Sunday, August 8, 2010

Breakfast or Dessert? Easy Yoghurt Parfait

It sounds fancy, but practically a no-brainer! There is NO cooking required.

Like many "working Moms", I found out today that I have yet to do what my husband and I call a "major grocery"--that is to shop for all important household stuff, including replenishing the freezer and pantry. Goodness!

This morning after cooking the hot meals, in my fridge I saw that I still had 1 fuji apple left, 2 bananas, and a small container of pineapple chunks. I still had 2 personal-size favored yoghurt,too. I thought then of capping our brunch with something that looks fun, fancy and yummy.

This I thought was a great idea for my first-born who just had is braces on and wanted something easy to eat.
  • 1 medium apple, sliced into squares
  • 2 bananas, sliced into small squares
  • 1 c fresh or canned pineapple chunks
  • 2 containers of yoghurt , plain or flavored (If you're on a diet, don't forget to read the label because flavored yoghurt may be hig in sugar or fat)
  • (Other fruits that you can use: kiwi, mango, melo, papaya, seedles grapes sliced in halves)

After slicing the apple and banana, put these in a small bowl with a little lemon or calamansi juice to prevent it from darkening. Drain and put on paper towel to avoid making the parfait watery.

To Assemble:

  • Get 4 wine glasses or any fancy glass
  • Divide all fruits in 4 parts, start with the apple then spoon the yogurt on top (about 2 spoonfuls). Then the bananas, top that with yoghurt,too. Then the pineapple and top with the rest of the yoghurt. Chill in the refrigerator. Sprinkle with cornflakes, granola or rice crispies (or whatever breakfast cereal you might have in your pantry) and serve immediately.
  • Remember: To spoon carefully so that you can still see the layers of fruit between the yoghurt.

TIP: If you're thinking of serving friends with this as a dessert--I suggest a color combination of fruit. So have an apple in one layer, kiwing as another layer and mango as another! Or, how about grapes, banana then melon!

Happy healthy eating!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chicken Tettrazini--simple, easy but goooood!

My memory of this dish is of my late Father, Ben. He saw the recipe in a Sunday magazine and it caught his attention, because it was said to be a favorite of the late Cardinal Sin (Yes, that is actually a church leader's title and last name.) My dad told me to try it for a party he and my Mom were hosting. I was in high school, then.

It was a hit, especially in a household where the typical pasta sauce is tomato-based. This is a simple, creamy dish that pleases both the grown-ups and kids. The ingredients are easy to find and can be prepared like an everyday meal. I don't have the original recipe anymore, but I have taken the ingredients to heart since then.
  • 1 whole chicken breast with bone
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into small squares
  • 1 small pack frozen veggies (carrots/corn and peas)--really convenient
  • 1 can of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small block cheese, grated (cheddar for a sharper flavor or ordinary cheesefood for everyday cooking. It's affordable and kids like it)
  • 1 can good quality cream
  • 2 T butter or butter compound
  • 1 pack pasta, about 400 gms cooked al dente: spaghetti, linguini,penne
  • salt and pepper for seasoning

As I've said, this is really easy to do. The key is preparation. With things in place, it will turn out good everytime.

Boil chicken breast in about 2-3 cups water seasoned with salt and pepper, till cooked. Make sure that the chicken is submerged to ensure even cooking. When done, set broth aside and slice cooked chicken meat into small squares/pieces.

Prepare a deep pan and put on medium heat, add butter and saute the onions till transparent and aromatic, add the green bell peppr, then mushrooms. Continue stirring in the next 3 minutes, then add the cooked chicken and about 2 cups of broth. Should the broth not be enough, just add water. Bring to a boil.

Put the heat on low and add the frozen vegetables, cream and half of the grated cheese. I included frozen veggies for added color and nutrients. (You can blanch your own carrots and peas if you wish) Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper if needed. Immediately add the cooked pasta and turn off the heat. Toss the pasta till totally coated with the chicken-veggie-cream mix. If it appears dry, just add another half cup of broth or milk.

Transfer to a baking dish and top with the rest of the grated cheese. Sometimes, depending on the cream brand and I find the sauce runny, I put the baking dish in the microwave oven for about 3-5 minutes, let it rest a bit then serve.

This is for you Pops!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Easy Mushroom & Tofu

Whenever I go to a chinese restaurant and I'm handed a menu-- my eyes jump straight to the vegetable and the tofu selection. Tofu has gotten popular, that it merits its own section. I usually get braised Tofu with vegetables or braised Tofu with mushrooms or stuffed Tofu.
Usually, at the chiller section at a supermarket 10 minutes away from my home, you would find a choice of mushrooms from oyster to shitake. I got myself the usual button, some shitake and another favorite--enoki. I also wanted to add straw mushrooms even if they came in cans-- but unfortunately they were out of stock.

The great thing about this recipe is it can be a melange of mushrooms whichever is available(button, straw, enoki, oyster, shitake). You can mix any desired combination or in fact have it all in one dish! The squid/cuttlefish balls are a yummy, filling addition especially when serving a big group.

1 medium block firm tofu
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
half a thumb size ginger, sliced thinly
2 T vegetable or canola
10-12 squidballs cut in half
1/2 cup whole button mushrooms cut in half
1/2 cup whole shitake mushrooms cut in half ( if fresh are available and are reatively big, you can slice it into quarters)
1 bunch of enoki mushrooms
*you can mix and match other kinds of mushrooms like straw and oyster)
2 T oyster sauce
1 T dark soy sauce
1/2 c water with 1/2 T cornstarch to make a slurry
ground pepper to taste
Oil for deep frying the squid balls
Cut tofu in 4 blocks and deep fry on high heat till lightly golden in color, drain on paper towels. Deep fry squid balls on high heat till puffed and also drain on paper towels.
(My personal taste is I don't like the paste-y texture of squid balls so it must be deep-fried first. It becomes a bit chewy to the bite.)
Cut the fried tofu in smaller cubes. Set aside.
In a wok or deep non-stick pan, saute garlic and ginger in oil till aromatic, be careful not to burn the garlic. Immediately add the mushrooms, increase heat to high. Stir-fry for a minute then add the tofu and squid balls. Sprinkle with ground pepper.
Mix the oyster sauce, soy sauce, water and cornstarch to make a slurry and pour into the pan. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens and adheres to the tofu, mushrooms and squidballs. Turn off the heat immediately.

Get the rice and chopsticks ready!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A wonderful discovery at Boracay

I have to say that in 2010, my most jam packed exciting month this year, thus far is this month of June. The last days of summer were spent in beautiful Boracay, with the beginnings of "hanging habagat". Two weeks later, I was savouring Cebu in a reunion with long-time friends. Then a week later, I attended a romantic Tagaytay Garden wedding.

Boracay was spent with those that were dearest to me, my 3 boys-- my hubby and my sons. I called it "ang huling hirit sa tag-init", loosely translated as the mad dash for the last days of summer. What I feared to be quite an expensive last-minute arrangement, turned out to be a blessing. My friend helped me arrange for a family room at non-peak prices and for some fortunate timing, my plane fare was cheaper than my first booking!

We left Manila very early and found ourselves enjoying Station 1 with sunny skies and a cool breeze at about 9 in the morning. I could feel the frazzle of Manila ebbing away.

One sunset walk led me to an interesting beach bar that said "Mojito to Go". This was at Discovery Shores. It was a proposition that was difficult to say no to.

I decided to take my boys for cocktails at this cool spot with low chairs and relaxing music. My husband and I with teens-in-tow got ourselves mango mojitos and lychee mojitos. I made a mental note to myself to make one of those back home. A stone's throw away, a beach buffet set-up was being prepared for hungry guests.

We bumped into Discovery Shores General Manager, Jun Parreno, a charming, charming person with a ready smile. His personality is a perfect fit for this place. We exchanged some updates and he invited us for next day's dinner at a resto he launched...his baby he said.

Bronze and glistening after another day of swimming, walking and beach combing--we found ourselves in a beautiful corner of the resort, still facing the ocean but with a bit of privacy. Actually, this place is perfect for dates and I wouldn't be surprised if it is all too often a place where marriage proposals are made. The place is called INDIGO.

We were treated to a menu of good eats--clean and refreshing to the palate. The flavours sing and my sons were thrilled with the new tastes they were enjoying. My hubby ordered fish fillet, perfectly cooked. The huge meat was naturally sweet and the rice crust added the crunch. My first-born ordered prawns and lemon pasta ( I think). It wasn't overwhelming so it leaves you wanting for more. My younger son had perhaps the heartiest meal with what is like a fish steak sitting on top of a bed of ratatouille, crowned with egg. He savoured the whole thing, down to the sauce that was drizzled all over the plate. I got myself seared tuna, crusted with white and black sesame seeds. Oh let me not forget the appetizer which is an interesting combination of salmon, apples and celery. If my children could have had a plate each, they would!

Now, what seems to be a healthy meal isn't complete without the sinful dessert. And INDIGO gave us the dessert fix we craved for! My sons didn't want to eat it at first because it looked like an abstract painting with a brush stroke of chocolate,and banana flambe and ice cream on one side and mousse-like malt chocolate on another. We also went spoon-fencing over the dark chocolate tart ala mode which was served with I figured out as crumbled macadamia pralines. No matter-- we ate them all up!

INDIGO is not just the only beautful spot there, it's truthfully the whole resort. The layout is airy--great to catch the balmy breezes on a typically gorgeous Boracay day. You get the very best of both worlds, really.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Salads and Sidings

I am not a vegetarian but I am a veggie-fanatic. Cooked the right way, slathered with the right sauce or dressing, it is definitely yummy! I figured, many people tire of veggies easily because it appears that there is not enough variety.

Ahhh but there is a wide array of options! It just takes taste-bud adventure and research.

Take for example my new discovery--Clara Ole Vinairgrette series, wittily called the "Salad Squad". They are delicious with salad greens and the customary tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and jicama (singkamas to true blue pinoys). My favorites undoubtedly are My My Parmesan, Pesto and Sesame Mucho (like the Japanese Salad Dressing in small bottles).

What I do, after a weekend of family-centered meals, I detox on a Monday and Tuesday with fruits and salad. I buy a bottle and leave it in the office. I just cross the street to Hypermart; buy about 45 pesos worth of assorted lettuce and drizzle away!

But, it shouldn't stop there. With a little imagination, the same Clara Ole has given me my veggie fix in new ways. Drawn from inspiration, I brought out my 2 favorites and whipped up a siding and a veggie meal without breaking a sweat!

Warm Potato Salad

  • 1/2 k potatoes, boiled in their skin
  • 1 small carrot, boiled in its skin
  • 4 rashers of bacon, fried to a crisp and sliced into bits. OR 4 slices of ham cut into cubes
  • 1-2 T of coaresly chopped flat-leaf italian parsley
  • 2 T of grated cheese (cheddar or parmesan)
  • 1/2 c of Clara Ole My My Parmesa Vinaigrette
  • 1 boiled egg, sliced or quartered for topping

Remove potato skin while warm and cut into medium size cubes. Same with the carrot. In a big bowl, put potato, carrots, bacon,flat-leaf parsley, grated cheese and toss with the vinaigrette.Top with slices of egg. As an option, you may add about 1/2 c frozen green peas that have been blanched and drained. EASY!

Serve while warm and as siding to grilled sausages like kielbasa, hungarian, bratwourst or shublig. You may drizzle a little bit of the dressing as a last touch, if you like more oomph. We enjoyed this with fish fillet.

Gado gado-inspired sesame and peanut dressing
  • 1 bunch blanched baguio beans
  • 2 carrots, sliced into sticks or batons, blanched
  • Other veggies can be potatoes, jicama (singkamas), cucumber)
  • Small block of tofu, fried and sliced into strips
  • 2 eggs, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 c Clara Ole ,Sesame Mucho vinaigrette
  • 1/4 c creamy peanut butter
  • Optional: chili flakes or cayenne pepper

Blanch veggies and drain. Shock them in cold water to stop the cooking to keep it crunchy. This also keeps the color vibrant. Veggies such as jicama and cucumber of course, should not be cooked. Arrange on a platter.

In a bowl, whisk the sesame vinaigrette and peanut butter until smooth. If you want more tanginess, add about 2-3 more tablespoons of the dressing. I could not wait and soon as I put the whisk down, I got a veggie stick and dunked it!

This is a good idea for a dip with veggie crudites especially if you're planning an Asian-theme dinner. Or serve as a hearty main dish for an Indonesian-inspired meal. (This is my going to be in my lunch pack tomorrow.)

Be a veggie-fanatic!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Soooo Pinoy, Soooo Sarap!

I attended the Sooo Pinoy Event spearheaded by Unilever Food Solutions together with the DOT and Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The doors opened by about 7:30, I think. And when it did, we were greeted with dancers garbed in typical fiesta-hala-bira-outfits. When you get past them, it was like a Pinoy Food- Lover who had died and gone to heaven: Before you, well across the huge function hall of the SMX are rows and rows and rows of food laid out according to "ulam".

Here, the participating restuarants presented their best pinoy offerings, shortlisted for voting.

So, if you like adobo, there is an entire row of adobo... If you like kare-kare, there is an ENTIRE row of kare-kare... There are the heart-stopping specialties like bualo...sisig and crispy pata.
There is sinigang...pancit canton...bangus...and chicken inasal...

There was so much tasting and trying to be done, I don't think it was possible to try them all! Even for a person with a hefty appetite such as mine. But I did leave room for halo-halo by Razon's. Talk about sweet endings!

I must say, it was an evening that allows you to debate with fellow foodies and even with yourself, which indeed is THE soooooo pinoy dish.
Do you look at it from a comfort food standpoint?
Do you look at it as a dish that can sit side by side with others on the global table?

From what I've read, the public has spoken and that Singiang takes the crown. True, it can be global like the Tom Yum of Thailand. For me, the beauty of sinigang is it hits the core of what is local, depending on the souring agent and ingredient that is abundant in that particular place.

Sinigang is an easy dish to make, now made easier with a pack of sinigang mix. The best tip I got is to simmer it lovingly over low heat and for a long time, till the meat literally falls-off-the-bone. And to combine beef and pork for Sinigang na Karne:

  • 1/2 k pork sinigang cut
  • 1/2 k beef neck, sliced into chunks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 packet sampaloc sinigang mix
  • patis and ground pepper to taste

Assorted Fresh Veggies:

  • kangkong leaves (Swamp cabbage)
  • sitaw (string beans)
  • gabi (native taro)
  • labanos (white radish)
  • 2 siling haba (finger green chilies)

Boil the meat separately, each with onions and tomatoes. Reason being is pork cooks faster than beef. When you combine the broth later, the taste is such comfort, because the subtle flavor of the pork balances the overwhelming flavor and smell of beef.

When tender to perfection, combine the meats in a pot, add enough broth from both as prescribed by the packet. Now, if you like "sabaw" like my first born does, simply add another flavor packet and more broth!
When it comes to a simmering boil, add the labanos and gabi first. Cover pot for 5-8 minutes. Slit the siling haba, if you want subtle heat into the dish.
Finally add the sitaw and kangkong. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the steam and heat cook the veggies. That way, when you serve it, it retains its appetizingly bright green color and its wonderful crunch.

Hot, steaming sinigang is a joy in itself. Double the enjoyment with fried tilapia or inihaw na isda (fish grilled over hot coals).

Make sure you serve extra rice, ok?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

3-Mushroom and Tofu

Whenever I go to a chinese restaurant and I'm handed a menu-- my eyes jump straight to the vegetable and the tofu selection. Tofu has gotten popular, that it merits its own section. I usually get braised Tofu with vegetables or braised Tofu with mushrooms or stuffed Tofu.

Usually, at the chiller section at a supermarket 10 minutes away from my home, you would find a choice of mushrooms from oyster to shitake. I got myself the usual button, some shitake and another favorite--enoki. I also wanted to add straw mushrooms even if they came in cans-- but unfortunately they were out of stock.

The great thing about this recipe is it can be a melange of mushrooms whichever is available(button, straw, enoki, oyster, shitake). You can mix any desired combination or in fact have it all in one dish! The squid/cuttlefish balls are a yummy, filling addition especially when serving a big group.


1 medium block firm tofu
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
half a thumb size ginger, sliced thinly
2 T vegetable or canola
10-12 squidballs cut in half
1/2 cup whole button mushrooms cut in half
1/2 cup whole shitake mushrooms cut in half ( if fresh are available and are reatively big, you can slice it into quarters)
1 bunch of enoki mushrooms
*you can mix and match other kinds of mushrooms like straw and oyster)
2 T oyster sauce
1 T dark soy sauce
1/2 c water with 1/2 T cornstarch to make a slurry
ground pepper to taste
Oil for deep frying the squid balls

Cut tofu in 4 blocks and deep fry on high heat till lightly golden in color, drain on paper towels. Deep fry squid balls on high heat till puffed and also drain on paper towels.
(My personal taste is I don't like the paste-y texture of squid balls so it must be deep-fried first. It becomes a bit chewy to the bite.)

Cut the fried tofu in smaller cubes. Set aside.
In a wok or deep non-stick pan, saute garlic and ginger in oil till aromatic, be careful not to burn the garlic. Immediately add the mushrooms, increase heat to high. Stir-fry for a minute then add the tofu and squid balls. Sprinkle with ground pepper.

Mix the oyster sauce, soy sauce, water and cornstarch to make a slurry and pour into the pan. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens and adheres to the tofu, mushrooms and squidballs. Turn off the heat immediately.
Get the rice and chopsticks ready!

Vegetarian Canneloni that kids will love!

I introduced veggies to my kids at an early age, wanting them to pick up a good eating habit from the very beginning. But when my first born turned 3, it was as if he just woke up one day and decided he will not each vegetables anymore!

And so began my many innovative efforts to "hide" the veggies somewhere in the dish whenever I can. Thankfully, they are now coming around and have gotten back to it, slowly but surely. They now eat pansit and veggies, sans the meat as well as the all-tomato spaghetti sauce and garlic and mushroom pasta with no fuss nor negotiations.

I call myself a pseudo-vegetarian, feasting on lovely greens, carrots and fruits on weekedays. But giving in to the temptation on weekends when I'm with my family. Then it's back to fruit detox on a monday. I eat meat just so I don't feel deprived. I prefer fish, seafood and chicken. I do enjoy pork ribs and sausages... and I do fall prey to an occassional prime rib--only and only if it is THAT good. But I digress...

I blanched and froze a big batch of spinach a couple of weeks ago. And as my younger boy would say, it's a special dish to welcome his brother home from a weekend youth retreat.
Special it is-- because its filling,albeit slighty rich and nonetheless healthy.
Spinach Filling
  • 2 cups, frozen spinach, excess water squeezed, then chopped, THEN measured
  • 1/2 c coarsely chopped button mushrooms
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 block light cream cheese
  • 10 - 12 tubes of canneloni pasta
  • 1-2 cups tomato/spaghetti sauce

Homemade Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T finely chopped garlic
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely minced carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely minced celery
  • 2 cups stewed tomatoes with tomato paste* OR 2 cups canned pureed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • About 1 tsp of dried oregano or italian herb seasoning
In a non-stick pan, saute onions in butter then add mushroom and spinach. Since the spinach is already cooked, simply heat the mixture through. Put in a bowl and mash in the cream cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can sprinkle a little cayenne pepper if you like some heat. Set aside.
In a pot, saute garlic and onion in olive oil till aromatic, simply add the vegetables and heat through. Add the tomatoes and herbs and simmer on low to medium heat for about 30-45 minutes, stir every now and then. Unless the sauce is served on spaghetti, I don't put fresh basil. Because it will overwhelm the creamy taste of the spinach-mushroom filling. Bay and oregano is just the kind of herb that you taste but somehow stays in the background and not get the attention away from the central ingredient.
I personally let it cool down and throw in the blender for a smooth and velvety finish.

To assemble:
Put the spinach mixture in a piping or plastic bag, cut at the corner and squeeze filling into the canneloni tubes. Pour sauce over filled canneloni. And proceed to bake for about 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve while piping hot!

TIP: Let the sauce sit on the uncooked pasta first to soften it, for about at least 30 minutes. That way, when you pop it in the oven, it will cook more easily. This is the type of dish you can make ahead of time. Assemble and put in the fridge, to be popped in the oven the next day.

*Remember my homage to the tomato last month? I've cooked quite a number of pots and turned in some very good stewed tomatoes. Get about 8-10 fresh,red, ripe tomatoes and cook in boiling, salted water for about 5-10 minutes; until the skin breaks making it easy to peel off. You can choose to coarsely slice or keep whole, mix in a small can of tomato paste, put in a freezer container (tomato juices,seeds and all) and keep in freezer till needed.

Local tomatoes are yummy but are not as bright red as italian plum tomatoes. The tomato paste boosts not only its color but its flavor. My version of this homemade sauce can get orangy at times because local tomatoes are quite pale--but hey! it beats synthetic color red#41 anytime. Happy Healthy Eating!

Ho Chi Minh Hangover-- Springroll spin-off!

I still have the Ho Chi Minh hangover, I must admit. And though I am in no way connected to the tourism board of Vietnam, I have encouraged a lot of people to visit the place. It's budget-friendly and a must for BFFs.

Time was when Hong Kong was the cheapest travel abroad. Today, I venture to guess Vietnam is the one that's easiest on the pocket, but not lacking in adventure. If fashion shopping is high on your list though , then this is NOT the place to go. It's a foodie haven. Add to that lacquerware, embroidered linen, coffee and dried fruits.
I'm scrimping on the dried jackfruit to make my supply last. Its crunch and bite rivals the best chips, without the sodium and oil.And I still have my dried candied tomato safely hidden in my fridge. I'm saving it to go with my pan-fried white cheese. We only have one bag of coffee beans left, since we got home.

Fortunately, there are some foodie memories that are relatively easy to re-live and enjoy once again at our dinner table.

Springroll is a wonderful Asian staple, and there are indeed many versions which include our very own lumpiang shanghai and piniritong lumpiang gulay o ubod. The vietnamese version has a couple of twists that add novelty to the meal. For one, it has an odd kind of mushroom which we Filipinos call tenga ng daga (not an appetizing name if you ask me). Not really an ear of a you-know-what; but a dried fungus that when re-hydrated in water grows big 5-6 times its size!
It is best eaten wrapped in lettuce and dipped in sweet-sour fish sauce. So what you have is a combination of crunch, mildly sweet-sour-salty with the lettuce's counter-cooling effect.

What's great about this recipe is you can make your own tweaking. For example you can change ground pork into ground chicken...or make it half pork and half chopped's that versatile.

  • 250 gms ground lean pork
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried fungus (tenga ng daga), soak first, chop, then measure
  • 1/2 cup finely minced carrot
  • 1/2 cup cut-up vermicelli (soak first, before measuring). It can be rice vermicelli (bihon) or mung bean vermicelli (sotanghon)
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste (you may opt just a dash of soy sauce, but use sparingly, otherwise it will overwhelm the flavor of the other ingredients)
  • spring roll wrappers
  • 1/2 c water with a few drops of lemon or calamansi
  • oil for deep frying
Simply mix all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Prepare on your work table a kitchen cloth towel to make sure the wrapper doesn't stick.You can use springroll wrapper from the wet market or the chiller section of the supermarket.

For authenticity, try your hand at the vietnamese dried wrapper. With water and lemon in a bowl, slightly dampen the dried rice paper using a silicon or regular pastry brush. If it's too wet, the wrapper becomes limp, sticky and hard to work with.

Quickly place about 1 spoon of the meat mixture and wrap tightly into a sausage, roughly 2 inches long. Tuck the sides in, roll and seal the corner tip with water.

Prepare a deep wok or deep fryer and pre-heat the oil. Cook your springrolls till golden brown.

At the table, wrap your cooked springroll in lettuce and dip in the sauce!
Best to eat with your hands.

Dipping Sauce: Sweet-Sour Fish Sauce
  • 2 T fish sauce (good quality patis)
  • 4 T water
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp minced chili
  • 1 T lime, lemon or calamansi juice
  • 1/2 carrot, grated. Sprinkle with 1 t salt and after 10 minutes, squeeze to dry.

In a small sauce pot, heat fish sauce, water and sugar till dissolved. Let cool. Add the rest of ingredients.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

SSS- Superb Salmon & Spinach!

When I think of Salmon, what comes to mind is “special occasion”. Salmon screams “restaurant or hotel fare”. Truth to tell, I don’t buy Salmon often enough as it gets pricey.

I once bought this beautiful head which yielded me a comforting hot bowl of Sinigang sa miso. And a couple of times I bought salmon belly strips which I marinated in sweet teriyaki sauce, wrapped in banana leaves and baked. My youngest boy ate it up.

About 2 weeks ago, my sister-in-law texted us to say that salmon steaks were on sale in a particular supermarket. I was skeptical as to how affordable it truly was and what a pleasant surprise to see it at half the price! That is rare treat. I got 2 kilos and would've bought more, but that's all my freezer could take, along with great pork ribs and beef shanks.

Salmon is not a house favorite as much as the cream dory and it was a challenge to prepare something that all family members would like to partake of. Remembering this entrée that my husband enjoyed in a friend’s party one time, I proceeded with my experiment.

Now my recipes aren’t 100% original. I take my inspiration from cookbooks and magazines. When the mood and opportunity hits me--then I do my own measurements and my add-ons. That’s the joy of weekend cooking. The kitchen is my domain and my critics are those who love me :-)

Thankfully my SSS turned out well and my critics raved over it.
My reward? Of course! This Cook gets ALL the kisses.
· 1 kilo salmon stakes (about 4-5 pcs) or salmon fillet
· 1 cup of chopped spinach (squeeze out excess water first,chop then measure)
· 2 T butter
· 1 small onion or shallot , chopped
· 1 container all-purpose cream
· 100 -150 grams grated cheddar cheese
· Salt and pepper to taste
· Dash of nutmeg, optional
Remove the skin and remove any visible fishbone. Season with salt and pepper and put in a baking dish. Keep in fridge to chill and prevent it from getting spoiled and smelly.
Squeeze out the excess water of your spinach. While you can get frozen spinach from the deli store or frozen section of the supermarket, you can always make your own. When I find that spinach is cheap in the produce section, I’d buy about 2 to 3 bunches. I would simply wash, blanch in salted water, drain and freeze.*

In a non-stick pan, sauté chopped onions in butter until it turns translucent. Add chopped spinach, stir till heated through. Add cream and about ½ c water, grated cheese, a pinch of nutmeg and add salt and pepper to taste. (You can use parmesan or romano cheese but about 30-40 gms only as it is salty enough.) Heat through but not boil.

Pour your spinach and cream mix over salmon fillets and proceed to bake.
About 30-40 minutes, until fish is flakey. The spinach and cream gets richer as it gets cooked so it becomes a decadent savoury sauce.
Serve immediately.

*Prepare your own frozen spinach:In a pot, salted water to a brisk boil, about 2 liters of water and 1 T sea salt. Drop spinach leaves which will wilt immediately. Turn off as soon as the leaves turn bright green and drain right away. To overcook spinach will turn the leaves murky green. You want to keep that bright green to keep it looking good on the plate and tasting good.

When cool, divide the leaves into 1 cup portions and put in a ziplock bag. Freeze for future needs like SSS or a thick bowl of spinach cream soup.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Vietnamese-inspired Grilled Beef

Nope! Not Pho Hoa (pronounced as “Pha”) as one might expect. This noodle dish might as well be Vietnam’s national dish—hot steaming broth with beef slices and egg or rice vermicelli noodles served with fresh herbs and aromatics. The smell alone, assures me satisfaction. But I digress.

Instead, I’d like to share an evening of barbecue cookout we had on the third floor, roof top in Ho Chi Minh. We ordered beef slices, fish fillet, manila clams baked with cheese, fried spring rolls and Chinese-style fried rice.

In the middle of the table is a stove top round, somewhat flat grill, where we cooked our own food. We were served with various sauces and dips. Including one saucer that has salt and pepper with lime on the side. The salt I understand was “toasted” first.

Our interactive menu consisted of beef slices with 5-spice powder and fish fillet both in oil marinade. What I enjoyed the most were the beef slices marinated in lemongrass and chili.

I thoroughly enjoyed the food trip we had in Ho Chi Minh. While it was easy to gain weight especially since I had a checklist of must-try eating places; we walked the calories off as we went from place to place, museum to museum. Really, a strategy so we had more reasons to eat. To be honest, I don’t mind going back to Vietnam for second servings.

Now that we’re home in Manila, I decided to make a fusion dish—give it that Pinoy touch.

With my trusty mortar and pestle, I pounded away lemon grass and chili, added a little salt. I mixed with a local bbq marinade brand to make it sweet and savory at the same time. The lemon grass or tanglad gives it a delicious flavor and aroma that is unlike the usual. It is best with plain, steaming rice if you ask me.

· 750gms- 1 k beef bite-size slices, sirloin- pounded with meat mallet. I have to say that pounding the meat makes it tender and absorbs more marinade. So, this is a worthwhile step.
· 8 stalks of lemongrass, just the tender, white part
· 1 piece of chili
· 1 pack of Mama Sita’s BBQ marinade, 160 ml (or your favorite Filipino –style bbq marinade)
· 1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable oil
· Salt and pepper to taste

Get the white part of the lemongrass and pound in mortar and pestle, along with the fresh chili. If you are a chili head, then add another piece. Add the liquid BBQ marinade and oil and mix thoroughly with the meat. Chill in the ref for at least 30 minutes. I prefer it over hot iron grill because somehow it becomes watery when cooked in the pan.
I found that the marinade was completely absorbed by the meat, so every bite was perfectly packed with flavor. Should you want to stay authentic, simply used lemongrass, chili, garlic, salt and pepper and oil.

I was so excited over this that I served it to a couple-friend of ours, along with my version of Vietnamese-Filipino spring roll. Suffice to say, we had a good time enjoying our meal, exchanging plenty of stories,ideas and encouraging one another.

Ahhh, that’s in the next blog!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tuna Stuffed Surprise

Holy Week is perhaps one of the most look-foward-to event of the year. Families go on vacation and it signals the summer holiday for the kids. My family and I are taking our adventure to Vietnam so there will be interesting recipes to bring home.

In the meantime, here's one that is so close to my heart. It's a great picnic treat because apart from being easy to do-- it's easy to pack and something big and hearty to share.

My son Miggy, (diagnosed with PDD-NOS) and I joined the Century Tuna Culinary Meet years ago and we made it to the Parent-Child Category, sandwich shortlist. When I was putting this recipe together, I was thinking I'll do the cooking, he'll do the assembling and we both do the plating. When we were briefed before the cook-off, we were told that parents were not allowed to assist-- just verbal directions. We can only put the ingredients in place beforehand and supervise. The rest is the child's job-from slicing to cooking to plating--EVERYTHING!

If you're a parent of a child with special needs, you'd understand a feeling of trepidation. But you also have that gut feel that with the right preparation, they can have the same crack as any other child at the competiton.

Miggy and I practised the day before, with timer and all.

On contest day-- Miggy was cool, calm and focused.
The result?--We won First Place!

I can still see the movie in my mind. And how joyous he was--how confidently he answered the tv crew's questions. To anyone who ever doubted children with special needs-- they really ought to give these amazing youth a second look.
  • 1 round country bread (rye usually)
  • 1-2 cans of tuna (your choice of variant. If you like it chunks or flakes in vegetable oil or if you like it spicy like spanish style)
  • 1/4 c coarsely chopped mushrooms (canned, fresh white button or if you're feeling indulgent-portobello)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/2 c black olives,chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 block grated cheese
  • 4-6 lettuce leaves, preferably romaine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Slice off the top of the country bread--just a thin slice to expose the soft, chewy part. Keep this "bread cover". Then carefully remove the bread inside, and leave the crusty case intact.

Drain the oil from the tuna. Set the oil aside in small bowl. Then cut open, de-seed and grill the green bell pepper, remove the charred skin, slice into strips and marinade in the tuna oil. Set aside.

Saute chopped onions and mushrooms in butter and add tuna. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to taste. Also set aside.

To assemble sandwich, layer ingredients in this order:

Line bottom of bread case with 2-3 pcs of lettuce, then spread half of the bell pepper strips. Next, spread half of the tuna-mushroom mixture. Sprinkle half of the black olives and half of the grated cheese. Repeat the steps with the remaining ingredients. Make sure that it is evenly spread.

Should there be space left at the top, add the bread bits that were removed earlier to make the layers compact. Top with the bread cover. Wrap in foil and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Serve cold. Carefully slice to reveal the layers of the filling.Optional: you can add slices of boiled egg if you like.

This is healthy and hearty served with steamed veggies like asparagus, tossed in a simple olive oil and lemon dressing, OR slices of cool, crisp, apples to balance the palate.We like to combine red and green apples for color and tartness. It's a wonderful, wonderful contrast to the savoury sandwich.

It's easy to pack when you go on a day trip especially this coming Holy Week. Pack your bags and your picnic baskets. The days of summer are here.

Have a great time!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Colors of Summer

The great thing about summer when it comes to food is the abundance of fruits-- mangoes, watermelon, cantaloupe. Succulent and oh-so-sweet.
Another favorite fruit of mine is... tomato!
Red, ripe, juicy and really cheap! You can buy them as low as P15.00 per kilo!

When we went for grocery one weekend, it was only P17.00! I got really excited and I bought around 4 kilos--much to my husband's surprise. 1 kilo was oven-roasted with olive oil and 2 kilos were stewed, peeled and popped into the freezer for future pasta sauces. The rest were for cooking.

Many,many years ago, I had a client, a vegetarian who had tomato as filling for her sandwich. I said to myself-- "yan lang???!" Then, I just could not fathom the thought of tomato as filling sans the bacon,lettuce and a bit of mayo. Just tomato! Which is usually, neglected and rejected, usually reserved as side dish if not decoration. Why would anybody eat it that plain?
Today, I don't tire of it. On Sunday brunches, I have to have mine grilled. Sliced in half, sprinkled with a little parmesan, or just salt and pepper-- in the toaster oven it goes, till half cooked, the skin wrinkled and easy to peel off. Goes well with rice and viand or newly toasted bread and some other yummy toppings like spanish sardines.

Here is an easy snack pick-me-upper. A jumble of many textures that party in my mouth. Satisfying but not fattening. My summer tomato sandwich:

  • small baguette or slice of french bread. (it can be plain or whole wheat)
  • pesto sauce (about 2-3 spoonfulls)
  • 2 big tomatoes, in thick slices
  • cheese slivers (cheese of your choice. Here I used swiss cheese. I also like emmenthal)

Put tomato slices on a pre-heated teflon pan. Pan grill it till soft. Split open the baguette and toast till crunchy on the outside. A really good french bread or baguette for me is one that is crunchy on the outside, with a bit of chewiness on the inside. Spread it with pesto. Layer with grilled tomatoes and top with slivered cheese.
A no-brainer! It's so easy to do!

Dig in and enjoy the crunchiness of the baguette, paired with the warm, juicy, sweet-yet-with-a-hint-of-sourness-tomato. Add to that the kick of the pesto, fragrant with basil and garlic. This to me is the perfect example of healthy and yet flavorful food. Most of all, it is absolutely enjoyable. I actually close my eyes when I get the first bite.

If you want to share, you can cut the french bread into rounds and turn them into crostinis. Spread with basil, top with grilled tomato and finish off with shaved cheese.

Yellow, red, greed--the colors of summer on my plate :-)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Let's wrap and roll!

Yesterday, I did a "Rachel Ray"... meaning I made dinner that basically uses off-the-shelf ingredients. Fast and convenient AND in 30 minutes.
In the Philippines, there is no particular tex-mex section as you would a japanese section or an oriental section of ingredients. And so, with a little innovation and tweaking, I made my own version. Thankfully we have the likes of McCormick Taco Seasoning so that pretty much removed any thinking of spices to mix.

I have been wanting to experiment on some sorta tex-mex food as my youngest is a Taco Bell fan. And since my boys (hubby and 2 teens) have to have rice, I figured a hearty burrito would do it nicely. Plus, I can hide some greens like lettuce in it so my eldest would have more vegetables in his diet.

What I made was heavily flavored with a little heat so salsa is optional. What could complement this is sour cream if you want some coolness and tartness to balance the meal.

On a summer's evening, we capped dinner with fresh pineapple, one of the many succulent fruits in season. Just get yourself a golden ripe pineapple, peel of the skin and eyes, remove the core and cut into small chunks. Pop it in the refrigerator/freezer. This sweet, tart, icy cold fruit counters the heat of the burrito. And cools you down.
Satisfying and healthy.
  • 1/4 kilo ground sirloin
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pack McCormick Taco Seasoning less 1 tsp, set this aside
  • 1/2 small can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 can of red kidney beans, mashed
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups cooked rice (white, brown or red)
  • 3 T annatto or achuete oil for color (To render color from annatto, put 1/4 c oil in small pan or sauce pan, add 3-4 T annatto/achuete seeds. Put over low heat for about 3-5 minutes. Set extra oil aside for future use like java rice)
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce (Any kind will do.I used green and purple baby oak)
  • 1/2 block cheese, grated
  • 4 pcs large soft flour tortilla
Saute onions and add ground beef. Add taco seasoning and tomato paste. Stir and put on low heat till cooked. Meanwhile mash the beans and set aside.
In a teflon pan, put annatto oil and stir in cooked rice. Add the 1 tsp taco seasoning that was set aside earlier. This gives the rice flavor and binds the tex-mex flavor and feel together. Stir until fragrant and the orange color of the annatto is evenly spread. This deep orang-y flavor also gives it an appetizing, inviting look. Set aside.

Getting it together!
Get your large flour tortilla, and spread about 2 T of mashed red kidney beans on 1/2 side. On this same side, spread about 3 T meat mix on top of the bean.
Again, pile on the rice mix, about a little over 1/2 heaping cup. Pile on the shredded lettuce and sprinkle with grated cheese. You can add more cheese if you want to--it's not a crime :-)
Proceed to roll. It's a hefty roll that you might want to wrap in tin foil and heat in the oven for about 5-10 minutes.
What I did was place the burrito seam side down on the silicon mat and put in the toaster over low heat for no more than 10 minutes. I just wanted my brood to have a warm meal.

So, to put it simply: spread(mashed beans)- spread (meat mixture)- pile (rice)- pile(lettuce)-top( with cheese)-then roll!
This is not only great for a summer's evening. This is also a smart "baon"and picnic idea.

It's summer and my kids are spending more time at home-- so that means I'll be doing more wrap and roll. Watch out for it!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chicken and Sausage Rice Pot

I enjoy watching the Asian Food Channel, including the shows that go to hawker stalls and out-of-the-way food stalls. Even if I don't understand the language and get by with the english subtitles-it's as if there were times I could almost imagine how the dish tastes like!

There was one such time when I saw a feature (in Malaysia I'm guessing) where the stall is known for its chicken and sausage rice. What caught my attention were the clay pots that were being cooked over wood fire. I see it in Japanese 99 peso stores and have wondered if one can actually cook with it and how. I like the partly glazed and partly rough parts which reminds me of pottery and white "palayok".
Now, I actually had the good excuse to buy and try! I got 2 pieces from the Daisu store one Sunday. I thought to myself, if I were successful I would have multiple servings OR if I were to break one pot, I would still have one left!
The process seemed easy enough and the ingredients are something I often have in my refrigerator. In fact, I have a similar dish months ago. Since it was a feature story, there were no recipes nor measurements which made the experimentation more fun. When I got home, I placed about a cup of water and let it boil. I figured I should "warm it up" so it won't crack when I began to cook. (But that's just me).

Next, I didn't want to slave over hot coals and decided to try on my trusty stove in the meantime. The only effort in this dish was the simple prepping and slicing. No sauteing, no braising. Just the melting of flavors in a pot as the rice gets cooked! How easy is THAT!?!
  • 1 cup of rice, uncooked. Washed and made to sit in water for about 5 minutes before draining
  • 1 T grated ginger, 1-2 cloves grated garlic, pinch of salt
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • Chicken fillet, remove skin. About 200-250 gms, salt and pepper to taste (I removed meat from a leg, thigh and breast)
  • 2 chinese sausages, also called chorizong macau

Put the rice in the pot and add water. In a small sauce pan, I warmed the vegetable oil and added the grated ginger and garlic. I gently cooked these so as not to burn them less they become bitter. I added this ginger-garlic-oil mixture to the rice and stirred. Don't forget the pinch of salt to taste.

Cook it as you would regular rice: put on high heat and when it begins to boil, turn down the heat. (When cooking rice we would usually use 1 cup water to 1 cup rice. But I learned that you have to add a little more as I guess water evaporates easily because the clay is porous.)
After a few minutes when there is less water and the rice grains begin to swell, simply put the chicken pieces and the sausage slices on top. Put back the cover and simply wait till the rice is fully cooked. Finally: serve hot, hot,hot!
In the TV show at AFC, the diners poured a thin swirl of sweet soy sauce on top and mixed it up before partaking. I prefer it, as is. The chicken juices and sausage fatty flavor seep into the rice at the bottom. Every spoonful is packed with flavor.
My kids enjoy this dish, and counts it as among their roster of comfort food.
I plan to buy 2 more claypots. So when we have the chance, I'll serve this to friends, with a side dish of blanched veggies like bokchoy or petchay. Add to that fried spring rolls for crunch and contrast, and maybe... stuffed tofu.
What if you don't have this pot? No worries! I think it works just as well with your rice cooker.
Now, how simple is THAT!?!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

P&P-- Prawn on Pasta

No one needs a special occasion to make dinner special. It's the company and conversation. Well... a glass of good wine can help the conversation going. This dish is an example of something simple but looks gorgeous and tastes really good. It's sort of down home if you serve it family style and it can also look classy as dinner-for-two and wine.

My husband loooves shrimps and prawns. Apparently, it's contagious because so do my sons. And because it can get pricey-- serving shrimps or prawns IS in itself an occasion! And so it always deserves a place in the weekend table.

When there is time to savor every talk about stuff from serious to utterly mundane... to laugh at unexpected jokes. Then again, when you have males at the diner table, somehow eating is at a rocket's pace!

My Mom's default gift for my husband is always 2 packs of succulent prawns, and obviously he is not complaining. So one I'm-not-yet-done-with-the-grocery weekend, with a pack defrosting in the refrigerator, I whipped out what could be found in my pantry and fridge.

I saw light mayo, grated quezo de bola, all-purpose cream, fresh tomatoes, spaghetti noodles.

Hmmmm, there's a possibility here I told myself. I really have no recipe as basis on this one, but I think it's like thermidore or croque monsiuer inspired.

It turned out pre-tty gooood and a change from the usual. I plated it for picture's sake, but I served it family style for my small but hungry brood. If you have all-male diners, you make sure everybody has an equal share. I kept the prawn head on, because it looks more appetizing that way. Besides, I get to eat them :-)

  • 12 prawns- split the back and devein, leave tail in-tact
  • 1 T light mayo
  • 4-5 T grated cheese (quezon de bola, parmesan or romano)
  • 1/2 T all purpose cream
  • ground pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 T finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
200 grm pack spaghetti noodles, cooked al dente in water with lots of salt
1/2 k fresh tomatoes, sliced and dried over low heat in the oven
olive oil
2 T garlic slivers
salt and pepper to taste

Mix light mayo, grated cheese, all-purpose cream to form a soft paste. Put a small knob in the slit made on the back of the prawn. Drizzle some olive oil on a pyrex dish and lay prawns side by side. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Cook in the oven till orangy-pink.

Be carefull not to overcook as you will have shrivelled and rubber prawns. Set aside.

In a deep pan, simply saute garlic in olive oil, add oven-dried tomatoes. Get the noodles out of the pot and put into the pan. Mix well, add salt and pepper to taste. For family-style serving, get a big platter, place shrimps on top, pour the oil and prawn juices from the pyrex dish onto the pasta.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve immediately. It's a healthy, clean-tasting, good-for-you dish. Enjoy!

Shortcut Tip: If you have no time for oven-dried tomatoes, you can always get a jar of sundried tomato pesto. :-)

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fusion for Two

I find it amusing that tomorrow, we will either celebrate Valentine's Day or Chinese New Year. One is typically an intimate dinner for two and the other, a lauriat for a group. To get the best of both worlds, the eve is reserved for the romantic in me. And tomorrow, will be reserved for the gourmand in me. Not a bad deal at all.

I checked my fridge and pantry and whipped up this pasta dinner I consider a japanese-italian fusion. Wierd? Unique? But I guarantee is yummy. And absolutely simple to do.

I found a pack of enoki mushrooms,also called golden needle mushrooms. They have tiny, tiny white, shiney caps and best for me when fresh. I usually see this in Japanese restaurants wrapped in bacon or beef bacon and pan fried. Another time I had it, it was simply cooked in little butter and served as a side dish with small japanese grilled meats.

Instead of being eaten as an appetizer, I figured if it is wrapped in bacon-- it can certainly go well with a cream-base sauce for pasta, like carbonnara or al fredo. The bacon, ties the fusion concept neatly together! I served it with crispy ciabatta slathered with garlic, basil and oil. Accompanied with chardonnay-- my husband enjoyed our simple yet satisfying dinner for two.

Enoki Wrap:

  • 1 pack of enoki mushrooms, cut off the roots and wash thoroughly. Drain and divide into 10-12 batches
  • About 5-6 strips of bacon, sliced in half, yielding 10-12 shorter strips

Pasta with Cream Sauce:

  • 2 cups of cooked pasta, spaghetti or fettucini
  • 1 T of butter
  • 6 T all-purpose cream
  • 1/3 c parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 T extra parmesan cheese on the side
  • freshly ground pepper
  • optional: thin ribbons of 2 basil leaves (chiffonade)

Cut your enoki mushrooms to a length of 2 inches. If you got a long one, cut the stalk in half and combine to make a thicker bunch. Simply wrap this with bacon and set aside, seam side down. You may secure with toothpicks.
Heat your pan or grill pan, then place the wraps, seam side down. Bacon shrinks and so as this cooks , it begins to tighly wrap the enoki mushrooms. You may also choose to bake especially when cooking a big batch for plenty guests. Set aside when thoroughly cooked.

In another pan, heat butter with all-purpose cream until it melts but not bubbling. Add the pasta and gingerly mix. Sprinkle 1/3 c of parmesan to evenly coat the pasta as you toss it. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and ribbons of basil. Split servings on 2 plates, give a final sprinkle of cheese and arrange the enoki wraps on top.

I enjoy different textures when eating, so a crusty bread for me, completes the experience.

Garlic Basil Olive Oil Bath:

  • Pound about 5-6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped in a mortar and pestl
  • Add about 6-8 leaves of basil cut into small ribbons (chiffonade)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 -1/3 c olive oil

Slather this mixture on crusty bread like french bread or ciabatta. Grill on high heat until crunchy.

Who says you have to go out in a fancy restaurant, get upset with the traffic and the crowd? When you can enjoy dinner and wine at home. Have great conversation, kiss every now and then, dance the slow dance without music. And cap it with an indulgent Royce's chocolate.

Happy Valentine!