Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Snapshots

I just stepped out from church and my phone signals me that I have 6 missed calls. Who would call me six times on a Sunday morning, I thought as I was checking the call log. It was my friend Teyene, who announced that she was on her way to visit me and she is travelling by train. "By train? Who takes the train in SoCal?" I asked. "Well I want to try riding the train, especially now that it's raining" she excitedly told me. Sigh...another hopeless romantic... just like me!

Teyene and I are good at impromptu moments like this, more spontaneous and random than planned, but I got excited for her and her hubby about the train ride. "Train thrill starts" was the next text that I got from her. I was thinking how crazy romantic the trip would be for the both of them, with the panoramic coastal view of the Pacific as their backdrop.

With my husband in tow, we met Teyene and her husband, Buddy, at the Solana Beach Train Station, located a few miles north of downtown San Diego. It turned out that we were about to discover that across the station lies a charming design haven called the Cedros Design District. I liked the vibe of the place. So full of creative energy, stylish stores, good bargain finds... a farmer's market, gourmet cafes, ahh it was like a kindred spirit enclave. And to think that this was only 5 minutes away from my place, how could I have missed it???

I don't want to use the trite saying: A picture is worth a thousand words. But in this case I must, to share with you my fun Sunday get-together with one of my dearest friends. Also, I'm hesitant to post my pics because it seems amateurish, (I told my husband it's the camera... *wink, wink* a good Christmas present maybe...), but here it goes.

Christmas Snapshots ...

It was a late hazy afternoon, hazy due to the rain or maybe it's due to the cheap camera I was using, hahaha... but that's me and my friend and her hubby.

One of my favorite stores, where you could buy novelty gifts from around the globe. So chic! I went back the next morning! It's definitely another place to get a lot of inspiration from!
...it's so cool!!!

Off to downtown we went. Took the 101 highway to see more views of the ocean...and we passed Del Mar, just next to Solana Beach(train station).

Right in our backyard... a view of the Pacific Ocean... living in SoCal has its benefits, and with a view like this??? It's priceless!

We're now at the Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego. This is one of our favorites... NO! This is NOT a STRIP CLUB, so calm down folks!! It's only a steak house.

Our hubbies grilling our own steaks... that's the fun part that men enjoy in this joint.

Our next stop was a gelato place called CHOCOLAT...

Their Tiramisu was the bomb! It blew my mind away...
Guess what happens when you had a really good time? You go back the following day. This time with our kids... Right after we picked up my daughter from the airport, who's on her winter break from Berkeley, my hubby took us to CHOCOLAT again.

Different flavors yet...

my three children found a common love... for gelato!

With the colors of Christmas around me, it definitely puts me in the mood to make my Brownie Mini Pizza . This is something fun to do with younger kids, wherein they could put their creativity to use.

We need:

Brownie Mix (using a ready mix simplifies this recipe)
A can of fruit salad
1 cup of cream cheese spread (so easy to spread, no need to use a mixer)
1 cup of Whipped cream
chocolate chips


For the "crust":

Prepare the brownie mix as per the manufacturer's instructions. Put a thin layer on a lined round baking pan. The liner will make it easier to remove the brownie crust from the pan. Bake it for about 5-10 minutes at 350 degrees F. Keep a close eye on it as it may burn. Allow the brownie crust to cool down before removing it from the pan.

For the "sauce":

Mix the whipped cream and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl. Make sure to blend it well. Set Aside.

How to Assemble:

Apply a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture on to the brownie "crust". Arrange the fruits on the brownie "dough". Sprinkle chocolate chip cookies. The mini-pizza dessert is ready.

This will give you a "heavenly" piece to savor... Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Red Raincoat

Twas a rainy Wednesday morning and I loved it! So there I was in the mini-van waiting for the kids to take them to school, as I was enjoying the blaring sound of the car stereo: the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ hit single Snow. Perfect music to go with the weather. Ok fine, it was not snowing, it was just raining but I love it anyways, and I love the music, so it was all good… for me it was still perfect music for the moment.

I get excited when it rains here in San Diego because it seldom happens. My husband says that if that’s the case, we should move to Seattle. I guess he wants to see me in a happy mood for most times of the year. But San Diego‘s weather is almost perfect and it can’t get any better… but with the rains right now I'm just loving the change in the weather.

So after I took the kids to school, I grabbed my red raincoat and I stepped outside not afraid to get wet. And like a little girl, I just wanted to splash in the puddle with my boots…and I walked and sang in the rain!

I walked to the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, our neighborhood shopping arcade. I love the area, it kinda gives you a feeling of Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow, only with a modern twist… and it’s just a 15 minute walk from where I live. We have a tall Christmas tree (it’s not like the tree at the Rockefeller Center in NYC) but it’s still tall enough to say that Christmas is here. Climb the stairs and you have a good selection of places to eat with an al fresco dining setting… it’s just simply lovely! Our favorite place to eat for breakfast is Champagne Bakery and Bistro… I love their crepes! Then I went to a store called Papyrus: I love to take inspirations from there. I don’t buy their cards, oh no, I make my own. Of course there’s Barnes and Noble, where I love to skim the pages of cookbooks and my favorite magazines… Hahaha yes I do sound like I’m el cheapo, right? Next stop is Bath and Body Works, where I love to smell and try every scent of their hand soaps and lotions… there are boutiques and jewelry shops, very tony! And oh our Mcdonalds is not your usual Mcdonalds, with its modern/eccelectic interiors, along with serving Panini, soups and several gourmet selections. I just felt like suddenly, I began to appreciate all the things around me that I usually take for granted. It’s one hallmark moment, that I wish I could permanently capture. That’s how much I loved the moment.

I spent most of my time people watching, and this time of the year is the best time to do that. I see people rushing frantically down the wet pavement. I see ladies all made up and clad in designer outfits. I felt amused because they don’t seem to impress me anymore, I was just there feeling content, as I sipped my hot cocoa…wearing my red raincoat.

In the few stores I stepped foot in, I saw people scavenging for gifts, trying to cross them off their lists. I saw kids bored in their strollers trying to get mom’s attention, but their moms were oblivious as they were busy scouting for anything with red tags. But what caught my attention was an old man trying to reach for a musical stuffed toy on a shelf. I reached for it and gave it to him, and with his fragile old frame, he asked me what I thought about the toy. I said it’s beautiful, and he said, ”it’s for my great grandson… not grandson, it’s MY great grandson… he emphatically pointed out, “I’m a lucky old man ain’t I? That I lived long enough to see my great grandchildren and it gives me profound joy!” I wanted to hug him, or wished he was related to me… and I wanted to take him home because I was afraid that with the rain, he might slip, or afraid that with the rain and knowing how people drive crazily, he might get into an accident. Cut it out Malou! Probably, he’s just like me, who wants to be out there in the rain… I greeted him "Merry Christmas"...I smiled and left him.

It was such a lovely morning walk… and when I went home, all wet, chilly and cold, I craved for a creamy rich soup. Oh what a morning.. a lovely morning indeed. I wanted to sing: "listen to the rhythm of the pouring rain"… ok enough… here’s the recipe for the creamy potato shrimp soup!

Creamy Potato-Garlic-Shrimp-Soup


1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 pcs. Potatoes with peel, diced
4 cups broth (chicken or shrimp bouillon dispersed in water)
1 cup milk or cream
butter -garlic croutons
1 stick butter
1 medium egg
Salt and pepper, to taste
pre-cooked shrimp

Microwave the potatoes for about 4 minutes. Then mash together with butter and the cracked egg. Don't mash it too well, you may want to leave some lumps so as to give the soup some texture. Set aside.

In a stock pot over medium heat, saute onions and garlic in butter. Add mashed potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Add a handful of croutons. Turn heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes get mushy and croutons are soft.

Remove from heat and add milk or cream. Season with salt and pepper. You may now add the cooked shrimp. Leave it for a few minutes to warm up. Garnish with croutons and toasted garlic. You may also add cheddar cheese if you choose to.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weekend Express

I always have a perfect description on how to spend my weekends: purely having fun and relaxing. It makes you feel like time is on your side, no deadlines and pressure from work and home. Well you know how it goes during the weekdays: when the alarm starts to buzz, you crawl out of bed, find your way to the kitchen, make coffee, then breakfast, (and well for me it includes preparing 3 brown bags for lunch). Thank goodness for weekends... the days to recharge myself... no jumping out of the bed early, spending my time instead to sleep, cuddle up in bed, sleep some more and as a bonus I have the privilege of waking up to the sweet aroma of bacon and toast that my hubby makes.

After breakfast, the pace of the day often changes. Ok if this was a movie this is the part where the calm music fades and changes to a different rhythm... I'm thinking from the piano-based music of Amelie to the orchestral bombast of The Gladiator. Having 2 teenage kids who are actively involved in serving the community, I have to drive them around, and on some weekends having an early start. Yes, early as in 5:30 AM when they volunteer for fun runs for charity, like Run for the Hungry in downtown San Diego, or Race for the Cure held at Balboa Park.
This weekend was one. A battle between the alarm clock and the comforter ensues. “Wake up!” the alarm clock commands, while my comforter seduces me to tuck myself in tighter and place the covers over my face. On a chilly December morning, the comforter wins… zzzzz. I need more sleep, I justify. My son comes in to my room and reminds me that they have to go in a few minutes… “Why do you volunteer so early!" I protested. "I think you’ve overbooked yourselves again this weekend” I whined some more... and my son was stunned, and sheepishly reminds me that I should be proud that they are part of the concerned youth movement trying to make a difference in the world.

Embarrassed by my own behavior, I instinctively got up. My son's words shook me and awakened me... Act like you’re the mom here I challenged myself… So off I go to the kitchen. I have to have breakfast ready in 20 minutes... so think fast Malou, work even faster... as I was trying to think what to prepare for them. I wanted to serve them something that would say, “Mommy is so proud of you!", like a cheerleader, I wanted their breakfast to say GO Kids , GO !

STUFFED FRENCH TOAST… came to my mind. Yes stuffed with a combination that is out of the ordinary: BACON and Nuttela. They love French toast and the extra stuffing should be able to perk them up. I love to see their pleasantly surprised faces after having a bite...Seeing their faces transform and hearing their praises for the food, the feeling is PRICELESS! So let’s begin:


2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tbsp French vanilla creamer
8 slices of white bread
3 tbsp butter
Break the eggs into a bowl. Whisk it lightly then add milk and French vanilla creamer.

Spread the nuttela on one slice of bread and arrange the bacon strips on a second slice. Pair them together.
Heat a skillet coated with a thin layer of butter.
Soak the pair of bread with the egg mixture then put it on the skillet. Cook it until golden brown. Flip it and brown the other side as well

Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish it with chocolate chips all around the plate. Serve it hot. As they bite, the bacon and nuttela will reveal itself. It would be gooey sweet and the saltiness of the bacon will stand out yet complement the chocolate spread… No need to add syrup.

Thank you for the emails and the FB messages you've sent me... I got a suggestion from one of the readers, Cathrina (check out her amusing blog about design, shopping, food, and being a career-mommy at http://cathrinadionisio.blogspot.com/) that I should start a series where I'll be answering questions from the readers, and I think I'm convinced based on the emails that I receive. So I'd love to hear from you! If it’s a recipe, an ingredient or maybe a suggestion I would prefer that you ask it on the comment section of the post. That way everyone can benefit from the information. I will turn your questions and suggestions into a blog post.

Thank you and looking forward to hear from you!

a.k.a Impromptu Diva

Friday, December 4, 2009

Orange You Glad It's Chicken

“Who's going to drink all the soda dad?" I overheard my son, Joey, asking my hubby about the sodas he just bought. We usually don’t drink soda at our house, so my son was puzzled as to why my husband bought a few 2-liter bottles. I thought that he just got it because it was on sale, but then I heard him say, "No, mom is sick and soda will help her feel better." I don't know if there is any scientific explanation to it, but thinking back on it, soda was one of the "comfort" drinks that we had growing up. Is it just a Filipino thing? Maybe, but I don't really know.

I was so touched by my husband’s sweet gesture. Even if there is no scientific reason as to why you feel better after drinking orange soda, I know for a fact (and apparently so does my hubby) that it works for me. I guess that’s what having “comfort” food or drink is all about. It’s all about the feeling of being wrapped up, cuddled and cared for… especially when you are sick. It makes you feel like a child again. The sweet tangy taste of orange soda (we had Royal Tru Orange back then but Sunkist is close enough!) and the faint fizz from the carbonated drink warms your heart… You might think it is über cheesy, but hey let me savor the moment.

I think my husband over did it though because a week later most of the Sunkist was still sitting in our pantry. So I used the orange soda as a cooking ingredient. And I used it to take center stage in cooking my Orange Glazed Chicken. I wanted to capture the sweetness of orange and let it stand-out by adding orange rinds and wedges. The result was a sweet orange flavored dish.

Along with the Orange-Glazed Chicken, I prepared a bean sprout (togue) and cucumber salad. I got the salad recipe from my Mama. She calls it Kimchi. I always tell her, “Mom kimchi is most commonly served as spicy pickled cabbage, not bean sprouts,” but she still insists in calling it kimchi salad up to this day. LOL! Oh well, that's why I love my Mama. But let me name the salad- Bean Sprouts-Cucumber Duo.

The combination of the Orange-Glazed Chicken and the Bean Sprouts-Cucumber duo is so divine… it’s like a perfect marriage. Plus, when it’s all laid out on the plate with all of the garnishing of orange wedges and toasted sesame seeds, it will definitely get an oh-so-delish remark from your loved ones… Happy cooking!

Orange Glazed Chicken


10-12 pcs of chicken (I used thighs)
1/4 c soy sauce
1 c orange soda (I used sunkist)
1/4 c white sugar
Pepper and salt to taste
4 cloves garlic (minced)
3 bay leaf (crushed)


Wash the chicken thoroughly (I use salt to clean my chicken). In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and let it simmer. You want all the ingredients to blend well. Place the chicken on the pan, skin side down. Cover and cook until chicken is done. Cooking time takes about 30 minutes but if chicken is not cooked yet add water. Wait until it dehydrates. You must turn the chicken twice so that the sides won’t burn but allowing it to caramelize.

The chicken at this point needs some TLC - never allow it to burn, as it will have a bitter/ burnt taste. Add orange rinds and cook for a few more minutes. When serving, garnish it with orange wedges and toasted sesame seeds.

Bean Sprouts and Cucumber Duo


1 package of bean sprouts
1 whole cucumber (sliced)
1 c white vinegar
¾ c white sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 medium onion (chopped)


Blanch the bean sprouts. Drain and set aside. In a pan, boil the vinegar and sugar together. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the onions and sesame oil. Let it cool.

Arrange the bean sprouts and cucumber in a serving plate. Pour in the vinegar mixture. Make sure that the vinegar is already cold.
Serve the Orange Glazed Chicken alongside the Bean Sprouts–Cucumber Duo… ENJOY!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Warm Hug Is What it Takes

Mother knows best, so the proverbial saying goes but oh well, don’t look at me because often I don't! I feel like I have too many misadventures as a mom. In fact, I’m sure my kids could write an entire book entitled MOMMY’S (MIS)ADVENTURES and it will be as thick as a Webster dictionary.

Just this morning, I got a text from my daughter Izzy. She said I have to check her out from school because she wasn’t feeling well. Frantic that it may be swine flu (see, I didn’t even know the symptoms of swine flu despite the flood of emails I get regarding the disease) I called my sister, Marvie, who is a physician in Orlando. “Does Izzy have swine flu,” I asked anxiously, “because she said she has a throbbing headache and an upset stomach?” She answered my question with another question, “Did she take something this morning?” “Yeah, I gave her ascorbic acid to remedy her sniffles,” I responded. My sister then asked a pretty simple, yet vital question, “Did she eat something before taking the ascorbic acid?” I responded no and she said, “Well then that’s the culprit, ascorbic acid should be taken with a full stomach.”

I felt bad for my daughter having to suffer through the pain. As I drove to her school, thoughts of my past misadventures as a mom rushed to my mind. One time my son complained about a terrible pain and I gave him Tylenol to try to ease it. However, it’s a good thing my husband overheard the conversation, and probed further, asking him where the pain was coming from, and when it started. The next thing I knew was we were at the ER. I was grateful to have a husband who has a medical background… I don't even want to think of what could have happened next.

So on the way home, I asked Izzy what she wanted for lunch. “Soup,” she replied. I made this soup that is "tinola-esque". Tinola is a soup dish traditionally served with chicken cut ups, slices of green papaya and chili leaves. But since I wanted to serve something fresh and hot right away, I didn’t have to go through the process of sautéing. With a left over breast from the rotisserie chicken we had last night and the chayote squash, I did what Rachel Ray calls “chop and drop”. It gave a welcome relief to my daughter’s upset stomach, plus the soup gave her a warm hug in this cold December weather.



Slices of chicken breast (left over from a store bought rotisserie chicken)
3 slices of ginger (crushed)
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 medium tomato (chopped)
3 cups chicken broth (I used knorr chicken bouillion dispersed in water)
Fish sauce (patis) to taste

As I’ve said, this is easy to prep: just chop, drop, cook the dish and it’s done. Pour the chicken broth in a pot, and add all the sliced ingredients in as soon as the broth is boiling. You’ll have the taste of tinola in no time! Enjoy!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dancing In The Kitchen With My Daughter

My eldest daughter visited us for four days, but is now, as I type this, packing to return back to Berkeley. You would think that after three years of her being away from home, we would be used to saying our goodbyes. But it is still so hard to say goodbye. It seems that planning her visit for Thanksgiving took months to iron out but her four-day stay was ever-so-brief; it makes me wish that time would stand still for a couple of days. However, I am taking comfort to in the fact that she’ll be home again for Christmas in three weeks. So the waiting begins…again.

With a lot of things to celebrate, including her birthday and Thanksgiving, four days were definitely too short. She arrived here at home on the day after she turned 21. We decided that although it wasn't exactly her birthday anymore, we would still continue our tradition of singing Happy Birthday to the celebrant at midnight of your birthday and banning her or him from doing any chores for the whole day. We thought she still deserved the same privilege and at 21 even more…

We tried to get her 21 gifts but as we were ideating, we thought 21 was way too many. We ended up spelling twenty one, with each letter representing one gift. It was so much fun ideating what to get her. My two other kids didn’t want to get her random gifts, so on the letter O, we thought she would appreciate “our company!” Let’s be creative and have fun with her, we all agreed. So with T for tequila, W for wine (remember, she did turn 21) and E for envelopes containing our birthday cards and greetings from loved ones and so on, she appreciated everything that we got for her!

With Nicole turning 21, I can’t help but smile at how beautiful our relationship had turned out. Sure, we have our “conflicts” but it has definitely improved since she was in high school. So, how do we build lasting mother-daughter relationships? I guess through constantly understanding each other and loving unconditionally… and now that she loves to cook, we discovered that cooking too helps strengthen this lasting bond.

Last Wednesday, I was cooking a shrimp dish when out of the blue she asked me if she could cook fried rice to go with it. I excitedly said, “Sure!” and she immediately jumped into action. Initially, she had to accustom herself and asked where all the utensils and the ingredients were, but eventually, we were both busy in the kitchen with our respective dishes. We were a great team, just like something you would watch on Iron Chef, fully in synch and raring to go! The funny thing is, she even sang while cooking, just like I do whenever I cook. We were like swaying and dancing in the small space in the kitchen. Marching and swinging, it was one beautiful dance, one precious moment… and oh yeah the food turned out to be a sweet pair too!

SHRIMP ala Imrpomptu Diva


2.5 lbs shrimp
5 tbsp barbeque marinade
3 tbsp banana ketchup (or you could use tomato ketchup)
1 medium onion(chopped)
3 cloves garlic
3 onion leeks
3 slices of ginger
1 tbsp cornstarch dispersed in water
Hot sauce (optional)

Heat a saucepan. Sautee the garlic and the onions. Add the ginger. While doing so, mix the ketchup and the barbeque marinade together and add it on to the saucepan. Add the shrimp. Cook it for about 6-7 minutes. When it’s almost done, add the cornstarch. Stir until the sauce thickens. Serve it hot. Garnish with onion leeks and toasted garlic.

Shrimp Ball Rice ala Nicole(written by Nicole herself)

5 pcs Shrimp Balls (cubed)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 medium carrot (cubed)
3 egg (scrambled)
Green onion leeks
Filipino soy sauce dispersed in water with 1 tbsp brown sugar
Onions (chopped)
Garlic (minced)
Cooked rice

On a flat pan with some vegetable oil, toss the garlic and onion in and cook until golden (NOT BROWN). Then, add the carrots. After a couple of minutes, add the cubed squid balls and add the oyster sauce. When this is cooked, set it aside on a plate. Using the same pan, put more oil and the cooked rice. This rice has to be rice cooked from the day before; if you use newly-cooked rice, the dish will turn out really mushy. Add the soysauce mixture to the rice carefully, bit by bit. you want the sauce to be evenly spread on the rice. (Note: if you have Kikkoman or any other Japanese-based soy sauce, just use that without the water and the brown sugar; Filipino soy sauce is saltier, so I decided to dilute it and make it sweeter) Then, add in two-eggs scrambled, but (just like what you did with the soy sauce) mix it in step-by-step. This way, the egg gets cooked evenly across the rice. Then, put back the squid balls/carrots that you fried early into the pan. You're done! For garnish, you can cook the remaining scrambled egg and cut it into cubes and add green leeks. Sorry if it seems so complicated, but the process works!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We Give Thee Thanks

The idea of roasting our very first turkey this Thanksgiving thrilled me. This is our tenth Thanksgiving celebration since we moved here in the US and I thought it was about time I try my hand at it. But when I was at the grocery store with my daughter going over my list (which I downloaded online), I was intimidated by the rock hard frozen turkey. I then called my mother-in-law, Mama Bernie ( I always call my in-laws whenever I'm in doubt-- they are my walking Wikipedia). When she heard a sick voice on the other end of the line, she suggested that I should just take a look at the grocery store's pre-order turkey dinner.

Curious but hesitant, I went to the deli section where low and behold I saw the turkey dinner with all the sides. The delicious sight and smell, along with the freedom from cooking while sick, convinced me to pre-order our turkey dinner.

So here I am curled up in bed, clutching tissues in my bedroom while my husband and daughter are all dressed up in their holiday get-up. They've already gone to church and to the grocery to pick up our turkey dinner order. My two other kids are coming home soon from volunteering for a 10k fun run. As the TV blares in the living room with the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and my husband fusses over what time we'll heat up the turkey, I can feel the holiday spirit here in our household.

My time in bed resting allows me to contemplate what I am thankful for, and boy the list is long! I want to thank Him for the wonderful gifts of family, friends, and the gifts of peace and happiness... just as the text message I got this morning from a dear friend says, Thanksgiving is not about the spread on the table nor the material things you possess. It is about what’s in your heart.

So whether we're having turkey from the store or from the oven, it does not matter; what matters is the heartfelt appreciation and gratitude I have inside... Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Breakfast Conversations with O

My sister-in-law Cesca called Friday night to tell us that they were driving to San Diego. “You don’t have to prepare anything Ate Malou”, she insisted “because we’re going to meet with Chami’s (her hubby) best friend from high school, so please don’t worry”. Cesca and I are like that…we always say to each other… “No pressure”… especially during impromptu moments such as this.

"No pressure” means flexible schedule, no meals for me to prepare… just a stress free vacation for them… yes San Diego is Chami’s and Cesca’s favorite destination when they want to unwind from their busy medical careers. And why not, San Diego is only 4 hours away from Nevada and it gives us a chance to reconnect in person. We would just enjoy talking and laughing, getting updates with each other, just a very relaxed and casual get together.

O is their one and only child. He is always excited to come visit us as he is very fond of my kids, especially my son Joey. O is one smart kid, (oh well that’s more of an understatement). It’s refreshing to see how an 8 year old boy prefers to play games that involve family interaction rather than his computer games and gadgets. “Give me some letters and I will form words, then make them into a sentence” he would command my son, and they would laugh at the words he makes and laugh even more when he tries to use it all in one sentence.

O and my hubby Chi have a special bond too. O calls him his Tito Ninong (meaning uncle at the same time godfather) and if you ask him who his favorite uncle is, he would say Tito Ninong. Their conversations runs a gamut of topics from Mozart to musical instruments to science, and listening to them makes me feel like I’m on the Discovery channel! And what’s my way of connecting with O? Of course it is through food! LOL! “What do you want tita to prepare for breakfast O?” I asked him and he just shrugs his shoulders… So I recited to him a long list and he picked French toast.

O was so easy to satisfy. “What’s that?” he inquired as he pointed to the champorado…. “It’s chocolate rice porridge”, I said. He replied “I think the last time I ate that was 8 years ago”, meaning he has never tried it before. But he enjoyed stirring the milk and sugar into the porridge. He said, “Can you give my mom the recipe for this so she could make me some at home?” He definitely loved it. I also made him some double French toast. I added French Vanilla Creamer in the French toast. His parents loved it too, and they kept guessing what the extra ingredient I added in the toast was.

Their visit was short, but it’s always a wonderful thing to reconnect with family, with the adults having fun and the cousins sharing a good laugh as well.

Double French Toast

2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tbsp French vanilla Coffee-mate
8 slices of white bread
3 tbsp butter

Break the eggs into a bowl. Whisk it lightly then add milk and French valilla creamer.
Heat a skillet coated with a thin layer of butter. Soak the bread slices one at a time with the egg mixture then put it on the skillet. Cook it until golden brown. Flip it and brown the other side as well. Serve it with butter, whipped cream and syrup.

Champorado (Chocolate Rice Pudding/Porridge)

Unlike the traditional champorado recipe, I used Jasmine Rice for this recipe. It turned out to be just as good. And it took me less than 30 minutes to cook it!

2 cups cooked jasmine rice
4 cups water
4 cocoa balls (you could use powder as well)
Chocolate chips
Evaporated Milk
Whipped cream
Sugar to taste


Put the already cooked rice in a pot. Add 4 cups of water and let it boil. Add the chocolate balls. Stir constantly. Add more water if necessary. Cook until the rice is soft and gooey.
I like my champorado cold… better yet, cook it the night before. Put evaporated milk. Top it with whipped cream and sprinkle some chocolate chips… this will give the extra chocolate that's so divine and it would surely make you say… YUM!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Skip To MaLou

I have been living here in the U.S. for almost 10 years now. I am very aware that I usually stand out among the rest because of my ethnicity. It’s not that I want to conceal my nationality, but I usually try to blend in. I always tell myself to integrate. Still, no matter how much I try, I get quizzed if I'm Hawaiian, Spanish, Mexican or Filipino. Of course, I am always proud to say that I am Filipino!

It is so hard though to mesh in with the crowd when I have so many distinct traits that indicate that I am a Filipina. I remember my kids used to tease me whenever I brought a huge umbrella to the soccer games so that I could hide myself from the sun (I don't know why we Filipinos prefer to have fair skin). And while I was at Penn Station trying to catch the LIRR to Long Island, I was clutching my "handbag" when a lady approached me and commented on how much she liked my pocketbook. “Pocketbook?” I asked. “I am not reading a pocketbook!” I exclaimed then left her thinking that she was trying to rob me... only to find out that my "handbag" is the pocketbook she was referring. And there was also the time when my hubby and I were getting ready to go home from a night out with friends in NYC when a stranger approached me and asked, “Can I bum one?” I replied in disgust, “I’m married!” My hubby intervened and said “Sure”, as I looked at him in horror only to find out that the guy was only asking for a cigarette (confessions of a former casual smoker). I laugh everytime I recall these embarrassing moments even though it happened almost a decade ago. And yeah with a name like Malou how could I hide that I’m Filipina? “Ma- what?” they would ask… so I would tell them my standard reply: “It’s Malou, like skip to my Lou,” and that helps them with their pronunciation. They would say May-Lou!

Let me share with you one of my favorite salads. I’ve been on a diet and avoiding rice,but how could you possibly have adobo without rice? It wouldn't be the same, right? So I created a very good alternative. And the resulting dish is a tribute to my integration to America. I call this the Adobo Nation Salad Sensation. I am going to fuse the ubiquitous adobo with an unfamiliar partner, a bowl of romaine. Some prefer to use vinaigrette on the adobo but I like to use the adobo sauce with some pineapple/vinegar/rum dressing... Hmmm...just describing it makes me crave for a bowl right now. The adobo successfully blends into the bowl of salad, but the taste still stands out. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do.


For the adobo:

There are so many variations in making adobo.  I like to keep mine simple.  Also, adobo is better as it sits longer, so I usually make a big pot of adobo and hang on to the left-overs.  To get an authentic adobo taste, I would advice using  Filipino vinegar and soy sauce.  You could buy them from any Asian Store.

2-3 lbs. pork/chicken
3/4 c vinegar
1/2 c soy sauce
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
3 bay leaves (crushed)
3/4 c water

In a saucepan, combine all the wet  ingredients and crushed garlic together. Let it simmer.  Add black pepper and crushed bay leaves.  Allow the ingredients to fuse in together for a few more minutes then you are ready to add the pork/ chicken. Cook for about 30 minutes. Drain the pork and set aside the sauce as you will need it later on for the romaines. Let it cool.   Slice the cooked adobo into cubes (bite size)

For the salad dressing:
1/2 c pineapple juice
1/2 c vinegar
2-3 tbsp rum (optional but highly recommended as this was suggested by my friend Basil, and it definitely added the zing!)
salt and pepper to taste.
1/4 c white sugar (you could add more if you want it a little sweeter)
2-3 tbsp olive oil

In a separate pan, combine all ingredients and let it simmer, Continue to stir until the sugar dissolves.  Let it cool..

Pour the sauce mixture in a bowl.  Add 2-3 tbsps of olive oil.  Whisk it together.  This will serve as your salad dressing.

For the salad:


Boiled eggs
Pickled Papaya (atchara-- or try pomelo/grapefruit or pineapple)
Romaine (hand torn)
Tomatoes (sliced)

In a salad bowl, toss the romaine with the adobo sauce. Layer all the other ingredients, i.e. croutons, tomatoes, sliced boiled eggs, pickled papaya, raisins and cashews. Drizzle a generous amount of the Pineapple/Vinegar/Rum dressing. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Longanisa Experiment

It was a quiet weekend. A prelude to what's going to happen next year... With Nics in college and Izzy out on a trip this weekend, it was just the three of us: my hubby, my son Joey and myself at home. This must be how it will feel starting September of next year when Izzy leaves for college... hmmm I still can't get over the fact that my eldest child is no longer with us and another daughter will be leaving soon. Indeed, it is painful to think of but it is inevitable.

My girls tease me a lot about how I will be hit hardest when my son Joey leaves for college. This is because they feel that my favorite child is Joey. And I can't blame them, he is my unico hijo... People say that the relationship between mother and son is special, similar to how a father is close to his daughter... and I agree. I saw it in my mom. I have 4 brothers and my mom has a soft spot for each of them. Not that my sister and I were less special but her relationship with them is something unique, something that is hard to explain. I remember when my brother Fr. Gerry would come home from the seminary, my mom's face was always aglow... and his favorite food would always be served...

I admit that I enjoy my son's company. This is because he is as funny as I am. He would always say I'm the jester of the family, although I feel he comes in a very close second, hahaha. I love to sing when I cook and he would mimic me closely, especially when the kitchen is very quiet. He would hide behind our kitchen counter and would spring out of nowhere and surprise me saying, "What you cooking Mum!". And how he would love this because I still get surprised every single time. Everyone loves Joey,ask the younger cousins in the clan who their favorite cousin is, and hands down they would say it's Kuya Joey.

I love cooking for Joey because he would judge the food as honest as he could. If I were a Top Chef contestant he would be Chef Tom Colicchio. He would "judge" my food as honest as he could... and when he truly loves the food he would always hug me. Need I say more why I love him?

For this dish, my inspiration is my son Joey, as his favorite is pasta. I took the longanisa (Filipino cured sausage, traditionally served for breakfast) out of the freezer and thought of making ... yep a pasta dish for the 2 men in my life. The dish was approved by them, no they didn't say "oh so delish" but in their own masculine manner they said, "this is really good"... and as a bonus, the compliment came with hugs from them both.

The longanisa didn't overpower the whole dish. I thought I was able to avoid this by using a "secret" ingredient, which of course is no longer a secret, LOL! But yeah, the secret ingredient is my Mama Sita Barbeque Marinade. I added this ingredient so as not to have the longanisa as the only "foreign" or "Filipino" ingredient, with its distinct taste, in an Italian recipe. And true enough Mama Sita provided the "magic", as it cascaded the sweet and sour taste that it gives... that's why I love Mama Sita Barbeque Marinade, it always does wonders when I want to perk up my food. It's like having an old reliable grandma around. She's there when you need her...LOL! Btw, that's an Impromptu Diva tip, to always have marinades or other sauces in stock, so that when you need to whip up something new, it will always be handy!

Longanisa Ziti


longanisa (I used the Vigan Longanisa)
1/2 c water
2 small cans of tomato sauce
red and green bell pepper
black olives
2 medium tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 medium onion (diced)
fresh basil
4 tbsp Mama Sita Barbeque Marinade
1 package of ziti


Cook the pasta as directed.
Heat a separate pan, add water and the longanisa. Let the water dehydrate. Brown the longanisa in all sides. Using the same pan, add the garlic and onions. Pour in the tomato sauce. Let it simmer. Add the sliced tomatoes, red and green bell peper. Give it a stir. Add the Mama Sita barbeque marinade then add the black olives. Pour it over cooked pasta. Sprinkle with toasted garlic...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Heaven on a Plate

I haven't had Ube Macapuno ice cream for the longest time... and with Red Ribbon's Taisan bread... heaven on a plate indeed!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sweet Imperfections

It never fails to amaze me how my parents start their day early in the morning, nestled at the corner of their room, each with a cup of coffee, chatting intently. They are so engaged with their conversation and you could tell that they truly enjoy each other’s company. They still do that up to now… over 46 years and counting. And their claim to everyone is that they never fight, and we their kids are witnesses to that. Mom would lovingly serve my dad his meals and my dad has always had praises for my mom. If their relationship was a symphony, it would be in perfect harmony. This for me is a marriage made in heaven.

Does my marriage fit under this category? Well maybe not, but what my husband Chi and I share can be best described as a “beautifully imperfect” marriage. While it’s true that some marriages are much like my parents, I believe that in most marriages, you have to work hard at it just to keep it going, and work even harder to make married life ideal. By taking the ever- obsessed -about “perfection” out of the equation and accepting each other’s imperfections, we can transform our differences into sweet imperfections.

Chi and I are different in so many ways. Ok fine, actually, we are very different. He likes listening to “who-knows-what kind of genre this music is”/alternative music, while I love to listen to smooth jazz and mainstream music. In his down time, he loves to listen to his music positioning himself at the center of both speakers. And while he is in an almost meditating state, I could tell him anything and all I get is a nod or a smile. It’s like my signal to stay away and give him his space. He is a bit shy and reserved while I like to go out and meet people. When we’re with other people, I usually do most of the talking. I would see his eyes roll whenever I mutter something outside of his comfort zone. Later, he would tell me: “Love, that was T.M.I. (too much information)” and I would beg to disagree saying “I was just sharing!”

Lately, we started to follow an exercise regimen, and he would rather use the treadmill while I prefer to walk around the neighborhood. I tell him to enjoy the San Diego weather, but he insists in going to the gym. At the dinner table, he would talk passionately about science to the kids while I talk about my latest dish or my newest business idea… but yes we would laugh at how different we truly are from each other.

There was a painting in our dining room a few years ago that we both loved. It was a painting of a basket full of fruits, I liked the vibrant hues of the yellow bananas, the red apples and oranges. I fell in love with the intensity of the colors… and his comment? “I love the black background and the shadows, very calming“. We both appreciated the art work… but we laughed at how different our views were.

Today, there are several reasons for us to celebrate - a birthday to enjoy and blessings to be thankful for. The dish I prepared is Pork Roast in Black and White. When I reached for the hoisin sauce and the garlic for the pork roast, I was struck by the stark contrast in color, how different these two ingredients are… black and white… but with this contrast, the two ingredients complemented each other, bringing a dish that turned out to be oh-so-delish.

This has made me reflect that even though the relationships we are in are never perfect, and no matter how different we are from our spouses or partners, we could still get it together and celebrate each other’s uniqueness, and as Tim Gunn of Project Runway would say, to “Make it work!”

Pork Roast in Black and White
(this recipe is under the category: unbelievably easy..lol!)


3 lbs. Pork Roast
10 cloves garlic minced
3 tbsp Hoisin sauce

In a bowl, mix the hoisin sauce together with the minced garlic. Brush the mixture generously on to the roast. Cover the roast with foil and bake it at 375F. Remove cover after 1.5 to 2 hours. Add more hoisin and garlic mixture at this point. Bake for another 30 minutes or until it's fully cooked. Let it stand to cool then serve sliced. Garnish with green onions and toasted sesame seeds. ENJOY!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fresh Basil on a Rainy November

I woke up early this morning and I noticed the still wet pavement. Wow, since moving to the always-sunny-but-ohh-so-dry Southern California area, I feel surprised every time it rains. But it is a pleasant surprise, as I love the feeling of stepping outside as the rain is gently falling. Especially on an early morning like today. It gives me a refreshing feeling, with the crisp cool air hitting my face and the soothing sound of the falling raindrops.

As I checked my email, I got a message from my friend Basil. He sent me the design he created for Impromptu Diva. It was a pleasant surpise and, if it was not that early, I would have called him up to say thank you.

I never realized that writing a food blog can take a lot of time and emotions. Emotions because people react to your blogs differently. I have family and friends who love the blog, albeit others are hyper-critical about it. It takes a lot of time to write, not just the blog entry, but also to answer emails, Facebook comments and phone calls from friends who have gazillions of suggestions as well as questions. Basil is one of Impromptu Diva's avid follower. He would call me to inquire about the next blog, even though the newest entry was only posted 10 minutes ago, hahaha. "I still have to get inspiration for the next one", is my standard reply to him. But his comments, along with other friends and family members positive input, always thrills me and excites me to write ... ultimately they inspire me to write the next blog entry.

As I sit here and stare at my computer screen, my husband reminds me that I am writing a food blog and not my memoir. I laughed as I continue to think of what to write which is suddenly interrupted as the phone rings.

"Aww Malou, that was so sweet of you" says Basil, who was on the other end of the line. He was reacting to the email I sent him. Funny how you find friends along the way and you know who are the friends you want to keep for life. Yes that's Basil for me. Although we don't see each other often, we know we are there for each other, in good times and bad. I asked him if he's going to charge me for the design he made and he said: "No, just prepare good comfort food for me. It's chilly and cold...", he further said "...but please, I don't like pork but would prefer chicken instead...and please no white rice".

Ok fine, no pork, no white rice, its raining... what else would best "comfort" him... how about my take on a traditional dish - "color me brown arroz caldo". And to be able to follow his request of no white rice, I will use brown rice instead.

The results were amazing. This dish has a certain nutty flavor not commonly tasted in a traditional "arroz caldo". And the mind can play tricks on you, as eating "brown" rice is healthier, it makes you forget the number of calories, although brown rice and white rice are not so different in terms of calories. Hahaha! Nonetheless, the color me brown arroz caldo is always comforting, like knowing I have friends like Basil, someone I can count on, even on a rainy November day.

Color-Me-Brown Arroz Caldo (congee chicken)


2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
½ medium onion
3 slices of ginger
8 pcs. Chicken (drumsticks/thigh or if you prefer white meat do so)
1 ½ c brown rice (soaked in water for about 30 minutes)
10 cups chicken stock divided
A dash of safflower

Heat pan. Saute garlic until light brown. Add onions and ginger. Cook the chicken. Brown both sides. Drain the water from the brown rice and add it to the pan. Add 5 cups of chicken stock. When the water dehydrates, add 5 more cups. Add a dash of safflower. Cook for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Cook longer if desired.

For garnishings: Toasted garlic and ginger (slow on the ginger though) Slice some boiled eggs.. Sprinkle some green onion leeks.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Fine Day To Take It Izzy

The alarm clock buzzed continuously as I struggled to get up. To wake up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday is never easy. But it is easier today than most other times; this is because my daughter Izzy is taking the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) today. As I entered her still unlit room, she was curled up in bed, sleeping so contently. I didn’t have the heart to wake her up. The past few weeks she’s been working hard and sleeping late, juggling school work, volunteering and standard tests preps, as well as writing college applications. But I have to. It reminded me years ago, how I would wake up my kids singing nursery rhymes, and I was tempted to do that. But knowing how tired she has been the past few weeks, I lay down next to her and hugged her tightly. She asked me sarcastically why I was hugging her and I mentioned to her I was her lucky charm. She replied that if that’s the case she would tie me around her neck and take me with her when she takes the test… and I said, “You don’t have to…. I am in your heart”… she remarked again with sarcasm: “Says who?”

Izzy is my second daughter and has been labeled by almost everyone I know as my “mini-me”. People who knew me from way back say that she looks exactly like me. My mom disagrees though. According to my mother, Izzy is the better version, as she got some good features from my mother-in-law too. Well, they say that you marry someone who will improve your gene pool, and in my case I believe I did. But an exact copy of me she’s not. I always tell her that I didn’t study (in my entire student life) as hard as she does, and she’s only a senior in high school. Izzy is one very focused, very diligent student. So soft spoken, a little on the shy side (which obviously is not one of my traits at all), but definitely driven, creative and reliable, traits that are present in me.

In a few days, she’ll be turning 18. Debut parties were a big thing in the Philippines when I was growing up. A coming of age party is planned by the family with the debutante’s closest friends and is usually held in a plush hotel or restaurant. Although I only had a modest party on my 18th birthday, I still vividly remember what I wore: a white three-layered skirt that dropped down to my ankles, a white tunic blouse with shoulder pads (purchased from Virra Mall in Greenhills), white stockings, red pumps and a matching huge red belt (bought from Celine’s also in Greenhills). If Project Runway’s Christian Soriano would have seen me back then, one word would come to his mind … “Fierce”, hahaha. Izzy will never wear anything like what I described, and looking back at how horrendous the fashion style was in the 80’s, I am glad she wouldn’t. So I asked her what she wants to do for her 18th birthday and she said “I would like to apply to more colleges than I initially planned, I want to choose wisely”. It amazes me how different she will remember her 18th birthday compared to my memories. She hopefully will remember how hard she worked to get into a good college and realize that was the initial step in achieving her career goals.

As she goes out the door, I couldn’t help but think of preparing something homemade for her when she comes back. “Can you make this more often mom” is her way of giving the dish I just prepared her seal of approval, something equivalent to my “oh-so-delish!” remark. She has said this about my Baked Ziti, one of her favorite “comfort food”, but it would be too predictable if I make this for her. Something light and something to snack on when she comes back.… SPAM MUSUBI came to mind.

Spam Musubi is a popular “sushi” snack in Hawaii. It’s made of spam marinated with soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar, then wrapped with nori wrapper. However, I will add a twist by making an Impromptu Diva experiment in fusing one of Izzy’s favorite fruit--- pineapple, with spam musubi. As I was planning this aloud, my son was skeptical about the idea. He even hid the last can of pineapple that I had in my pantry. But I proceded with my new concoction, as I tie the strings of my trusty white apron. So here’s the result: Aloha Spam Musubi.

“Mom can you make this more often “, Izzy said as she was getting her next serving. Ergo, it is another super-liscious recipe for me to share with you.

Aloha Spam Musubi


1 can of Spam Lite, sliced thinly
Nori wrapper
1 can of crushed pineapple (try to use pineapple rings instead, I just used the crushed one since I ran out of he pineapple rings in my pantry, the rings would be easier to caramelize).
2 tbsp sugar (you could add more if you want it sweeter)
2 tbsp cooking oil
Cooked jasmine rice

Place the pineapple in a pan. Add sugar and cook it until dehydrated. Just when it’s about to turn brown, set aside.
Heat oil in pan. Cook the sliced spam until the edges turn brown. Let it rest on a paper towel.
Cut the nori wrapper according to desired size. I divided mine into 3 and used a corrugated knife to cut it. Place the nori wrapper on a flat surface. Spread the crushed pineapple and then the Spam and the molded rice. Wrap the nori wrapper around it. Enjoy!

Impromptu Diva tip: Use the empty can of spam to mold the rice. This will give it a more polished look. Be sure to wash the empty can thouroughly. Also, keep your hands wet, it will make molding and wrapping a lot easier as the rice wont stick to your hands.

Have fun and enjoy!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Adventures of the American Adobo

A family friend from home, Cecil, came to San Diego to attend a convention for the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) over the weekend. We met him (yes, Cecil is a he) at his downtown hotel to pick up a "care" package, a.k.a. "padala" or "pasalubong", from family and friends back home.

At the hotel's busy lobby, I was so excited to see a familiar face amongst a veritable sea of people. He was obviously attending a convention, as the huge badge hanging around his neck would attest. I saw him lugging along a huge suitcase and a paper bag as he was walking towards me. Surprised, two possibilities immediately crossed my mind: a.) He is giving up his luxury suite hotel room to spend the weekend with us to have some "bonding" time, or b.) My family and friends have sent me a ton of gifts from back home, thus the need for the suitcase to transport it. I was more concerned about the latter, I thought to myself, “Oh no my mother over did it again”! Flashback: A few years ago, a family friend asked my mom if she wanted to send some things for me upon his return to the US. He told my mom that he had space available as he was not bringing home much. My mom sent me a box full of flavored century tuna and bottled gourmet tuyo. Although I love Century Tuna, it was embarrassing because apparently my friend’s back ached carrying that box! So I thought... hmmm this must be another century tuna package. It turned out the answer to my question was: neither of the above. I found out that the lining of Cecil’s luggage was broken so he had bought a new one and he was wondering if I could still use an extra suitcase. Well the suitcase looked great, so I decided to take it with me.

We took him around San Diego visiting Coronado Island, Balboa Park and the seaside town of La Jolla. As the evening drew near, my hubby and I asked where would he want to go for dinner. We offered him different choices... Chinese, Italian or American cuisine. His choice: Malou's cuisine. He mentioned how he was craving for my home cooked meals, especially my adobo. So if it wasn't much of a hassle, he would prefer heading to our house for a genuine home cooked meal and also to see my kids. After all, he hasn't seen them for more than 5 years. Before coming over here in the US, our families had frequent dinners/trips and did so many things together. Our kids were also the best of friends. He said he missed my cooking. He reiterated his earlier request, saying that he doesn't mind if I cook him my version of "adobo"

There are so many versions of adobo, it depends which region of the Philippines you come from. But my versions of adobo, since the time I left the Philippines, are continuously evolving. Actually, I think it depends upon my mood: I have the “oh so glorious garlic” adobo, which my sister truly loves, and the asim (sour) adobo which, has a lot more vinegar than the usual adobo, which my mom loves. (And oh I could vividly recall how she would instruct our cook to go easy on the soy sauce as she wants more vinegar on it). And yes, adobo was one of my mom's "impromptu dishes” as it's so easy to make. The latest version I have learned to love is the Hernandez Adobo, which is a friend’s recipe sent to me via Facebook. It also has lots of garlic but is uniquely orange in color. It is oh-so-delish as well.

I took the cue from my guest’s requests: my menu tonight will be pork adobo, chicken and vegetables ala pinakbet. So in my head, I was improvising, or rather “impromptu-ing”. I know that I have marinated chicken in the fridge (Impromptu Diva TIP: I marinate meats and chicken right after grocery shopping. It saves me a lot of time and it comes in handy when I need to don my IMPROMPTU Diva apron).

To buy myself time, I suggested that Cecil and my hubby go to Best Buy while I make dinner. I then instructed my daughter at home to load the marinated chicken in the oven. My daughter’s help save me some time since baking the chicken requires more than 30 minutes. As we got home, the smell of the chicken baking emanated from the kitchen (thanks to my kids who could do things just as I ordered). I instinctively took out the pork from the fridge, and while he suggested "adobo", I thought somehow of turning my adobo into something "American", as I saw some red apples sitting on the fruit basket. The result: Cinnamon Apple Glazed Pork Adobo. He also mentioned that he cared for some vegetables ala pinakbet, so I grabbed some zucchini and made Zucchini in Raspberry Vinaigrette. It had the same color as pinakbet but quite a different flavor and texture. Another impromptu tip: always have some seafood and fish in the freezer, as these are the easiest to prepare. I grabbed a pack of tilapia fillets and proceeded to prepare Naughty (nutty) Tilapia.

Dinner was ready as soon as the big boys arrived from the big boys store, grinning with their 'big boys' smile. It was an enjoyable, no fuss dinner, easy to do and easy on the budget as well, very impromptu-esque indeed.

Apple Cinnamon Glazed Adobo

1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c red wine (I used a left over)
2 tbsp sugar
a dash of oregano
a dash of cinnamon (i put half a tsp since we love cinnamon)
4 cloves garlic minced
3 bay leaves
a dash of parsley
3 lbs pork (I used boneless country ribs for easy slicing- please see pics)
1 pc apple thinly sliced.


Combine all the ingredients (except for the pork) and let it simmer. On a different pan, brown the pork then add it to the simmering mixture. Let it cook until it gets dehydrated or until the sauce begins to thicken. As soon as it thickens, drop the sliced apples. Make sure the glaze covers the apples as well as the pork. So simple yet so delish!

Garlic Chicken


Salt and pepper

Marinate chicken using the 4 ingredients. Preferably marinate it overnight. Cover and bake the chicken at 375F. After 40 minutes remove cover and shift it to broil. (I put it on high) This will take about 8-10 minutes each side. Make sure not over cook it as it will make your chicken dry.

For Gravy:
2 tbsp flour
1 c chicken stock
salt and pepper
Garlic minced

In a pan, brown the garlic in butter. Set aside. Using the same pan, make a roux by browning the flour. Add the chicken stock and drippings. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the toasted garlic on the chicken and gravy. That will give your simple chicken the extra zing!.

Nutty Tilapia

5 pcs tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
2 tbsp mayo
1/2 c parmessan
1/2 tsp celery flakes
Crushed Nuts


Season the tilapia with lemon, salt and pepper. On a bowl mix the parmesan, celery flakes and mayo. Top it with crushed nuts. (any kind will do!) Broil the tilapia for about 10 minutes or until cooked. Again be careful not to burn the dish.

Zucchini in Raspberry Vinaigrette

2 pcs. Zucchini
1 large tomato
1 pkg of sliced mushrooms
Feta cheese
Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

Chop the Zucchini tomato and onions. (You could add olives if you prefer but at that time I didn't have it available). Add the mushrooms. Top it with minced garlic. Drizzle the Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing and top it with feta cheese. Bake it for about 10 minutes. Voila Done!

Spread it on the fillets. Top it with crushed nuts. Bake for 10 minutes. And the tilapia is ready for a bite.

P.S. Stay tuned for future blogs wherein I will include the more traditional adobo recipes, and if my friend Jenny agrees, the Hernandez adobo that I mentioned.

Also, please check http://www.flickr.com/photos/impromptudiva/ for more photos. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Missing Home (and Three Ways of Finding Your Way Back)

A table showcasing the ingredients for a roasted turkey at the grocery store made me realize that the Holidays are here again. You see, I have mixed emotions about the holidays. One is that it's the most "merry" of times, while it also reminds me of holidays past--- and yes it makes me miss home a lot!

Home for me is the Philippines where I grew up, where my parents and all my siblings still reside in (except for my sister in Orlando) and where my roots are. Although, Thanksgiving is an American Holiday, it's still a reminder that Christmas is just around the corner. It's been 10 years since I spent Christmas in the Philippines. The only way I could bring myself closer to home is thru ... TRADITIONAL FOOD! Indeed eating traditional home cooked food is like getting a hug from home, it is PRICELESS.

Holidays in my home country are typically marked by having a lechon (roast pig) to feast on. And being surrounded by the holiday festivities at the grocery store, I started craving for ... LECHON! Whenever I crave for lechon, I make my own version, a "somewhat close to" lechon. And it is also comforting that to re-create my own "lechon" doesn't take a fortune to do so. For one, pork butt or pork shoulder is only $0.99/lb. With a currently tight budget, that's like a gift from heaven for me. And I tell you to create this dinner, all it took me was less than $10.00.

So last night, I made my version of lechon (minus the whole pig) by baking 4 lbs of pork shoulder. And funny how I was telling my hubby how I used the lechon as a metaphor about life. You see my family approaches our lechon meal differently. My kids rarely eat rice these days, and they don't eat the skin/fat either. So I made them the Soft Taco Lechon Wrap. For me, I go for a low-carb diet, so I made myself the Lechon Lettuce Wrap. My husband, who can't survive without rice, had his the traditional way, with lots of crispy skin, meat and fat covered with lechon sauce (a liver-based sauce much like gravy). Again going back to the metaphor, eating lechon can be as varied as how each one of us approaches life! LOL! That could be a different blog altogether but for now, let me share with you how we enjoyed our lechon--- 3 ways: Lechon with rice, Lechon Lettuce Wrap and Soft Taco Lechon Wrap.

Lechon ala Impromptu Diva


4 lbs Pork butt or pork shoulder
salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic
2 stalks of lemongrass


Pound the lemongrass, rub it on to the pork. Mince the garlic and mix it together with salt and pepper. Rub it on to the pork. Let it stand for about 2 hours (but it's better if you leave it overnight). Bake it at 375F for about 3 hours or when the skin gets golden brown and very crispy. Voila it's done. (I even went walking while my lechon was cooking).

We shared the same lechon, however enjoyed it in 3 different ways...oh yes it did bring us HOME!

3 ways to enjoy it:
1. Slice the lechon as is and with lechon sauce and rice... and my hubby gave me the oh so delish thumbs up.
2. Lechon Lettuce Wrap:
I chopped the lechon, with the crispy skin and tender juicy meat and scooped a spoonful of my homemade atchara (yes folks I make my own atchara and I go to the post office daily to mail since i started doing it last week).

3. Soft Taco Lechon Wrap:
I sliced the lechon meat (took out the visible fat) into strips and put it on a soft taco shell with hoisin sauce and strips of cucumber and green onions/onion leeks.

here's a link to see more pics about this blog.


Monday, November 2, 2009

One Winter Night in the Poconos

During a business trip to New York, three cars were enroute to the Poconos Mountains, where we were to have our planning sessions. Five women, including myself, were in the first car. The other two cars were to follow, bringing with them our supposed dinner. We arrived at the house in the Poconos at 7 pm and we were told that they were on their way. An hour later, they were still nowhere in sight! We decided to wait a bit longer, but after a few more minutes passed, they still had not arrived. Eventually, we got a call from them, explaining how traffic was terrible and how, since they were famished, they had stopped to eat somewhere else.

"What????" we women of the first car chorused with smirks on our faces. This was unfair; we came all the way from the west coast and we were on the verge of passing out! Ok, that may be overstating our condition, but you know how it feels to be that hungry. And it definitely didn't help at all that it was already dark outside, with 7 inches of snow that had accumulated and we were unfamiliar with the place. But then, a colleague of mine had an epiphany, an a-ha moment as she blurted out "Ah, fret not! Malou is here. She could cook up something delicious in a jiffy... "

From my "corporate" outfit, I changed into more comfortable clothes and with a trusty white apron on proceeded to concoct my magic... True to the impromptu calling I had heeded, I started cooking with whatever I could find in the pantry!

So for the hungry ladies, I first prepared bruschetta, using what was available in the kitchen: red tomatoes, fresh basil, french bread. As soon as I served it with a bottle of Pinot Grigio, the entire tray was empty. "Wow. we have some hungry wolves right here" I mumbled.

In less than 30 minutes, I was able to come up with a garlic inspired dinner: Green Salad, Garlic Shrimp, Garlic-filled Mashed Potato and cream chowder, which came from a can, but was topped with lots of toasted garlic. "Wow this really hits the spot" my friend commented. "Glorious garlic!" said the other, as we discovered that all five of us loved garlic!

Garlic Mashed Potato (it got the oh-so-delish-rating!)
4 large potatoes
butter and Olive Oil
cream cheese/sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
1. Microwave potato for 10 mintues with skin
2. In a saucepan, brown the garlic with butter and Olive Oil (i like the garlic light to golden brown)
3. Mashed the potato in the saucepan
4. Add the egg
$. Stir the cream of choice (available at that time was cream cheese)
6. Season with salt pepper and parsley

Creamy Garlic Shrimp
3 lbs Shrimp
6 cloves garlic-- glorious garlic!(minced)
cream cheese
salt and white pepper
1. In a large skillet, put the butter and garlic together (I usually put the garlic together with the butter and olive oil to avoid the burnt taste of butter).
2, Add the shrimp over medium heat, turning frequently until the shrimp just turn pink. This usually takes about 4 to 5 minutes.
3.Add the parsley, cream cheese. Add a dash of salt and white pepper and stir well. Remove the pan from the heat and serve it hot. You could have this with white rice or pasta.

and voila... it's done!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Tale of Two Spaghetti Dinners

As a mom, it's been always important for me to ensure that the family has a nice home cooked meal to bring us all together after a hard, full-day's work. Of course, with a hectic day, there will always be curve balls thrown at you. For instance, I forgot to thaw out some meat before I left for work that one time. On top of everything, I felt a little sick and was not in the mood to cook at all.

But like I said, we mothers have a job to do: to make our family smile over dinner after the day is done! I wanted to cook something quick and easy, a dish that was light yet delicious and rich with favor.

"How about spaghetti?" I wondered when I saw the meatballs in the freezer. "Sounds like a good plan" I mumbled to myself. Don't find me weird but yes I do love to talk to myself. But as I was getting the meatballs, I also saw a bag of shrimp balls which my husband picked up from Seafood City. (When grocery shopping with my husband, I always find some surprises in the cart as we check out.) And maybe he had plans on when to eat this shrimp balls but tonight, I was on the lookout for something that does not need thawing and this could be it.

Not sure whether my kids will like it, I made two different kinds of spaghetti. One is the regular spaghetti meatballs and the latter is what I call... Shrimp Ball with Capers Spaghetti. It may sound like a strange combination, but this recipe is an instant hit.

During dinner, the kids' ranted and raved about how delicious it was. To think it was something so simple! My youngest even asked me if he could have another serving, even if we already had finished our bowls of spaghetti. Dinner was done, yet everyone still wanted more!

Shrimp Balls with Capers Spaghetti

1 bag of Shrimp Balls (Brand that I use is Do-Do)
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 cup of Parmesan cheese (i used a cup but you could reduce it if you prefer)
1/2 c white wine (from an opened bottle in the fridge)
3 tbsp Olive Oil
Freshly chopped Basil
salt & pepper
shrimp bouillon (if you don't have shrimp bouillon try chicken it could work)
1 package of spaghetti

Cook pasta as directed on the package then drain. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, saute garlic in olive oil. Add the shrimp balls until fork tender. Stir in white wine, capers, parsley, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Add the shrimp bouillon (dispersed in water) and stir. Toss the pasta in the saucepan together with the sauce and the Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

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