Saturday, February 27, 2010

a hug across the sea

Francis is home my mom said.. Would you like to talk to him?

From my mom's tone of voice I could hear a sense of relief, in someways saying "praise God he's recovered".  A voice filled with joy and happiness, and the ripple of comfort hit deep inside me, I was relieved to hear that my youngest brother is alive and surprisingly doing well.  The good news is that he is expected to fully recover over the next few weeks.

Before I could rehearse in my head how I would begin the conversation with my brother, a voice on the other end of the phone said  Hi Lou ! How are you?  I was expecting someone who would sound tired, having just endured a threadmilll of unfortunate events.  Instead, I heard a voice that is full of life.  It was like he just stepped out of a refreshing bath, feeling relaxed and ready to start a new day.

Our conversation drifted from one story to another, one boisterous laughter to another.  I felt dissolved in the moment, I could  talk to him forever.  Last month  he was lying on a hospital bed, wincing in pain. Today, it was the first time I felt like he was back to his old self.  He made me laugh so hard until tears rolled down my cheeks. He made fun of his serious condition, making me feel like I finally woke up from a bad dream and he was comforting me, saying everything will be ok.

One of the sad truths about me being so far away from home is that I am not there when I am needed most.  Two life threatening instances: the first was the horrendous typhoon and flooding only a few months ago, and the second a sudden illness... two instances I wanted to offer a hug to the ones I love, but  how do I send a hug across the Pacific?   It's only when I close my eyes, seeing my parents and brothers, can I be close to home...

Among other things that I talked about with Francis was my blog.  Of course, the blog will always come up if you happen to ask me how am I doing these days.  I mentioned to  him that it's that time of the month again where I will be joining Kulinarya for a feature parade. And since he's a very creative person (an artist in my view), I asked him if he had any idea how to present my next post...he advised "use sago (tapioca pearl) to elevate the flan... exaggerate the caramelized topping by tweaking it..."  His suggestions opened up so many ideas of inspiration

But of course... it was food that connected us.  Indeed food is about joy, about the experience of sharing it... about the bond with my brother that no ocean can break apart.

So Francis, I hope I am able to do justice to what you perceived my post would be...I'm sending this post 7300 miles as my hug across the seas....and everytime I bite into the flan, I would know that you are here with me... sharing the same air that I breath, the rain that falls upon us, and the love that we give to each other unconditionally.

me and my brother Francis during my last visit in the Philippines

Leche Flan


For Flan
8 egg yolks
1 can condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk

For Caramel
1 cup of sugar

Tapioca Pearl
Sesame Seeds
Clear Gelatin (follow the direction in the box, when it was about to settle, I scattered some pearls in it)



Ok this is the part where I had difficulty with, but after so many tries, I finally figured out how to do it.  Use a heavy saucepan.  Pour sugar, cook over medium heat.  Cook until sugar dissolves and appears brown.  Immediately pour to the baking pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine all the wet ingredients in a bowl, condensed milk, egg yolks and evaporated milk.  Stir well.  Pour the flan mixture into the baking pan.  I used a baine marie or deep tray with hot water to submerge the baking pan.  Bake for 30-40 minutes ( I used small baking pans so it cooks quickly). Flan is ready when the surface is firm.   Remove baking pan from water and let it cool to room temperature.  Unmold it and voila , enjoy.

For my take this is what I did: 
Here's the flan
and I wasn't too happy about it.  For one, it had dimples, second, the sides are not velvety smooth...
Time to dress it up just like what my brother suggested.

Pinoys usually put macapuno on top of leche flan, well for me I put macapuno ice cream... yeah Magnolia Ice Cream from the Philippines...

Plus toasted sesame seeds, tapioca pearls and  gelatin... and VOILA!


Kulinarya 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 are 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!
Asha –
Cherrie –
And of course… Trisha of Sugarlace and Trissa of Trissalicious and Kath of A Cupecake or Two!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

a nugget of sweetness in my mailbox

A nugget of sweetness came in my mailbox today. I was busy sifting through the stack of envelopes and trying to separate the junk mail from the bills when I saw a tiny white envelope that bore my name. Handwritten in a kid’s penmanship, the envelope revealed it was from my eight year old nephew Peter.

I opened the envelope and saw a short piece of paper with scribbled words that said:

Dear Ninang Malou, (Ninang is a Filipino term for godmother)

I miss you! Can you come here to Orlando, FL? I was wondering, did you read a lot when you were young?

I felt my face suddenly soften as I smiled. I love the way he calls me Ninang Malou like I am the most important person in his life.

He must be having problems reading his AR books I thought when I read the seemingly random question in his letter.. I told him that he could always come to me for any questions. Because you’re my ninang? he would ask. And I reaffirm by saying  Yes I’m your Ninang and that’s what godmothers are for. And he would nod and you could see his lips get tighter as he smiles while his eyes are almost shut as he squints.

Peter and his sister Pia are my sister’s children in Orlando. When my family lived in Florida, we were always together. All the holidays, birthdays, long weekends, and yes even through all the hurricanes, brought us closer. All those lazy weekends and karaoke nights when we giggled hysterically as we belted out and danced to Madonna's Borderline... Ahh, I can't believe it’s been three years since we moved to California and it takes a letter to remind me how important it is to constantly communicate and to nurture the relationship, even if we're so far apart.

I should write him a letter soon, as this is the second letter I received from him.  I received the first one last month, which I posted inside my pantry door. Whenever I open my pantry I see his letter and it never fails to give me a nugget of sweetness .

He ended his letter today by saying:

I am almost having my Eucharist. Yah I will .


I guess he meant he’s going to have his First Communion soon. I hope his Ninang Malou would be there to witness this important milestone in his spiritual life… and how profound it is that he conveyed it eloquently, the old fashioned way—through a handwritten letter sent by mail.  Thank you Peter for reminding me of the important things in life, and for making me a part of your life.

Although Peter's favorite dish is Tinola (a soup-based chicken dish) I'm sure Peter will love the dish I'm sharing with you today, which is Patatim.

A few months ago,  I posted another version of  Pata -Tim using pork hocks.  This time around, I am using pork butt, or you can use pork legs.  I would say, the first one was a lot simpler to make.   And this recipe has a star...... yep star anise haha!  I love the flavor that this spice brings to the dish.  It fills your house with a nice aroma, and definitely the star anise lives up to its name.

Pork Butt or Pork Leg
green onions
3/4 c soy sauce
3/4 c vinegar
3-4 pieces of star anise
3/4 c brown or white sugar
4-5 cups of water (you may add more if the pork in not yet tender)
bok-choy for garnishing

Rub  the green onions onto the pork butt. Heat 2 tbsps of cooking oil on a skillet.  Brown all sides of the pork.  Set aside.

Caramelize sugar in another pot.  Add all the ingredients except the bok choy.  Let it boil.  Put the pork butt in.    Reduce heat when the pot is boiling and cook until the meat is tender.  It usually takes 2-3 hours before the meat is tender and for it to have the melt-in-your mouth softness.

Steam the Bok-choy and use it to garnish the Pata-tim.  Have a cup of steamed white rice and you are ready to enjoy the melt-in-your mouth goodness of Pata-Tim.  Happy cooking!

You could serve the whole thing and carve it on the dinner table.  The meat is so tender it will literally fall off the bone.

If  the size of the meat above scares you, you could serve it in smaller portions.
And it can also be served as an appetizer
Either way I hope you get to enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth kind of goodness that this dish brings... and the aroma of star anise will linger to your house just like a plugged in glade.  Do you have any recipe where you use star-anise?  I would like to learn more dishes that use it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

blame it on the rain

The past weekend in San Diego was a wet weekend… a very wet one indeed. It poured.

And it poured

 And it poured.

I usually love the rain. Usually. That’s the key word. This weekend was just unusual. Yes I was in a not-so-loving the rain mood, or should I say I had my first LQ (lover’s quarrel) with it (the rainy days).

It all started when my son and I were on our way to the hair salon. He’s going to his first formal dance, the Winter Formal, so I told him to get a haircut… yes a trip to the hair salon for my son is something to “argue” about.

“But I like my hair as it is” his usual reply would always be.

“But you must, it’s your first dance! You should look sharp in all the photos.” I insisted.

So off we went. I left him at the salon, drove up to the drive-thru ATM, and just as I got the cash and was carefully tucking it in my purse, the car behind me honked his horn.  "Oh no he didn't!" was my initial response.  My windows were still rolled down and the sound of a loud honk went straight into in my left ear. I stuck my head out and gave him the "look" while I yelled back “How rude!”  I felt the rush of blood  through the back of my neck because I normally would not react like that. I usually let it go!  Ok fine, I see eyes rolling so let me put it this way... I don't react that way,  at least not in public.

Ok calm down Malou, calm down I said to myself. I was driving away from the bank when I saw the yellow and red clad clown  smiling at me as if saying “ drop by for a cup of cappuccino, it will help.”  I don't usually succumb to the invitation of a clown but this time Ronnie McD persuaded me. … ahh coffee, just what I need. SO I went straight to the McDonald's drive thru.

Everything went well, the voice over was very polite, I went to the next window paid for my coffee and aha, I remembered I had to go rush back to the salon where my son was waiting.  I was near the salon and I was just about to grab my hot cappuccino… UGH… the cup was nowhere in sight… that’s when I realized that after I was told to go to the next window to get my coffee, I drove past it. "WHAT"S GOING ON WITH ME??" I screamed...that was when the meltdown began..

It’s the rain! I said… For the first time I blamed it on the rain.  I now know how the rain makes people crazy. From the crazy driver of the car behind me at the bank drive-thru, to the crazy pedestrians suddenly appearing out of nowhere right infront of your dashboard it seems... and all the crazy drivers driving in haste... twas just crazy crazy crazy!  I guess living in southern California has a few drawbacks, one of which the residents don't know how to drive in the rain.

When my son joined me, I was busy looking for my ATM card, which  I misplaced as a result of being in haste due to the rudeness of the other driver.  "Mom what's wrong with you? You look disgruntled!" my son said. "Mom, please slow down. Focus mom, you’re fine" he said… Upon hearing that, I snapped back to normalcy!  My son was like a breath of fresh air… he was like the much needed sunshine during a gray morning. My head cleared. I was more focused and back to the excitement of my son going to the winter formal….

Wait a minute, maybe it was not the rain after all. Maybe it was just me, trying to be sentimental about the whole winter formal thing… The image of my son with his dark tux and crisp white shirt and tie, looking all grown up, brings both excitement and apprehension to me. Suddenly, my son whose interests are just playing video games and sports, is now all grown up. I guess it’s the crossing over to another stage that I was afraid of… hmmm maybe? I didn’t have to blame it on the rain after all. 

Well, maybe! 


Tomorrow is  Valentine's day... my friend asked me what my Velentine post is.  I  said I don't have anything special for Valentine's day.... but my next post is  Mongo Bean Soup.  She said "Mongo what?" how un-Valentine!"  So this is not a Valentine feature... I just served it in a heart shaped soup bowl... how's that for Valentine's spirit!  The recipe I'm sharing is a dish I normally cook on a here's sharing with you last night's dinner...

Mung Bean (Mongo) with Ham and Bacon Soup


1 1/2 cups green mongo (mung) beans
2 tbsp oil
 1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small tomatoes, diced
left-over ham or pork hocks 
2 tbsp fish shrimp (except if you are allergic to seafood or if you can't take the smell of this, please use oyster sauce instead)
strips of bacon

Boil the mongo beans together with the ham hocks in 4 cups of water.
Let it boil until the meat from the hocks fall off the bone.
Set aside.
Fry some strips of bacon (I usually fry most of the bacon in the package, I know, I know it's bad cholesterol but I indulge once in awhile)
Set aside.
When the ham is cold enough to handle, take it off the bone and slice it into cubes.
In the same pan where you fried the bacon, saute garlic, onions and tomatoes. Add the shrimp paste or if you can't take the smell of this seasoning, you could opt to use oyster sauce instead.
Add the sliced ham.  Pour the mongo.  You could add more soup stock depending on how thick you want your mongo bean soup.  I want mine to be a little thicker. Season it with salt or patis (fish sauce) to taste.
Ladle the soup into a bowl and top it generously with bacon strips, have a cup of steamy white rice to go with it and enjoy!!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


"OH- MY- Gosh, OH My Gosh" was the scream I heard from the living room. It was almost midnight and I just tucked myself in bed and about to enjoy the warm comfy sheets, when I suddenly heard my daughter scream. Instinctively, I ran out to check what was going on. I saw my daughter gasping for breath.

"I got an A in Calculus II mom!" she excitedly informed me.   "I was trembling as I was typing my password" she said anxiously. "I'm sorry did I wake you up?" she quickly added apologetically, as she saw me wipe my eyes. "But you know this means so much to me" she explained further.

My daughter Izzy is very reserved but her scream was an indication of profound joy. I hugged her tight and I could feel her heartbeat beating so hard and fast... I hugged her even more.  I didn't utter a word we stood there hugging each other in the middle of the night  Just the two of us standing in complete silence.  Of course I know what getting an A in Calc II means to her.  As a senior she's all focused on her college apps,  And I've seen her work hard.   I want her to realize that hard work pays off... and I'm glad it did. I hugged her tighter because I want her to know that I share her joy and excitement!  Silently praising God. Grateful to have such wonderful kids such as Izzy.

A few weeks later, one early morning as I was packing lunch for my kids, I heard her exclaim  "No way... No way!".  I saw her face glow when she muttered in disbelief:  "I got in mom."   I ran towards her, with water dripping down my hands, and found out that she was included in the first batch of accepted students for a nearby university. I jumped for joy with her... Even if this is a reminder that she will be leaving us for college soon, I guess I have to be ready to set her free... and even if she's the second daughter for me to send off to college, it will never be the same without Izzy around the house.

But yeah we have to let them go... we have to let them discover their own future... but hopefully, they bring with them the love, the values and the faith that we parents have instilled in them.

In order to celebrate Izzy's good news, I want to share with you the recipe for CHICKEN CURRY Trilogy. Why the "trilogy"?  You'll find out below.  Enjoy!

Let's begin:

8-10 pcs. Chicken thighs deboned and sliced
2 tbsps. cooking oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onions, chopped
3 medium size potatoes, sliced
2 medium size carrots, sliced
1 medium size green bell pepper
1 cup chicken stock
2-3 tbsps curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans of coconut milk

In a wok, saute garlic and onions in cooking oil.  Add chicken and cook it for about 5 minutes or until slightly brown.  Add a dash of pepper.  Pour the first can of coconut milk together with the chicken stock.  Let it simmer until the chicken is tender. Spice up using the curry powder.  I like to make my curry rich and flavorful so I used around 3 round table spoons.  You may want to add 2 tbsps first and adjust it according to your taste.  Add the potatoes and the carrots.  Pour the other can of coconut milk and stir frequently.
Add the green bell pepper.  Season with salt.  But for my curry, I used patis (fish sauce) to season it. The sauce should be thick and creamy.

Preparing chicken curry does not end here. You have to serve condiments that go with it. My hubby is always requesting for chutney, although I still have to come up with a good recipe for it (please let me know if you have one). For him, curry isn't complete without it.  He wants the whole ensemble, which consist of: raisins, chopped onions, chopped boiled eggs, mango chutney and chopped tomatoes.

Now I named my curry recipe a trilogy because I served it in three different choices... and I have three different carb beds:

1. on a bed of steamy linguine . 2, on a toasted pita pocket. 3, on steamy white rice.

So the results:
The curry on linguine was my pick.  I enjoyed twirling the curry dish with my pasta.  The condiments added more hints of flavors.  The crunchy-ness of tomatoes goes well with the slimmery hot steamy pasta:  Ooh lala heaven:

The second choice:
The pita pocket which Izzy picked was delectable. She enjoyed the crusty-ness of the pita pocket bread and the gooey sauce oozing out of the bread. It was finger licking good for her.

And lastly the bed of rice. My husband and son, enjoyed it tremendously! "I guess it's a guy thing" my son commented when they noticed that both men had the rice bed...

So take your pick... Choose the carb bed you want to put your chicken curry on... Or you can share all three dishes with your family for an even more meaningful meal.  I'm pretty sure you'll savor the moment... just as we did when the moment called for a celebration! 

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