Saturday, February 28, 2009

Carpet Picnic. Part 1.

Red and I missed our Valentine's Day Dinner. He was just getting home from his business trip in France, and I had a little house's mishap back at the ranch when he was away. So we thought that we would do our own version of Valentine's Day dinner by having a carpet picnic, with these fun summer dishes: oven fried chickens, broccoli salad, and ice-cream sundaes with homemade caramel sauce.

Oven Fried Chickens

Courtesy of Barefoot Contessa

  • 2 chickens (3 pounds each), cut in 8 serving pieces
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360 degrees F on a thermometer.

Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don't crowd the pieces. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Broccoli Salad
Courtesy of Paula Deen


1 head broccoli
6 to 8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup raisins, optional
8 ounces sharp Cheddar, cut into very small chunks
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoesSalt and freshly ground black pepper


Trim off the large leaves from the broccoli stem.
Remove the tough stalk at the end and wash broccoli head thoroughly.
Cut the head into flowerets and the stem into bite-size pieces.
Place in a large bowl.
Add the crumbled bacon, onion, raisins if using, and cheese.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, stirring well.
Add to broccoli mixture and toss gently.

Cranberry Harvest Muffins

I still have leftover frozen cranberries in the freezer, and was looking to make something special for our breakfast this past weekend. Hmm.. yum! This was very hearty, and light at the same time. I had to restrain myself from adding grated orange zest into the batter, because cranberry just goes wonderfully with orange flavoring. And I'm glad that I did, this recipe didn't have to be modified too much.

I did however make a few substitutions because I didn't want to have to go out and get some more stuff to bake this. I ended up using a low-fat milk (since this was the only thing we had at home), raisins (instead of figs), and chopped pecans (instead of hazelnut).

Another thing that I liked about this recipe is that you can prepare the batter a day ahead and bake them in the morning. Anything that I can do in the evening to make my morning less hectic is a big do in my dictionary.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup medium-diced Calimyrna figs
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the milk, eggs, and melted butter. Stir quickly just to combine. Add the cranberries, figs, hazelnuts, and both sugars and stir just to distribute the fruits, nuts, and sugar evenly throughout the batter.

Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned on the top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.

Yield: 18 LARGE muffins

Sausage, Kale, and Cranberry Pasta

I first found this recipe from Racheal Ray's when I was trying to find a use for my leftover kale. I thought the cranberry sauce would add an interesting twist to it but was a tad worried how the would all blend together.

When we finally tried it the other night... wow! Red and I really welcomed the different flavor that this pasta dish brought. The cranberry add a very subtle flavoring in the background while the savory sausages, onion, and cheeses really blended nicely with the rigatoni's tender texture and kale's hearty presence. This was definitely a winner and a "must-make-again" category!

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 1/2 pound hot bulk Italian sausage
  • 1/2 pound sweet bulk Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine, eyeball it
  • 1 1/4 pounds kale, stems removed and chopped
  • Black pepper
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, to your taste
  • 3/4 cup Romano cheese, 3 generous handfuls, plus some to pass at the table

Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Add rigatoni and salt and cook to al dente or with a bite to it. Drain and reserve 2 ladles of pasta water.

While pasta cooks, heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage, brown and crumble it, then add garlic and onions and cook until tender 5 to 6 minutes. Add cranberry sauce and wine and stir to combine then reduce a minute. Add kale in bunches and stir to wilt down. Add the reserved pasta water. Season the dish with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

Add pasta to the pan with sausage and kale. Top pasta with cheese and toss with kale mixture to combine. Serve immediately with extra cheese for topping.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Indonesian Marble Cake (Kue Marmer)

Growing up in Indonesia, I always had a reservation with baking cake. First of all - everything was made from scratch. No boxes, no shortcuts. And I remember vividly, there were tons of egss involved! Forget cholesterol! Mom or grandma would lovingly whisk the eggs, sift the flour, everything! This particular cake is something that I grew up eating and I never had the recipe for. I searched and searched in the Internet and landed on this recipe.

Of course, as you can see, all of the measurements are in metrics --like most measurements in the world, except the US. Red and I tried to translate it the best way we can, but we think that this would have been more accurate if we had a scale. So here's another gadget that we put on the list to pick up next time!

The verdict: I absolutely adored the subtle and subdued flavoring of this cake. And ... oh the delicate texture was just heavenly. But this was not quiet how I remembered how this cake should taste like. I was thinking that it needed to be a little bit more moist. I told my mom over the phone, and she suggested that I reduce the amount flour. Hell-o! I also thought that batter should have been less dense. This was still a good win for something that I have never baked before. My friends absolutely loved this cake. Her husband's fave cake is... marble cake!! Red also liked this. But I guess the hardest critic was myself - I wanted a journey back to my childhood, and I didn't quiet get there with this one. So here I was, back in my apron, in my kitchen, back to another adventure.

Ingredients/ Bahan:

250 gr or 2 cups of powdered sugar (Gula halus)
300 gr or, 2 and 2/3 sticks of Butter or Margarine (Mentega)
225 gr or 1.5 cups + 2 tsp Self-raising flour
5 gr/ Baking powder
6 Egg yolks
5 Egg whites
5 gr Salt (Garam)
1/4 cup of Cocoa powder (coklat bubuk)
1 tsp Vanilla essence


1. Mix the sugar and margarine until turn white and expanded.
2. Put in the eggs one by one and keep mixing it all the time. Add the flour also still keep mixing it. 3. Divide the mixture into 2, and give cocoa powder on one portion and vanilla essence/powder to the other portion.
4. Spoon alternately into baking pan so it will form a marble effect, and bake in 180°C or 320°F for 40 minutes.

Baked French Toast Casserole with Maple Syrup

I have been dreaming about baked french toast for a while now. Breakfast is almost non-existent during the week, so we both love to take our time in on weekends' mornings to put something together that's a little bit more special. I saw this recipe on Food Network, and really wanted to try it.

I have modified the recipe quiet a bit. First of all, I halved the recipe and it came out absolutely perfect! With only myself and Red eating this dish, I thought half would be sufficient for two weekends' mornings. I also didn't leave the bread soak overnight. I read the reviews that said that the casserole turn out soggy, so I thought if I just soak them for 30 min, it may prevent that issue -and I think it did.

We also ran out of brown sugar (gasp!), so I used whatever was left to make the praline. Definitely a little less than what the recipe would have called for, and modified the measurement for the rest the ingredients. The praline was a nice addition on the top. Finally, I still baked half of the recipe for 40 min.

Seriously- run to the kitchen now, and try this! Not only that your whole house would smell like cinnamon, the flavor is so out of the world!


  • 1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash salt
  • Praline Topping, recipe follows
  • Maple syrup


Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Easy Sticky Buns

Red loves sticky buns, but I am not particularly crazy for it. So we usually end up getting the refrigerated Pillsbury rolls which are fail-proof! Then I saw this recipe in my Ina Garten's Back to Basic Cookbook and knew that we had to try them! It looked very simple, but oh my godness, the result was a double WOW. Who could have thought that sticky buns could be this easy?? Red did request (several times, I must say) if we could omit the raisins next time. I told him that I'd think about it - because I thought it was perfect just the way it is!

12 tablespoons (1 & 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/ 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1½ teaspoons of the cinnamon, and ½ cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the roll about ½ inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1½ inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.

Spicy & Chunky Chili

In the spirit of the Superbowl Sunday, Red and I thought that it would be fun to make chili for supper tonight. Then we realized that we didn't really have a winning chili recipe on our own. So we spent some time this afternoon browsing through recipes and saw a few that we thought would be good. Of course, we ended up modifying probably the entire recipe. I did not want to use beef, so we substituted the ground beef with ground turkey. I also insisted that we use up the leftover veggies in the frig. The result below was excellent though- although this is a seriously SPICY dish! I had to quickly jot everything down that we used so we can use this again in the future. Yum!


  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red/yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped celery (~ 3 stalks)
  • 1 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 jalapeno pepper chopped
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, diced, with juices
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (8 ounce) chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce
  • 1 generous tbsp of garlic
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) chili beans, small red beans, or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp each of chopped green onions, and cilantro
  • Shredded cheese for garnish


Cook onion, turkey and garlic in a large saucepan until meat is browned, stirring until it crumbles.
Add chili powder and the remaining ingredients (except the green onions and cilantro), stirring well; bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 min.
Add chopped green onions & cilantro, stirring well, and cook until thoroughly heated.
Serve with shredded cheese.