DUH? The cheezburger did it). And plus, these food from fast food joints isn't so fast anyway. But to make the change easier, I've been making stuff that fast food serve, but with wholesome ingredients.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy (belated) Valentine's Day!

Some people think we're against Valentine's day just because we don't celebrate it like most people do. Nope. Actually I think it's cute. An excuse to do something special with my son. He's not in preschool so I have to come up with ideas to keep him occupied every day. I admit, sometimes I let it slide, and let him watch tv longer than he should. But most of the time, I will find activities we can do together. See, I can't do arts and crafts for the life of me. I tried, but we ended up not having fun. Fortunately, he loves helping me in the kitchen.

Yesterday, after making a simple Valentine's card, we settled to baking pink cookies. The first batch went ungraciously inside the trash. As much as I hate wasting ingredients, it was awful. Too much rose paste, it left a perfumey aftertaste. My son said it tasted like soap. The second batch were good, but didn't taste like something special. Our goal here was to make something "special-y". Then I remember we had a tub of homemade green tea ice cream. I crumbled some of the pink cookies on top, it tastes okay, but lack of the "special-y" taste.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Samu's Cookies, "It's Not Yummy, but They Look Pretty"

It's funny how as kids get older, they sleep in more. I remember those days when my son would wake up at 6am or sometimes 5am, waking me up so I would play with him. He stopped doing that the moment he turned 3. But this morning, he woke up at 8am instead of his usual 11am routine. Guess why he woke up so early? Because I promised him that we can bake chocolate chips cookies if he wakes up early. I didn't even remember until he reminded me this morning.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stuffed Bitter Melon Pyramid, No Wonder He Likes It

I can't believe I used to hate bitter melon. The bitterness is actually so natural now, I can't have enough of it. Funny how my son loves it, although it's not his "favoritest" food, he doesn't show repulsion (like I did) at all. Kids nowadays are so picky, I'm glad mine is not!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Get to Know It More, and You'll Love It

Have you ordered food at a restaurant, with high expectation, but it turns out to be a flop?

We were shown a duplex unit in Ballard, and loved it. It was within our price range, on the ground floor (we have a stomper here) 2 bedrooms, bigger than our current rental and it has washer and dryer in unit. It felt too good to be true, and it was. The next day, the agent said that the owner decided against renting it and wants to sell it. That was like the flopped dish. You were expecting it to be so good, it makes you moan. Turns out it makes you moan out of disappointment.

But then, have you ever had food that looks so-so if not unappealing but it leaves you sated and happy?

Yesterday, we stumbled upon this ads for a rental in Greenlake. It's an apartment complex with more than 5 units on premise. We felt iffy because for one, most resident managers look at us as nuisance (thank you kids) and for two, it might not be the first floor (it wasn't mentioned in the ads). For three, more neighbors to deal with (not that we don't like our neighbors, but our current neighbors on the left hand side are bad enough to make us worry).

When we were met by the resident manager, I was relieved. She loves kids! Of course she didn't say that, or it might be an overkill. But we can sense it and it feels sincere. Also she said that there are other kids in the building, slightly younger than my son. And then she walked us to a ground floor unit, I was pretty much so happy at that point, I grinned from ear to ear (yeah, I haven't mastered the art of hiding my feelings). Yes! The one available is the ground floor unit! And the neighbors? That part, I don't know yet but it's a corner unit so nothing much to worry. So far, it has everything we need. With 2 kids, it's a necessity to have washer and dryer in unit.

We sent in the application and hopefully we passed and get it (I think we should.. unless they have other people who applied before us). So right now I'm just crossing my fingers! 

That Greenlake apartment is like the food you expect to flop, but turns out to be the one that makes you feel sated and giddy with excitement.

That kind of food looks like this.

Ham hock is not appealing at all, thank you Mother Nature. But it's oh so good when cooked to perfection. The meat falling off the bones, with the chewy yet tender skin. Stewed for so long, you can taste the deep, dark soy sauce and garlic in every inch of the meat. Coupled with crunchy chopped red chilies. What is not to like?

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have second.

You need to get to "know" it more, and you'll love it. ps: Eat with your hand (whichever you prefer) for maximal pleasure.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nutella Fudge, Please Don't Make Me Pudge!

As a child, my favorite snack is Nutella filled Ritz. Both items were pretty expensive back where I was raised. I remember, I couldn't have much, trying to make a 13oz jar of Nutella and 1 box of Ritz last for 6 months to a year. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From Sausage to Corn Dogs

After weeks of being busy doing homework and school-related stuff, last weekend my husband finally had spare time to spend quality time with me. Our idea of quality time? Sausage making. Amid the hum of the stand mixer, we talked. We were catching up. Nowadays, juggling with two kids (me) and pursuing his master degree plus working full-time (him), it's hard to chat without interruption of a 4-yr-old wanting attention. Or a 3-month-old needing her milk. Or a homework needed to be done. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Triple Chocolate Treat

Some days are better than the others. Sunshine in Seattle is so rare, sometimes I forget that it's even existed. It was sunny on Wednesday and I needed to go to the library. Against my better judgment, I decided to walk there. Put the baby in the baby carrier and strap her on me, get the boy ready and off we go.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chewy Whole Wheat Boule

If I went back in time and told my 15-year-old self that I'd be baking bread at least once every 2 weeks, she wouldn't believed me. After constant disappointment from buying grocery store bread, I'd rather bake it myself. While bread is ubiquitous, my longing for bread is so sudden, there's no time to go out and buy it. 

Men cannot live on bread alone. It's true to a certain degree, because it needs to be brushed with olive oil and kosher salt! Bread is so universal, you can have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Depends on what you serve it with. Today for breakfast, I had a small wedge of this whole wheat bread dipped in black coffee. For lunch, I had it with a bit of softened brie and salad of chopped celery and carrot (quickie salad I called it). For dinner I might have it with the vegetable soup I made earlier today. After one day eating bread alone, I'll be craving for rice again tomorrow. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lemon Pound Cake Story: When There's a Will, There's a Way. Eventhough There's no Water

Have you ever done something, thinking that it was a great idea, but halfway through you realized it was so dumb? I'm notorious for doing exactly that. Yesterday my landlord sent all of the tenants note saying that there will be no water from 1-3pm today. Before I went to bed last night, I kept reminding myself about it. See, ever since I've become a mother, I often have brain farts. No kidding. Once, 2 hours after I put the rice and water in the rice cooker, I wondered why it hadn't "ding"ed yet. I didn't press the cook button.... 

Today, surprisingly both kids were behaving well. No one's nagging Mommy for this or that. So I decided to make the long postponed lemon pound cake my husband has been asking for. And you know what? While at it, why not make some whole wheat bread too? So after I kneaded the bread dough and leave it to rise, I made the lemon pound cake. All was good. The boy even helped a little bit by trying to squeeze the lemon juice. The girl was playing quietly by herself in the bouncer. Life was beautiful. Until.....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

No "Mushies" Pasta, Thanks to the Constant Warning

Every time I make homemade pizza, I always end up with leftover tomato sauce. So stingy as I am, it goes into the freezer for future use. I do that a lot... putting leftover in the freezer. Let me see, chicken stock, beef stock, fresh rolled pasta, cookie logs, you name it. Note to self: when we get bigger place, buy a freezer chest. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chili for Chilly Weather

2011 is my 7th year in Seattle, I am still not used to the cold weather. Even my husband, who's been living here his entire life, cannot stand the chill. And after consuming copious amount of herbal soup these past couple weeks, we agreed we need something we haven't had in a while. But it has to have the same warming effect herbal soup has.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Icy Chicken and Dirty Rice

When he woke up this morning, I asked the birthday boy what does he want for lunch. Without hesitating, he said "icy chicken and dirty rice". It took me awhile to understand what he meant, then I realized he meant Hainanese chicken rice. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

4th Birthday Party

Although he's been with us since January 2007, this is his very first birthday party. It wasn't that we didn't want to, it's merely because we could not. This year was perfect, seeing that my mom was here (we just sent her off to the airport last night *cries*). His actual birthday was on the 7th, yet we decided to do it on January 1st, since my mom's flight was on the 2nd.

While other people planning on where to go on New Year's eve, we prepped and cooked our ass off for the next day party. Honestly though, I had fun. I'd rather spend time in the kitchen, than trying to find parking in downtown Seattle just to look at fireworks. And boy, was I glad my mom was here to help me watch the baby while I cook! I made egg rolls, tom yum soup, papaya salad, fried noodles (symbol of age longevity in Chinese tradition) and turkey with stuffing. Didn't get to photograph the food, because we were rushing to get the cake done.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jook, the Memory Trigger

When I was a kid, my siblings and I ate huge breakfast at 5am because we wouldn’t be able to eat again until 3pm. We did have recess at school, but it’s about 15 minutes and we HATE eating in a rush. Sometimes the food goes down the wrong pipe. My grandma would cook us either fried rice or steamed buns or fried noodles (typical Chinese leftover-turn-into-breakfast). When she was feeling adventurous, we might find pizza (for breakfast? Why not?) or French toast (I say adventurous, because in my Chinese family, we almost never eat French toast at home) or donuts. But breakfast item I love the best is jook.

Served with preserved eggs and fried wonton skin