August 24, 2012

My Current Favorite Cake

Sometimes I imagine my blog being something different.  Most of the time I am content for this to be a place to update family and friends on our goings-on, but sometimes I have aspirations to be one of those awesome blogs that has like a million followers with beautiful photographs, giveaways, recipes, links, buttons, etc, etc, instead of here's-more-about-boring-old-us-living-on-the-edge-of-the-world.

I would especially love to be a cooking blog, like the ever-amazing smitten kitchen or my friend's blog The Church Cook with their yummy recipes and photos that make me want to lick the computer screen.

But unfortunately I am not that kind of cook or photographer, but indulge me if you will as I - the Borneo Mama who's been living in Papua for eight months and really needs to change her blog name - share with you a recipe I have become downright passionate about.

Living overseas has been so good for my culinary skills.  If we'd never left the U.S., I wonder if I would ever have taken the time to learn to make sausage, tortillas, bagels, pickles, yogurt, petits fours?  Probably not - most definitely NOT the petits fours.  Here in the land where it's all made from scratch (except pasta - I can buy pasta, hallelujah) it's learn to cook or learn to love Indonesian takeout.  I've learned to do both.

I digress. The recipe is one I've adapted from celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who, during the closing credits on her tv cooking show, is often shown standing in front of the fridge late at night, eating leftovers.  I love Nigella. And I am in love with this cake recipe, with its chocolatey goodness and hint of orange.  It's easy to make and doesn't leave a ton of leftovers that I will be tempted to consume en masse the next day.  

Cooking overseas, you learn to make substitutions for ingredients you don't have.  Most substitutions don't make a huge impact on the recipe (yogurt for sour cream, milk and vinegar for buttermilk) but some are so far-fetched you don't even want to bother (like the desperate missionary recipe I saw for apple pie that calls for substituting saltine crackers for the apples.  Seriously. ) In this recipe there is no substituting the orange.  I almost did when I made this the other night.  All I had was some random peach juice and I debated using that, but then I thought, no, I love this cake for the orange.  Must have orange.  Fresh orange.  So off went Holsten Child #1 to borrow an orange from a neighbor.  Thank you, neighbor.

So without further ado, Nigella's cake.

1 ¼ sticks butter, softened
2 T. golden syrup (I use honey)
1 c. brown sugar (I use palm sugar)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Zest of 2 small oranges (1 T.)
Juice of 1 small orange (3 T.)
1 c. flour
½ t. baking soda
3 T. cocoa

Beat together butter, syrup (or honey), and sugar.  In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients, and add to butter mixture alternatively with eggs.  Add orange zest and juice.

Bake 45 minutes in greased loaf pan @ 325.

Best served warm with whipped cream and orange slices.  Next best is eaten the day after with a cup of coffee.


August 20, 2012

I Am An Otter

I have a problem with saying “no” and apparently it’s because I’m an otter.

At our MAF conference we did some team-building exercises based upon a personality survey we all took called “Leading From Your Strengths.”  According to how you answered questions, you were assigned a certain animal:  lion, golden retriever, otter, or beaver.  I thought this survey far superior to other surveys in which you’re assigned a letter, or a hard to remember acronym (as in “I am an EFTP – no wait, was it ISFJ?”).  Way more fun to be a critter than a letter.

Because I am a serious people pleaser, who likes to party (tamely, of course), overcommit and set ambitious, sometimes unrealistic goals, I get to be that animal that’s so much fun to watch at the zoo – the playful otter.

Taking personality tests always stresses me out a bit.  I want to be honest and forthright in my answers – but I also want to score well and have a "nice" personality (that must be the otter in me).  Here’s an example from this particular test:  Which characteristic describes you MOST: generous, greedy, warm, or negative?

Well, really, who’s going to be honest and say greedy rather than generous?  I was agonizing over some questions when David walked in halfway through my test, looked over my shoulder and “helped” me. 

“Oh no, you’re definitely more disorganized than organized,” he offered.  Thanks, babe.  He, by the way, is not an otter, but a golden retriever – a faithful, dependable, slobbering golden retriever.

I guess I have known deep-down that I am an otter for a long time, but being responsible for the MAF guest house here in Sentani the past few months has only reinforced it for me. 

The MAF Guest House

People email me with reservation requests and I want to accommodate everyone.  I want them to love me for giving them the bigger room, for fitting in their last-minute request.  I have to constantly remind myself that I am not running a bed and breakfast (though wouldn’t that be fun?), and that I’m not doing this job to get the guest house a Top Hotel of Papua rating, but to help out MAF’ers and others in the mission community as we are able.

I don’t want to turn people away, to disappoint them.  I want them to think well of me.  I can’t help it.  I’m an otter.  And I learned through our team-building exercise that otters could learn from the other animals how to say “no” from time to time.

So next time you’re at the zoo and you’re disappointed that the otters don’t seem to want to come out and put on a show for you, give them a break.  Sometimes an otter just needs to say “no.”

August 03, 2012

Family Conference Part 2

After our time at family conference, we took a short plane ride over to the interior city of Wamena, also in the Baliem Valley, for a few days of vacation.  Wamena - the largest city that is totally supported by air travel - is the site of an MAF base, and a hub of sorts for many different mission organizations and NGO's.

I saw something on the MAF base I had never seen before - a house in the tropics with a CHIMNEY!!!  Yes, the nights are cool enough in Wamena for a fireplace, and we sure did enjoy some fires while we were there.

Another thing that was new and different for us was taking a ride around town in a becak, a bicycle taxi.  

Our friends the Ringenbergs took very good care of us - feeding us and taking us on outings.  One night they cooked a turkey dinner, and the electricity went off, as it often does.  If you've never had a turkey dinner by headlamp-light, well, you haven't lived.

One day we went fossil hunting in a river bed and Luke found this really cool fossil.  He's in a rocks and fossils stage right now and so I was happy for his great find.

Another day we went on a drive through the beautiful countryside outside of Wamena and saw honai...

...goats and pigs...
...but the best thing we saw, or at least I thought so, was a man wearing his traditional Dani outfit, consisting of nothing but a gourd.  However, in an effort to keep this blog G-rated, I will decline from posting the picture of the Gourd Guy.

We went with the Ringenbergs to a very cool cave, so cool that David thought he should have an Indiana Jones type moment and fall through the rotting floorboards of a bridge inside it and dangle precariously above a 100-foot ravine.  Okay, there was no ravine, but it was all quite dramatic, and thankfully a Dutch mission doctor was also hiking in the cave and was able to check out David's injuries.

The entrance to the cave looked very Lord of the Rings-ish.  

We were well-equipped with head lamps and flashlights, but we did take a moment to turn off all the lights and experience the spooky pitch-black darkness.

Our time in Wamena seemed to be over way too soon, and then it was back to the big city of Sentani. I can see why tourists spend a lot of money and effort to visit the Baliem valley - it is a wild and beautiful place, and I look forward to going there again.