The Spice of Life: My first attempt at Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

I’m going to be upfront about something. This is the first time I’ve ever eaten or made beef rendang, so I can’t tell you how it compares to other versions out there. I can’t even tell you if it’s at all authentic, but I can tell you it was delicious!

A little back story: I’ve had this recipe for Beef Rendang kicking around in my arsenal for a long, long time (3 years to the month!) and for some reason I never think to actually make it. But finally, last weekend, I had a beef chuck roast that needed some love and attention.

My first instinct was a traditional beef stew, this one in particular, but I didn’t have a whole bottle of wine on hand to just use for cooking. My next thought was to do more of a curry-style braised beef and then I remembered this recipe. I even had the ingredients — clearly it was meant to be!

Since I was unfamiliar with rendang in general, I read a little bit about the history of the dish to get some background. It originated in Indonesia and should contain a serious list of spices, most often ginger, galangal, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, shallots and chillies. It’s often mistaken as a cousin to the curry but rendang should actually be dry — as in cooked so slowly that the meat absorbs all of the liquid.

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Was it Worth it? Citrus Muffins with Poppyseed Streusel

Lemon Poppyseed Muffin

  • The Source: Cooking Light November 2005
  • The Menu: Sour Cream Muffins with Poppyseed Streusel *only adaptation was a lemon instead of an orange for the zest.
  • The Background: I wanted to bake something tasty to bring in to my co-workers. I was debating between a few coffee cake recipes but then I saw this one in my binder and thought it sounded delicious. It was also from Cooking Light so at least it would keep to my “trying to eat healthy” pledge. This pledge is constantly being broken by copious amounts of foie gras, pork belly and beer. I was also very intrigued by the idea of a poppyseed streusel instead of just having the seeds in the muffin.
  • How It Looked Pre-Baked:

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Pink Lady, Meet French Onion

If a bowl of crispy, cheesy French onion soup doesn’t say “autumn is here” I don’t know what does. And when you add a lovely, perfectly in season Pink Lady apple and a hefty splash of apple cider, it becomes downright magical.

My husband and I hit up the Montavilla Farmer’s Market (in SE Portland) a few weeks ago and came home with a beautiful selection of apples. There were so many varieties to choose from it was a little overwhelming. My new favorite is the Pink Pearl — which has bright rose-colored flesh and a tart flavor reminiscent of a Granny Smith.

I picked up a dozen or so apples and upon arriving at home, I set a Pink Lady aside because I had a plan in mind. This plan, to be specific: French Onion and Apple Soup.

It was a Cooking Light recipe that I had been staring at for quite a while and finally it was cold enough in Portland to justify making it. I admit, I was a little over excited. I’ve mentioned before that fall makes me nervous because it’s so close to winter, but here’s a secret — as soon as autumn is in full swing, I love it. The smell of cinnamon, the desire to bake cookies and toast pumpkin seeds. It’s like that feeling of being a kid when you realize you can finally start the counting down the days until Christmas.

And this soup definitely helped usher me into autumn! The cheesy topping and crunchy croutons were as comforting as always. And with its slight sweetness and rich beef broth, it brought about an immediate and serious craving for hot apple cider with Applejack.

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Banana-Rama Birthday Bonanza!

Make a wish….and you better make it a good one!

First off, I want to dedicate this post to one of my best friends, Oliver Lucky. We met our freshman year of college, probably our first day of being at school seeing as we lived in the same dorm. It’s hard to believe we’ve now been friends for 15 years — it doesn’t seem like that long ago that we were raising hell in Chinquapin Hall.

In the time that we’ve known each other, our friendship has been fairly fluid, from living in the same city to living a state apart, from seeing each other daily to maybe a few times a year. I’m lucky now because (finally!) we live within walking distance of each other and it’s been pretty awesome. However, since his time living in my neighborhood, we’ve regressed once or twice back to our college-day habits. There was an incident involving a little too much booze that may have ended with me waking up on my living room floor to find Oliver fast asleep on the couch. Or not. It’s hard to say.

Anyways, it’s his birthday today and to celebrate I made a Black-Bottomed Banana Cream Pie. This came about for several reasons — because I needed to make another recipe from my folder to keep my resolution going and because I made the mistake of buying two bags of bananas at Costco and then promptly forgot about them. That place is dangerous!

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Is it still considered healthy if you double the cheese?

Mexican Chicken Casserole w/ Charred Salsa

Ironically I hit the first bump in my New Years resolution as I was eating my first attempt at sticking to my resolution. Mouth full of cheesy macaroni, I was simultaneously pawing through my massive binder of recipes to find the next one to try out. This is when I realized why I always find it so difficult to cook the things that, at some point, I wanted to make so badly I mutilated a magazine just for the recipe.

The main issue is that I am drawn to recipes that are full of butter, cream, cheese, pasta and cured meats. I am half Swedish, but trust me when I say the quarter Italian and quarter French part of my heritage always win when it comes to food. I’m not satisfied with smoked fish on rye crackers, I want ravioli bathed in béchamel sauce, ragu, scallopini and gnocchi, and things covered in cheese.

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Breakfast of Champions

I love breakfast. I love everything to do with breakfast — except for the waking up early to eat it part, which is why brunch is really quite ideal for me. Plus at brunch it’s acceptable to drink, whereas at breakfast you might get a judgmental side-eye for your Kir Royale. But at brunch, it’s never the lunch part that I go for. I am never even swayed or tempted, it’s always breakfast that catches my attention. Give me a nice strata or just some soft-scrambled eggs. I love hollandaise, hash browns and sausage drizzled with maple syrup. I love pancakes, waffles and French toast. I even like oatmeal and cream of wheat. Heck, simple buttered toast with raspberry jam can thrill me.

So when I saw this recipe in Cooking Light for a rosti casserole with baked eggs, I knew I had to try it. Now right from the get-go, I was a little skeptical. To someone who doesn’t know better, a rosti may appear to just be baked hash browns. But I used to cook professionally at a high-end restaurant and during one menu cycle, I had to make rostis to go with the steak. For several months, I actually had rosti nightmares and for very good reason — they are a huge pain the ass, especially when making them in large quantities.

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