Sunday, December 26, 2010

the day after

If someone hands you salt, tequilla and lemon, you know what to do right?  You lick, drink and suck!(you tequila drinkers know what I mean)  But what if you are tequilla-ed out from the holidays -- from too many Christmas parties you've attended and too many shots you've had to drink?

And then you open one of the daintily wrapped presents you've received from your officemate and you're surprised to see it's another (huge!) bottle of that infamous tequila. What do you do?

I'll tell you what to do; you pour in onto your food. I used tequila as an alternative way to marinate these baby back ribs. It's a delightful way to use some of the tequila without feeling guilty -- most importantly, without the hangover!

Tequila Glazed Baby Back Ribs

3/4 c Tequila
1/4 c squeezed lemon
2/3 c white sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 clove garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

This is incredibly easy.  All you have to do is mix all the ingredients and use it to marinate the ribs.  Let it stand for 30 minutes or better yet marinate it overnight.

Cook it on a stove top adding 1 c of soup stock until the ribs are tender.  Add more water/stock if it's not tender yet.  Let it cook until it's reduced to a sticky sauce. Garnish it with minced garlic and sprinkle a little garlic salt on top.

Voila, you are ready to eat...




or have an appetizer for another tequila night haha!





Friday, December 3, 2010

sweet rescue

I find it amusing that as a food blogger, everyone assumes I am a wizard in the kitchen, a Harry Potter of Pots and Pans.   Most of my readers and friends expect me to prep the meals from scratch.  Others expect me to create a complete menu, from mouth-watering appetizers down to zesty desserts.

Take for instance my husband, who calls me from work and asks what I could make for his company's potluck.  I tell him: "Why don't you buy at..." and before I could finish my sentence, he cuts me off saying:  "but everyone at work knows you're a food blogger, I should bring something that you made..." His words screamed out of the phone like the sound of a gavel hitting the block as the judge announces the verdict.

Or that one time when in a frenzy, I forgot to make dessert.  Pressed for time, I asked my husband to run out to buy something from our neighborhood bakeshop, my son said: "mom you'll lose your credibility?"  Excuse me?  For doing what every other mom is probably forced to do for lack of time?

Oh well, at some point WE ALL NEED time off.. to take a break...  But when I need to whip up a dessert within a few minutes, these fruit cups come to my rescue.  You may have your own fruit salad recipe but my version will put some bite into a traditional recipe.  It has always been my "sweet rescue" and hopefully it'll be yours too. You don't need to follow my recipe, you can tweak it the way you like it.  So let's start:




Fruit Salad Cups

First we need chiffon dessert shells (this is actually store bought)
Fruits (either fresh or canned)
1/2 c condensed milk
1/2 c heavy cream
2 tbsp cream cheese

Drain the fruit salad.  Set aside. 
Mix the heavy cream, condensed milk and cream cheese. Mix it well. Toss in the fruit salad. Let it chill.

Scoop the fruit salad into the shells.. Voila, it's super easy, and I'm sure your guests will appreciate it just the same.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

revisiting

Last week, I was at a local Filipino grocery looking for goat meat. The lady beside me commented that I didn't seem like a person who would be looking for goat meat.
I was confused. "What do you mean by that?" I asked politely.  But she answered me with yet another question.
"Which part of the Philippines are you from?" she asked
"I'm from Tuguegarao, Cagayan -- it's a province in the north." I answered.
"Ahh, now I understand" she said nonchalantly.

This was the moment when I realized that food connects us to where we come from, where we are currently at and where we intend to go. I'm certain it's not just northern Filipinos who eat goat meat. I do not have a craving for this dish, nor did I grow up having this as my favorite. Still, I have pleasant memories of how frantic my relatives would be with preparing and cooking this in our backyard. I will never forget the noise the goats would make when they were delivered to our house; my Papa's clients presented them to our family as gifts for my Papa's birthdays or for special occasions. I grew up under my Papa's wing, who would have goat meat included in his usual repertoire of "fiesta food."

Two years ago, I came back to my hometown -- and I immediately craved kaldaretang kambing (goat stew). After being away for 10 years, I was surprised at how my hometown had changed.  It is now more crowded and developed with new buildings and stores lining the streets.  Even at my parents' house things have changed.  Having a party at our home no longer had the whole house smelling like food.  My sister in law, who has a catering business, had been officially appointed as my Papa's official caterer and food consultant.  The spread changed; they had a different repertoire of food.  The food was no longer cooked in the backyard.

There was one exception to this change.  My husband took a side trip to my hometown during his business trip to Asia a few months ago.  He spent a day with my folks after not being able to visit them for 15 years.  Papa was so excited that he threw a big welcome party for him  He planned the menu himself and included several goat dishes as part of his menu.  He had the feast prepared using the old fashioned way.

My husband called me from Tuguegarao the morning of this feast. He said, "I woke up to the sound of goats!  Goats!" I laughed as I remembered the loud meeeahhhh's that would resonate throughout the house. I laughed knowing that what he was experiencing was what I experienced as a child.  My husband grew up in the city and never experienced something as "provincial" as having domestic animals prepared and cooked in the backyard.

I don't know what got into me that day when I bought goat meat. All I know is that I wanted to revisit my Papa's way of entertaining.  I wanted to revisit how he enjoyed having this dish, how he enjoyed sharing it with his friends over ice-cold beer or his Johnny Walker black. And how he planned the menu for my husband's party, which was going to be his last. Cheers to you Papa!


Kaldaretang Kambing (Goat Stew)





Goat meat (I bought the whole leg)
2 cans of tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato paste
2 tbsps liver pate
green olives
pineapple chunks
green bell pepper
Olive oil or butter
Bay leaf
black pepper

Procedure:

In order to remove the gamy smell of the goat, marinate or wash the goat meat with vinegar.  Make sure to wash it thoroughly.   I then boiled the goat meat with herbs and spices, threw the first boil and boiled it again until tender.

In a saucepan, saute the goat meat with garlic, onions.  Add black pepper and bay leaf.  Let it simmer and reduced to almost dry.  Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste.  Cook it on low fire until tender.  Add soup stock or water if the meat is not tender yet.

Add green olives, pineapple and green bell peppers.  Thicken it using liver pate.  Add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to enhance the taste.  You could also use butter if you prefer so.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

random thoughts on giving thanks

What am I thankful for this year?  Hmmm let me count the ways.

Thank you for my family... for friends... for a wonderful life... thank you for the laughter and smiles.  Thank you also for the faith... for the hope...  and yes LOVE!

Thank you for the music (sounds like an ABBA song haha!)  that makes me dance... for movies and sitcoms... for facebook and twitter for keeping us in touch...

Thank you for the tears... for the challenges... even for death and how it brought our families together and stronger than ever before.

Thank you for another year's worth of fun through food blogging  and thank you for holidays, because it gives us the reason to indulge on blissful desserts... like this sweet indulgence of having a slice of brazo de mercedes and enjoying it bite by bite...

And finally, thank you for allowing me to share the recipe with you. Happy Thanksgiving!



Ready to take a bite?  haha!

Brazo de Mercedes
Brazo de Mercedes is actually a rolled meringue with custard filling. When you bite into it, it's fluffy and sweet... It takes you to another level when you get to taste the custard filling... so velvety that melts in your mouth...


For the meringue:

10 egg whites
1 1/4 c of sugar
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c of confectioner's sugar fordsting

For the filling 

1 c condensed milk
1 c evaporated milk
8 egg yolks
lemon zest (you could op to add the rind as well)

Procedure:

For the meringue

Preheat oven  to 400 degrees.  Beat the egg whites and the tartar together  until stiff.  Add the sugar gradually and the vanilla extract.  Do not overbeat   Spread the egg mixture on a large baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Bake until brown.

For the filling:

Mix all the ingredients and simmer it on a double broiler  Continue stirring until the mixture is reduced to a  thick and creamy mixture. Add the lemon zest and continue stirring.  

Spread the filling on the sheet of meringue and roll them together.  Bring it back to the oven and until the surface is slightly brown.  Sprinkle a generous amount of confectioners sugar.  Enjoy!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

the morning has broken | breakfast tocino with fried rice (tosilog)

Her sobs were louder than the cacophony of metal parts slamming against each other as our train sped southwards heading for San Diego. She just got off her phone and in between sobs she explained that she got a phone call from her mom saying her brother passed away. 

Hearing her cry and talk about her loss made me remember my own.  The long train ride seemed shorter as she kept talking and sobbing at the same time.  She was behind me and I couldn't see her face yet I could feel her pain.  The lady beside her kept on talking and disrupting her to a point that I wanted to stop her, for I know there are no words to comfort her grief... and I know how it hurts to lose someone you love...

I wanted to tell her that I was exactly in her shoes two months ago when my father died... to hear her loss transported me back to that moment.  I leaned towards the window trying to control the thoughts reeling in my head.  I was ready to burst into tears but instead my eyes focused on the picturesque southern California sunset.  It made me remember what my sister told me when I had a crying spell with her.  She shared with me what the priest said in his homily using the sunset as a metaphor for death.  Seeing the sun slowly disappear into the Pacific made me realize the profound meaning of the metaphor.  The train ride home made me see the sun as it was slowly being tucked in... behind the cliffs and slowly beyond the horizon... its crimson rays gave a subtle warmth so comforting on a chilly November night...  until it faded away and night fell.

The truth is that's how I feel about my father's passing... I was by him as he lay in bed in a deep sleep for 20 days, heavily breathing, tirelessly holding on to life, which gave us hope.  Until his breathing became faint and he quietly passed away.  But amidst all the pain, my siblings and I saw the beauty of  my mom's unending love.  She sent him off with prayers and promises and whispers that only the two of them could understand. Their vow "til death do us part" in our eyes came alive... plus the six of us siblings had time to spend together, a very rare occurrence as we have our busy lives spread out over two continents with a time difference of  12 to 16 hours.  But we all came home.  We bonded together, comforting each other and promising Papa that we will take care of Mama... and of each other ... 

My family also had the opportunity to visit Papa in the hospital.  My husband and 3 kids were able to come home, fulfilling a promise that they would come back and visit... and if there's a good thing about this is seeing how my Papa was loved and respected by family and friends.  The extra care and attention that his medical team and the nuns running the hospital gave him, the constant influx of people showing up and sharing with us stories of how my Papa touched their lives and how they would come to him to seek his advice... simple gestures that gave us comfort. During the wake, people came with food... oh food, glorious food that I couldn't even count the calories I was eating... and how it was so comical even in between sobs, I would manage to eat and chew at the same time.  I thought that was a skill, haha.

No one is prepared to face the loss of a loved one, especially a parent.  I wasn't. I'm not even going to explain to you the pain of losing him.  And so I struggle and I begin to make things better.  Slowly.  I am accepting that he is gone yet learning to immortalize him in the precious memories he left behind, the wisdom that he shared and the beauty of the life he lived.

This morning as the sun crept slowly in our room, I knew that another day is dawning... I remember my Papa  would listen to his praise songs at dawn, closing his eyes, grateful that another day is here.  He woke up every morning with a prayer and looked forward to a new day..... you would hear him cajole my Mama to wake up and cheerfully greet her "Good Morning 'Mi"  like it was their first morning together. And if you didn't wake up on the right side of the bed, don't even dare show it to him, he will not be pleased, and you will hear him lecture you on the importance of having a good disposition in the morning.  I'm glad that this morning I'm in a good mood, something that he will be glad to see... and especially if I had this breakfast spread for him... I can hear him say his usual compliment, "DABADABEST!".  



TOCILOG

Please refer to my old post Let's Talk Breakfast  wherein I discussed the components of what SILOG breakfast is all about.  For those who are familiar, this homemade tocino will surely perk your breakfast table... so let's begin

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb Pork thinly sliced (butterfly slices)
Pineapple juice
Cooking Sherry Wine
Sugar (add according to taste but I used about 1/3 c)
3 cloves of Garlic (minced)
Sea Salt (recommended that  you use sea salt) add to taste but I used 3/4 tbsp
Black Pepper to taste 
Red food coloring (optional) I used annato powder instead

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix all the wet ingredients and marinate the pork overnight.  If short on time, you can also marinade it just before cooking.  

In a pan, put the marinated pork (with marinade) and add 1/4 c of water.  Let it simmer until it's reduced  and the sugar is beginning to caramelize.  Add  a spoonful of cooking oil to cook it further.  My family wants it a little burnt on the sides but I leave it up to you...  Voila, you're ready to enjoy a glorious breakfast.



It's best served with garlic rice and sunny side up eggs, with sliced tomatoes and spicy vinegar for dipping.


In order to get the authentic look of tocino, I added red food coloring.  It doesn't add any flavor, but I was content that I got the reddish look that tocinos are known for.

Friday, September 24, 2010

i'm taking a leave from blogging

I've been wanting to explain why I haven't been blogging lately but every attempt I make, I cannot find the right words to say.  It's been difficult to say the least.  I am currently in the Philippines to be with my father who is fighting for his life.  My children and husband joined me last week but as I write this are now back in the United States, and  are finding it hard to get back to normalcy.  Today I saw this note posted on my facebook wall written by my daughter for his lolo (grandpa) and Im sharing it with  you to take the place of my usual blog... until I could find the right time to start blogging again...

For my Lolo Diddi

 I visited you every day during my week-long stay in Tuguegarao. These visits were not held at your law office. They didn't happen in the terrace, where we used to have siestas and meriendas together. They didn't even occur in important family venues like Patio Lorenzo or Tuao -- just as I had seen in family photo albums from the past decade (in all of which, I am absent). I never saw you in these places -- the places where I had imagined we would be spending time together during my long-overdue homecoming. Instead, I visited you every 10 AM-12 PM and 5-7 PM, during visitor hours. They happened in sets of 10, sometimes 20, minutes- in an intensive care unit at a Catholic hospital where my Lolo was confined in after suffering an aneurysm.


With a hiatus this long and a distance so vast (10 years of absence, 15 hours of a day behind, 10,930 km apart), there's just so much for a granddaughter to say to a constant guiding force in her life. What can she say to the man whom she thought would sit in the first row of the auditorium for next year's college graduation ceremonies, sit in the chair beside her for when she treated him to merienda in Mira Mesa's Jollibee, sit in the living room couch to watch CNN while she ran to proudly show him her two Bachelor of Arts diplomas, sit in the first pew of the cathedral for her future wedding day, sit in and be present for so many more milestones that she depended on to make up for the lost time they could have spent together? What can she say to him in the moment when he -- invincible in her eyes -- is found on a hospital bed, unconscious, supported by nurses, two stiff hospital-issued pillows, medical machineries that whisper and and beep to tell you he's still fighting for his life, and a grandmother who's been patiently and devotedly calling for him to wake up?


After all these years, how do I fit everything I want to say to my ailing grandfather within these 10 to 20 minutes per day, six days a week, knowing that this could be the last time I may ever see him alive?

Lolo, I didn't know at first if you could hear my quivering voice say "I love you," if you could feel me brush your salt-and-pepper hair away from your stoically calm face, if you sensed that I was holding your hand, if you really knew how much we all were rooting for you to stay strong (and how often we violated the ICU's one-visitor-per-patient policy). We all wanted to tell you how much we love and care for you, but I struggled to find the proper words to express everything I had inside me from the moment I received word of your condition.

"Something happened to Lolo." My mom sobbed through the phone. "What happened?!" I asked.
Shock. Disbelief. This can't be. I'm hearing things; it's only 6 AM.

"He had an aneurysm on Sunday."
Guilt. I'm sorry for not emailing you as often as I should have! That was all you ever asked for -- an email to let you know how I was doing. I should have sent you my latest Philosophy and Legal Studies papers, like you had requested. I should have called more often. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry.

"Mom, don't say that."
Denial. This can't be happening to my Lolo. He's a strong man! He's going to be here in the States this October. We're spending Christmas with him, Mom, remember?!

"He's in a coma, Heather."
Fear. Panic. I can't even remember when we last spoke on the phone! Did you get my postcard from Athens? Am I going to get to see you soon? Will you wake up if I visited you, Lolo? Can I get on a flight back to the Philippines tonight? Am I going to lose you? What's going to happen to Lola? To your practice? To our family? We cannot lose you.

"Heather, we must pray for him, OK?"
But I'm angry. Incredibly angry. This is not fair, God. He was supposed to be here in the States in a couple of weeks. He was supposed to finally spend a Christmas with us, just like the good ol' days. He was supposed to help me write my Legal Studies honors thesis. He's supposed to be there for Joey's high school graduation. He's supposed to enjoy America like we've all planned for him to, with Lola. Why is this is happening to a loyal servant of yours, God?


"We need to be strong, Heather."
This was the most important truth about the situation.

So I just tried to be strong for you and for the family. "I'm not supposed to cry," I told myself sternly as I walked up carefully to see my Lolo for the first time in six years. He still looks the same, mostly, with his diligent hands that used to write my excuse letters for school and used to pray over me when I fell ill. Now, I find them prodded and marked by IV needles. His eyebrows still furrow the same way; he used to do that to convey playful hurt when I wouldn't immediately go to him in the morning to make mano. Now, he uses them to convey physical pain and frustration from not being able to speak when I talk to him (when he's awake). His feet poked idly from the bedsheets, and I used to remember the dread I would feel when he would call me to remove his shoes after a long day at court or at the law office. Now, they have been rendered immobile for the past two weeks, missing out two week's worth of daily 5:30 AM masses with my grandma. I stood there, recognizing bits and pieces of his frail physical stature. I wanted to embrace him and cry, but instead, I talked about how long the trip took to get to Tuguegarao and that I love him.


It wasn't until the middle of the week when I could finally say something more than "I love you, Lolo" and "I'm praying for you." I started talking to him like I would regularly talk to him once he could open his eyes. I talked about anything and everything, nonstop: from the Durkheim articles on Law and Community I've been reading, to PASS and the struggle for social change, to how I found the postcard I had sent him from Athens in his study, to making sumbong about Joey's new girlfriend, to recalling him the events of our busy days. "Everyone's here,na Lolo. All your children. Even we're here! We're finally going to be in family pictures, too, Lolo! Annnd I want Jollibee, like the good ol' days. I can't go without you, so please wake up na! OK? I'm hungry." I joked.

The last visit (a week ago already?!) was brief. A nurse was feeding him through a nasal tube, so I couldn't stay close to him or talk for too long. They were also prepping him for a minor operation. I talked to him for about five minutes. The last line I said was, "I'll be back, Lolo. I'll let you eat, OK?"

And I didn't realize that I wasn't coming back until I looked at the clock in the nurses' office. 11.45 AM. I knew right then that if these procedures took longer than 15 minutes, we wouldn't be allowed to see him for the day anymore. Which meant a final goodbye; I was leaving back for Manila to fly to California that evening.

It's really difficult to be back in Berkeley when he's still in critical condition. I wish I didn't have to leave Tuguegarao. I know I'm supposed to focus on school, extra-curriculars, work and everything else, but I just worry all the time. I wish I could still be there in Tuguegarao with my family. I wish I could still visit my Lolo every day, every night. I wish I could have those 10-20 minutes back.

And it's tearing me inside that I never got to say the a real message to him while I was there. I distracted ourselves with funny stories. Whenever I was serious, I promised him I would be a lawyer and that I would make him proud. I promised him that I would stay strong and love our family. I told him how much I love him and how I wish he would wake up already. I sang him the song I wrote for his 76th birthday. But I never got to tell him how grateful I am for taking care of me.


If I could tell you one last thing, Lolo, it would be this:

All these years, you've been my inspiration and a source of support. I hope you know that. No matter how far apart we are, no matter how much time has passed, no matter what, you are always with me. I am where I am because of you and your belief in my aspirations and my success. Because of your care and the values you instilled within me during my youth, I am who I am now: a person of faith and love and hope. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for giving me wonderful memories of the Philippines. I'm still praying for you, for Lola, and for our family. I wish I could still be there with you, to hold your hand and to tell you anecdotes and to sing you songs... anything to keep you company. I don't know what God has planned, but I do know that you wouldn't want me to be angry with Him. So I'm entrusting your life to His hands, while hoping for the best. I know that you're a strong fighter who will not give up. I know you love and care for us, Lolo. I love you, Lolo. You're always in my heart. Always.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"the house that fried chicken built"

My family describes it as fried chicken heaven.  Think crispy.  Think tasty.  This is absolutely "sarap (delicious) to the bones"  Yes folks, for those of you who remember that slogan, we all know that I'm talking about Max's Fried Chicken.

If America has Colonel Sanders' KFC, in the Philippines we have Max's.  But while Colonel Sanders' recipe hides the chicken with its breading, Max's does not.  Max's Restaurant is famous for its unique fried chicken recipe.  A usual order is for a quarter or half chicken with dinner rolls and butter on the side.

I remember there was a Max's restaurant near UP (University of the Philippines- where I went to school). I went there on a first date with a guy.  You might think "how cheap!" but in my defense, I was young and that was the closest restaurant to UP at the time that served an iconic dish.

Waiter (to me): Your order Ma'am?
Me: Fried Chicken
Waiter: What size ma'am.
God knows I wanted the whole spring chicken. But yeah, it was our first date so I have to look demure, so I said "A quarter!"
Waiter: And you sir (to my date)
Date:  Pork barbecue (on a stick)
I said to myself "Really?" as my eyes rolled in disbelief.  How could he order a pork dish in a restaurant made famous by its fried chicken???  Hmmm, major turn off?  Guess again.  I married the guy. haha!  I made a note to myself that I will have to do the ordering on our next date...

And so this fried chicken recipe I am sharing may not be the "secret recipe" Max's Restaurant has been keeping through out the years but trust me, it comes close.  Make sure to get your sauces ready: you know the drill, yes the Jufran Banana Ketchup, the Worcestershire sauce and maybe some Mother's Best hot sauce.  Serve with dinner rolls, King's Hawaiian Bakery or Costco dinner rolls are the closest to what is served in the Philippines.  Enjoy!

Fried Chicken ala Max's 

Ingredients:
1 chicken whole or 4 leg quarters
salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic
2 stalks of lemongrass
3 bay leaves

2 stalks of celery
cilantro leaves


 Directions
Pound the lemongrass. Make sure to get the juices out. Rub it on to the chicken.  Mince the garlic and mix it together with salt and pepper.  Rub it to the chicken. Slip more of the mix under the skin. You need some TLC while rubbing it under the skin, you don't want the skin to tear. 



Throw in some bay leaves, peppercorns, cilantro leaves and celery (or any herbs and spices to add more flavor) in a steamer.  Steam the chicken for 30 minutes.  Hang it to dry or for faster results pat try with paper towels.  Proceed to the next step or you can  put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. Make sure to bring the chicken out an hour before cooking.

Now here’s  where you decide what to do next:  

a:  Submerge the chicken in a pot full of oil and deep fry it on high heat. 
b:  Bake it at 375F in an oven, or in my case, the turbo broiler, until very crispy. When you hear the skin crackling, voila, it’s done! 


Either you bake it or fry it, you will enjoy a tasty, crispy fried chicken ala Max's.  As I've said before  have some banana ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.  And if you would want to have some heat, add some hot sauce. Go ahead, mix that sauce just the way you like it and enjoy this crispy fried chicken. 



Check out my video on YOU TUBE




Thursday, September 2, 2010

Special Announcement

Do you notice the new foodista badge I have? Look to the right side of the page... Look a little closer...

It says WINNER! If you would recall, the Foodista badge that I had in that spot of my blog said, "Vote for me!" for almost 8 months. I participated in Foodista's Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, and I just found out that I have been selected!

What's funny is that I first found out about it on Facebook! A blogger friend of mine, Divina of Sense and Serendipity ( congratulations Divina!), posted on her wall that she was one of the winners for the Foodista Best of Food Blogs CookbookWinners.  I clicked on the link and lo and behold, I saw my own entry:


My jaw dropped when I saw that I was one of them too!  Later that day, I got an official letter from the editor Sheri Wetherell.  The email reads:

Dear Malou,
Congratulations!
After receiving and reviewing over 1,500 submissions, Foodista and Andrew Mcneel Publishing are thrilled to announce that you are a winner in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest. Andrews McMeel will publish your recipe for Meatloaf with an Asian Twist, along with other winning blog posts and recipes in a beautiful, full-color, internationally distributed cookbook, set for release on October 19, 2010. Born out of the "Blog to Book" panel at the first International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in 2009, the cookbook celebrates the best food bloggers worldwide.

I was floored. And I thank you, dear readers, for your wonderful support. I am now officially a cookbook author!

P.S. Did you notice how many times I used the word "official" in this post? Please forgive me; it's the excitement in me that's making me realize this publication is official! Again, thank you so much!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

collecting seashells

Weekend mornings usually start really slow for us at home... but this particular Saturday is slower than usual. as I am home alone! With my husband out of the country, my daughter back to Berkeley and my two other kids out enjoying the last days of summer, I felt lost in the deafening silence of my home.

 Is it noon yet?  I quizzed myself,  I opened the blinds in my room, and the rays of the searing sun blinded me.  Yes, it must be noon... The glass jar on the shelf filled with seashells glistened as the sun's rays struck through it. I smiled, remembering how I gathered those shells on the Atlantic coasts when we lived in a coastal town in Florida. It felt strange how our 6 years of stay there was seemingly reduced to a jar filled with seashells. A jar that continuously remind me of family and friends whom we miss terribly.

A thought popped in my head:  Hmmm I should just go walk on the beach today...but before I could put my flipflops on, I said nah, I can't go to the beach alone!... so pop goes the balloon in my head as my thoughts drifted to think about my friend Roushel..  Was it because I am home alone and I am trying to draw inspiration on how she copes living alone? She inspires me constantly... On how she could go places and do things solo:  on how she goes salsa dancing until her feet are sore... on how she drove to Neverland Ranch during Michael Jackson's death amidst the sea of fans. On how she could drive long distances to visit her husband... how she discovers the world and pursues her  dreams. And oh, don't let her age fool you, this woman knows how to live.

I met Roushel in a peculiar way. I was still in Florida when she interviewed me on the phone for a job in southern California.  She hired me on the spot, asked me to come over to the West Coast to start my training. Amidst packed brown boxes and a long list to do, I dropped everything and flew 3.000 miles to meet her.  However, her decision was stopped by some corporate politics.  You think that would be the first and last time I'd see her right? Wrong... a few months after settling in San Diego, I already had a job and I was just starting to find new friends, I called her up.  As it turned out, she was hiring.

"How did you know I am hiring?" she asked.

"No, I' m just calling to say let's do lunch".

She hired me again that day.  And this time, the hiring went through, We parted ways a few months after when she went on to pursue her dreams and take up Nursing.  I was her cheerleader, beaming with pride that she knows what she wants and she's on her way to get it...

As I look into my jar of seashells, I realized Roushell is the first shell I collected on this side of the Pacific rim. She has always inspired me to do what I love and no matter how many plans and dreams I share with her, I would always hear her say: "Go for it, I'm rooting for you!" with her usual warm smile and a hopeful look, she's definitely a precious shell to keep.

----------------------

In the Philippines, corned beef is usually served for breakfast.  As I discussed in my recent post Let's talk breakfast this is usually served with silog (garlic fried rice) but since today is my alone-day and it's way past lunchtime, I decided to jazz up my usual corned beef meal.  So this is how my corned beef meal started:


Let me tell you what was on my plate:

:

On the upper left is a sweet brioche, which we Filipinos call ensaymada.  But sorry folks, I still have to convince my aunt to share me her recipe.  Of course we have the egg, sunny side up, the sauted corned beef and my home fries.  I spent less than 15 minutes gettting this plate altogether... so let's begin:

Corned Beef:  I just opened a can of corned beef (I prefer the brand Palm).  Sautee it with onions, garlic, tomatoes and green peppers.  Add a dash of sugar (yes sugar, that's my hubs' secret.. so shhh!), salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Home fries:  You could boil the potatoes first or if you want it on the fly just like I did, microwave the potatoes for 4 minutes.  Slice into big chunks, then brown the sides.  Add some onions and parsley, salt and pepper.  Done!



But then, I tried to jazz it up a bit... something that Caloriecount.com may frown upon... so here:


I stacked them up together on an ensaymada.  See how flaky the ensaymada is?
Then I went further...




I drizzled some honey mustard...




The result? A sweet and savory jazzed up corned beef on a brioche.  Being alone has its benefits.  I could have my food  just the way I want it.. . right Roushel?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

the tale of the rutabaga spring rolls

I got an email from Cherrie of Sweet Cherrie Pie a few weeks ago asking me what should be this month's theme for Kulinarya. We are both co-hosting this month's event and she told me that she wanted something "celebratory" since it's her and her son's birthday.


What a sweet coincidence, I thought, because there's nothing more special than giving birth to a son on your birthday. Oh and an even greater coincidence, August is my birth month too. So to answer Cherrie's question, my ideal celebratory birthday meal would include pancit (noodles) for long life but since we just had pancit as a Kulinarya theme two months ago, I suggested lumpia (spring rolls). 


Lumpia is a birthday party staple.  It may come in many variations. Being one of the hosts of this month's theme, I wanted to stay close and as authentic as possible to the fresh spring rolls that we usually order for parties back  home. Thus, I chose to feature Lumpiang Ubod or fresh heart of palm spring rolls. Lumpiang Ubod is just another kind of Lumpiang Sariwa (Fresh Spring Rolls). It's called "fresh" to differentiate it with fried spring rolls or Lumpiang Shanghai that we Filipinos are known for making.

But here's the challenge: where would I get the Heart of Palm? I'm glad that my reliable friends at Google taught me that I could use either asparagus, artichoke, yellow turnips or rutabaga as substitutes for heart of palm. And when I saw rutabaga at the grocery shelf, I knew that I found a good substitute.
So meet my new pal: RUTABAGA


It was a good choice for the rutabaga was the closest substitute I could find.  For those of you who are craving for the real Lumpiang Ubod but do not have heart of palm available I give you the  recipe of  Fresh Rutabaga Rolls or Lumpia ala Lumpiang Ubod to enjoy.

Fresh Rutabaga Spring Rolls



For filling:
2 tbsp olive oil
Rutabaga,  sliced in julienne strips ( when slicing, soak the julienne strips in a water-milk mixture to avoid  discoloration--- I found this tip from the Kulinarya Cookbook, and it came in so handy!)
Chicken breast , boiled and shredded (ground beef or ground pork)
1/4 lb shrimp, deveined
Onions, diced
Garlic, minced (reserve some for topping)


Directions:
In a cooking pan, saute the onions and garlic.  Add in the shredded chicken breast.  Drain the rutabaga and add it to the pan.  Stir and cook for about  8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside and let it cool.


Wrapper
Ingredients;
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 c flour
1 egg
1 c water


Mix all the ingredients together. Whisk it gently altogether until there are no more lumps.   In a thick pan, pour a thin layer (about 1/4 c) of the batter.  If you have a crepe maker, it comes in handy but  a non-stick pan will do.  You just have to spread the batter thinly into the pan.  Let it stand for a minute and flip it over.  The wrappers cook fast.
Don't get frustrated if your wrapper is not perfectly round or if it breaks, it happens.  Make sure not to use your fingers too, you'll burn them.
Repeat the procedure until the batter is consumed.


For the sauce
1/2 cup of light soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar (you could adjust it accordingly)
1/2 cup water
1/4 c cornstarch dispersed in water (make sure to have no lumps)


Directions:
Mix all the ingredients together : soy sauce, water and sugar into a saucepan.  When boiling, add the cornstarch mixture, stirring continuously to avoid lumps.  Remove from heat when the sauce begins to thicken.


Assembling:
On a flat surface, put the wrapper on first.  Then layer it with lettuce.  Scoop a handful of the rutabaga filling .  Roll them up together. You must be gentle as the wrapper is too delicate.
Second:  Pour in the sauce on top
Third: Drizzle with freshly minced garlic and ground toasted nuts...


I told you the crepes are so delicate.  Look at the tear I have here but it happens so be it...


and yes you could conceal it by its toppings of garlic and crushed nuts






I hope you enjoy this refreshing fresh spring rolls. I would like to invite you to visit the blogs of my Kulinarya friends.. Check out all the kinds of lumpia (spring rolls) we're serving this month....


Kulinarya Cooking Club was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture and its colourful cuisine.
Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do.
If you’re interested in joining our Kulinarya Cooking Club, please feel free to drop by our foodblogs and leave a comment – we would love to hear from you!
Check out Kulinarya page to know who else is in the Club!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In a Hawaii State of Mind

I am completely mesmerized with how an instrument as small as a ukulele could bring forth a magnitude of joy and happiness. It's tucked under the bed for months, but when the summer breeze blows, it comes to life again.  

The thin strings of the ukulele vibrate into the walls of our living room, amidst the giggles of my children. They try to learn a song or two. It brings so much joy to my husband and myself.  Was it the ukelele playing, or was it too much beer that made him whisper to my ear: "I'll take you to Hawaii soon!"

"Talk is cheap"  I joked "I'm taking you to Hawaii right now,", as I went to my kitchen and prepared this ukelele inspired dish.

Now i leave you with my daughter's version of a song she likes that we applauded and loved. Oops, sorry I don't know how to embed a video so just click on this link my daughter's ukelele  as I leave you with the recipe of my amazing Aloha Chops... for you to enjoy a Hawaii state of mind just like it did to us that one summer night. 



Aloha Pork chops

1 can tomato sauce
1 can sliced pineapple rings
Onions, diced
Garlic, minced
Pepper
Carrots, sliced
Worcestershire sauce
 2 tbsp Olive oil

Add 2 tbsp of olive oil on a skillet.  Brown both sides of the pork chops.  Set aside.  Using the same skillet, sauté onions and garlic.  Pour in the tomato sauce.  Pour the juice from can of pineapple rings.  If you want it a little sweeter, you may add 2 tbsp of sugar. Put back in the pork chops.  Cover and cook until the sauce is reduced.  Add worcestire sauce.    Now if the pork chops are not tender yet, you may add more water or soup stock.  Let it simmer, adjust the fire into medium, and have the sauce reduced .  Caramelize the pineapple on the same skillet or you may use another pan.  Voila you are in Hawaii in no time.  Enjoy!












Saturday, August 14, 2010

lost in irvine

I have a confession to make: I am very bad with directions. Even in a place like Irvine, CA, one of the best planned cities in the US, and with a GPS and my daughter acting as my navigator,  I still couldn't find my way around town. I still managed to make a countless number of U-turns as my GPS says : "calculating route."   Maybe it was Friday the 13th and the GPS was playing pranks on us???

It was quite an interesting adventure getting lost and making all those detours in Irvine. In such a small city, the food scene is busy.  We didn't mind getting lost at the  Diamond Jamboree Plaza, a corner Plaza that has an upbeat atmosphere.  There was a variety of places to eat and each place had its own artsy architecture and playful interior design.

Our best discovery of the day was this



It's a sushi pizza from Tokyo Table.


It's a warm bed of sushi with a refreshing blend of crab meat, light mayo, a hint of wasabi, green pepper and hoisin.  It feels like eating a pizza but tastes exactly like sushi. Tokyo Table as our server describes is "a modern Japanese Restaurant,  it is encouraged that the plates be shared family style."



The most raved place in this Plaza is 85 C or 85 degrees.  The line extends into the parking lot.  We lined up just like everybody else to experience what the rave is all about.  Verdict?  Well it was well worth it.  Their pastries are flaky, soft, and chewy.  My family's favorite is the milk pudding.  It's creamy in the inside and the bun is soft and sweet.  Oh and the taro bun is another favorite.  It's filled with taro goodness.  Best thing about the bakery is that, their bread and buns are  freshly baked-- straight from the oven to your serving trays.  The smell of butter lures you, and nothing could seal a love affair as sweet as that.  .


Our stash of bread and buns
 We also went to  Thai Ritz Cuisine. I would say it was a safe choice. I  like the very playful and youthful interiors. Their serving plates are also modern and sleek. Subtle details such as these always make dining more fun and delightful.



My daughter comments that their Panang Curry  was very similar to my own cooking.  Hmmm that's a compliment  right?  But then again she's my daughter haha! So here's my recipe and be the judge.  .

Panang Curry






3 lbs of pork (you could opt for beef, chicken or shrimp)
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
2 cans of coconut milk (you could use 1 can but i prefer mine to be thick and creamy. Also make sure you buy a good brand since some brands are diluted. Suggestions: Arroy-D or Chaoko 
1 medium can of bamboo shoots
1 medium yellow bell pepper
green peas
curry paste 

pineapple tidbits
thai basil leaves
cilantro





Directions:

Saute the pork wih garlic and onions. Let it cook until pork is slightly brown. Add the first can of coconut milk. Continue to cook until the coconut milk is reduced. Add the curry paste. I normally put 1/2 can first (around 2 tbsps). You may add more if you want. Add the vegetables. Pour in the other can of coconut milk. Again, wait until it's reduced to  a creamy texture. Season with fish sauce.  It's that easy, yet you 'll have a satisfying Thai dinner in no time! YUM!







Tuesday, August 10, 2010

all aboard the reality train 2: the drama

It was a fresh new morning. I was sipping my delightful orange mango viviano, feeling relieved that I did not have to drive to LA. I found a seat at the corner of the train car near the exit. The cushy seat caressed me back to sleep. What a blissful train ride, just as I had anticipated...

Two stations later, however, a couple hopped into the train carriage. As luck would have it, the seats across me were vacant. Then, drama began to unfold right before my eyes.

Their voices were louder than the sound the train makes when it rumbles down the tracks.The LQ (lover's quarrel) was ugly; I felt awkward sitting there in the booth with them. I looked around, trying to figure a way out of the carriage, looking to see if suddenly cameras would appear with Ashton Kutcher saying, "you're punked, Malou!" It was so surreal for me to be watching a drama scene straight out of a tele-novela.Their argument went on and on and on, until it was no longer funny.

As soon as the train stopped and the doors flung open, I rushed out.  I went through the rhythm of the LA morning rush -- the clicking of heels, the jostling of elbows. I made my way through a tunnel with a sea of people, and amidst all that chaos, Union Station still felt like heaven for me. I was glad I was drama-free, and I continued to enjoy a brand new morning.

This train incident made me reflect on my relationship with my husband. It's true that everyday is not always a romantic one, and yes -- we do have our own moments. While it's also true that work (and life) gets in the way, it's still important to make time for the two of you, even just to sit down and to enjoy the simple things in life together.

So one Sunday afternoon, I tried sitting with him while he was watching ESPN.  He was watching oh so attentively, while I was starting to get bored. "Spend some time with him" I made a mental note to myself.  But then I had an aha moment, so I went to the kitchen and fixed him this simple appetizer. It took me only 20 minutes to prepare this dish, but yet the smile on his face was absolutely priceless!



Asian Twist Mushroom Caps

2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp of sesame oil
Celery (finely chopped)
Cashew nuts (finely chopped)
Green onions
Baby bella mushrooms
sesame seeds
 
Directions:
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  (You could use the toaster oven , it's more convenient and energy efficient)
 
Remove stems and carefully scoop the mushroom caps.  Chop the mushroom stems finely.   In a mixing bowl mix all the seasonings together:  ketchup, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chopped celery, cashew nuts and the chopped mushroom stems.
 
Fill the mushroom caps generously with the stuffing that you just made.  Arrange them in a greased baking sheet. 
 
Bake for about 15-20 minutes. 
 
Serve it on a platter.  Add some sesame seeds, dots of hoisin sauce and green onions to top the caps... you'll be enjoying the appetizer in no time... It goes well with a glass of Pinot Grigio, the popular but often times scorned imported wine.  The most popular Pinot Grigio sold in the US is Saint Margherita, my favorite.  Cheers!
 





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