Adventures living as expats.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Zesty Lemon Quinoa Salad

I've been hoarding quinoa since Jeff had a friend hand carry 3 bags from the States for my birthday in November.  I've only seen it  in Jakarta one time and a single bag was $18!  Once our current stock is gone we're stuck with brown rice.  These past few weeks I've had some extra time to experiment in the kitchen while I wait for my work permit to process.  In true Jakarta style, a computer system shutdown at the immigration office extended my housewife status an extra week.  Since I don't have a passport, we also had to postpone our much anticipated trip to Singapore.  Luckily things seem to be progressing so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for next weekend.  :-)

I've also been trying to learn how to take better food photos which is really challenging.  Getting enough light in our apartment is the hard part, but luckily my new camera is up to the job.  This quinoa salad is perfect for a light dinner and the leftovers are fabulous for lunch the next day.  

  • 4 chicken breast halves
  • 4 cups chicken broth, reserve 1 1/2 cups for quinoa
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained well
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup green beans, sliced in 1/2" pieces
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup corn kernels
Lemon Dressing Ingredients:
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 T honey
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  1. Bring broth and lemongrass to boil in a large pot.  Add chicken breasts, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer for 10 minutes.  Turn off burner, leave lid on pot, and let chicken continue to cook for 10 minutes.  Cool chicken and shred.
  2. Bring 1 1/2 cups broth to boil in saucepan.  Add quinoa, cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest (covered) 5 more minutes.  Fluff with a fork gently.
  3. Combine all lemon dressing ingredients and stir with whisk.
  4. Heat 1 T oil in large saute pan and add onion, garlic, and green peppers; saute for a few minutes.  Add corn , green beans, and mushrooms; saute until green beans are cooked.
  5. Transfer veggie mixture to a large bowl, add quinoa, and mix gently.  Stir in feta and dressing and serve warm or chill and serve cold.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

6 Month Survival Guide

This week marks 6 months in Jakarta for Jeff and I!  It's been a bumpy road , but absolutely worth the journey in order to experience all that SE Asia has to offer.  Along the way we've learned few things that we're now deeming critical for survival and sanity.
  • Everything takes longer so keep your expectations realistic:  Whether it's multiple signatures to change a filter, a checkout process with 4 lines and 5 people to help, or a replacement light bulb requiring 3 different stores, just remember it's not you.
  • Take advantage of food delivery: Whether it's your favorite taco joint or Indian curry, many Jakarta restaurants deliver for just a few dollars via motorbike.  It's quick, hot, traffic free, and tasty!
  • Premiere movie theaters are the best: Huge recliner chair, blanket, food and beer service, cheap popcorn, all for less than a movie in the States.
  • Get out of Jakarta:  Indonesia is a beautiful, amazing country so exploring is imperative at least once per month.
  • Share menus at restaurants:  If you have a party of 4 for dinner, it's likely you'll get 1 dinner menu, 1 drink menu, and 1 breakfast menu.  You can ask for additional menus, they may come eventually, but honestly it's just easier to share.
  • Eat when your meal comes:  Don't wait for everyone to get their meal, delivery times will be random so dig in!
  • Learn to enjoy ice cold, red wine from restaurants:  It grows on you I promise, just overcome your ambitions to become a connoisseur of fine wine.
  • Don't take anything as a given:  If you like foam in your cappuccino, order it with extra foam.  
  • Massage or reflexology once a week:  There's nothing better than 60 minutes of bliss for $8 to help you forget about the Jakarta traffic.
I can't resist adding in a few pics.  Here's a weekend project of our favorite photos from Thailand.  I'm loving my new camera!

Our new plants on the balcony.  Hopefully we'll have better luck with these lime trees than we did in Oregon.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Panang Curry - Cooking class in Phuket

Jeff and I had countless delicious meals during our Thailand visit. One of the most memorable was at cooking class in Phuket were we learned Panang curry. It's similar to red curry but uses dried chilies instead of fresh and has the addition of peanuts.  Once you try making the curry paste at home, you'll never want to use store bought again.

Curry paste ingredients:
  • 5 large, mild dried chilies soaked in water and seeds removed
  • 2 cm galangal chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass chopped
  • 1/2 t lime zest
  • 1 t cilantro root chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 5 shallots
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 2 t shrimp paste
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground turmeric
Curry Paste Directions:
  1. Blend chili and salt together in food processor. Add galangal, lemongrass, lime zest, cilantro root and blend together. Add garlic, shallot, shrimp paste, pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric and grind into paste.
Curry ingredients:
  • 3 T curry paste (above)
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 3 T finely chopped peanut
  • 2 cup coconut milk
  • 500 g sliced chicken
  • 2 t sugar
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • Finely sliced kaffir lime leaf, sliced red chili, chopped peanut for garnish
  1. Heat vegetable oil in large pan and add curry paste. Stir until fragrant (~2 mins), reduce heat, and add chopped peanut.
  2. Add half of coconut milk and bring to low boil for 30 seconds. Add remaining coconut milk, bring to boil, add chicken and submerge in coconut milk. Let chicken cook without stirring too much.
  3. If curry is too thick, add a little water and return to boil. Add sugar and soy sauce. Garnish with lime leaf, chili, and peanuts.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Khao Sok, Thailand

We ventured to Khao Sok National Park for the 3rd stop on our Thailand adventure. Although the tropical rainforest is much different than the Oregon forest, being around so many trees and animals felt like home away from home. We escaped the crowds of Khao Lak and exchanged monkeys, birds, frogs, and squirrels for company. We stayed in a cozy little treehouse and woke up to the forest sounds every morning. First we went to the beautiful Cheow Lan Lake which has huge rock formations jetting up from the water. Apparently these were made from coral millions of years ago when the area was underwater.

We swam and had lunch at these boat houses
Our taxi for the day, longtail boat
Cave exploring!
Large cave entrance
Another amazing sunset
The next day we signed up for elephant trekking. It was so bumpy and we were both holding on really tight! Jeff had a pained expression the entire ride.

Our elephant - Selpon
I talked Jeff into another cooking class where we learned tom kha gai, chicken stir fried with cashews, and mussaman curry. We were so stuffed afterwards!

9 days can really fly by in Thailand. We'll spend our last 2 days on the small, quiet island of Ko Yao Noi in Phang Nga Bay.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Khao Lak, Thai Massage, & New Years

After a harrowing drive from Phuket, we arrived in Khao Lak and were awestruck by the crystal clear water and soft sand beaches. This time of year is high season in Thailand so we panicked a bit when the first few snorkel tours were booked solid for the next week. Luckily we found a spot on a trip to the Similan Islands and celebrated with some drinks at a nearby beach bar and our first Thai massage. Traditional Thai massage uses no oil; instead the masseuse uses elbows, fingers, knuckles, knees, and feet along with stretching to dig every knot out of your muscles. At first it was a bit painful, but we both felt great afterwards!

The Similan Islands are well promoted in travel guides, websites, and within Thailand, but the coral and underwater life has been heavily damaged by tourism, illegal fishing, and global warming. It was sad and disappointing to see so much broken and dead coral, but we did get to see an octopus (One of Jeff's favorites) and some very colorful fish.

This octopus was pretty shy
The islands themselves were gorgeous and well worth the trip.

What a view!
For New Years Eve, we went to the party our hotel was hosting. We had a blast eating, drinking, and guessing which of the Cabaret dancers were "lady boys."

Just like prom :-)
Our night ended a bit early when Jeff tried to make his party hat into a bullhorn and instead lacerated his finger with a butter knife. Jeff doesn't do well with the sight of blood and claimed he needed to go to the hospital, but we were able to calm him down, clean the wound, and bandage him up. I'm so glad he's ok and on his way to a full recovery.
Just minutes before the panic
Khao Lak was fantastic, but the 3 days flew by too fast! Next stop Khao Sok National Park for some jungle trekking.